Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gratitude and Survivors

I was going to write a traditional post about being thankful. I may still get around to it but...

Recently I spoke with my ex-husband and it reminded me of one of the things I do worry about with gratitude. If one only looks at the rosy side of a situation, one may not recognize things that need to change and/or leave a situation that isn’t healthy. I know that I stayed too long in my marriage hoping and telling myself I could find a way to fix it. There are occasional moments, even now, when I wonder if anything could have been done so that it could have worked out. (And then I get calls like the latest one from my ex-husband and I’m profoundly grateful again that I’m not still stuck in that situation anymore and dealing with chaos and emotional blackmail on a daily basis.)

I think it’s good to count our blessings. I think that if a relationship is in trouble, the only chance it has to work out is to begin by recognizing what’s good about it. I also worry sometimes that we survivors can be too loyal sometimes. We may stay in a situation or relationship even when it’s hurting us physically and/or emotionally and can’t be fixed.

My ex isn’t a bad person. There’s much to admire about him, especially in terms of the kind of person he wants to be. That doesn’t mean there isn’t distorted thinking, however. That doesn’t mean he sees himself or anyone else clearly. That doesn’t mean he was right for me.

So I’m torn when it comes to gratitude. All sorts of studies show the benefits of being able to see and cherish the good in one’s life. At the very least it helps us recognize that we can have good things in our lives, that it isn’t always all bad.

At the same time, I don’t want it to blind us to the need to make changes sometimes if we want our lives to get better. Discontent can sometimes be a gift.

So this week I’ve been grappling with the issue of how to balance profound gratitude for all that is good in my life and still seeing ways I might want to make it better. I’m grappling with how self-acceptance is the precursor to self-change. I’m grappling with the joy of all the good things I now have in my life and needing to make changes if I want to have more. I’ve even signed up for a 21 days to gratitude (free) program at this website: 21 Days of Gratitude

I’ll be curious to know how all of you feel about gratitude.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))))),


Karma said...

I started a special gratitude blog to push myself to recognize on a daily basis (although I don't manage to do it every day) the things that I'm grateful for.

I agree with you that survivors can be too loyal. I think that this is in part because the hurt caused by people we know is less scary by the possible hurt out there of strangers we might let into our lives. Its also about lack of self esteem and a desire to have people be loyal to us.

I think what we have to do is refocus our gratitude to be able to notice the multitude of good things in our lives in order to change the focus of feeling stuck with people who are in our lives but not necessarily good for us.

motherwintermoon said...

Holidays can be so hard on survivors. So many of us are traumatized by holidays and their ubiquitous focus on familial loVe and family gatherings.

I work on counting the mundane blessings we so often overlook or take in stride...the blessing of my refrigerator, washing machine, dryer, bed, snuggly covers, heat, air conditioning, lights to read by, the food in my cupboards.

On Thanksgiving I make a special point of looking around my home and acknowledging all the everyday things I don't usually acknowledge, such as a comfy chair, my stereo that allows me to play the music I love, etc.

Of course my furbabies are a continual fount of geniune, unconditional loVe, for which I am deeply thankful. Their loVe never hurts.

I posted my favorite Thankgiving prayer of the Native American tradition. It is one that I find most meaningful and most importantly, non-triggering.

I think the grapple is always there. There will always be things to be thankful for and there will always be things we want and need to change.

I would have to say the desire to change, heal, and improve our lives is something to be deeply grateful for, in and of itself.

Self-awareness, self-honesty, and the will to find a better way are life-savers.

I'm thankful for you April, and the loVe, caring, and friendship I found when our paths crossed in cyberspace.

Abundant Blessings of life's simple treasures and pleasures, as you continue to embrace change, hope, and optimism and impart it loVingly it to others. (((Thanksgiving hugs n furbaby snugs, MW)))

keepers said...

loyal or afraid to sever ties that bind? as children many of us were lied to about loyalty to our perps since they were family and that has had a far reaching effect on us all the way into our 50's. It is not easy but we had to stop the loyalty and enabling, for their sake and ours.

peace and blessings


jumpinginpuddles said...

i think its hard tp be feel;ing like you want to be gratuitous shilst wanting to knock the shit out of somebody whose irritating you

April_optimist said...

Karma, Good for you having a gratitude blog! And yes, I think the loyalty is often driven by fear.

Mother Wintermoon, You're a blessing in my life, too. I smiled at the thought of your furbabies. I miss the collie I used to have. So glad you can see the good things in your life and be grateful for them!

Keepers, Yes, partly it's indoctrination--being taught by our abusers that we MUST be loyal--and partly fear of being abandoned and/or never finding anyone else to love us. Good that you could find the strength to stop enabling.

Jumping in Puddles, I burst out laughing when I read your comment because it's something I've thought about this week with my ex-husband and his latest bizarre idea. I had to really stop and remember why it was good that he was part of my life for a time. I had to really work to remember that good came out of it. But part of me just wanted so bad to lash out, too!

Matthew | said...

Gratitude is most powerful when it's first and foremost about being who we are. Including all that pain.

Loving Awareness

April_optimist said...


YES, YES, YES!!! We MUST acknowledge what we feel--all of it--before we even begin to think of letting anger, fear, etc. go. Gratitude is more powerful when we feel it even though we also feel pain.