When Gratitude Gets in the Way of Feeling

Gratitude is a wonderful tool. Of course it’s absolutely beneficial to feel grateful, thankful, and appreciative for all the blessings in your life. Grateful for the positive people in your life… your good fortune. It fills you up with all good feels. It brings about optimism, confidence, comfort, even safety at times. It positively impacts your mental and physical health.

Gratitude can help you feel balanced in the midst of a difficult day. It helps feel like you’re on solid ground. When the negative is pulling you down, you can balance it out with something positive about you or something in your life. It can slow you down and help you have more patience in times of frustration.

There are studies that show gratitude can help us move through difficult moments and situations in our life. If we’re faced with something difficult, we can focus on gratitude which helps us see it’s not all bad. We look to the silver linings.

Gratitude can also be a positive influence in our personal relationships. According to a study that was done by the American Psychology Association, “gratitude was associated with more stable marital satisfaction when both partners were high in gratitude.”

And it doesn’t stop there. According to Dr. Camille Preston, CEO of AIM Leadership, “Gratitude builds engagement and trust, increases retention and results in higher quality work.”

The benefits of gratitude seem endless.

BUT–and it’s an important but–sometimes gratitude gets in the way of truly dealing with a situation and the feelings that come up for us. We can skip over how we feel about something and go straight to being grateful for something else. This is where gratitude can get in the way of feeling all those uncomfortable, difficult emotions. We end up ignoring them which can lead us down a path where we discount how we feel. These difficult feelings pile up and eventually leave us feeling overwhelmed at some point. Then the gratitude can become powerless.

Something we used to use daily isn’t working for us. It can be scary and oftentimes leave us feeling a little hopeless. The wonderful tool we used to feel better isn’t working anymore. We question what that means for us. We can really get ourselves in trouble and be left with feelings of despair.

I see this all the time with my clients. A client will mention being upset about something or someone and then jump quickly to, “but it’s ok. It’s not that bad I have a great life.”  Or “I know others have it so much worse than me. I shouldn’t complain.” It takes me asking, what about the hard feelings you’re dealing with? You’re skipping over them. Can we focus there for a few minutes?

I usually see glimmers of guilt. A lot of “I shouldn’t be upset, I shouldn’t, I shouldn’t.” Just because something you’re struggling with feels like it isn’t as difficult as what someone else is struggling with, doesn’t discount yours. Your difficulty is real and deserves attention. I’m going to say it again so it sinks in: your struggles are your struggles, regardless of anyone else, and they deserve attention.

Gratitude is a great thing to feel and we should never lose sight of what we are grateful for in our lives. NEVER!  We just don’t want to end up ignoring other things we might be feeling. Skipping over the true and real feelings we are having will eventually catch up to us. Dealing with them can be hard, but it is so worth it in the end. It helps us understand ourselves and maneuver in our relationships truly knowing how other’s actions impact us.

Don’t ever lose sight of gratitude for the wonderful parts of you and your life. Just don’t use gratitude to skip over feelings and avoid dealing with real situations that you face.