Chapter 4 –
True or false: gratitude sucks.
It pulls us away from our addictive compulsion to self-pity.
True or False: gratitude is our heart’s best friend.
Our heart’s best friend is our mind’s best friend.
Because our brain doesn’t think for herself, whatever our mind enjoys, our brain likes as well.
So, our brain responds well to gratitude, too.
Serious question: when we don’t feel protected, when we don’t get the emotional fuel we need from others, when we don’t feel worthy of having anything more than what we have, when we are unable to protect our egos and safeguard our entitlements, shouldn’t it be OK to curl up in a ball or rant and rave?
Short answer: no, it’s not. Or, if we really must, only for a moment.
New question: what then?
Answer: what’s needed is a conscious review of our performances vs results garnered. Then, we focus on how we can improve our situation. That’s it.
Reality check: gratitude is like organic raw honey for our thoughts. It’s anti-inflammatory.
It fortifies and soothes the mind.
It’s key to our mental attitude.
Most of us living in reasonably safe democracies are blessed to not be living in a war zone, a refugee camp, in any areas controlled by traffickers and cartels.
Or in concentration camps such as those infamous ones of WWII or, more currently, those in which the Chinese government has enslaved approximately 1 million Uyghurs. The ones not yet killed in the ongoing genocide China is driving against this ethnic minority.
And as long as we are not part of a minority, or prone to hitchhiking on deserted roads or to walking solo in parks and beaches after dark, nothing much, really, should trigger a fight or flight response in our brain. Yet, our mind’s perception of fearful potentiality keeps ‘the gas pedal’ pressed down. It keeps our body’s systems revved up and on high alert.
Of course, in this era of the Covid-19 pandemic, economic disruption has added to the real worry for many of not having enough savings and the fear of the dreaded inability to pay debts.
Of course, when forced to remain confined at home, unable to avoid a coercive abuser or a bully member of our family – so many causes for the brain to send recurring distress signals throughout our nervous system!
For some, even the workplace is not a safe place.
Of course, when serious illnesses threaten lives, ours and that of our loved ones, anxiety is natural.
When one plot beat or other risks capsizing life as we know it – and wish to keep it – fear-induced anxiety is natural.
Natural, yes. But unnatural are prolonged fight-flight-freeze responses generated by the many, mostly self-inflicted, pressures of modern living.
Many well-documented physiological changes occur in our brain programmed, as it is, to optimise our body’s chances of survival by energising it for a quick response followed by a period of calm once out of harm’s way.
Our brain does not respond well to the impact of quasi-relentless, full-throttle stress and anxiety imposed by our chosen lifestyles.
if we could immediately detach from our kneejerk reactions, we would reset our thoughts as would a neutral observer of the situation.
Whenever we initially felt ‘under fire’, we would see that we were about to behave as if an imagined enemy was about to gut-punch us.
Or strip us of all credibility. Or ransack our love cache.
If we were able to replace those impulsive thoughts with healthier ones of trust and physical safety, we would automatically hit the Pause button ahead of making the situation worse for ourselves.
We would, then, allow improved outcomes and a range of coherent possibilities to peak.
Heads up: trusting that all is well, that all is as should be here and now, is the opposite of apprehension.
It’s also the opposite of fear.
Reality check: instead of feeling genuinely grateful for all that is humming nicely in our day-to-day, instead of feeling empowered by our independence, we never feel we have enough.
- Bottom line #1: we allow every perceived lack to prompt us to take all the good bits for granted and treat them as crumbs. Which, then, robs us of the healing feeling of heart-based Gratitude, if only for a myriad of simple things that flow uneventfully throughout our days.
Bottom line #2: our desire is to fit into a social media niche defined by others.
We derive our sense of self through the gaze of others.
We derive our sense of self through our perception of their degree of appreciation or of disdain and condemnation.
Then, comes the aversion felt from feeling pulled in different directions – even if, thankfully, not literally.
Then, there’s the confusion that stems from the inability to prioritise and resolve personal conflicts.
Then, there’s not enough time to do the things we enjoy because we don’t have enough control over our workload.
Then, many paradoxes complicate our lives further.
When trapped within such a paradigm so profoundly rooted in our culture, disappointment in ourselves is as inevitable as it is harmful.
That recurring disappointment in ourselves, in others and in the state of things dissolves any thought of Gratitude.
Even when, morning after morning, we wake up in a bed … ‘@ home’.
Even when we wake up with our arms and toes and face intact – without a stomach ache. Not even a headache.
Even when we are spared any unwanted imposition.
Even when we wake up knowing our loved ones are safe – including our pets.
Even when we are able to provide for ourselves and our loved ones.
Good news: once we get how we complicate our lives unnecessarily, we smile, and we definitely mean that smile because we now know that smiling and genuine laughter are gold to our neural wiring.
Setbacks and less than optimal responses to emotional discomfort do not make us doubt the validity of our desire.
Instead, they make us question our ability to bridle our ego-persona and get back on track.
Serious question: shouldn’t consequences or setbacks serve as timely and optimal wake-up calls?
One worthwhile desire could be to see them as such.
Instead, a common desire is to escape from What-Is. Which prompts us to ask ourselves: if we so want to escape What-Is, what is there, then, to be grateful for?
Heads up: surely, being spared any degree of complications and consequences should release the desire to double-up on heartfelt Gratitude.
Surely, then, dear Reader, shouldn’t the desire to generate, feel and sustain sincere Gratitude be added near the top of our bucket list?