Synopsis: This mini-love-skill lesson starts with important questions about thankfulness; goes on to gratitude awareness, gratitude confusion, gratitude insensitivity, the self enrichment of gratitude, gratitude expression and ends with a thankfulness and gratitude challenge.
Thankful?Are you good at being thankful? Are you good at noticing what you have to be thankful for? Are you good at identifying who you have to be thankful to? Are you good at experiencing a sense of gratitude? Are you good at showing your thankfulness and gratitude to those you love and those you would or might come to love? Are you good at finding different ways to state your gratitude? Being sincerely thankful and finding ways to convey your thankfulness or gratitude can be a very useful and constructive part of doing ‘affirmation love’, see entry “A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love”. Are you aware that without gratitude sufficiently felt and thankfulness sufficiently expressed love relationships are likely to be diminished and often seriously damaged.
Gratitude AwarenessDo you agree with this statement? Every positive and pleasurable experience of your life, and everything you achieve or accomplish, and every one of your victories, comforts and acquirements are things you have been helped to have and did not achieve all on your own. Someone else did a lot of work with almost everything you eat before you eat it. Someone else built the roads you travel on and the domiciles you live in as well as the structures you function in.
Someone else researched and developed the medicines you take and the tools you work with. Most of your learning opportunities come from the endeavors of others. Perhaps most important of all, someone loved you enough to keep you sufficiently thriving in infancy and childhood so that you stayed alive and are now able to be reading this mini-love-lesson about gratitude. So, are you grateful for all that?
Perhaps today someone will smile at you. Perhaps today someone will treat you nicely. Perhaps today someone will do you a favor. Perhaps today someone will give you a loving touch. Perhaps today someone will make your life just a bit easier. Perhaps today someone will say words indicating that you are loved. Will you experience the pleasure of gratitude as these things happen? Hopefully your gratitude awareness will be keen. If not, work on it and be grateful to yourself for doing so.
Gratitude ConfusionGratitude is not to be confused with guilt, obligation, sense of duty, owing somebody something in return, or anything else that might be felt as a negative. Sadly, many people have been trained, or in essence subconsciously programmed, to cancel the joy of gratitude with one negative set of feelings or another. Gratitude as an emotion just means you get to feel good that something good has come your way and you can have a sense of being grateful about that. By itself gratitude does not mean that you have to, or should, or ought to do anything except have the positive experience gratitude provides.
Gratitude InsensitivityLots of people take for granted so many of the positive things they might otherwise be grateful for. Many others take for granted not only the actions of, but also the people who are providing love and other strong positives in their life. Many of the people I have dealt with in therapy stopped taking things and people for granted and became grateful only after they lost or were in danger of losing the most important people in their lives. So many people are focused on some other aspect of life that they are blind to the things and people they could be grateful for. Many others are insufficiently aware and grateful for the bundle of miracles they themselves are. Did you know you are a bundle of miracles? Everything about you and all your natural processes (biologically, psychologically and socially) can be seen as wondrous. Dare you be grateful?
The Self Enrichment of GratitudeDo you know that it does you good to be grateful? First, gratefulness starts with awareness of something you appreciate and appreciation is a form of pleasure, therefore, you pleasure yourself when you experience being in a state of appreciating. Second, gratefulness for something or someone puts you in a state of sensing a positive connection with that something or someone. Third, both the pleasuring and the connecting senses tend to stimulate several healthful neurochemical events in your brain which are rather good for you biologically and psychologically. Gratitude also frequently can give you something to enjoyably share with another person.
Gratitude ExpressedGratitude shared with someone you love often increases the love and the occurrence of ‘love giving actions’ going back and forth between people who have a love relationship with each another. Because of gratitude’s positive nature, gratitude shared can help you have or make a positive interaction and strengthen a bond with another person. Telling someone you love that you are thankful they are in your life and that various actions that they do to express their love toward you is appreciated is best done as a free gift without any expectation of a return. If there is an expectation of return when expressing gratitude that can be a disguised, selfish manipulation instead of just a true gift of love. Saying thank you, if done in a perfunctory way without a true sense of gratitude behind it, may make the expression weak and nearly meaningless.
Overdoing it also has its problems. Going on and on about something you are grateful for may produce embarrassment, awkwardness, suspicion and annoyance. Usually the best verbal expressions of loving gratefulness are delivered clearly, strongly and shortly. However, in intimate situations longer and more detailed, love-filled statements can work quite well. Gifts, cards, notes and special experience gifts which express thankfulness to someone you love often are excellent ways to demonstrate love. One of the best things about expressing your thanks to a loved one is that it can be fun. It can be done as a surprise, a special, intimate event or as a social, laudatory and celebratory occurrence.
The gratitude challengeLet me dare you to be grateful and from that actively thankful for things small, medium and large which others do for you, do on your behalf or do in your direction. Let me dare you to express your thankfulness with a little more intensity than perhaps you usually do. Let me dare you to express your thankfulness a little more frequently than is usual for you, and let me dare you to start today!
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J Richard Cookerly
Right this minute, what will you be thankful for about yourself ?