On this Thanksgiving day, it seems appropriate to say a word about gratitude. It’s true that most people come into therapy because of some distressing issues. And much of the work of psychotherapy is to talk about those issues and express one’s feelings. Although this can be a painful process, hopefully the end result is to feel free of those issues, lighter in spirit and less alone in one’s life.
Another important therapeutic process is the practice of expressing gratitude for what is good and enjoyable in one’s life. There is something quite healing in taking time, even in the midst of dealing with troubling and painful issues, to take inventory of what is positive and beautiful in life.
I have worked with clients to help them to cultivate this appreciation. Sometimes I have suggested to clients that they keep a gratitude list – writing down, often daily, what things in their lives they are grateful for. I have found this to be a truly healing activity.
The goal in psychotherapy is to attain balance in life. I am not a proponent of the “just be happy” or “just think positively” school of thought. I think it is about balance. It is important to access painful emotions and be able to express them to another human being. And it is equally important to be feel those feelings that are generated when we realize that there is so much that is wonderful about life.
So it feels fitting on this Thanksgiving holiday to take time out for reflection, to count to ourselves or out loud (perhaps during the Thanksgiving feast) much of what makes for the bounty of our lives. Much that we are thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!