Once upon a time, I thought that I would become secure if the right people just said the right words the right number of times. Like a magic spell, an incantation of love, all of the deficiencies within me — my wrongs — would be righted, if someone close to me only told me what I needed to hear.
What was that? Well, I didn’t know that. But I knew that hearing small compliments did feel good and made me feel more hopeful. So I extrapolated that better compliments and more of them would do the trick.
That would help me feel more secure. That and enough promises heard enough times. Specific promises from the right people. But — my mind stipulated — they had to feel sincere. They had to feel certain.
Predictably, no matter what other people said, it was never enough. It certainly didn’t help that I generally have a hard time taking kind words to heart (I joke that my superpower is being impervious to compliments, and there’s some truth there).
But I also missed what was right in front of me. It’s easy to do sometimes.
And I found that when I started to consciously practice gratitude, that was the big gamechanger.
Gratitude, the Antidote for Foreboding Joy
I did believe that I could opt out of feeling vulnerable, so when it happened — when the phone rang with unimaginable news; or when I was scared; or when I loved so fiercely that rather than feeling gratitude and joy I could only prepare for loss — I controlled things. I managed situations and micromanaged the people around me. I performed until there was no energy left to feel. I made what was uncertain certain, no matter what the cost. I stayed so busy that the truth of my hurting and my fear could never catch up. I looked brave on the outside and felt scared on the inside.
…the concept of foreboding joy as a method of minimizing vulnerability is best understood as a continuum that runs from ‘rehearsing tragedy’ to what I call ‘perpetual disappointment.’ Some of us…scramble to the bleakest worst-case scenario when joy rears its vulnerable head, while others never even see joy, preferring to stay in an unmoving state of perpetual disappointment.
Gratitude, therefore, emerged from the data as the antidote to foreboding joy.
More About Gratitude
For more information about gratitude and gratitude journaling, please see my former post from last year’s World Gratitude Day. Readers who are looking to cultivate compersion (joy at the joy of others) might find this post on using gratitude and random acts of kindness to build compersion helpful as well.