Gratitude PDF Print


”Happy people remember their past with gratitude, they are happy with their present and they face their future with no fear” Epicure. P 201.Psychology of Gratitude Joanna de Ângelis – Divaldo Franco


Why should we study about gratitude? Most of us are grateful in life, most of us can say “Thank you” when someone gives something to us or do something for us. If we receive a gift from a friend we say “Thank you”, when we receive a meal or a coffee in a restaurant we say thank you. When we get a new job we say thank you… so isn’t this enough? On the top of saying thank you we sometimes also feel the need to give something back, to return the favour. This feeling of giving back because we received something is what we normally call gratitude; that is usually our idea of gratitude…

But actually for spiritism gratitude involves much more than that, so tonight we will learn a bit more about gratitude according to Spiritism . We have used for this lecture the book “Psychology of Gratitude” – Divaldo Franco – Joanna de Ângelis.

So let’s start by analysing the possible attitudes regarding Gratitude:

-        Some people are never grateful, they don’t say thank you to the waiter, to someone that they work with, to a family member, he/she just receive things and favours and that is it. And instead of being grateful he/she complains pretty much about everything the weather… too hot, too cold, too much rain…,the traffic, his/her hair, the job, the life and nothing is good enough so even when something good happens he/she will try to find something wrong. How was your holiday in Hawaii? Horrible, the flight was delayed, it was raining, didn’t like the food…No Gratitude at all regardless situations in life…

-        Some other people are always grateful for the good things that happen to them but they never grateful for the difficult moments or challenges in life

-        A few people are grateful for the good and bad things that happen in their lives. They do that because they fully understand gratitude. At First it seems a bit strange to think that we should be thankful/ grateful when something bad happens but if we consider that good and bad things are part of our evolution; and challenges in life will make us learn and grow (if we are open to it) we will start to understand gratitude for the bad situations in our life.

We probably have the 3 attitudes depending on the circumstances of our lives but our goal should be to experience gratitude for everything that happens to us and we should thank everything and everyone that somehow is part of our life be thankful for the good and the bad things that happen because the bad things are part of our spiritual evolution. “Everything that happens, even the ones that result in unpleasant sensation or disturbing feelings, belongs to experiences that improve the human being” … “The lucid comprehension that everything has a relevant moral and a psychological meaning provides inner harmony, working for overcome the difficult situation, in order to reach plenitude” p.103 “Gratitude for everything that happens must be always the emotional and mental attitude of all human beings” p. 69 Psychology of Gratitude. So According to Joanna de Ângelis real Gratitude is a much deeper feeling. So let’s try to understand a bit more about gratitude then.

Analysing our journey in this life as babies we don’t know about gratitude right? Since we are born we receive everything that we need food, cuddles, bath, health care and we just receive it we don’t need to do anything. A baby doesn’t think “My mum just gave me food, so I should be grateful” As we grow up we start learning that we will need to do things by ourselves and hopefully we will learn as well that when someone does something for us we should be grateful and try to “give back” “return a favour” in some way.


It is easy to feel grateful when everything is good, when something good happens to us. For example, we really want a job and we try for months to get it and we finally get it, first day really happy really grateful, first week, second week still happy and grateful and then on the 3rd week something goes wrong and the feeling of gratitude goes way… The challenge is to be grateful in the hard times, when things don’t go the way we expect, because normally in the difficult times our tendency is to complain, to put ourselves in the victim position and to compare ourselves with other people and think that they are luckier than us, and that is not fair.


Our intention is often good and many times we try to be grateful and we wake up with the right attitude thanking everyone and everything until something happens during breakfast, in the traffic, in our work and then we forget about gratitude…that will happen with us sometimes … and when we realised that we fail in our goal of being grateful for the whole day we have 2 options: we can either recognise that it didn’t work out well this time but we will try again or we can be disappointed with ourselves, remember all our mistakes and cultivate negative thoughts what can lead to depression or other negative states.


So we need to admit to ourselves that many times in our life we are ungrateful. When we are ungrateful we are denying  to grow up and we feel that we are entitle to keep receiving everything in the same way that we did when they were babies/kids and that other people should do things for us all the time so even when we receive something we don’t feel grateful for it and we get really upset when we don’t get what we want and we start complaining and when we are ungrateful we complain about everything : the weather, the job, the family the friends , the hair, nothing is good enough because we are not getting everything that we want. When we are ungrateful, we don’t value the contribution of other people, we believe that we deserve to be served and we have no obligation to return the favour to give back “The ungrateful person suffers from anxiety, low self-esteem, fear of facing challenges and complex of inferiority” p. 100 Psychology of Gratitude.  In other words when we are ungrateful , we suffers from “anxiety ” because we are not so sure if things will really happen the way we want them to happen, we suffer from “ low self-esteem” because by expecting other people to do for us we start believing that we are incapable to do by ourselves; we “fear” to fail the challenges in our life and so we let someone else do for us, avoiding this way to take risks in our life and finally we suffer from “complex in inferiority because” if always expect people to do everything for us and we don’t do anything for them we will fell that we are incapable and therefore other people are superior, more capable and better than us.


