Did I ever tell you – how much I appreciate the things you do?
by Robert S. Vibert
In today’s fast paced, hectic, stressed-out mess that passes for a real life, appreciation and its close cousin gratitude, often get lost in the shuffle. Given the pressures we are all under, with rising prices, job losses and general uncertainty about the future, it is not surprising that we revert to a mode in which we focus on what is lacking instead of what we have. Reversing this tendency is not only a good thing from a social standpoint, it is an investment with lots of upside potential for great return.
It’s all about me
I could write for days on all the examples of narcissistic behaviour that one can encounter by simply watching what people say and do. No matter what their physical age, far too many people act as if they were still 5 or 6 years old. You know, they focus almost exclusively on THEIR needs, THEIR desires, THEIR fantasies and when the world does not provide them with what they demand, they throw a tantrum. If they have aged a little, the tantrum does not usually look like a child stomping their feet or rolling about on the ground with arms flailing – no they have developed more sophisticated expressions of childish responses. They will pout, but claim that they are too busy to reply to you. They will retaliate for some perceived slight and pretend their response was an “accident”. They will viciously gossip, and seek revenge. These are all examples of the response and coping techniques we developed as children to keep ourselves safe.
We of the human race all have these “tools” from childhood at our immediate disposal. All of us, including me. ( I told you it was all about me… 😉 )
But I digress from the storyline. Since we all know about these childish responses to the difficulties of life and have most likely employed them at some time, what is critical to having a more peaceful life is how we respond when the urge to use a childish response arises. If we are 5 or 6 years old, then we are likely to simply use whatever pops up. If we are a little bit older, say 25 or more, then we should have at least a notion of some alternatives we can employ.
There are numerous sources of information on more refined and resourceful responses to life’s challenges. Actually, numerous is an understatement – I did a quick online search and found 111,000 references to “dealing with anger”. 111,000!!! That’s a whole lot of information, and if one was to only study and put into practice the approaches found in the first 5 articles, there would be no shortage of ideas, techniques, tips and tricks for that one element of our life. Life skills training is abundantly, copiously and exuberantly available, for free. All you have to do is look for it. And then use it, instead of doing what you did when you were 5.
The other part of this puzzle of contributing to a better world rather than detracting from it, is to pay attention to what we do with an emphasis on investing in thoughts, actions and feelings that are positive. Studies show that we get healthier (mainly through stress reduction, but not only) when we do this, so there is a personal payback. It is like being gardeners – we cultivate that which we want to grow. If we want more peace, we cultivate being peaceful with others. If we want more compassion, we cultivate being compassionate towards others. And so on.
Studies have shown that noticing what others do for us and being appreciative of them and/or expressing gratitude helps relationships flourish and provides fertile opportunities for pleasant outcomes. Here is a link to one study, and you’ll find many more with an online search for the benefits of gratitude.
How does one cultivate appreciation ? It is easier to do than it might first appear, especially if you have not seen it modeled for you much. It can be as simple as saying something along the lines of “I like it when you do X” or “I appreciated when you said Y” or the very simple “Thank you”. The more you do this sort of thing, the more natural it becomes, like any other new habit. And the more you supply those around you with sincere indications of appreciation, the better off all of those involved will be.
The sincerity aspect is not to be ignored, as many times we will hear a rote “Thank you” that may as well be coming from a robot. The key to appreciation is the deeper human connection that occurs. It may last only a brief moment, but in that short space of time, a richness of interconnection and well-being can be experienced. If you’ve ever felt truly appreciated, you know what I mean. One time that springs to mind as I write this (and the deep emotional effect it had on me swells up inside me right now) was when a workshop leader brought me in front of the group to publicly thank me for my volunteer work for his project. He took the time and words necessary to make it abundantly clear to all present what he wanted to express and how strongly he felt about it. He used no fancy words and gave me no trophy, ribbon or certificate – this was not about symbolic or token appreciation but about real, heartfelt, sincere human to human expression. In those few minutes I learned firsthand the power of true appreciation and it completely changed my perspective on the topic. I aspire to one day be able to deliver as profound an expression of appreciation. In the meantime, I practice, practice, practice. (So let me take a moment here to say that I really appreciate all of you that read this blog, and especially those who give me feedback and encouragement. I do.)
One of the ways to enhance your gardening of a better world is to be mindful of your language when communicating. When we are stressed out, it can be easy to be curt, sarcastic, even rude. But, if we are mindful and considerate in the way we speak to others, then the seeds we are sowing are more likely to grow into something beneficial. One of best resources for this is the Center for Nonviolent Communication which offers books and audios on the subject of how to be clear and nonviolent in our communication.
Many times, the way we express ourselves is influenced by how we feel. OK, it is almost all the time. If we are feeling down, or upset or sad, etc., then it is hard to express appreciation sincerely. As you have heard/read me say before, resolving outstanding emotional issues makes it easier to do just about anything in life. With those emotions no longer intruding into our present day life, we can feel gratitude and appreciation and express it without any taint from that “other stuff”. The system that I developed, AER, is one way to release stored emotional pain. There are other techniques as well, and the important thing is to consciously and diligently release, using whatever tools work for you.
One does not have to wait until one’s pain has been released to start appreciating others. You could start today, with someone, anyone. Try it, notice what happens inside you and with them. You may be delivering a surprise that will pleasantly surprise you right back. The key is the giving without expectation of return, knowing that giving appreciation is its own reward.
Copyright 2011 Robert S. Vibert, all rights reserved.
AER is a system to enhance the natural human release mechanism. One of the recorded AER sessions is available for FREE at my Facebook public page. Other AER recordings are available for the low cost of $10 each.