Yeah, yeah, got it... you think gratitude is great
Over the years I've heard so many people mention gratitude as a practice. You know, gratitude journals, waking up in the morning or going to sleep in the evening listing a certain number of things you're grateful for... I've even tried doing them for extended periods of time. They didn't seem to have any real effect for me. It kind of annoyed me that people gave so much credit to something that felt contrived. I would pull gratitude for things in my life up from the depth of my being, wracking my brain for more things to be grateful for, but nothing really seemed to change in my day to day. I became resentful toward this practice. Whenever anyone would mention it, I'd smile and wish them well, honestly hoping I was the only one who didn't get what all the fuss was about.
After years of tapping through a catalogue of my own complex traumas, I would revisit this practice, but from another angle... more on that in a minute.
Feeling like a nobody
Lots of advice is given about one of the best things to do when feeling unappreciated or unimportant... appreciate someone else. Volunteer. Be of service. Give back. Wow. Well, I can tell you from experience that this only made things worse for me. I felt more resentful, even more alone, and truly unimportant in the world.
What I know to be true now, is that when you are feeling undervalued, the key is not to value others more, but to truly value yourself.
Loss of self
My aunt was an important part of my childhood and a critical factor in my development.
She and her husband didn't have kids of their own and were a one bread-winner household making her available to spend countless hours with my brothers and I. Since my parents were working or were really tired from working when they were home, my aunt and uncle were like a second set of parents.
Although my aunt was never diagnosed with any disorder during her lifetime and never saw a psychiatrist that I am aware of, reading about understanding malignant narcissists, narcissistic abuse and ways being raised by a narcissist can affect you all ring true to my experience with her. When she wasn't talking to me as if she really liked me and truly wanted me to be around, she was shaming, criticizing, making sarcastic comments, name-calling, demeaning, gaslighting, and pulling others in to make jokes at my expense. She was underhandedly cruel, cutting, and lacked empathy. I never heard her apologize to anyone.
According to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, this and other traumas in my young past would put me at a higher risk of being bullied in school. In fourth grade that bullying began and would continue for several years. My aunt was there, assuring me that she was my only friend. It was incredibly lonely.
A living doll
The hardest thing about our relationship, was being manipulated into being who she wanted me to be. There were major ramifications for saying what I liked and didn't like, if those things conflicted with her own likes. I made it my job to know what she wanted and liked, and answered accordingly when asked, to avoid being yelled at, ridiculed, and made to feel stupid.
The control she desired didn't stop at thoughts, ideas, and opinions, it extended to my appearance as well. She sewed me clothes like she wore. She brought me to get my haircuts or cut my hair herself. She even bought the floral wallpaper that would grace my bedroom walls and wallpapered my bedroom when I was at school, never asking what I wanted.
I was a living doll. It was humiliating. It was also self-preservation, keeping me on her good side and away from the emotional abuse that would surely have come with disagreeing. It would be many years later before I would learn to allow myself to like what I liked and choose it without panicking, or trying to please the other person in the room while disregarding my needs or wants.
Years later as an adult, I was able to uncover the true me, perhaps for the first time in my life, through tapping. I'm incredibly grateful for it as this was my way back to myself.
Now, back to gratitude...
So, I grew up feeling worthless, insignificant, and as if meeting the needs of others was more important than meeting my own. Looking at ways to shift this before I found tapping, I turned to gratitude. The books and blogs said to be grateful for things in your life, people, all you have... and it didn't work for me. Why? I wasn't grateful for myself first. There was no love, no compassion, no empathy for me on the inside, so I couldn't truly embody gratitude for others without feeling resentful.
When everything changed for me in the realm of gratitude, was when I turned this gratitude on myself.
When was the last time you thanked your body for all of the amazing things that it does? Told yourself you are loved... by you? Used kind words with yourself when you were going through something hard, of just because you're you? What about other people? Do you judge others as harshly as you judge yourself?
Do you think it really matters that much? If you had asked Dr. Masaru Emoto, he would have certainly thought so.
Healthy From the Inside Out
Dr. Masaru Emoto was a water researcher and author of a number of books about his experiments with water. His many studies using water show time and time again that our words, directed thoughts, and even music, directly effect the molecular structure and the formations of healthy crystal structures in water. You may be most familiar with The Hidden Messages in Water, written in 2004.
Through his research, he found that the molecular structure of water in most major cities is quite unhealthy. Under a microscope, instead of crystal formations that resemble snowflakes, the water looks more like lots of small bits and blobs, unformed crystals with little to no discernible structure.
One experiment on such "unhealthy" water showed that the molecular structure of the water could be made to come together to form healthy, vital structures in the snowflake patterns we are used to seeing. How? Simply by using the intention of gratitude. Dr. Masaru Emoto took a glass of Tokyo tap water that couldn't form a healthy molecular structure, and had a group of children and adults encircle it, directing gratitude toward it. Under a microscope, an internal structure began to come together, crystals formed and continued to build, expanding outward in beautiful repeated patterns... healthy from the inside out.
Rice, water, and our intentions...
Another amazing experiment by Dr. Masaru Emoto is 30 days of sending or withholding positive and negative emotions and noticing the results. In this study, that has been recreated countless times, (and you could do it yourself!) equal parts rice and water were added to 3 glass jars. For 30 days he said "thank you" to the first, "you idiot (or you fool)" to the second, and the third was ignored.
At the end of the experiment the first jar was fermented, fluffy, and ready to eat, the second jar was gnarled, black, and decaying, and the third jar was green, moldy and rotting.
It appears that our directed positivity, negativity, and neglect have quite the impact. This experiment has been repeated so very many times in classrooms across the world to open dialogue around anti-bullying and understand how your words and actions effect others.
We are mostly water, so...
Could we make the leap that sending gratitude to our bodies, like with the Tokyo water, over the course of 30 days, like with the rice, would lead to some pretty wonderful results? I wanted to give it a try, so for 30 days, I have been practicing inner gratitude. No lists, just me sending gratitude to my body everyday, grateful for every cell, for everything it does for me, even though I put it through so much. The shift was almost immediate. I felt an inner calm and warmth, a peace settle in. Any fight or flight response my body was in, moved into gentle stillness. In the morning, evening, and anytime throughout the day that my mind goes back to this practice, I send gratitude to my body.
About 2 days into this practice, a funny thing happened. I began to extend this feeling of gratitude beyond myself, quite naturally being grateful for external things with no effort at all. Not just a mental gratitude, but a full-body, immersive experience that I remembered having as a child. Gratitude that wells up from my heart and makes me weep, filled with awe and wonder for everything that I have and experience... the utter beauty of it all.
Change... it's an inside job
So much of the tapping work I've done with people comes down to what they are really feeling about themselves. Harsh criticism for others, has its roots in strict negative judgments of the self and a constant feeling of not being good enough. Anger at others, turns out to be fiery rage at ourselves first and foremost. Forgiveness work inevitably leads to forgiving ourselves for our part in the relationships or events we're most unwilling to let go of.
Bullying is real. Emotional abuse is real. Cruelty and judgment are real. Whether they come from the inside or the outside, they have detrimental impact on our lives and our bodies. When we believe the negative things people say about us, or buy into the judgment or criticism of the world about how we're not good enough as we are, we can't be healthy and whole on the inside.
Tapping in gratitude
When we release this unhealthy energy that others have passed onto us or that we've started dishing out to ourselves daily, or these limiting beliefs we carry that bring us into negative internal spaces, our bodies can find equilibrium again. This is where tapping comes in, as it's brilliant at doing just that, releasing the emotional charge from past events and shifting limiting beliefs. When we take it a step further and bring gratitude into bodies with our intention or with tapping, we can flourish even more. Since the start of the pandemic, I've begun bringing gratitude into my tapping practice with myself and my clients. What an incredible shift!
An amazing thing happens when you bring love, compassion, and gratitude for yourself into your body and let it truly sink in. You have more love, compassion, and gratitude for those around you. Negativity can come from within us or from the outside world, but true healing happens from the inside out.
We cannot force others to change, or manipulate them into telling us what we need to hear. We have control over ourselves, our love, our compassion, our boundaries, and how we interact with others. When we change positively on the inside, our inner light becomes brighter, and we become better people in our interactions with the world. This is why I do what I do. It is an honor and a privilege to help others inner lights shine brighter.
If you'd like more information about tapping or want to set up a session, don't hesitate to reach out. I would love to help you (re)discover your true you!
-Angela Hed Vincent