Friday, May 15, 2015



Do You Really Understand Gratitude?

Is there anyone out there who has not heard about the life-enhancing properties of gratitude? Probably not.

There are countless spiritual and self-help gurus out there (including myself) who recommend gratitude and talk about how it's changed their lives. 

I believe gratitude is beautiful and a wonderful practice. However, I often see gratitude being misused and abused - to our own detriment. What? How does a person misuse, or abuse gratitude? Is that even really possible?

In short, Yes... it is possible and actually happens quite often. In my Law of Attraction group on Facebook, I post a daily "Gratitude" list to help people understand that being grateful for what we have, instead of focusing on what we don't have, is key to bringing happiness into our lives. I have even wrote about gratitude in my books. But one thing people misunderstand is that gratitude is a feeling... not just magical words. And with that misunderstanding, many people follow a ritualistic practice that can, on occasion, do more harm than good. Let me explain in more detail.

Below are 3 ways we abuse, or misuse gratitude...

1. Using Gratitude as a Cure-All - Many people see gratitude as a kind of "magic wand" that will change the way they think and feel and fix what is "wrong" with their lives. How many times have you been feeling down, or even responded to a person who feels down with the statement, "The answer to all your problems, disappointments and challenges is to just be grateful." 

In most people's personal reality, there is no quick fix to feeling happy or satisfied. Gratitude is just one component of many that we can use to create a more fulfilled life.

Gratitude on it's own is not enough to help when life gets tough, when we feel betrayed or let down, or when we face financial difficulties, challenges with our children, illnesses and so on. Gratitude is just one of many tools available to help us through - but it's not necessarily the first or the best one we could use.

2. The Second Arrow - All too often when I read the advice given by Big-time LOA gurus about gratitude, it reads like a list of 'should's'. How many times have you heard something like "There are millions of people starving in this world - so you should be grateful..." 
But telling ourselves we should feel grateful when we already feel bad is what Buddhism calls "the second arrow". The first arrow (the event that caused our negative feeling) hurts. But then we shoot ourselves with a 'second arrow' by judging, criticizing, or "shoulding" on ourselves - and make ourselves feel even worse.

Gratitude is a beautiful thing. But when we judge ourselves, and hear the well-worn axioms on gratitude, particularly when we are in the heat of the moment, we often begin to feel worthless. This is because we are told, by others, that we are in effect "doing it wrong". I mean really, who the hell are other people to tell you how you should or should not feel?

3. Gratitude is not a Band-Aid - I've seen people repeatedly go straight for the gratitude when something challenging happens, using it to avoid their true feelings. This is common in the Law of Attraction world because people mistakenly believe that if they allow the bad feelings, the will attract bad circumstances... this could not be further from the truth. If we 'yield' to the bad feelings, accept them and let them pass without resistance, they will not fester like a wound causing us to subconsciously focus on them. Doing THAT, is what attracts more bad stuff.

Forced gratitude makes things worse when we ignore the painful messages about what's not working for us and what went wrong. Without this information how can we move forwards? How will we know what to change? How can we ask for help?

Some people who are staunch practitioners of gratitude would say, "I'm grateful that I wrecked my car and lost my job, now I get to meet new people and try something different..." While this viewpoint can be helpful, it also neatly sidesteps the anger, disappointment, discomfort, fear and uncertainty someone may be feeling. When we stop short of acknowledging how we really feel, it prevents us from seeking help and comfort, making changes and taking action. AND because those difficult feelings are not acknowledged and dispersed, they eat away at us, and we attract more difficult feelings.

So how do we use gratitude properly?

Realize that gratitude is not just an attitude, but a feeling of thankfulness that arises naturally when our thoughts settle enough for us to see the truth of things. But if we're busy burying our feelings of disappointment, emotional pain, or anger - the feeling of gratitude is going to have difficulty breaking through the maelstrom of emotions.

Instead we can cultivate and practice looking for things to be thankful or grateful for when we feel GOOD - so that it becomes a way of life. Waiting till we feel bad to practice gratitude is not going to help... So be grateful always.

TRUE Gratitude arises naturally when we truly feel thankful and appreciative of what is going on in our lives. Think of a time when a feeling of thankfulness and gratitude washed over you and how wonderful it felt... was that feeling forced or did it come natural?

When we feel TRULY grateful, we feel light and spacious and wonderful inside - it's authentic, satisfying, invigorating, calming, and even joyful. And THAT'S what we want.
Like any emotion, gratitude can't be forced. What we CAN do is cultivate our minds so that we create an environment where gratitude is more likely to arise. We can make the practice of gratitude into a HABIT and focus on the positive things in our lives. When we do this, then we can experience the TRUE beauty of gratitude.

So stop pretending that everything's OK when it's not. When difficult things happen, don't just put a smile on it and say, "Thank-you" when you are really miserable. When bad things happen, it's only when we've soothed our feelings and had a chance to process them that we can see the silver lining - the learning or good that came out of a difficult time.

By all means, focus on what is great in life, rather than what is terrible. Let's keep gratitude journals and say positive affirmations. But let's be sure to acknowledge what we're REALLY feeling instead of applying a band-aid. 

Believe to Achieve!

Joe Vulgamore is a Life Coach, Certified Hypnotherapist and NLP Practitioner as well as a Personal Development Author and Speaker. He works with people who are struggling with limiting beliefs, core values, and goal setting to sharpen their edge, perform at optimum levels, and achieve excellence. He has a proven track record of helping thousands of people from over 14 countries, across 5 continents, to make life-transformations through one-to-one coaching and workshops.

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