Gratitude. You’ve got to learn to feel it or you’ll never smell the roses. Thinking the pasture yonder is greener than your side of the patch distracts you from looking behind and seeing other leas more parched and dried out than the seemingly sad spot you’re on. So, be thankful that isn’t your lot. Finding the things to be grateful for, even for the mundane things you often take for granted, could help you realise that life isn’t as bad as you perceive it to be at the moment.
But whoa!…let’s hold the gratitude spiel for a tad. While gratitude is a very good thing, being grateful all the time is too ideal and even perhaps too unhealthy to turn on 24/7, especially on bad hair days. Unless we’re saints, we can’t consistently be grateful for the lemons we get. Nope, sour lemons definitely suck, some more than others. So while we do need to strive to encompass as much gratitude for our own happiness and contentment, we also need to embrace our human tendency to feel disappointed, frustrated, depressed, angry, and hurt.
Why? Shouldn’t negative emotions be shunted? The answer is no. Being human means feeling and being aware of all ranges of emotion. Our emotions are there to tell us something. Human emotions, the good and the bad, have evolved to help keep us from danger, learn from errors, appreciate life, and better our world. Compartmentalising our emotions or worse, negating them by forcing a replacement feeling on them (in this case, false gratitude) turns us into people so out of touch with ourselves.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t count our blessings. We should as much as we can. What we shouldn’t do is negate our feelings.
Letting Yourself Be
Jealousy or envy is an unpleasant feeling one hates to experience; yet, it does make a person face his inadequacies. Negative feelings force a person to change his behaviour. The question is: Should he do something to better his odds or put himself down indefinitely? In any case, it is an individual’s choice.
Negating your envy by immediately chastising yourself to be grateful does not make you learn about yourself. Why are you really feeling this way when others are not? Uncomfortable emotions should be harnessed to help us analyse our core problem. Use your emotions, both good and bad, to teach you something about yourself. Tamping down your negative emotions immediately by telling ourselves we need to be grateful for what we have is a recipe for failing ourselves later on. Gratitude is great and oftentimes necessary; but it can wait while you sort yourself out.
You only have the here and now; the past is gone, the future is yet to come. You need to live in the present as authentically as you can. This means being in touch with all your feelings. To experience life to the fullest, you need to permit yourself to feel without judgement. Invalidating your negative emotions by pressuring ourselves to be grateful instead of being very aware of the whats and the whys of our feelings, will simply frustrate genuine personal growth. Our personal pains and joys are the experiences that give us the insights and perspectives to tackle other situations later on. You need to feel, recognise, and manage these emotions so these can serve as a wellspring of learning tools for character strengthening and building.
Techniques for Releasing False Gratitude
Perhaps you may have been conditioned over the years to cast aside bad feelings and replace them with thankful ones. As sensible as this sounds, allow yourself to really feel that disappointment and that hurt before coming to terms with your situation. To keep in touch with yourself when the baddies hit, you should:
Define your “feel bad” space.
Know where you can go when on the verge of a meltdown or a major hissy fit. Your car, bedroom, or anywhere you feel safe can double as your “feel bad” place. That space should be a comfortable one where you can really be your honest self.
Let it out with someone you trust.
Find a trustworthy friend who genuinely has your back and the ear for your whining, ranting, and probable silences. Let out what you honestly feel and don’t once say that you need to be grateful for something unless you really mean it.
Gratitude, of course, is vital to happiness; but, if you use it in a game of cover-up and pretence of emotions, you will simply be hiding your head in the sand, deluding yourself that all is well and subsequently do nothing about your situation.
Gratitude must be felt genuinely for you to feel truly blessed in life. And where can you find such depth of gratitude? You will find it from embracing all your emotions as one of life’s teaching tools, not negating them.