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On gratitude when you don’t feel grateful

I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude lately. I struggle with this word, and sometimes with the concept as well. 

I do feel that it’s important to bring awareness to that which we have and shift our awareness away from all that’s going wrong. Where I struggle is with the unsaid around statements about gratitude.

Gratitude as cause or effect?

Do you notice how sometimes when we talk about gratitude, it has a resounding judgement behind it? Especially when we use words like grateful to mean the opposite of ungrateful.

When we label someone ungrateful, there’s a mountain of judgment behind it. Then the drive is to be grateful for the fear of being ungrateful. Acting out of fear of judgment is very misaligned with the very essence of gratitude. This doesn’t help us reap the benefits.

Instead, I’ve been experimenting with my perception and taking gratitude more lightly. Re-framing gratitude not as a saintly emotion, but rather as a powerful shift of perspective.

When I acknowledge the things that have gone right, I’m able to shift my focus and sit on a solid foundation of things going right. I’m actually able to see things more objectively, instead of viewing the world through my shit-glasses (which occasionally get stuck on my face.)

There’s a warm-up involved before I can access gratitude. Here is is:

The Gratitude Warm-up

I start by acknowledging that my shit-glasses are stuck to my face and I’d very much like to take them off.

I then set the intention to find things outside the negativity bias. Even if they’re really small, I look for things that haven’t gone completely sideways. And I start collecting this list.

Sometimes even the little things are not accessible or easily found. When this is the case, I list out what could’ve gone a lot worse to start feeling something. It seems counter-intuitive but it provides relief that I don’t have to deal with a situation or emotions that could be even bigger. I eventually gather enough points to move into the collection of little things without having to imagine worse scenarios.

Gradually, this process continues as the little things pile up.

Over time, whether a few minutes or months, I gather momentum to imagine more things that can go right. Only once this happens, is the gratitude able to flow freely.

This is when life flows with so.much.more ease.

And in my experience, gratitude is more easily achieved as an intention (to look for the good), rather than the end-goal – which could be further off or not immediately accessible.

Gratitude as signaling a shift

Yesterday I found myself feeling deeply grateful for hardship and pain, especially that which I’ve felt in the past 6 months or so.

This was, quite frankly, a new feeling.

I naturally tend towards positivity and optimism, but it doesn’t always happen naturally and sometimes I really need to work for it (as explained above).

I also, like so many of us, struggle to fully accept painful emotions without trying to RESIST them. To just hold them, and let.them.be. In my experience, resistance makes our emotions scream louder. Acceptance alchemises them.

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Yesterday, feeling horrible and no longer feeling was something to feel deeply thank-full for.

I felt proud that I’d finally stopped running and turned to face those emotions (even if they had to corner me and pin me down first.) I guess the cliche is true: the way forward is through.

Which leads me to wonder:

  • Whatever’s going on, no matter how big or small, can I hold and acknowledge it as an opportunity to expand?
  • How will this strengthen me?
  • What do I have the opportunity to learn here?
  • Am I in the ebb or the flow?

For me, it felt like I’d built myself a sailboat while floating in an ocean storm.

It felt like peace that can’t be pulled out from under me.

It was the reassurance of expansion.

I didn’t expect it, but there it was:

Perspective.


If you like the post, or something in there resonates with you, will you please, please leave a comment and let me know? I’d love to hear from you and know I’m not the only one pondering these things!

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