She came in ready to unload. It was appropriate considering she had a number of issues that were of concern. However, it was a difficult session as she never stopped to inhale for an hour. Finally I had to politely interrupt her to slow the flow of complaints. Without minimizing of any of her concerns, I told her I was needing to provide her at least an observation. Maybe even an idea or two. So when I stopped her and told her I was OK to just be her sounding board, but if she was seeking some possible solutions, I had something to suggest. She agreed. So I asked her if she wanted to engage in a therapy experiment. I ventured: “for one day, 24 hours, I would like for you to reflect on how often you get negative and complain. Then, even in mid-sentence, stop and re-direct your comments. In other words, no complaining whatsoever for 24 hours. The point is to see how much of your life has become negative. You don’t have to start liking negative stuff, just no complaining for a day”. She cautiously agreed.
Two weeks later she came in and said, “Are you trying to make me crazy or something? You’re making me nuts. Because I messed up so much on the first day, I decided to do it the next. It’s killin’ me. Now I notice all the time when I’m constantly complaining”. Although this was not the completely expected outcome, we both found it interesting how we have to purposely make ourselves be positive. And that negative has become so easy. What the heck has happened to us?!
So here’s how I personalized this piece of advice for myself: on Thanksgiving I’m going to make it a personal day to concentrate on thanks giving. The pilgrims were probably brave folks, even with their weird hats. The Indians seemingly welcomed them, and of course got fleeced in the long run. But enough history…. I want a fun holiday. So on Thanksgiving I try to temporarily shut down my whining, and wallow in my gratitude. I’ll have to remind myself 500 times throughout the day, “what cool things am I grateful for?” Then really think about them for a while. Let me give you a couple of personal examples:
*My first public speaking gig was as a college senior. I was to give a five minute presentation about, of all things, juvenile delinquency; a topic which I had some personal experience in. In front of only eight other classmates, I crapped out. I couldn’t keep my voice from quivering. I couldn’t remember what to say, so I gave a lousy minute and a half presentation and got a D. Today I had a group of twenty, and it was like talking to a friend in my living room. Somehow I have developed into a public presenter, and I am amazed and very grateful.
*I was lost in the excitement and beauty of music by the age of 14. Although almost everyone my age has a big surround sound stereo, it’s only used for TV viewing. Any music, if any at all, has been relegated as background fill. As an older guy I still derive such pleasure from music, it is a constant joy. To this I am incredibly grateful.
*I only excelled at bowling and ping pong when I was younger. Well, music recognition too. Somehow, along the way I developed into a real counselor with decent credibility. How did this ever happen? It’s amazing.
Get it? It’s not an exercise of monotone recital of things-I-am-grateful-for, but rather a deep look into what cool stuff we hardly even pay attention to. Dig deep, give it lots of thought. After all, you have the entire Thanksgiving day to give thanks. It’s kinda disturbing it takes so much effort, but I’m ready to really celebrate Thanksgiving. So I’m going to chase away Mr. Whine and instead be Mr. Gratitude for a full day and start loving Thanksgiving again.
I’ll top it off with the big tasty bird. And the candied yams. And dressing. And cranber……