Authentic gratitude allows healing

When events, joyous or sorrowful, are happening in your life, your body has a level of emotional dysregulation from what you usually experience as normal.


The Taos News has committed to implement a bi-weekly column to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. You may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.

Dear Ted,

The last couple of articles you have spoken about triggers during the holidays and how difficult those times can be emotionally. My question is why does the brain seem to go to a place of negative or hurt before it goes to love, compassion and gratitude? I am noticing this phenomenon in my own life especially during this emotionally amped time of the year. Thank you for the articles and your time.


Dear Gretchen,

What a great question and observation on a subject that is so palpable at this time of the year as emotions run high and where many different events in your life may be rising to the surface while you are trying to navigate present activities and experiences. There is a certain pressure for many people, whether with parties, activities, family and travel to name only a few examples.

When events, joyous or sorrowful, are happening in your life, your body has a level of emotional dysregulation from what you usually experience as normal. In this emotional chaos, your brain goes on hyper-alert as it tries to figure out what is going on and why things aren’t in their usual realm of normalcy.

Hormones are released and “all stations are prepared,” almost like a naval ship when something is out of sync, so everybody is on alert to protect the ship and crew. When this happens to you it is as if your body is the ship and your emotions are the crew. Your brain kicks into a hyper-alert gear in which it is going to scan everything for any kind of danger that might hurt you in any form. Since pain is usually thought of as a negative experience, the brain will scan to find anything negative and ignore a high percentage of the positive that might be happening around you.

I am reminded of Dr. Seuss’ story, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” in which the Grinch’s heart is miniscule and everything only makes him angry and resentful due to history, being alone and not being able to connect. As he connects and finds love, safety is established and his heart starts to grow and then he can come from that place of love. Dr. Seuss was brilliant in demonstrating the need for safety and connection in order to feel openness and warmth.

I believe the way you can do this is by being aware of your feelings, observing your emotions and staying alert about your actions resulting from those emotions. Actions come in many forms, by how you act to others verbally, physically, emotionally and psychically. It is also you being aware of how you are observing the world around you. Are you noticing a higher percentage of the negative rather than noticing the positive? If you were at a restaurant, are you noticing the servers working hard for you or that someone forgot your extra napkin, negating all the other efforts?

In being aware of this thinking pattern, you can check and look at the bigger picture as well and allow gratitude to seep in from all the wonders around you rather than where you have become hyper-focused on a negative. This will let the brain calm down, call off the anger, and empower you to change your view. This awareness will help your heart grow as you see that you can be grateful to those around you.

I wish each of you a conscious, healthy and caring month as you navigate the emotional path of the holidays. Thank you. Take care and I wish you well on your path to emotional healing.