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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Gratitudes, Attitudes and Platitudes

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gratitudes, Attitudes and Platitudes

"Grace isn't a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It's a way to live." ~Jackie Windspear

I know it's a bit predictable at this time of year, but I can't help it. I am thinking about grace and gratitudes. I always feel a bit of a tug when I do this, as if I am being disloyal to the problems of life. Or to whatever pains or griefs might exist. And whenever I suggest thinking about, or writing down a list of, or saying out loud, all the things that you are grateful for as a way to ease emotional pain or lift a mood, I get a crinkle on my face, maybe even a wince, as if I am not really understanding or tuning into, or honoring the hurt. But I really do believe that paying deep attention to gratitudes is useful.

One: It gets you out of yourself. Even if you are thinking about what you yourself are grateful for. It's not such a bad idea to take a break from hurt when you are hurting. There is no rule that says that you have to be absorbed in your hurt all the time.

Two: Everyone has things to be grateful for. At this moment, your eyes are working. Your lungs too. Your heart is beating and you have a computer. If you are willing to stretch yourself a bit, come up with an A to Z list. I know that when you are hurting, it's not something that comes so easily, but if you want some relief, this is a good path for sure.

Three: You do not have to feel grateful to be grateful. Feelings are not facts. They are important, but they do not have to call the shots. You can recognize goodness and light and positive things in the world, and in your life, even if you feel the overall picture is dark.

Four: Being gentle with and gracious to yourself may be one of the hardest but most important ways to get from bad to better. There may be a million reasons why being gracious to yourself seems impossible, but I think it's the right way to walk. I am not saying that you don't have to take stock of yourself and your life, and take responsiblity, but I am saying that a little grace goes a long way. And a little grace is a great thing to be grateful for. And gratitude is a gracious thing.

Gratitude takes willingness and practice. My experience is that it's worth the trouble. You will not end up dishonoring your grief, or giving in to false cheerfulness, or trite "look on the bright side, honey." You will end up with a realistic stance that life is mixed. And that swimming around only in the bad feelings, and the frustrating or disappointing facts is really only one side of the coin. You can round out the picture a bit, while you are waiting for better days. You can help better feelings to come by pointing out whatever facts you can reach for that suggest that the good stuff can exist as well.


stressmom said...

Oh you are so right- it takes so much more work to remember to be grateful for what we have! I am the type of person who always tries to remain positive but once I get out of doing that I also forget to give thanks and be grateful for all of the wonderful things that I have in my life. I have to remind myself every so often that I have forgotten and does it ever feel better when I get back on track! When I remember to be grateful and thankful I have such a more positive outlook on life. Everything seems just a little brighter no matter what is going on at work or at home. I can be thankful for what I have rather than focusing on what I do not, and not only is this a great gift to my family but to myself as well.

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

stressmom...Well put! Glad to read you!