taking care not to weaponize gratitude
By: Angela Kuhns, LPC
It is the time of year where Gratitude is scrolled across every inspirational post and
barn board in sight. There is a significant amount of research that supports the
numerable benefits of a gratitude practice such as improved mental and physical
health, increased resiliency, improved relationships, increased self- esteem, and
increased empathy. Yet the word snags on the jagged edges of my judgment and I
am instantly suspicious. When I hear someone say “I should be grateful” or “just be
thankful” I cringe. Cue the inner critic and concern for what others will think. I am
not supposed to think that way yet alone share it. Maybe I am a bad therapist- a
bad human. I am going to go ahead and pause right there. I have never
investigated a part that didn’t have a deep caring, something it was fiercely
attempting to protect. So, like I encourage the people I work with to do, I try to get
curious and explore with compassion rather than judging the part or over identify
The part brings forward how hard this time of year is for so many people. Grief,
loneliness, stress of unrealistic expectations, the sense of not enough... it is
agonizing. There is so much minimizing, shaming, and dismissal of pain that
masquerades as gratitude. The meaning gets misconstrued and weaponized. We
hear how our pain is unacceptable and a personal failure.
In the depths of our pain, we need to know someone sees us, our suffering, and will
follow through with compassionate action. Pain is profound and it asks to be
acknowledged along side the profoundness of gratitude. For gratitude is not a way
to circumvent pain, it is a salve that eases suffering not denies it. It is protective. It
increases our wellbeing. Now more than ever we need gratitude in its truest form,
not some watered-down performative version or the false stand-ins that cause
Brené Brown in Atlas of the Heart writes “Gratitude is an emotion that reflects our
deep appreciation for what we value, what brings meaning to our lives, and what
makes us feel connected to ourselves and others.” This points to ways we can
check in with ourselves and our practice. Do I feel thankful or guilty? Open or
hardened? Relaxed or tense? Connected or isolated? Expansive or diminished?
Intentional or forced? Warm or numb? Compassionate or judgmental?
I hope this season we can connect to the heart of gratitude.
May we receive the gifts of both gratitude and the acknowledgement of pain
May we practice gratitude in ways that expand compassion to ourselves and others
May we make space for all parts and connect to the deep caring within
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JENNIFER EULBERG, MA, LPC
Welcome Jennifer, our new blogger!
Jennifer is a counselor at Sandhill who specializes in depression, self-esteem, and grief & loss. Get to know Jennifer as she shares her perspectives on life, contemplates value themes, and offers gentle encouragement.
THANK YOU to Stefanie Pisarkiewicz, LPC for her blog contributions from November 2014 - February 2019!
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