11/24/2014 11:05 am ET Updated Jan 24, 2015

The Nasty Flip Side of Gratitude

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Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
-- Lao Tzu

I'm a big fan of appreciating what we've got.

Not the let's make a quick list of five items, intellectually going through the motions of the gratitude recipe kind of gratitude.

But the taking it all in, really feeling it, expansive, abundant, hugging the world grateful kind of gratitude.

It's uplifting, liberating, soul-filling.

It brings a sense of peace and calm to our busy world.

It brings a sense of ease and full-ness to our daily struggles.

It strengthens us for the journey ahead.

But there are times, when we find ourselves on the flip side of gratitude.

Those are the times when gratitude has become a quick fix for cutting through uneasy, uncomfortable, dissatisfied.

When being grateful has become a band aid for covering up our discomfort.

Shortchanging any hidden hope, dream or desire with a, "You should be grateful for what you have!"

Those are the times when "Be grateful for what you've got!" doesn't feel uplifting and good.

Those are the times when that cheerful mantra makes us feel wrong for not being happy with where we are in our lives.

Reprimanding us for wanting different, new, fresh.

Blaming us for our incapacity truly enjoy what we've got.

And making us feel alone and disconnected -- after all, everyone else seems to be mastering this gratitude skill, why can't we?

All of a sudden, being grateful has become a way to shortchange ourselves.

But gratitude is not a quick fix for resolving our unhappy.

Unpacking our unhappy is.

Opening that box we so desperately wanted to keep shut -- frightened of what we might find.

Opening that box we've so carefully been hiding under busy! busy! busy!, big smiles and the latest must-have stuff.

We aren't failing when we are taking ourselves seriously enough to explore our unhappy.

We aren't weak when we set out to find our unspoken boundaries and stillborn yesses.

Gratitude is what we find in that space of truly seeing ourselves.

Gratitude is meeting us right then, right there -- amidst the hopes, desires and dreams, amidst the fears, doubts and insecurities.

Gratitude is greeting us right there, right then -- enthusiastically and affectionately, like a genie escaping from a bottle that has been kept on lock for too long.

But we don't get there by forcing ourselves to see our glossy-fied now.

We get there by allowing ourselves to see our full-pictured now.

What's your experience with gratitude?

Are you *secretly* stuck in a life that drains you? There's plenty of hands-on tools and inspiration right here. Or grab the free Starter Kit right here to find your happy back. Because life's too short to be pretend happy.