It’s October 29th. There’s a snowstorm – an early one. It’s taken out our internet. And for some of us, our phones. It’s disabled the power for millions.
We’re thankful it’s October, not January. We’re thankful for our homes. We’re thankful it’s the weekend – most of us don’t have to go any place in particular. We’re thankful for our safety, our wood stoves and even our fireplaces. We’re thankful for our thermal underwear, our flannel shirts and sweaters; our wool socks and leg warmers; our down comforters and sleeping bags; our families and neighbors and friends.
Shall we just stop there with the thankfulness?
We could – It feels so good to be thankful, unless . . . instead of its feeling good, we’re being thankful because we should. Unless instead of its feeling good, we’re being thankful because we’ll feel like we’re bad, or will be told we’re bad if we aren’t thankful. Unless we’re being thankful to defend against other feelings we’re having . . . like fear.
Let’s see what feelings thankfulness might be defending us against:
The branches are snapping and coming down. Trees are splitting and falling on yards, streets, driveways, cars, and homes. Loud noises tell us of the snaps, the splits, and the falls. We don’t know which branch or tree will come down next, nor do we know where it will land.
We feel out of control – powerless, and we don’t know when the power will come back on. We don’t know why our feeling of powerlessness is so intense, so raw. We have no idea that in addition to the powerlessness we’re feeling about snow and wind, breaking trees and no electricity or heat . . . we are also feeling powerless about some thing or things that happened when we were children long, long ago and ever so powerless. What child isn’t powerless?
Maybe someone hurt us and we yelled “Stop! Stop!” . . . and they didn’t stop. Maybe we were frightened and alone and cried and cried to get help . . . and no one came. Maybe someone was trying to make us do something, and we ran to someone else for protection – someone who wouldn’t protect us.
All these examples of powerlessness – and more – could be stirred by an unexpected “winter” storm…or any storm for that matter. Powerlessness – with no idea when we’ll have power! (or how we’ll use it . . . but that for another time).
So . . . if we’re feeling thankful as a defense against fear and powerlessness . . . that’s distorted and unhealthy, a misuse of thankfulness. If we’re feeling thankful and afraid and powerless all at the same time (and we feel and tend to all three) . . . there’s the kind of health we need in our world at this time and in our future. And if we’re feeling pure flowing thankfulness that is not a defense and that is completely in alignment with who and where we are in the moment . . . then we can simply enjoy it. This kind of thankfulness is a delicious feeling!
This month, as we come closer and closer to Thanksgiving, explore your own feelings of thankfulness. Are you truly, wholeheartedly thankful? Or are your feelings of thankfulness rooted in a wounded part of you? Is your thankfulness a defense . . . perhaps against powerlessness – either from the here-and-now or from long, long ago?
© Copyright 2011 by Judith Barr, MS, LMHC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.