The Problem With Gratitude

I am in the business of taking people’s challenges and turning them into amazing possibilities. Stuck in a place of chronic dissatisfaction? I will help you figure out what is missing from your life and how to connect to it. Feel that you are alone in your relationship? Let me facilitate your stepping up to be heard, seen, known. Clear on your issue, but not the solution? No problem. Together we’ll figure out what your core values and how to make choices from those values. Easy peasy.

But… Gratitude?

Gratitude is Complex

Gratitude is a liquid force that changes shape the minute you’ve grasped hold of it.  Certain aspects of Gratitude come easy. We are grateful for our wonderful children, our good health and our good fortune. We can list out the things we are grateful for and feel good about that list.

But how do we apply Gratitude in the face of challenge?

What happens when our wonderful children disappoint us? Where do our thoughts go when we lose our health? What do we believe when our good fortune goes bad? These are the lessons that (depending on your philosophy) God, Nature, or the Universe provide us.

If we are not willing to do the deeper work of addressing the lessons set before us, the “feel good” of simple gratitude is fleeting. It lives in a house of cards made up pop-psych wishes and positive affirmations, and cannot shelter you when the storm comes.

Real Gratitude is a challenge. It is confrontational, painful at times, and demands radical acceptance. Truly living a life of Gratitude calls on the deepest parts of us to go to work– hard.

What lessons are showing up in your life today? How can you be grateful for even those challenges you might desperately want to overcome?

Can you be grateful if confronted with cancer? Can you be grateful in the disappointment of a child’s poor judgment and discretion? Should you be grateful for that unexpected tax bill that creates a hardship in our life?

The hitch is, living a powerfully happy life demands that you be grateful not for, but within every hardship, disappointment, failure, and challenge you face. Again– notice the distinction– while we might not be grateful for hardship, we can find Gratitude within it.

What does this look like in practice?

“Even though I did not expect this huge tax bill and it creates to stress in my life, I’m grateful to have the money to pay it.”

I know, I know, what if you don’t have the money to pay it?

“Even though I did not expect this huge tax bill and it creates distrust in my life, And even though I don’t have the money to pay it right now, I am glad I have the credit to pay it, that I was able to make a payment plan, that I was able to get a loan from a friend or family, that I have a card to sell, but I was creative enough to have a garage sale, but I can take on a second job,…”

Get the picture?

Recently, my daughter has provided me with a lot of opportunity to practice this type of Gratitude.  It doesn’t come naturally for anyone of us. I am no exception to feelings of humanness. Just like you, I want to avoid pain or feelings that are unpleasant. But that doesn’t make for a very interesting life, and it certainly does not provide opportunity to grow and evolve.

“I am grateful for my challenging daughter because it gives me an opportunity to parent the most wounded, confusing parts of her.”

“I am grateful to have been surprised by her behavior, disappointed even, because it allows me, her mother, the opportunity to learn and grow in my ability to provide unconditional love.”

“I am grateful for the challenges I’m having as a parent, because it allows me to reach out to others in my life and learn that I am not alone in raising my family.”

Now you’re getting it.

Life will kick your ass and leave you flat in the ground. True Gratitude will pick you up, cradle you in its arms, comfort you and hold you through the worst parts of it all. It will teach you not only to accept every aspect of your life, but will show you what true acceptance, forgiveness and unconditional positive regard looks like.

What are you waiting for?

Carmen Isais, LMFT

Carmen Isais, MA offers confidential, fee-for-service, consultation and coaching services to help both men and women move through tough issues, find meaning, connection and create a life they love. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Email to contact Carmen directly.