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When Gratitude Gets Misused

When Gratitude Gets Misused

Part 3 of 3 in the “Reclaim Your Power” Series.

Imagine the arising of an emotional trigger. You’ve read about this moment in all your favorite spiritual books; gathering evidence from your past to help you identify the original wounds that make this tendency possible.

You may have even rehearsed potential scenarios to avert the escalation of turmoil. And yet, despite the culmination of training you’ve acquired, here you are, boarding a train once again en route to reaction land. As the heat of tension twists your stomach into knots and causes your jaw to clench, you remember one of your learned practices: 'be grateful! a voice in your head says in a tone that is more over-bearing than compassionate. 'Great idea!' you think, as if the triggering of emotion may have been caused by a gratefulness deficiency. And so, perhaps in a way you were innocently trained to respond, you re-direct attention toward the people, places, and things you are grateful for having in your life. For one fleeting moment of relief, the reframe seems to work—and you move on with your day feeling more in control of your experience than controlled by the feelings living within you.

What if this is an example of a third dimensional spiritual approach that exists as more of a bypass mechanism than a modality of relief? What if gratitude is meant to be offered to the circumstances at hand and as a way of turning toward your experiences instead of away from difficulty? What if emotional reactivity is asking to be praised for its assumption that you need protection from those around you? What if any emotional reaction begs for a ‘thank you’ to know it’s worthy of being included in the totality of divinity, instead of cast aside as an imagined barrier to better experiences?

When gratitude gets misused, it’s employed as a mechanism of avoidance to pattern interrupt the tendency to obsess over your feelings. In truth, you don’t have to obsess over your feelings—nor does turning away from any reaction help to set you free. Instead, you may choose to implement a practice of gratitude like a team of firefighters running practice drills at the station, so you know how to respond when fires of emotional turmoil are set ablaze. If fire represents an emotional trigger and water symbolizes the vibration of gratitude, misusing gratefulness is like being a firefighter attempting to extinguish the flames of a burning building by turning away from the blaze and hosing down the house across the street. Avoiding your true feelings with misplaced gratitude doesn’t extinguish the ‘fire’ of emotional turmoil but instead leaves it unaddressed, ready to rage again at any time.

While it is a meaningful practice to count your blessings, many people do it in avoidance of their unprocessed pain or in response to a fear of losing what they have if they aren’t grateful enough. Especially when emotional triggers are set into motion, there could be nothing else begging for a reminder of worth and value but the feelings calling out for the gift of your attention.

Think of overwhelming emotions as signals, similar to a fire alarm in a fire station. These emotions are not just disturbances; they are crucial messages asking to be acknowledged and respected, playing a vital role in your personal growth. Imagine being a firefighter, deeply engaged in a card game (representing your daily life and plans). When the fire alarm of emotional triggers sounds, it’s an invitation to pause your game and attend to something more urgent—your feelings.

Just as a firefighter doesn’t judge their worth by the number of fires they encounter but rather by the skill and presence they bring to each emergency, it becomes vital for you to focus on how you respond to each emotional trigger, regardless of their frequency. The key is not in avoiding these emotional ‘fires’ but in learning to respond to them with awareness and skill, recognizing their role in your evolution.

Perhaps you may be wondering, 'What is there to be grateful for when the threat or inconvenience of reactivity surfaces?' In truth, there are many things to be grateful for. You can be grateful for being aware of opportunities to support your most reactive parts. You can be grateful for how such patterns interrupt your ego’s ability to hide in perfectionism. You can be grateful for how aware you become of self-judgment in response to the reactions you cannot control. You can be grateful for how not being in control slowly but surely helps you release a need to seek some form of control. You can be grateful that once a need for control has been released, you are able to make different choices in support of your emotions. You can be grateful for opportunities to experience the unconditional nature of true love by the support, praise, and thankfulness you show yourself whenever life doesn’t go your way. You can be grateful for how precisely life shows you the way things are meant to be—even when in conflict with how you want it to be. Through these examples and more, there is no end to how grateful you can be whenever emotionally triggered. You just have to be willing to bring gratitude into the moment you’re in, instead of using it as a form of escape. In truth, the moment emotions are triggered, you may need to feel discomfort and allow your feelings to be initially felt and heard before a response of gratefulness can be received. When you are willing to take the journey on life’s precise terms and conditions, gratitude can be the life raft moving you along choppy emotional waters, sure to guide you to horizons of safety no matter how slowly the current may move.

As a guide helping you traverse the journey of surrender, gratitude neither asks you to psychoanalyze each sensation nor will it help you ditch class whenever the pop quiz sensation of an emotion arises to be felt. Instead, the vibration of gratitude helps you learn the evolutionary benefits each feeling provides—even when packaged in the discomfort of pain or surfacing as recurring waves of grief. Instead of insisting you must be grateful or berating yourself to always be grateful, what if you allowed yourself to cherish the awareness of gratitude and how powerfully it gives each tension and reaction the very gift it needs—one reaction, assumption, or judgment at a time. From this space, there is everything to face and nothing to avoid, all throughout a journey of expansion where the only way out, is in.

All for love,

Matt Kahn


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When Gratitude Gets Misused

© Copyright 2024 Matt Kahn All For Love 

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