In this piece for Good Housekeeping, one woman shares how “thinking positive” and making gratitude lists worsened her depression, and how acknowledging her pain and trauma through ingratitude lists helped her feel validated and empowered.
“Gratitude lists didn’t help me one bit. Writing them was a practice that drove me deeper into shame and self-loathing when I was already in a very dark place. Gratitude lists imply that those of us who are in pain are choosing misery and just aren’t working hard enough and that if we just think happy thoughts we’ll float up above our problems like the kids in Peter Pan.
My ingratitude lists helped me grieve the things that I’d lost, missed out on, been cheated out of and all the times life had kicked me straight in the heart. I learned that stuffing down anger and sadness with a stack of gratitude lists doesn’t make them go away. Writing down the things that made me miserable and furious didn’t make them go away either, but it helped me focus on the things in life that I wanted to change because they caused me suffering over and over again. My ingratitude lists gave me direction, focus and helped me move away from shame and toward acceptance and action. My heart still hurts, but I don’t scream at myself for being selfish for being sad anymore.”