9-22-2016 Gratitude

UCE Addictions & Recovery Group
September 22 Agenda
Originally used 1-7-2016

Opening Words

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large
amount of Gratitude.”
From Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne


Welcome to the UCE Addiction & Recovery Group. We are a group of people who have
struggled with our own addictions and the addictions of others. We hope to struggle well
together as we work towards finding sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships in our
lives. We will strive to spend our time together in a spirit of love embracing the inherent
worth and dignity of all. We accept and respect the varied paths that our members will
take to find sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships. We covenant to to be together
in a safe, confidential environment where we can explore our paths and our stories.


Check-in and Processing of Check-in

Accountability Asks or Reporting

Quiet Pause

Discussion: Gratitude

The Selfish Side of Gratitude

THIS holiday season, there was something in the air that was even more inescapable than the scent of pumpkin spice: gratitude.

In November, NPR issued a number of brief exhortations to cultivate gratitude, culminating in an hour long special on the “science of gratitude,” narrated by Susan Sarandon. Writers in Time magazine, The New York Times and Scientific American recommended it as a surefire ticket to happiness and even better health. Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, who studies the “science of gratitude,” argues that it leads to a stronger immune system and lower blood pressure, as well as “more joy and pleasure.”

It’s good to express our thanks, of course, to those who deserve recognition. But this holiday gratitude is all about you, and how you can feel better.

Gratitude is hardly a fresh face on the self-improvement scene. By the turn of the century, Oprah Winfrey and other motivational figures were promoting an “attitude of gratitude.” Martin Seligman, the father of “positive psychology,” which is often enlisted to provide some sort of scientific basis for “positive thinking,” has been offering instruction in gratitude for more than a decade. In the logic of positive self-improvement, anything that feels good — from scenic walks to family gatherings to expressing gratitude — is worth repeating.

Positive thinking was in part undone by its own silliness, glaringly displayed in the 2006 best seller “The Secret,” which announced that you could have anything, like the expensive necklace you’d been coveting, simply by “visualizing” it in your possession.

The financial crash of 2008 further dimmed the luster of positive thinking, which had done so much to lure would-be homeowners and predatory mortgage lenders into a speculative frenzy. This left the self-improvement field open to more cautious stances, like mindfulness and resilience and — for those who could still muster it — gratitude.

Gratitude is at least potentially more prosocial than the alternative self-improvement techniques. You have to be grateful to someone, who could be an invisible God, but might as well be a friend, mentor or family member. The gratitude literature often advises loving, human interactions: writing a “gratitude letter” to a helpful colleague, for example, or taking time to tell a family member how wonderful they are. These are good things to do, in a moral sense, and the new gratitude gurus are here to tell us that they also feel good.

But is gratitude always appropriate? The answer depends on who’s giving it and who’s getting it or, very commonly in our divided society, how much of the wealth gap it’s expected to bridge. Suppose you were an $8-an-hour Walmart employee who saw her base pay elevated this year, by company fiat, to $9 an hour. Should you be grateful to the Waltons, who are the richest family in America? Or to Walmart’s chief executive, whose annual base pay is close to $1 million and whose home sits on nearly 100 acres of land in Bentonville, Ark.? Grateful people have been habitually dismissed as “chumps,” and in this hypothetical case, the term would seem to apply.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that gratitude’s rise to self-help celebrity status owes a lot to the conservative-leaning John Templeton Foundation. At the start of this decade, the foundation, which promotes free-market capitalism, gave $5.6 million to Dr. Emmons, the gratitude researcher. It also funded a $3 million initiative called Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude through the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, which co-produced the special that aired on NPR. The foundation does not fund projects to directly improve the lives of poor individuals, but it has spent a great deal, through efforts like these, to improve their attitudes.

It’s a safe guess, though, that most of the people targeted by gratitude exhortations actually have something to be grateful for, such as Janice Kaplan, the author of the memoir “The Gratitude Diaries,” who spent a year appreciating her high-earning husband and successful grown children. And it is here that the pro-social promise of gratitude begins to dim. True, saying “thank you” is widely encouraged, but much of the gratitude advice involves no communication or interaction of any kind.

Consider this, from a yoga instructor on CNN.com: “Cultivate your sense of gratitude by incorporating giving thanks into a personal morning ritual such as writing in a gratitude journal, repeating an affirmation or practicing a meditation. It could even be as simple as writing what you give thanks for on a sticky note and posting it on your mirror or computer. To help you establish a daily routine, create a ‘thankfulness’ reminder on your phone or computer to pop up every morning and prompt you.”

Who is interacting here? “You” and “you.”

The Harvard Mental Health Letter begins its list of gratitude interventions with the advice that you should send a thank-you letter as often as once a month, but all the other suggested exercises can be undertaken without human contact: “thank someone mentally,” “keep a gratitude journal,” “count your blessings,” “meditate” and, for those who are so inclined, “pray.”

So it’s possible to achieve the recommended levels of gratitude without spending a penny or uttering a word. All you have to do is to generate, within yourself, the good feelings associated with gratitude, and then bask in its warm, comforting glow. If there is any loving involved in this, it is self-love, and the current hoopla around gratitude is a celebration of onanism.

Yet there is a need for more gratitude, especially from those who have a roof over their heads and food on their table. Only it should be a more vigorous and inclusive sort of gratitude than what is being urged on us now. Who picked the lettuce in the fields, processed the standing rib roast, drove these products to the stores, stacked them on the supermarket shelves and, of course, prepared them and brought them to the table? Saying grace to an abstract God is an evasion; there are crowds, whole communities of actual people, many of them with aching backs and tenuous finances, who made the meal possible.

The real challenge of gratitude lies in figuring out how to express our debt to them, whether through generous tips or, say, by supporting their demands for decent pay and better working conditions. But now we’re not talking about gratitude, we’re talking about a far more muscular impulse — and this is, to use the old-fashioned term, “solidarity” which may involve getting up off the yoga mat.
From the New York Times “The Selfish Side of Gratitude”   http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/03/opinion/sunday/the-selfish-side-of-gratitude.html
Barbara Ehrenreich is the founding editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on January 3, 2016, on page SR3 of the New York edition with the headline: The Selfish Side of Gratitude.

The Stream of Life

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.
It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves
of leaves and flowers.
It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and
of death,
in ebb and in flow.
I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood
this moment.
~ Rabindranath Tagore; from Gitanjali (Song Offerings)
Nobel Prize for Literature 1913*

Of course, Brene Brown would have done research on gratitude.
There is a youtube of her talking about joy and gratitude. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IjSHUc7TXM

David Steindl-Rast is a Benedictine Monk who is a resource for
thoughts on gratitude.  https://www.ted.com/talks/david_steindl_rast_want_to_be_happy_be_grateful?language=en

This   http://www.wnyc.org/story/science-gratitude/    documentary-style special narrated by Susan Sarandon and distributed by Public Radio International is a product of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley—in collaboration with the University of California, Davis  and their project,  Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude.   http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/expandinggratitude

This http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/news_events/announcement/state_of_gratitude_radio_series_for_national_public_radio  link is to the page that has the audio for the series, called "The State of Gratitude," features eight 90-second pieces exploring different aspects of gratitude.


Closing Words

An awe so quiet I don’t know
when it began.
A gratitude had begun to sing
in me.
Was there some moment dividing
song from no song?
When does dewfall begin?
When does night fold its arms
over our hearts to cherish them?
When is daybreak?
-Denise Levertov

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