The act of a communal thanksgiving event and celebration involves conscious focus and agreement of individuals. Unlike the immediate and genuine response of, “Thank God!” uttered in relief, communal a communal thanksgiving event does not just spontaneously occur. It takes focus, communication, planning and purposeful action for fulfillment. Thanksgiving and gratitude cannot occur without there being someone to thank and acknowledge. Otherwise, it is just communal happiness or gladness, like a birthday, anniversary, or graduation celebration. It is impossible to be grateful for something without acknowledging a source outside of oneself. This means that the whole community acknowledges someone outside of themselves, because a group of people throwing a party and to thank themselves for doing that, makes no kind of sense.
Many psychologists inform us that being grateful promotes mental health, even physical health (as worry, self-pity and anger are known to negatively influence health). In researching this idea, it seems that one of the earliest sources for this actually comes from the Bible’s Proverbs 17:22 (KJV), which says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” One of the hallmarks abusers, especially people with borderline personality disorders like narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths, can be described as, “an emptiness of gratitude”.
A lack of empathy is an outward manifestation of this emptiness of gratitude. Empathy begins with the acknowledgement and gratitude that someone uniquely exists outside of oneself. That someone includes both other human beings and a Source or Creator. If you have ever experienced someone trying to make you over into their idea of who you should be (that has nothing to do with moral standards or further education), then you experienced someone without much (or any) empathy or gratitude for you, for your unique true self. That person’s inability to “see” you is a manifestation of their emptiness that has or had nothing to do with you. Gratitude is an act of acknowledging that we have been “filled” by some blessing(s).
Our needs or wants are met by another or other people outside of ourselves. It acknowledges that we are not — were not — owed or entitled to such blessing(s). We are not entitled. Actual gratitude, of thanksgiving by an individual or community is a sign of mental and spiritual health. I wish you a happy and healthier Thanksgiving. Judy Rey, November 22, 2018