Ever since the Law of Attraction took the world by storm in the 2000s and 2010s, practitioners have emphasized being grateful as a foundation for abundance. Ok, fine. And I agree in principle. The more we are grateful for what we have, the better off we will be.
That is a very well-acknowledged virtue from the time of Marcus Aurelius onward. Well, further back than that, even if you follow the Judeo-Christian tradition. Being thankful that you have food to eat and a roof over your head is no small thing.
But those are the more obvious thing to be grateful for. What about being grateful for the lessons learned from, say, a natural disaster? Or from historical travesties? Can you be grateful for those too?
Let’s just say the practice is something very different. And it’s not all warm fuzzies either.
Gratitude hurts when you’re trying to be grateful after suffering.
So, this really isn’t a popular concept, and it gets abused by everyone because the abusers assume you should welcomesuffering. Uhh, so the victims of the Holocaust should be grateful for Auschwitz? Survivors of mass shootings should be grateful for the trauma? I don’t think so.
There’s a fine line between seeing the silver lining and welcoming other people to hurt you.
How much do you have to hate yourself for wanting to suffer?
No, being grateful for suffering is not the same as welcoming it.
We all know that life is going to have some suffering in it. That’s the nature of the beast. The Ancient Egyptians suffered, the Babylonians suffered, and the list goes on. From ancient times, we have recorded the length and breadth of human suffering and there is no escape from it.
So, you have one of two choices: you can play the victim and allow your suffering to not just hurt you at the moment, but hurt you over and over again. Or, you can try to find something good that came out of it.
I’m not trying to belittle anyone’s experiences out there. Nor am I suggesting you “pull yourself up” and get on it with it. Very few people can do that. And those who do still have significant damage. Rather, I’m trying to make you look at your suffering as if you’ve already come through the other side.
You’ve come through the other side, in spite of the odds. That isn’t an easy thing.
Try to find something good that happened because of it. Did you find yourself to be stronger than you thought? Braver? Or, perhaps, you found yourself to be more empathetic afterward.
Those are no small things to be grateful for. It’s going to hurt being grateful for them because they came at such a high cost. But if you don’t try to at least see some small sliver of good, then your suffering was in vain.
Then, your persecutors and abusers really have won.
Gratitude hurts when you feel you’ve lost everything.
I know this feeling intimately by now. I’m sure a few of you do to. What do you do when everything you worked for gets ripped away from you savagely? What do you do when someone you trusted stabs you in the back?
The bigger question is whether you can find something to be thankful for in the remaining ashes. That is not easy to do. At all. How can you be grateful for losing your job, your income, your dignity, or the people you thought were friends?
I still don’t have a solid answer to that one and probably never will. You can find silver linings, but it doesn’t mean the loss hurts any less. You can try to be grateful for the truth, or you’re out of a situation where the people in it really didn’t have your best interests at heart. Try, but I know for me it all seems rather hollow.
It’s difficult to rebuild your life. I’m doing it right now, and it is not easy. Some days, I still want to throw the towel in and mope about what I’ve lost. Others I feel the pangs of resentment bubble to the surface once more.
It may feel like that for you too. If it does, you’re not alone. There are a lot of us out there who are going through the same thing. Gratitude in this situation hurts, I get it. There’s a small part of us that doesn’t want to let go of the resentment. It feels like you’re giving up or being a doormat.
Accepting your situation and letting go of your old one isn’t giving up. It isn’t just rolling over and playing dead. You’re learning to survive and live with the hurt. That isn’t giving up, that’s moving on despite everything.
When gratitude hurts too much, sometimes you need to wallow.
Every now and again, you need to purge your negative emotions just to take the edge off. While I’m not an advocate for anything which causes harm to yourself, or to others, I’m all for a little judicious wallowing in your misery. Sometimes, you just need to let yourself feel the hurt for a little while before numbing it.
And possibly use violence against inanimate objects and/or foodstuffs. Using a meat tenderizer on a pork cutlet is amazingly curative. So is viciously wielding a chef’s knife on some vegetables. Don’t even get me started on the many uses of a blowtorch while cooking.
But then, I turn to cooking when I’m really upset about something. It helps channel my energies and do something productive while potentially taking out my frustration. I’ve broken a meat tenderizer and gone through half a bottle of wine before. Without an ounce of remorse.
I got a good meal, and the wine helped numb everything so that I could actually stop thinking for a little while. Felt much better the next day and could be a normal, functioning human being.
Good food cures many ills. Particularly if you chase it down with lots of good wine.
Wallowing may look different for you. Perhaps it’s playing video games and viciously attacking your opponents, or perhaps you take a nice vigorous run. Whatever your poison be that exercise, cooking, knitting, or sword fighting (yes, that is still a thing), or curling up under the blankets and crying until you’re exhausted.
Do what you need to do to cope and purge those emotions. When you’re finished and you feel calmer, then try to practice your gratitude again.
You may find it doesn’t hurt so much.
So, if gratitude hurts too much this Thanksgiving, don’t worry. Eat your turkey, drink lots of wine, watch a bunch of sappy movies, and try again the next day. Don’t forget the all-important pumpkin pie.
Gratitude isn’t just for a season, anyway.
And if all that still doesn’t help, then perhaps what you really need is a good counselor and therapist to help get you straight again. There’s no shame in asking for help.
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