Gratitude is Important, but it Shouldn’t Be Used as a Bypass to Override Less Comfortable Emotions.

Poor old gratitude. A mis-used buzz word up there with self-care and mindfulness.

Look, I’m not anti-gratitude. But here’s the thing: when gratitude is authentic, it often arises spontaneously in moments of clarity…..where we see ourselves and the world around us with clear eyes, and we have a deep sense that our life experiences, no matter how wonderful or difficult, are happening FOR us in some way, rather than TO us. Those are sacred, human moments, and that’s not what I’m talking about here.

I’m referring to the use of the word “gratitude” as a strategy to shut down feelings we may secretly believe are bad or shameful……like anger, sadness, grief, just to name a few. When the discomfort associated with these (and other) emotions pops up, we may immediately attempt to find something we are “grateful” for in order to shield ourselves from the discomfort, as well as the shame we may have for having that feeling in the first place (especially if we learned somewhere along the line that “‘fill in the blank emotion’ is bad”, “good girls don’t get angry”, etc etc).

Or worse, we are told by someone close to us to just “be grateful” when we’ve disclosed that we’re hurting or struggling with something. And while this brand of forced gratitude may give us some relief in the moment, what we’re actually doing is making things worse…..because we are merely suppressing our anger/sadness/etc. We’re interrupting our natural and adaptive emotional process in an effort to feel immediate relief. The problem is that those feelings aren’t going anywhere unless we stop bypassing them…..they’ll just be stronger next time they come up, and eventually we will have to find 500 things we are “grateful” for in order to counteract them.

The irony of it all is that honest, genuine gratitude comes when we allow ourselves the dignity of our whole experience, regardless of what that looks like. And there is a 99.9% chance that our experience will be very messy, imperfect and human. And it will likely be miles away from #bliss or #gratitude.