I know we often hear look on the bright side, look for the Silver Linings. When really bad things happen that can be very difficult to do. Heck even when you’re in the day-to-day grind and you’re tired and you’re frustrated and you want to know when things are going to get better, it’s also hard to be grateful for the process. We humans want instant gratification to prove that things are going to be OK. This week in the US, we are encouraged to focus on gratitude and spending time with people we love. And sometimes pretending everything is just fine.
Now I’m not a big fan of “toxic positivity” where we try to minimize, suppress, or deny how we are truly feeling, especially frustration and anger. When you deny your feelings, you deny yourself, can just make you feel so much worse emotionally, increase your anxiety, and lower your self-esteem. Because basically you are telling yourself you don’t believe yourself, that your frustration and your anger either are not real, or they should not be felt and expressed. This does not mean of course that it’s a good idea to hang on the cross and wallow, catastrophizing everything and predicting horrible outcomes. Trying to control the outcome by awfulizing it is a very different thing from just allowing yourself to feel and express what you are feeling. To validate your reality right now here in this moment.
I think it is very true but if we cannot first validate what is real for us, and why that matters, and that anyone else in our shoes would be feeling similar feelings, then I think we can get out of our fight- or-flight mode and actually get into problem solving. Even if solving the problem means grieving what we cannot control IE coming to acceptance around what is. That is why I love gratitude. Because I can be grateful and be in reality at the same time. Being grateful for the good parts, the bad things that actually didn’t happen, without denying my truth. Without minimizing how hard parts are to deal with right now. Being grateful does not mean I’m happy with everything. It just means I’m grateful for what I’m grateful for.
I know that many people say we should also learn to be grateful for the bad things that happen because of the good lessons that come from that. For those awful circumstances that can bring about tremendous, wonderful changes for us. I’m not saying that that’s not true, but don’t pressure yourself to go there immediately. That takes a lot of inner work a lot of grief work, and sometimes a whole new spiritual outlook to get to this place. I think it does help however to try to pick out the gentle life lessons without beating yourself up for what happened. Sometimes those gentle lessons are simply by deserve better, or I need to be more disciplined, or not be so self-focused said that others can feel that I care about them whatever the lesson, I do believe we will repeat it until we learn it for good.
It’s not the universe punishing us. It’s just cause and effect playing out. As we work on ourselves we come to realize that it’s just reality. There are benefits and consequences to our choices just as they are for everyone else, and acceptance of this can help us take better responsibility for our lives. This is where the wonderful boundary work comes into play, teaching us to focus on our own thoughts or own feelings or own needs in our own choices. Boundaries also help us to more clearly define what we are truly feeling because we are no longer medicating with focusing on someone else and what they’re doing and not doing.
So, allow yourself to have some gratitude this week for whatever simple things in life you stop and recognize. Like the comfortable bed you were sleeping in. Having food to eat, perhaps getting together with others this week. Or that you have one more day to live out your dreams. I also hope you’re grateful for yourself, for all of your courage to continue working on yourself, and to make your life the best it can be.