Let’s analyse then one of the explanations of why we are ungrateful in many moments of our life.  We all have our dark side that many times is considered as our negative side. Carl Jung call this dark side “shadow”, according to Jung “Everyone carries a shadow" Jung wrote, "and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." Jung, C.G. (1938). "Psychology and Religion." In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.131. In our shadow we have our repressed feelings, wishes, tendencies, our moral imperfection and most of them are repressed because is too hard for us to deal with them so the shadow hides them from us. “The shadow can be seen as fog or illusion that blocks the sun of reality” p.47 Psychology of Gratitude. We are all ashamed of our shadow; we are ashamed of our imperfections, so we learn how to hide it. Lots of courage is needed to face our shadow. Joanna de Ângelis tell us that it is really an everyday and continuous battle that we need to face and when we love, respect and act according to the divine laws the shadow loses but when we react with hate, jealousy, negative feelings the shadow wins… When we are grateful the shadow loses, when we are ungrateful the shadow wins… “This way, the shadow is the biggest psychological obstacle to gratitude” p. 50 Psychology of Gratitude. Gratitude should be a natural habit for us to reach this stage training is needed every day because the shadow will be on the way of our improvement. 

Now just a short story to illustrate Gratitude : “A business man used to go every day to the same dairy place to get a newspaper and the guy that served him would just throw the newspaper in his direction and not even say thank you for the money. One day another guy that worked at the dairy as well asked the business man why he would still go there every day and accept the bad treatment from the employee of the dairy. The kind man replied: - It is a principle matter. I don’t allow his bad manners to affect my behaviour, I am too grateful for my life to let something small like that interfere in my happiness” “ The bad doesn’t affect the good, which is its antidote” p. 204. Doesn’t matter what people do for us, what matter is how we react to other people and the circumstances in our life.

Another angle of gratitude is that many times instead of being grateful we expect that other people are grateful toward us. Sometimes we will give something expecting to receive something back … Just a simple example: Let’s say we want to be a better person at our place, even if you live with your family or with flatmates you decide to get up earlier and prepare breakfast for everyone, so you make a big breakfast (some eggs, bacon, sausages) and you also make a delicious flat white. And you start thinking they will be so grateful so happy that is your expectation but when they wake up, they enjoy the breakfast, they like but they don’t love it, they say thank you but they don’t say thank you very much so you fell disappointed because you were expecting much more and you promise to yourself that you will never make the same mistake again.

So we know that we are not able yet to be grateful all the time, but recognising it and trying to be aware of the moments that we are ungrateful will slowly help us to change our behaviour, it is not easy, we know that we are in planet of Trial and Expiations, so we can expect hard times as we as good times, and it is up to us if we choose to learn with the difficult experiences and improve ourselves or if we choose to just complain and don’t learn anything. We can be an Ungrateful Victim or a Grateful Learner.

When we are ungrateful we complain a lot about our life and we all have emotional problems, difficult such as anxiety, fear, solitude, depression and some of these conditions occur because we can’t choose what the best way to deal with a problem is, so we refuse to solve the problem and instead we complain and feed our negative thoughts and feelings making our problems even worst. We could deal with our issues in a more positive way starting by being grateful and recognising that challenges are important for us and we can make our life situation better if we want to through good thoughts, good actions, humility, solidarity…


We all have psychological conflicts; we all have doubts about life, and what should I do? What is the best solution to this problem? Am I going to achieve what I want? And people will deal different with these conflicts. At times can be hard to handle the uncertainty, the not knowing about the future and that can lead people to search for a refugee in the vices (Drugs, alcohol) addictions to distract themselves and avoid the conflicts (Too much TV, internet, even movies or soap opera) or transfer the responsibility of our own life to other people, blaming people for the results of our own life and forgetting to be thankful.


Many times we have a “preference” for the negative feelings, it is common to hear “life is hard”, “I am so unlucky” “Nothing works out for me” “Poor me” It is much easier to be a victim position and have other people agreeing with us and supporting our negativity. When we do that we are trying to avoid our work with ourselves, we are trying to avoid our responsibilities in life, we are avoiding growing up and we are being ungrateful by not recognising all the blessing that we have in our life.


Other times our ungratefulness and ingratitude in life comes from the impossibility of getting what we want and especially when we want material things that are not easy to reach which leads us to frustration and ungratefulness. It is natural to want material things in life; but we need to analyse how we wish for these things and how we balance these out with our spiritual goals such as become more charitable, forgive more and love more.


In our current context the material life goals are considered much more important than spiritual goals, normally people with more money are perceived as happier than people with less money. Someone wins lotto and we think “How Lucky” “What a beautiful car” “Look at this house “and many times we wish that we had all this material things and we believe that these things would make we happy. So this way, we focus in the material things and we get distracted from ourselves instead of pay attention in ourselves, our feelings, our strengthens and our weakness we focus our attention and energy to outside material world and most of the times we want to have things not because of ourselves but because of other people we want to show people how cool we are”look at my car, my house, my boat”. So our tendency is to focus in the material life rather than the spiritual one and this behaviour intensifies our anxiety, fear and solitude and by doing that we forget about being grateful. “The worry in accumulate in buying is continuous, without valuing the blessings that we have such as health, mental lucidity and affectivity” p 154. Psychology of Gratitude.


