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).
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