28: Gratitude

Sometimes our annoyance with distress narrows into an obsession about getting rid of what we do not want. Whether our concern is a bad mood, chronic fatigue, or some other problem, we assume that our success and contentment depend on removing these obstacles.

While this approach may seem logical, it ignores the influence of one of the primary laws governing mental and emotional energies. This law is: thought energies follow our focus of attention. If we brood on how our hardships depress us, we increase our discouragement. When we dwell on our fear of rejection and social isolation, we energize our anxiety. As we resent the unfairness of life, we feed our hostility. These are common ways we spin our misery magnets to practice psychic self-destruction.

The key mistake many of us make is taking health, friendships, and other advantages for granted, while devoting our primary attention to regrets, losses, and enemies. This approach not only energizes the very things we dislike, it also neglects the strong and healthy parts of our life, leading to an acceleration of our psychic self-destruction.

There will be those, of course, who insist that we cannot just ignore the hardships and problems in our life. We must do something! This is correct, but we do not need to concentrate on beating our problems to death. The Apostle Paul gave us the formula for the healthy way to deal with major negativity. He wrote: “Overcome evil with good.” This is no mere platitude. It is a major principle for healing the damage of psychic self-destruction and many problems that are worse.

We can apply this principle in many simple ways. A good place to begin is to be thankful that we have many strengths, skills, and knowledge for coping with the difficulties in our life. Even when difficult situations resist our best efforts, we can be grateful for two major strengths: the intelligence to understand when we cannot fix the unfixable and the self-control to endure these things gracefully. Gratitude for what we have, what we can be, and what we can accomplish supports our efforts to reverse psychic self-destruction. Anger and despair only exhaust us.

Being able to worry means that we also know how to gather, concentrate, and focus our mental and emotional energies. When we do this in constructive ways we begin to heal the damage of psychic self- destruction. Instead of brooding on our difficulties, gratitude mobilizes our healthy qualities to appreciate the opportunities and strengths we have. Rather than dwelling on what we fear, we can be thankful for our ability to persevere and assert ourself. In place of continual anger about what we consider unfair, we can appreciate the times when we have been treated generously and charitably.

Gratitude, when correctly focused, does more than lift up our mood, energize our confidence, and support our capacity to thrive. The attitude of thankfulness will eventually neutralize our storehouse of resentment, discouragement, and anxiety. In fact, our ability to express gratitude for the healthy and constructive elements of our life is a major force for repairing the damage of psychic self-destruction.

These steps are more significant than they might seem. Shifting our attitudes can be as powerful as shifting the gears in our car from reverse to forward!

The second benefit of practicing gratitude is to nurture our fundamental ability to solve problems, pursue self-improvement, and thrive in all circumstances. This includes our basic healing mechanism that has helped us our entire life to survive cuts, scratches, infections, injuries and even major illness. Many take all these automatic operations for granted despite the fact our very life depends on their smooth operation. Our gratitude also supports our complex mechanism for healing most emotional wounds. When we are criticized unfairly, we can be grateful for the good sense to realize it is the rude critic—not us—who has the problem. If our good ideas or works are ignored, we can still appreciate the value of our effort—even if others do not. When our best attempts fail, we can still be thankful that we have learned something from these efforts and can try again.

Sometimes our gratitude can help us appreciate the greater context that includes all of our struggles— including our success and defeats, our wins and our losses. Our ability to thrive in life arises out of multiple experiences of both success and failure. Because we can learn from all these experiences, our abilities grow through our steady effort to keep trying in new and better ways. The insight we need is to recognize that our greatest challenges, honestly met, inevitably lead to increased knowledge, skills, and competence. When we fully appreciate this view of life, we can be grateful for the long-term result of those struggles— instead of resenting the temporary hardship.

The third way gratitude helps us is to connect us to noble possibilities and forces. Chronic anxiety, discouragement, and resentment can set our psychic radar to search for threats, difficulties, and disap- pointment. Obsessing on what is wrong, missing, or disgusting assures that we will find these things and, perhaps, become stuck in them. As long as we are oriented to this dark dimension, we will be saturated with annoyance and irritation.

We know that bad things often occur—and we must not ignore them—but we also cannot afford to neglect the positive aspects of our life and the higher forces that support them. Without our thankfulness for the healthy elements in our life, we will be unprotected from the dark moods and fears that can swallow up our lives.

Gratitude helps us appreciate that there are deeper dimensions to our humanity and spirit that have the resources to help us in times of distress. These are the parts that are never sick, sad, angry, or anxious. They remain that way even as the outer part of us moves through the darkness of hardship, defeat, and loss. Gratitude for this sometimes-hidden part of ourself helps draw these reserves of healing forces to us, so they can support our courage and self-control to endure what must be endured and overcome what we can overcome.

The significance of this simple change of attitude can be profound. Many good opportunities are missed and conflicts remain unresolved because we lack the confidence that we will be successful. For example, we may begin with only tepid belief in the value of our plans and then give up at the first sign of resistance.

Other times we may feel so inadequate that we fail to use the good ideas and opportunities we already have, guaranteeing our failure. Gratitude for the possibility of success helps energize every step of the process from sickness to health, from despair to cheerfulness, and from problems to their solution. Gratitude keeps the light of hope and enthusiasm shining during bleak times.

In this way, the magnetic power of gratitude helps us draw desirable situations and relationships to us. A grateful expectation of good results activates hidden potentials for our success. Gratitude has the capacity to invite the inner life and seeds of genius, inspiration, and goodwill from the abstract realms of life. As our imagination anticipates achievements, we summon the best from ourself as well as great things from the life about us. One of the secrets of most successful people is their steady confidence about their future and thankfulness for the great things in their life. This is the attitude that draws wonderful opportunities to them.

A grateful heart keeps us in the positive psychic zone and summons whatever is good, healthy, and desirable. This mental state enables us to be more aware and receptive to events and forces that help us thrive. The long-proclaimed “abundance of all good things” is found in this realm. Our gratitude for these possibilities keeps our attention on these things and helps us to be fully engaged in their power and presence.

Gratitude is to our humanity as rain is to the desert. As rain can make the desert burst into flowers, our sincere thankfulness can make our optimism, confidence, creativity, and courage bloom. This is how we nourish our capacity for self-esteem and confidence—qualities essential for healthy living and all healing work.

The healing uses of gratitude are enormous. The magnetic power of thankfulness attracts, energizes, and strengthens our good qualities and abilities. It promotes all our potential for health, success, and hope for all good things.

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