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  • Karen Sussan, LMHC

An Attitude of Gratitude

Updated: Mar 12

The litany of “should”s, “must”s , and “have to”s is hard to disrupt.

Many of us grew up learning “good” and “right” in a harsh, imposing manner.

We internalize strident voices of authority in our childhoods that shape our own internal voice.


Paying attention to the frequency of our use of words such as “should"s, “must"s , and “have to"s can lead to self-discovery. Once you notice, you may begin to wonder what drives that harsh internal voice and come to uncover a less than wholesome internal moral compass. You may find a standard of perfectionism, a fear of powerlessness, failure, defectiveness, or conflicts about control driving your perspective or course of action.


Using a focus on gratitude can definitely help.


Consider an exercise to become more mindful of things for which you are grateful. Noting one thing daily for which you are grateful may shift your perspective slightly over time.

Invite your family members to join you in this project, and you may create a family gratitude journal that can also feature your children's illustrations of itemized entries.


With such a practice, we may actually discover we have more to be thankful about than we had previously thought and that we have a lot more going for us than we previously considered.


This alone can shift the lens of our perspective in life. It may even contribute to an increase in experience of internal peace or improve our overall mood.


They say it takes a few weeks to transform a new behavior into a habit. Think of how long it took for us to remember masking during the pandemic. So, adding these practices requires patience.

We may tire of the gratitude focus.

So, here's another practice that might enhance our efforts to alter our perspective from negative to positive:


Review the quote at the start of this piece. It suggests we add “I get to” to items on our list of tasks and actions.

Perhaps, it may be easier to remember and sustain rather than “I am grateful for” as we go through our day. A litany of “I get to"s' ' may go even further and help you discover opportunities and privileges that would otherwise go unnoticed. For instance:


*I get to go around this pothole 

(far better than the unpleasant option of going over it)

*I get to pick up my kids at soccer practice 

(there are plenty of opportunities involving having children, having them well enough and active!)

*I get to wait on this grocery line 

(far better than not having the means to get food, to select among options, and with the convenience of a store over growing and harvesting your own)

And even

*I get have my gallbladder bladder removed 

(thank God for modern medicine, healthcare system, the opportunity to prolong my life, and the chance to improve my existing health)


So, you see, being mindful of “I get to” may result in some interesting discoveries. It may challenge those “shoulds" and “have to"s and make them easier to accept. It may even help temper the harshness of our inner critic.


You can keep this tip in mind with goals of self-improvement and stress reduction.

Of course, changing how we perceive and how we cope with life’s challenges is not as easy as a quick turn of a switch. Some messages of the inner critic and some challenges of a situation are harder to bear and can even be injurious.


Psychotherapy and trauma-informed work is a thorough approach to catalyze some major framework change. Correct what is foundational under your litany of shoulds, learn to know your triggers with present day stressor, and you can make changes for a lifetime.


Please feel free to contact Karen to discuss how transformation psychotherapy can be.

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