Beyond Thanksgiving Day – Harnessing the Power of Gratitude
By Rebecca Clegg, LPC, CEDS-S
It’s the focus of this month’s holiday and if social media and my subjective observations are correct, it’s trending right now. Kind of like pumpkin spice, shiplap walls, and the mustache, gratitude seems to be “in” right now. Maybe it’s because of people like Oprah, Brene Brown, and those amazing and inspiring Ted Talkers. I don’t know. I just know that gratitude seems to be everywhere which is great, and I hope it stays that way.
But not everyone likes gratitude. Gratitude is actually the kryptonite of a very specific individual, one that you might know very well. This individual I am talking about is your inner critic.
For many of you, this will need no explanation. Immediately you will know exactly who I am talking about. You know its snarky voice, critical tone and fear based prompting. You know the mean and scary things the critic says to you, how it knows your deepest fears and plays on them. Maybe you know the critic by another name – the “Gremlin,” “the Ego,” “The Critical Parent,” (any Transactional Analysis fans out there?) or just plain old FEAR. But one way or another, most of us know the little voice that calls to us telling us we aren’t enough, to watch for problems, and that we better get scared and worried or something bad will happen when we aren’t looking.
In working with clients, I have watched the inner critic of some very amazing people tear them down with pretty much every fear and worry you can think of. Fear of death, fear of separation, fear of rejection. Fear of not being good enough, fear of being too much, fear of failure, and fear of making a mistake. The critic can and will use just about any thought it can get its hands on and this robs us of being present in the moment.
Any thought, that is, except gratitude. Gratitude is the inner-critic’s kryptonite. Gratitude destroys the power of the inner-critic the minute gratitude enters your mind. You cannot focus on being grateful for something and also be worrying or listening to the inner critic at the same time. It is like turning on a light when you enter a dark room – the minute you flip the switch, there is no more darkness. Gratitude destroys the inner critic, if just for a delightfully peaceful moment.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t feel our feelings, or acknowledge our pain. Quite the contrary. I know that there are real problems in all of our lives. I am a huge advocate for feeling all of our feelings as they arise. When the problems are there – then I suggest we deal with them. In that moment. When they are actually in our present experience and not a projection into the future that the critic would have us ruminate about.
The point of remember the power of gratitude is that alongside our anger, frustration and pain, we can also access gratitude to help us find balance in all things. It is a way of choosing to reframe our perspective, which creates the space that allows us to recognize what might be an old “script” that the inner-critic uses to torment us.
Marianne Williamson is quoted as saying,
“Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts. Love is the essential reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life. Meaning does not lie in things. Meaning lies in us.”
Every day, remember that choosing to be grateful isn’t just something we can do on Thanksgiving. It’s a lifeline back to your authentic self. It’s the road back to peace amidst the storm. It’s immensely powerful. And it’s yours any time you decide to choose to use it.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
Rebecca Clegg, LPC, CEDS-S, is the founder of Authentic Living, a private practice specializing in the treatment of women in recovery from eating disorders & body image issues. Becca is also the Co-Clinical Director of Creative Health Initiatives (CHI), a group therapy program that provides outpatient groups, programs and workshops for women in recovery and business development consultation for therapists.
Becca is also a speaker, writer & teacher, educating families, clients and clinicians on the treatment of eating disorders and body image issues. She has been a contributing writer for The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), The International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals, NBC, Euro News, Recovery Warriors, and her own personal blog found at Rebeccaclegg.com. In 2017, she published Ending The Diet Mindset: Reclaim a Healthy and Balanced Relationship with Food and Body Image; and speaks nationally on the subject of dieting and diet culture, with the goal of empowering people to develop a balanced mindset with regards to the ways they view dieting, their bodies, and the culture we live in.
*The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders and not intended as endorsement by iaedp Foundation, Inc. or its Board of Directors.*