Today was a beautiful day. I walked through the alley that led from my apartment to the pond across the street and stopped to marvel at the fountain formed in the middle of the pond and the water splashing upwards from it.
On one side of the pond was an exhibit of peach blossom trees that were planted in huge bonsai pots in honor of Lunar New Year.
The other side featured a variety of fair booths selling artisan foods and goods. A buzz of life surrounded the walking street that outlined the pond.
As I ambled along, peeking my head in and out of booths and peach blossom trees, the air kissed my face with a cool breeze.
It was good to be alive.
I thanked God silently for allowing me to experience these beautiful sights and the lovely sound of life that surrounded me. Through all the traumatic experiences of childhood and the strifes of adulthood as I clawed my way through CPTSD recovery, the feeling of grace had never left me.
This emblem of hope inside, however tiny it might have been at times, had been the key to my survival and recovery from the extreme traumas of my youth.
My caretakers may have abandoned me several times over, but God’s grace has always stayed by my side.
I struggled with my relationship with God for many decades. It was hard not to after one has been through so much.
But it was grace that led me to discover the teachings of those who had come before me and showed me the way to mending my broken relationship with God.
It was through these guides that I learned a key missing component to my recovery: gratitude.
It’s a word that’s thrown around a lot these days. You see it all over pop psychology books and in the newsfeeds of psychologists who appear on Ted Talks.
It’s so ubiquitous that it feels mundane and the word had all but lost its ability to impact me emotionally.
I’ve heard a thousand times how important gratitude was. Yet something was missing in the transmission of this teaching until I ran across a book that clearly outlined why gratitude is essential to a life well-lived.
The book allowed me to see the links between my feelings of ingratitude towards God and the ingratitude I experienced from others in my life. My ingratitude was so deeply ensconced in my subconscious mind that it had to be projected into the outer world in the form of others for me to finally recognize what was hidden within.
The moment I realized this link, my life changed. I began to see what had gone wrong in my previous relationships and how my self-sabotaging behaviors had contributed to this.
It has been said that gratitude blocks your ability to receive blessings in life because it blocks your ability to see things clearly. This is so important to survivors of trauma because our skewed perceptions of the world came from the past where flawed others hurt us. So we tend to live in a state of constant armoring and fear, whether consciously or not, because we project the past onto the present.
People can indeed do horrible things to each other sometimes, and this truth must be acknowledged and validated. It’s also true that there is great good in the world too. And when one lives in a constant state of pessimistic armoring against others, it’s difficult to experience the goodness of trustworthy others.
My life began to take on an easier stride with greater meaning and a sweetness to it when I began to express thanks for the beautiful things which surrounded me. I began to say silently to God “I believe in love”.
One practice I learned from a book on trauma recovery was to record happy memories and describe them each day. It’s such a simple thing to do, and I was so shocked that no therapist had ever recommended it to me.
The act of recording and describing happy moments in life refocuses our brains to experiencing joy instead of sadness—something so crucial to recovery for trauma survivors since the grief can at times feel like a huge wave crashing down on us.
This gratitude journal has brought a tremendous amount of contentment and ease into my life so I was inspired to share this idea here.
I hope you can find some solace in the use of gratitude journals.