The flip side of gratitude practices in therapy or how gratitude journaling fills me with rage

There are two types of people in the world when it comes to gratitude practices. Actually…that’s probably an oversimplification/ false dichotomy. So…there are at least two types of people in the world when it comes to gratitude practices. At least when it comes to the kind promoted in “secular” therapy settings.

The first kind are people for whom things like daily journaling of a list of things you’re grateful for apparently works & makes them feel better?

The second kind are like me & get way more upset after a gratitude journal exercise than how they were feeling before.

It goes like this:

  • I describe being stressed, anxious & angry.
  • Therapist asks me to try a gratitude journaling exercise.
  • I list everyday things to be “grateful” for to supposedly not be upset at stuff that’s not working out for me (because someone is doing awful/unjust/discriminatory things) because other people have it worse & may not even have those
  • Get intensely angry that other ppl don’t even have that for similar reasons I don’t have it better

My mind balks at the “be grateful for x” because my approach to life is “everyone should have x & the fact that they don’t because of oppressive structures makes me boiling mad on behalf of every single person affected ”.

Me: I’m grateful for good health insurance so I can access medical care

Brain: Ok but why TF doesn’t everyone have good health insurance?? Why is healthcare access dependent on finances at all? Burn shit down!!

Therapy that focuses on teaching me on how to channel my rage about the stressors in my life effectively would be something I appreciate rather than telling me not to rage & just be grateful that I’m not in a worse situation because of random chance.

I feel like I’d do so much better at therapy practices that weren’t against anger or focused on toning it down & instead focused on channeling it for good.

I’ve been looking into “activism as therapy” practices & unfortunately there are very few resources around this. The closest I’ve found is a concept called “Healing Centered Engagement” but most programs for that are focused on youth. I might have to sit down and design my own program.

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