It’s deeply personal.
Maybe it’s a recent diagnosis, something chronic and unescapable? The doctors say you have a year or less, and that’s that. There’s nothing else they can do. It’s a dead-end situation. No amount of problem-solving will fix this one.
Or perhaps you crashed your car and don’t have the money to fix it? You can’t make it to work without transportation, so you’re not making money, and life is spiraling out of control. There is no public transportation. There are no friends to drive you either. You’re getting depressed too, which kills your ability to fight.
Sometimes fate gives us problems without solutions. You can try to look at the issue from a different perspective, but there’s nothing. You can see your therapist and try to rewrite the painful thought… but how? These situations always break the heart, and the heart-breaking is so painful you can’t think your way out of them.
When emotions are so scary you can’t approach them and thoughts so sharp you can’t touch them, look to what you’re thankful for. No, wait, don’t bolt. Don’t balk. The power of the positive, beautiful, friendly, humored is extremely potent. It carries enormous energy, and as you fill the room with things that bring you joy, you’ll feel something inside you come out and listen. Keep going. Add to that mental list. Your mind craves the positive.
But what do I have to be thankful for?
Sometimes that list stays empty, no matter what you try. Life is so dark and shattered that nothing of beauty comes to mind. Simple enough: think of what once made you happy. What did you enjoy? Who did you admire?
The movie “Brave Heart?”
Puppy dog tails, kittens purring, grilled cheese sandwiches…
Okay. What else?
The existence of love, scent of fresh bread, heat on a cold day, those goofy slippers he always wore…
Yes, yes, you’re getting it.
That night we went dancing, the Rolling Stones, Michelangelo’s David, the color green, that Berlin’s wall came down, that my roof doesn’t have holes in it. But…
Yes, the “buts” will come up. About now you might think, “I’m a bad person for not appreciating all the good things in my life” or “I’m a bad person because I have so much to be thankful for and still feel bad.” Simple enough: just give thanks for all the good stuff in your life, whether you can feel it or not, whether you have more than the average person or less, and keep going with your list. (Don’t forget to be thankful for yourself.)
The taste of hot chocolate, the sound of my kid laughing as he pulled that prank, that pair of flip flops I had when I was six, my first kiss, the first time I tried condensed milk, that fencing class in high school…
Do you see it? Do you feel it? A gratitude list can bring immediate relief. As you whisper positive into the void, that void must make way for what you hold sacred. Keep whispering. The positive, beautiful, friendly, and humored must outweigh the painful. Keep whispering, please.