“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
“Gratitude is a burden, and every burden is made to be shaken off.”
Gratitude is good………….Isn’t it?
Like thinking positive it cheers us up……doesn’t it?
Well, it does benefit us if it is our independent choice to be grateful. Authentic, genuinely felt gratitude, honestly expressed, can bring us real benefits. The research clearly shows this.
However, when being grateful feels like an ought or a should, gratitude loses its appeal and benefit.
Unfortunately, the world at times seems to be full of orders to be grateful. Maybe you do not always feel grateful?
So often , when people feel depressed, miserable, down, they are urged to ‘Count their blessings.’
This only increases feelings of guilt and inadequacy and it worsens the situation for the person who is depressed.
It is akin to telling someone who is depressed to ‘think happy thoughts.’ I have explored and expanded this topic in a previous post.
From childhood, many people have been given strong messages about being grateful that are actually quite unreasonable and illogical.
‘Eat your greens- you should be GRATEFUL for that food – there are children starving in Africa!!’
In reality, forcing a child to eat green vegetables by using this guilt-inducing tactic simply invites resentment, increases dislike for the food and also creates puzzlement……….
……How will it help starving children in a faraway country if the child eats this slowly congealing portion of peas?
In addition, ‘having’ to feel grateful is a rather impossible task. How can we tell a child – or anyone for that matter – how they should feel?
Other common injunctions to be grateful:
‘Why do you never phone or visit? After all I’ve given you, you should be indebted to me and phone every day.’
‘What have you got to be miserable about? You have everything! Why aren’t you more grateful?’
Having to feel grateful may also make you feel small, someone who only receives and is at the mercy of others’ generosity.
The Narcissistic Parent: “You Should be Grateful, after all I’ve done for you.”
“Narcissists playing the “grandiose” role promote themselves as powerful figures, demanding gratitude and adulation from their child.”
Children ‘made’ to be overly grateful for what they are, in fact, entitled to, will develop confused, resentful and often rebellious feelings.
Such narcissistic parenting often involves an implicit expectation to be grateful for being born.
“Some people have a knack of putting upon you gifts of no real value, to engage you to substantial gratitude. We thank them for nothing.”
Additionally, people-pleasers may feel that they have to be over-grateful:
“There are slavish souls who carry their appreciation for favours done them so far that they strangle themselves with the rope of gratitude.”
Sometimes gratitude might be seen as having a cynical and manipulative motive :
‘Gratitude is merely the secret hope of further favours.”
Francois de La Rochefoucauld
HOWEVER : Feeling Real Gratitude Means….
Research has been carried out which indicates that if a person believes that they have been freely helped, then they can feel grateful more easily. The research paper is entitled ‘You didn’t have to do that…Belief in Free Will Promotes Gratitude.’
The issue of choice therefore works both ways. If the giver gives freely, then the receiver will generally feel more gratitude.
If the person who is helped feels genuinely and freely grateful, then we can be sure that this gratitude is free of coercion and intimidation.
Such sincere, open and true gratitude will have benefits on both sides.
Gratitude: The Benefits
Gratitude strengthens and enriches relationships. By showing how thankful we are, we make the other person feel appreciated and loved.
This is, as we have seen in last week’s post, a crucial element in a loving, functioning relationship.
“No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.”
Alfred North Whitehead
Instead of always expecting gratitude from children in a narcissistic way, perhaps we can express our gratitude to them. This will again benefit both parent and child.
The child will feel valued, strong, worthwhile and as if he/she has something to give to important others.
It is also a good way of teaching the child to be grateful themselves.
Rather than being ordered to be grateful, if they can see that the parent feels gratitude to them, they will learn to express such feelings themselves.
“Gratitude is one of the greatest gifts we can give. And it’s not a gift we often give to children. We expect it of them, but we don’t necessarily give it back.”
Gratitude has been shown to be beneficial to the one who really feels it. Research indicates that gratitude is important to psychological well-being (Wood, Joseph, Maltby ) and that it enables people to ‘build and maintain social relationships.’
It is possible to feel gratitude towards aspects of life other than people. We may be grateful for life, for nature, for love, health freedom.
As we wake up on a beautiful day, we may feel thankful and joyful for being in the world.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
“The earth has music
for those who listen.”
What are you grateful for today?……….
I really feel so much gratitude to you, the readers and followers of my blog posts, for your loyalty, much needed encouraging feedback and support. 💐
You keep me going and you keep me writing.
To Each And Every One Of You,
Whatever Your Colour, Ethnicity, Nationality, Race, Religion, Gender Identity
In All The Different Corners Of Our Amazing Shared World: