In the holiday season, and in general, it would be great to figure out how to see the world from another person’s perspective. This can help us become aware of the situations of others, which in turn can help us practice generosity. In situations with our families, romantic partners, or even work colleagues, how can we practice empathy?
Previously on gratitude, we discussed how to establish a gratitude buddy practice, backed by scientific research on the benefits of gratitude. Here we examine more strategies as well as results one may find by keeping such a practice. Again, these are observations from my own gratitude practice (with my friend Kyle) for both your edification and amusement.
“Chin up!” “Move on!” “Let it go!” Often when guys express a sense of loss or sadness, the response from friends and loved ones is frighteningly simplistic. We’re frequently advised to do something we’ve been told our entire lives on the football field or rugby pitch: “Suck it up!” As men, we’re often expected to keep our emotions suppressed and carry the burdens of our daily lives in silence.
Even more troubling, the idea of suppressing our grieving process and discounting our need to examine is often suggested by people whose opinions and advice we respect. It’s not for lack of trying; our confidants and guides often want to see us restored to our former glory — so not dignifying the complexities of our feelings seems a natural solution…
For me, the path to happiness (or at least temporary sanity) comes from the concept of gratitude…
Men often get criticized for not being in touch with their emotions. “Men live from the neck up,” the American poet Robert Bly said in Bill Moyer’s 1990 PBS series, “A Gathering of Men” (highly recommended; more on Bly and Moyers in a future post). Or perhaps: men live from the neck up and the waist down. For some reason all this reminds me of the bad guy, T-1000, in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991). Near the end of the film, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character shoots T-1000 in the belly with a shotgun and leaves a gaping, metal-rimmed hole. Being a man, it’s like that – life’s downers can rip gaping holes in our emotional cores, yet we hardly know the wounds exist. Let alone how to heal them.
…If you want to do some emotional weightlifting, there are two pieces: cultivating your awareness of feelings, and expanding your vocabulary. First you need to know how you feel. Then can you practice talking about it.