To reach spiritual goals takes time, our inner reform takes time, our “know yourself” is a continuous work that can’t be done overnight on the other hand our material goals and material life is becoming faster and faster, for example: Before we need to communicate something and send a letter to a friend overseas it would take a few days to get to the receiver and then it would take a few days to receive the reply to the letter. If we need to call a friend we would probably need to wait until the person to get home to call the landline, nowadays many people don’t even have landline anymore and you can contact almost anyone, anytime just by calling on their cell phones, sending a txt message, sending an email… so the technology helps us to get in touch with people faster but on the other hand we have less personal contact because people don’t have time, sometimes people spend hours on the internet but don’t have time to catch up with friends, no time for family either. Many houses have one TV for each room, sometimes even for the kitchen, for the bathroom… and even dinner time that traditionally is the family time an opportunity for all to catch up becomes a lonely time with every member of the family getting their meals and going straight to their bedroom to eat in front of the TV or computer that is what Joanna de Ângelis call Collective Neuroses in a sense that technology makes us anxious. We are driving and we hear that we got a message in our mobile, our tendency is to check the message in the first opportunity when we stop for a red light for example or for some people is just immediately… when having coffee with a friend and we hear a message and we just say sorry I just need to check that. We send an email and 5 minutes we check if we have the reply… 20 minutes to reply a txt message that is too long.  We are not sure about something so why should we think about it and waste time? We can just ask Google and “he” will reply immediately. Technology is so fast that even when the computer is a bit slow we not even patient to wait for it to work... “That is it, I need a faster computer” we have 1000 online friends, but many real life friends. Not easy to keep up with all the changes, to be informed to know what is happening to reply all emails, facebook etc, and our bad use of these technologies leads us to anxiety, depression and we don’t even find time or remember to be grateful for our life as we are just so focus in our online lives.


Why are we here? What is our mission, what is the meaning of our life, we don’t stop to reflect on it we are too busy, no time, we can’t relax, we can’t stop, no time for ourselves no time to find out who we are what we doing here. Nobody can answer that for us, it is our job to find this out. That is why is important to do our self discover work, so we can be aware of our positive points and our negative points as well and it is important to be always grateful regardless what we discover in our journey.


Joanna de Ângelis recommends that we exercise our gratitude. Even if in the beginning we are grateful because we know we should be and even it feels almost like an obligation, so normally we start by feeling the need to return the favour when we receive something but by exercising gratitude we will feel the need of positive contribution to others in other words the need to do charity. “The Gratitude has this wonderful quality of making us perceive people as more beautiful and better” p.95 The Psychology of Gratitude.

The superior spirits tell us that it is always better to give than to receive, if you give something away is because you had that to give away, who is receiving is creating a debt with life. The giving here is not only referring to material things (which are much easier to give) but manly referring to the charity that comes from our heart from our will to help. When we give our time to hear someone when support people in their difficult moments; when we visit a friend that is sick; when we smile at someone and especially when we forgive someone that hurt our feelings, according to Joanna forgiveness is the highest level of Gratitude.

How can we become more grateful?

- Thoughts of gratitude will eventually become actions of gratitude. (If we really want to be grateful we need to start with our thoughts, because in a way everything starts from our thoughts). Every morning is a new opportunity for us to be grateful, when we open our eyes in the morning it is a perfect time to start being grateful by saying “Thank you God for my life and thank for this day that is starting now” and when we are having our breakfast is another opportunity of being grateful for the food” and we walk outside and can be grateful for the beautiful sky, for the sun or for the rain, for the breeze that we can feel, and then we can think about people that are part of our life and be thankful for having them in our life because we learn with them and we have the opportunity of become better because of the relationships the we establish with them...

- Comprehension of other people actions through our tolerance, understanding and personal humility (everyone behaves according to their level of consciousness and intellectual moral stage).

- Real forgiveness.

- Our believe that we should be grateful for the good and the bad things that happens with us by understanding that everything contributes and it is part of our spiritual evolution.

The feeling of gratitude makes us want to help to contribute to the wellbeing of others and the society. Solidarity is the way of expressing the joy of living and developing relationships that edify our feelings or awake the one that were asleep.

There is a famous story about a Buddhist monk that can illustrate that a bit more: 

“The monk was walking in a forest with his disciples when they saw a scorpion drown in the river. The monk immediate ran and caught it in his hand saving the scorpion from a fatal death. When he was bringing his back the scorpion bites his hand and because of the pain the monk it in the water…The monk ran again and got a piece of wood and save the scorpion again. One of his disciples asked him then: - Master, are you all right? You tried to save the scorpion and the scorpion returned the favour with a bite that because you pain. Wouldn’t it be natural that you let him die instead of trying to save it for the second time? The monk smiled and replies: The scorpion acted according to his nature, and I acted according to my nature. He reacted by instinct, I acted according to my feeling of love for everything and everyone”.  



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