Be grateful for what you have.
I was taught some backward lessons about gratitude – my guess is many of you were, too, if you were raised by humans.
Some were pretty benign:
- Count your blessings. So many others have less. Things could be worse.
Others were subtly shitty:
- There are starving kids in Africa, eat your food. You’re lucky you get jeans, that brand name label is for stupid people. Look around, you’re not the only one here, be grateful for what you get.
Some were downright scary and horrible:
- I’ll give you something to cry about. If you ask for one more thing, everything goes back. Why do you think you deserve that, what makes you better?
Maybe you’re thinking those aren’t specifically about gratitude? You’d be right…
Except when I grew to adulthood and kept being told that gratitude was the way to happiness and it had immense power (this began in AA and continued through therapy and into coaching) those lessons were the inner battles I had to confront.
This was how I was taught gratitude. When an adult in my life was angry at my selfishness or at themselves for not being able to provide more, gratitude was hurled at me.
As I sat in churches being shamed and scared by images of being eternally burnt or born wretched with only a very narrow path to redemption, gratitude was in the language.
I learned to recoil at gratitude because it was used to control, shame, and belittle me – much as I was taught about god and the intellect, too.
The things we do to other humans we think we are responsible for, am I right?!
Anyway, I spent my first few years in recovery finding my path to ‘a high power of my own understanding’, but didn’t touch gratitude – I couldn’t handle both at the same time. HAHA!
No, I didn’t tackle gratitude until I became a coach.
I was finally at a place (and with brilliant people who could model it) to see what all the fuss was about and if I truly was missing some vital ingredient in the happiness cocktail.
Turns out, I was.
At first, I couldn’t use the word gratitude as I would get an emotional activation (triggered, but I don’t like that word, either) and shut down - usually in anger.
I started with the word APPRECIATION. That had no shame or guilt. It made logical sense because, in financial terms, it means to increase or gain in value… I could get behind that.
Slowly, I started to experience gratitude. A true appreciation for what is in my life; people I love, things that make life easier, all things nature and furry, indoor plumbing, hot water, and electricity.
I started to recognize the power of this practice – it took the attention off what I was missing, what I didn’t have, what I longed for. I could not be satisfied with all this wonderful stuff in life and be miserable about what wasn’t working at the same time – it forced me to choose (even for a moment) where to put my attention and that in and of itself is powerful. Choice.
As I gained more proficiency in setting my focus on what I did have and the good in my life, I learned another ridiculously powerful lesson – one that all the great spiritual teachers teach, but it’s only a concept until you FEEL it:
MORE GREAT THINGS KEPT COMING MY WAY.
If you’re a gratitude expert, you’ll be kindly rolling your eyes at me — DUH, Kecia — that’s how gratitude works.
Yes, my friend, that is EXACTLY how gratitude works.
It is powerful, but not simple. The fashion many of us were raised (generationally and societally) diminished our personal power – told us we had none.
Gratitude shows us how powerful we truly are. The power of our focus. The power of the present moment. The power of our words to create.
I still love the word appreciation because it means to make more. Whatever I am appreciating, I am literally making more of it!
I no longer keep a disciplined gratitude practice — I have become a grateful person. It has been conditioned enough to be integrated into my full being.
AND, when I feel my own pity-party start, when I slide into unconscious living, the first tool I reach for is gratitude because even if I can only find gratitude for the air I breathe, I have LIFE.
Today, I am grateful to be reminded of my journey with gratitude. I have experienced more unwanted things in the past few weeks than in the past few years and my balance comes from all the inner work I’ve done — especially around gratitude.
I’d love to hear about your journeys with gratitude - good, bad, or non-existent — I’m here for it all!