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Gratitude

Dec 15

I am writing this post in the wake of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut.  I am addressing it to all the readers of Re-sergeance.net; police persons and non-police persons.  If I was able to give a gift to each of you who is caught up in the turmoil of your own present situation, it would be to appreciate what you have no matter how meagre; for I assure you, things could always be worse.  There is so much in our lives to be thankful for.  There is so much more to life than our day-to-day frustrations.  If we were to say thank you each time we encountered something of value in our lives, we would find ourselves saying thank you for most of the day.  But, in most cases, we don’t do that.  Many of us focus on what we want and what we don’t have, and forget to be grateful for what we do have.  It may be human nature to have such a focus, but it doesn’t assist us in becoming more human.  This kind of focus is called by some “attachment”; and it, along with its twin, “aversion”, is the source of most suffering.  We spend inordinate amounts of time grasping after things we identify with “self” and pushing away anything we see as related to “other”.

If we wish to maintain control of our own minds we must invest ourselves in attachment’s tonic, “gratitude”.  Instead of chasing after what we don’t have (that most often results in suffering) we can take a closer look at what we do have and be thankful for that; no matter how modest.  The greatest gift that we each enjoy, is life.  This life is our greatest treasure and all else is just window dressing.

Most of us are far richer than we think.  Try this little exercise:  make a list of all that you are given during the course of a day – all the little pleasures that come your way, from the wag of a tail to the hug of a child.  You may notice how they add up.  If you are diligent in the keeping of your list you can look back at the end of the day and realize just how fortunate you are.  And you can be thankful for all of that.

As a result of the stresses we face in our daily lives, we often lose an appreciation for all we have.  Whether it’s the understanding and support of a friend or some special skill that we may have, these are all worthy of our appreciation.  Wherever we are in our lives, we are fortunate to be there.  Actually, we are just plain lucky to be.

Now here’s the tough part.  It’s relatively easy to be thankful for a comfy sweater on a cold day or a parking spot right in front.  We just need to be aware.  But what about the tough times?  We also need to consider that the trying times have value as well.  It really is true that, “if it doesn’t kill you, it will only make you stronger”.  We can also be thankful for the challenges we face.  It is these demanding situations that promote growth and foster resilience.  It is therapeutic to remember, during difficult times, that “steel is tempered in fire”.

And if all I have said above fails to change your perspective even a little, and you continue to believe that your situation is “the worst”, maybe you could take a moment or two to reflect on those who lost their children and friends at Sandy Hook Elementary.  Things can always be worse.

Dr. Mike Webster, R.Psych.

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