gratitude, awareness and patience

gratitude is a funny thing. i used to find it incredibly hard to be grateful for things that people expected me to be grateful for. i would just be resentful. that doesn’t really happen anymore; i suspect it’s mostly because i have weeded from my life most of the people who want to “make” me feel something, and when it does happen, i don’t pay much attention to it anymore.

you know what? i’m grateful for that. that i don’t have people like that in my life anymore, and that i don’t run in this irritating circle anymore, where i am supposed to be grateful for something, then i grudgingly say thanks, then i feel resentful, then i feel guilty because i feel resentful, etc., etc. phew!

it’s so good to be grateful just for the fun of it. or/and just for the awareness of it. right now i’m sitting here, the proverbial self-employed person, still in my robe at 11 am, working away at my computer. is that cool or what? i’m so grateful for that.

so, yes, in order to be grateful i need to be aware. aware of my current situation, aware of how my life works, perhaps also of how others’ lives work.

for there to be awareness, there needs to be some already existing mental or emotional framework. there needs to be the ability to recognize that of which we become aware. you know the old adage, “it takes one to know one”? that’s the same thing. so for me to be grateful, i need to have awareness of what at least theoretically i could be grateful for, and i need to be able to recognize these candidates for gratefulness.

when we have difficulties being grateful, i think that’s one of the biggest stumbling blocks.

“you have a good life. but for me, everything goes wrong. i have nothing to be grateful for.” as a therapist, that’s the kind of thing i sometimes hear from clients.

such a client may say this as he sits in a comfortable chair, at a pleasant room temperature, his legs crossed in an easy manner, breathing without difficulty, not experiencing any pain. he may never have thought of the saying, “there but for the grace of god go i.” (and should we blame him, seeing the almost impossible to imitate heroism of the man who coined that phrase, john bradford?)

it is a gift to sit comfortably. people who are very obese, for example, cannot cross their legs.

it is a gift not to be too cold or too hot. untoward temperatures can be as draining as hunger and thirst.

and what a gift it is to breathe freely. many years ago, i had typhoid fever, a life-threatening infection that, among other things, dramatically decreased my ability to breathe. i will never forget that one morning when i woke up, made my way to the front door on emaciated legs, to discover to my great delight that i was able to breathe again. somehow the ocean (i was in chile at the time), the cliffs, the sky, the little fishermen’s houses all looked more colourful, more alive to me.

and yet … i cannot go to this client and say, “you should be grateful for these things! you should be grateful that you can breathe freely and have no pain!” i cannot just transfer my awareness of the preciousness of these gifts to him. i can’t just point out the price tag to him.

what i can do, maybe, is to suggest he inspect the smorgasbord of things he could be grateful for. but maybe he’s not ready. maybe, instead of seeing all the goodies on the table, he’ll only see the one burned-out lightbulb above it.

then it’s my turn to be grateful that he still sits across from me, that he can muster the trust to let me know about his current inability to recognize what’s good. i can be grateful that i have been granted the patience to wait to see what unfolds for him.

(if you feel that you could enrich your life with more gratefulness, please feel free to contact me for a free 30-minute consultation, face-to-face, via the phone or via the internet).

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

4 thoughts on “gratitude, awareness and patience

  1. Jeff

    “Making people feel ungrateful”

    With the exception of co-dependency issues, is it safe to say that we can “make” a person feel a certain way? Are we not in control of our own emotions to the point of relying on someone else? If I gave you constructive critizisim and you cried as a result, that wasn’t me “making” you cry, that was YOUR reaction. 2 people, 1 cries as a result, the other takes that information and uses it to their benefit. Which person did I “make” do something ? If I could “make” someone feel a certain way, I would still be with my high school sweetheart. But she chose her own path so I couldn’t “make” her feel a certain way. Should I send someone whose very special to me, a card or a bouquet of flowers and that person smiles as a result of their gift, did I force that emotion on them, or did they react genuinly ? If I act in such a manner where I do without having expectations, isn’t that what we all strive for? When I do for others, oddly enough, it’s not their reaction I’m looking for, rather, how my heart feels when I do it. For instance: I sit down and think, I would like to send a friend a special “I’m thinking of you card”, when I hit the send button, that’s it. I know that person eventually gets what I sent. Their reaction to the gift really shouldn’t effect my efforts in the first place. In other words, sending that e-card was purely an act from my heart, and not an act based on their heart. So this hinges on “greatfulness” because I am doing without expecting.
    ~Just some of my thoughts

  2. Jeff

    Part II, Send her some flowers

    Lets say I send my loved one some flowers at her work. Ok, I call up the florist and arrange everything so she gets them during her work day. After I place the call, I hang up and go about my normal day. I know she will get them and I’m sure it will brighten her day. End of story. Here’s where things could go wrong. Instead of leaving it at that, I wait a few hours and call her up. One of the first things I say during our conversation is if she has gotten the flowers. At this point, I believe I would be “Searching” for her gratitude, rather then letting her decide for herself, wether or not to say something. Often times when we do for others, we don’t take into acount the fact that they may be busy so we proceed to seek “closure” by means of re-instating the good we have just done. The reciever more then likely loved what you did for them, but had to get right back to work and therefor, couldn’t respond to you in a timely fashion. To place a call shorty after a good gesture was made, says that the giver is demanding “Gratitude” even though it’s as simple as a quick phone call. In my experiences, I have found that this is where co-dependency shows it’s evil hidin self. In my mind, I am not thinking anything wrong by placing a call to the reciever. Yet, what I am doing is demanding they act the way I want them to by forcing a reply. Not only did I send them flowers that they didn’t ask for, I also took it one step further by demanding they say thank you for them. Should I have just let things be, I’m sure in their own time, the reciever would either thank me, or show gratitude in another way, perhaps by having a special dinner waiting for me when I got home. Their actions would be true and genuine because they didn’t feel pressured by the good that was done for them. This allows the reciever to open their heart, rather then do what they think is expected of them. “He gave me flowers, then asked if I got them, so *shrugs* I guess I have to return the favor, or he’ll think I’m just using him.” The worst thing in the world is recieving love or gifts that were forced and not done true.
    ~Just some of my thoughts

  3. admin

    “making people feel ungrateful” – what an interesting title. yes, i would go as far as to say that people who are very codependent can be almost addicted to the gratefulness of others. that is really very sad.

    it can go into a real spiral. person A does something nice, expecting gratefulness, person B responds lukewarm, then person A steps it up, does something even more amazing, person B responds even more lukewarm because they start feeling crowded in, etc.

    the sad part is that person A probably doesn’t do these things ONLY because the want to “extort” gratefulness, and person B might actually really appreciate the gift if there was not this unspoken rule about gratefulness.

    and let’s not forget that this is really not a one-way street. it’s not just person A’s “fault” for heaping too much on person B, it’s also person B not speaking up and explaining how they feel about the situation.

    lots of food for thought.

    oh, and i love what you say about an open heart. whatever we do from an open heart, one that does not grasp or push – that is its own reward.

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