The Curious Leader
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The Curious Leader

How To Be Thankful When You’re Not

Thanksgiving is the time of year when we’re supposed to be thankful for our blessings. But for some people, it’s the worst time of year. Maybe there are financial hardships, unexpected tragedies, breakups, or some other type of upset or failure. When you’re in pain, it’s difficult to feel grateful for anything. But every hurricane has a center of calm, and in those moments of suffering, we can take charge and find our way out of the storm.

First, you must decide that you are willing to be thankful. No one can make you do something that you don’t want to do. It is possible to be in pain and find gratitude at the same time. You can feel angry and sad over a problem but grateful that a new door will always open if you are receptive to change. As the Buddhists say, “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”

Second, embrace your feelings so that they don’t remain blocked inside of you. A good cry or pillow pounding can get out the icky feelings and make room for peaceful emotions. When we fight the pain, it only consumes us and lingers far too long.

Third, you can write down what blessings you do have. Things like health, someone who cares about you, freedom, a beautiful day, rain, food, shelter, a tree, a bed, fresh air, your favorite music; all things that can soothe a troubled soul.

Fourth, find someone to help. You can’t feel sorry for yourself if you’re focusing on helping someone else. This doesn’t mean you try to fix the world; it just means that you take the focus off your pain and onto someone else’s need. Once you help someone else, you’ll also realize that your mind can’t focus on two things at once. This is the first step in practicing controlling your mind rather than the reverse — something for which you can be genuinely grateful.

Lastly, trust the unknown. When we let go and allow things to take their natural course, we align ourselves with a divine intelligence that aligns with our highest good. Even if it seems that you’re being punished for something you didn’t do or suffering for no justifiable reason, there is a plan for your highest good. By embracing the experience and letting time pass, that plan will be revealed. If we fight it every step of the way, we delay the golden gift that lies ahead.

Life is a series of ups and downs, highs and lows. But, if you’ve been living a life of integrity, the lows will occupy far fewer days than the highs, and the majority of days will be moderate.

Life will have its way with you no matter what. You can rigidly fight it, or you can bend. One state will cause you to break; the other will create maturity, strength, and wisdom.

You may not understand the reason for the hard times, but there is a gift in every misfortune, even if you are too upset to see it at the time. When you can say “thank you” amidst your suffering, you will no longer suffer. Instead, you allow all the impurities, dependency, self-centeredness, and personal demands to be burned off and replaced with a genuine love for yourself and others. Once you achieve this goal, you will remain in bliss no matter what goes on around you.

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Dr. Donna Marks

Dr. Donna Marks

Dr. Donna Marks is a licensed psychotherapist and an addictions counselor. She is certified in Gestalt Therapy, Psychoanalysis, Hypnosis, and Sex Therapy.