They say that those who help should have a short memory, but those who receive instead should have a long memory. Helping, giving and facilitating are verbs that have to do with gratitude. There is no doubt that helping is an act that makes one feel good, but it is equally true that being thanked for the effort made, the attention or time devoted is equally comforting. Because by dint of helping, without receiving anything in return, even the heart is running out.
But some people do not share this perspective. They are people we could call ungrateful because they don’t recognize or appreciate what others do for them. These people not only do not appreciate the help received, but always ask for more favors. And the day we stop helping them, because we have the slight suspicion that they are using us / manipulating us, they tell us that we are not empathetic, making us feel guilty for not helping them again. What lies behind the behavior of ungrateful people?
Gratitude is not just a feeling, it is also a skill and a way of seeing the world.
For a long time it was thought that gratitude was just a feeling we feel when we are the object of beneficial actions by others. If someone helps us when we need it most, gives us a gift, or devotes part of our time to it, a feeling of gratitude should be activated automatically.
However, gratitude is not just an emotion, it also has a cognitive component. To feel grateful we must first be able to appreciate. Appreciate the gesture received, appreciate its positive effects and appreciate the effort or intention of the other. And appreciation is a skill that ungrateful people have not developed.
Indeed, psychologists at Hope College in Michigan believe that ungrateful people simply do not have the capacity to feel grateful. They affirm that gratitude “is an experience of abundance, of the awareness that one is the recipient of a good gift from the donor”, which implies appreciating the act itself. They also explain that “gratitude concerns donors, gifts, recipients and attitudes of donors and recipients among them. It is a profoundly social emotion. “
The psychologists of the University of Manchester have taken a further step forward suggesting that gratitude is not only a skill, but is lived on a dispositional level. They affirm that it is an attitude towards life that implies being able to notice and appreciate the positive that exists in the world. Therefore, the ungrateful people would be programmed to see the favors, help and / or gifts as if they were not good enough or to their height, so they cannot feel gratitude.
All this indicates that probably ingratitude develops during the first years of life. If parents do not teach their children to value and appreciate what others do for them, it is likely that eventually children will develop what they know as Emperor Syndrome. As a result, that self-centered view of the world will follow them into adulthood and assume that others are required to satisfy their needs and desires. This way of understanding the world will prevent them from feeling gratitude.
The 5 risks faced by ungrateful people
Ingratitude is not a good travel companion. It is true that those who offer help may feel disappointed if they do not feel gratitude in the other, but those who do not feel gratitude are worse off.
1. Chronic unhappiness. “Unhappiness is a contagious disease caused by a chronic lack of gratitude,” wrote Mokokoma Mokhonoana and science confirms it: the ability to feel gratitude has been linked to high levels of happiness. Indeed, the study conducted at Hope College shows that gratitude is an excellent indicator of the level of happiness, well-being and satisfaction in life.
Ingratitude, on the other hand, would condemn us to chronic unhappiness. Since gratitude is not felt only towards the people who offer us help, but also in life, the ungrateful people would be condemned to perpetual dissatisfaction. Not being able to appreciate life as an extraordinary gift, they are more likely to feel permanently dissatisfied.
2. Linked to the trauma. There is no better tool than gratitude to deal with adverse situations and psychological traumas. Several studies have shown that we can feel grateful in different conditions, even in the most difficult ones. In fact, people who recover most quickly from trauma are those who learn to focus on the positive things in life, feeling grateful, instead of focusing on what they have lost or do not have.
Benefit-centered upgrading implies a more positive approach that activates beneficial emotions and causes positive neurophysiological reactions. Gratitude helps us disconnect from toxic emotions and ruminating thoughts, allowing us to focus on the positive. Or as Sonja Lyubomirsky said “gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of envy, hostility, worry and irritation”.
3. More psychological problems. In the long term, ingratitude generates an unhealthy psychological state characterized by cycles of unrealistic expectations and frustration in which the person is not able to fairly appreciate the positive experience.
That is why it is not strange that a study conducted at Virginia Commonwealth University reveals that ungrateful people have a greater risk of suffering from psychological disorders such as major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, different types of phobias, bulimia nervosa, and falling into Nicotine addiction, alcohol or drugs.
4. Condemned to despair. One of the greatest dangers faced by ungrateful people is that their lives become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ingratitude causes others to stop being kind to them, so ungrateful people end up trapped in the trap that they built themselves. When they stop receiving help, they think the world is a hostile place where there is no goodness, without realizing that it was their attitudes that kept them away from others, leaving them alone.
A survey conducted at the University of Manchester showed that ungrateful people are more dependent and less autonomous than those who feel gratitude, which means that they have a deep need for others. These people also have difficulty accepting themselves and often have no purpose in life.
5. Worst health. Ingratitude not only condemns the person to bitterness, but can also affect his physical health. Gratitude has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and worries, so it is not strange that a study conducted at the University of Michigan found that ungrateful people have higher levels of stress and more physical symptoms.
Gratitude also greatly improves the quality of sleep. Not only does it allow us to fall asleep faster, but it ensures a deeper and more restful sleep. Why? Gratitude inhibits automatic negative thoughts that prevent us from falling asleep when we rest our heads on the pillow.
The good news is that gratitude can develop. An ungrateful person is not condemned to be forever. The secret is very simple: don’t take anything for granted. Start thinking about your life as a wonderful gift. After all, as the novelist Thornton Wilder said, “we can only say that we are alive in those moments when our hearts are aware of our treasures.”