We live in a society where gratitude is trendy. It’s good to be grateful. It’s a good thing. We are taught: I express gratitude, I, in some way, become happier. It’s a foolproof formula, right?
Perhaps. Or perhaps, gratitude isn’t always our first reaction. Perhaps, we, as a society, have focused too much on cultivating gratitude, and have forgotten to mention the real feelings that often precede it. Gratitude isn’t born out of nothing. It is often preceded by chaos, by pain, by darkness. So, why aren’t we talking about those parts, too?
It’s no coincidence that people who have had near-death experiences leave with a new outlook on life. It’s not an accident that people, who have survived Cancer, drug addiction, and trauma, possess a new outlook on life. Gratitude is the lovechild of pain.
The times in my life I have truly felt grateful are the times that I have truly felt pain. It’s this polarity that is at the core of life. Sadness and joy, pain and pleasure, darkness and light. Without one, you don’t have the other.
Let’s do our best to remember to talk about both. Not just the happy side of things. Because when we leave out the darker polarity, we allow people to believe it doesn’t exist. And when we allow people to believe it doesn’t exist, we allow them to believe that their darkness is abnormal in some way.
Your darkness isn’t abnormal. Your darkness is the very thing that makes you human. Without it, you wouldn’t have your light.
It’s possible to let gratitude become a wall. I, for one, have done it. I have begun to feel emotional pain, but then put a wall up, saying “But I am so grateful for my life. I have nothing to complain about.”
Here’s the kicker: gratitude doesn’t mean that you don’t feel your feelings. Feel them, 100%. Allow them to come up. Do what you do with them. Resist them, push them away, or bury them down. The feelings will come up in some other form or another– we all know this. Once you have felt them, then, let gratitude run its course.
Gratitude isn’t the beginning of the story; it’s often the last chapter. So, if you are in the beginning or the middle of your story, worry not, there is a grateful ending ahead.