Compass Resources for Navigating Thanksgiving When Gratitude Feels Elusive

As American Thanksgiving approaches, the air is filled with the scent of family gatherings, gratitude, and the warmth of shared moments. For some, though, the prospect of feeling thankful may seem like an insurmountable challenge. Despite the festivities, there are those who find themselves in situations where gratitude feels distant, where they must censor their authenticity to fit into the mold of acceptance.

When someone feels the weight of navigating a space where they know not all parts of them are welcome, it is hard to feel thankful. The internal conflict that arises from having to edit oneself or suppress certain aspects for the sake of harmony can cast a shadow on the joyous spirit of Thanksgiving. This self-censorship can lead to a sense of isolation and disconnection, making it difficult to genuinely embrace gratitude.

The First Step

In such situations, it is crucial to acknowledge the complexity of emotions and the validity of these struggles. Simply being aware of the dynamics at play can be a powerful first step towards understanding and addressing the barriers to gratitude. It is important to recognize that feeling conflicted does not diminish the significance of one’s emotions; rather, it highlights the need for self-compassion.

A Practice in Reflection

To navigate this internal conflict, think back on a previous time when you felt the need to edit yourself to be accepted. As you remember the details of the situation, walk through the following questions to gain different insights and practically care for yourself during the Thanksgiving season:

  1. Reflect on The Data: When emotions feel charged and relationships are strained, details of situations can become blurry as your judgments or opinions skew your viewpoint. Reflect on a past experiences and start to peel away the layers of emotions and opinions down to just the data of what happened. A good question to ask yourself is, “What could a video camera have recorded?”
  2. Reflect on Your Assessment: Based on the data you identified, take a moment to introspect and identify what your opinion or assessment was of the situation. Separate what actually happened from what your opinion was. Identifying which parts were fact and which parts were your judgement or opinion of the situation helps bring new clarity.
  3. Reflect on Your Feelings: Once you identified the data and your opinion of it, next reflect on how this situation made you feel. What emotions came up for you? Understanding the root feelings can help you develop a more nuanced perspective and guide your actions moving forward. As you do this, recognize that typically, emotions that end in “-ed” are our brain’s way of making it someone else’s fault. “I felt judged,” or “I felt hated” puts the onus on someone else judging or hating. Try to own how you felt – sad? angry? alone? This is a question only you can answer.
  4. Identify What You Want: Once you have identified the data of a previous situation, along with your opinion of what happened and how it made you feel, you most likely see it in a different light. In the midst of everything that happened, take some time now to reflect on what you wanted for yourself in that situation, and what you might want for yourself going forward.

Sarah’s Story

Here is a simplified example of this reflective process: Sarah went to family Thanksgiving dinner last year and walked away feeling like her family no longer accepted her because she chose to not eat the turkey as she had recently adopted a special diet.

During her reflection process, she identified:

  1. A camera would have captured the statements from her brothers, parents, and extended family telling her she was being ridiculous and would never last with her special diet.
  2. She judged her family was being unsupportive and valued convenience over her.
  3. She felt alone, angry, and unlovable.
  4. She wanted to enjoy a meal with her family but eat food that helped her body.

In light of this, she decided she would send her family an email prior to Thanksgiving this year letting them know she was still eating her special diet, she will bring all her own food so nothing extra needs to be prepared and will bring enough to share, and she looks forward to sitting down together for a family meal. There is no guarantee her family will honor her request, but through her reflection process, she is now aware of what she wanted in the past, what she wants going forward, and how to hold a boundary for herself if needed.

Happy Thanksgiving

As we approach Thanksgiving, it is essential to remember that gratitude is a personal journey, and it is okay if it takes time to fully embrace. The Crucible Project offers a supportive community where individuals can share their experiences, find understanding, and embark on a journey towards self-discovery. By joining this community, you open the door to a network of individuals who value authenticity and strive to create spaces where everyone feels welcomed and accepted. If you struggle with vulnerability and authenticity, consider attending a Crucible weekend to learn more about your personal story and struggle.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, may we extend compassion to ourselves and others, recognizing that individuals we will encounter this Thanksgiving will have their own paths to gratitude.