We have all heard that gratitude is the answer to, well, everything. I’m definitely not saying the world is all roses and puppies, however, when we are in a slump, feeling down, or negative regarding our lives, we are not necessarily seeing ALL that there is in front of us.
The truth is that gratitude has the ability to switch our neural pathways, and open our minds to a fuller reality. Gratitude is different from positive thinking, because it requires remembering and naming REAL things, relationships, and feelings that are in our lives ALREADY. This is why gratitude always seems easier than positive thinking, which can often feel like being in a state of denial.
Gratitude can create a balance when we feel low, as it gently includes the idea of, “ALSO.” For example, “I feel awful, nothing I do matters in this world, and ‘ALSO’ I am grateful for my relationship with my parents.” Gratitude will not replace the bad feelings or slump by any means, but it does end up balancing them out, and revealing a broader reality.
We think of victimhood, when we are not stuck in it, as a sorrowful place, where people probably feel lucky to have even the smallest things, however this is NOT the case. Gratitude is a powerful force that can not only switch neural pathways, but can actually rewire the brain to see opportunities that we may have never seen before. If we feel powerful, and can see opportunities for growth and happiness, it becomes REALLY difficult to be taken seriously as a victim.
So are victims ungrateful? Seems like an awful thing to say, but think about the victims of any life circumstance. People in remission from cancer, those who have lived through struggles of natural disaster, or abuse tend to avoid the word, “victim” like the plague. People tend to identify more as survivors, as it just seems more accurate.
The problem with being a victim of anything awful like this, is the ultimate fate with which it correlates. Victims of cancer die. Survivors of cancer are alive and seem pretty powerful. Victims of Hurricane Katrina still don’t have homes, died, or were fatally wounded without answers today. Survivors of Katrina rebuilt their lives either somewhere else or right in their own backyard.
How does a victim become a survivor, as the two have almost nothing in common? In order to become a survivor of ANYTHING, there has to be an abandonment of the victim identity. Now don’t get me wrong, people don’t just swing from victim to survivor, or just one day decide they’re done being a victim. Until, realistically, they do.
If a person identifying as a victim decides to look at their life, and FEEL grateful for any part of it, they are deciding to survive their current circumstance. If they are deciding to survive, they are deciding to abandon the identity of victimhood. In many Hispanic cultures, the definition of depression is a lack of gratitude. We tend to think they misunderstood the meaning of depression, when, for all intents and purposes, they understood it better than we do.
The second we can include what we FEEL grateful for, we tend to lose sight of our stuckness, as it is almost impossible to feel both at the same time. This means the second we decide to write down a list of what we actually feel grateful for, we are deciding to let go of the victim identity. The rest is downhill from there. I’d love your thoughts and feedback.