Shaming people for being “ungrateful”



Sarah brought up the subject of happiness and gratitude (and maturity). Here is what I wrote to her:

You my have noticed that I am very attentive to words. Where does silence come from? Where does unrage come from? Where does stillness come from?

These terms refer to the absence of something: no sound, no rage, and no movement. How about “ungrateful?” Gratitude is a pattern and it is an experience that “comes from” certain processes or practices.

In my life, I have been targeted for emotional harassment and abuse by people who said to me (and to others) “you should be more grateful.” They were shaming me. They were in a type of distress called anger (specifically, resentment).

They were not being grateful or respectful. I am not saying that they should have been more grateful or more respectful or less abusive or less resentful.

They were just practicing emotions and behaviors that had been repressed in their life. When there has been social pressure to be a certain way and not be other ways, then that pressure will tend to eventually release in the absence of ongoing intimidation and bullying.

In my own adult life, have I ever “guilt-tripped” someone and targeted them for resentment, saying “you should be more grateful!?!?” Yes, and it is the same hysteria when I did it or when someone else does it.

What leads to resentment? It is easy to see in a 2 year old. They have a preference, then they relate to it as an expectation (or something that “they deserve” / “other people owe to them”). Eventually, someone somewhere (or even their dog) will not do whatever they expect. People may even do other things INSTEAD of what was expected.

The natural thing for a child who is TIRED is to “throw a tantrum.” That can take the form of “people should be more grateful, RIGHT?!?!”

When the expectation does not fit with observed reality, a tired child may get so confused and frustrated that they send a distress signal. They will call for help and attention by attacking others (often just verbally). That may work to get someone to help them settle in for a much-needed nap. (For adults, they may attract some much-needed attention from some cops and be rewarded with a bit of jail-time to “cool down.”)

What about a child who is well-rested? What do they do when their observations do not match their expectations? They simply revise their expectations. If they still want to pursue a particular goal, then they alter their approach and keep experimenting.

“I wish people would be more attentive to me” is a direct expression of disappointment. Guilt-tripping others is a more complex (indirect) expression of disappointment. “Those people should be more grateful, RIGHT!?!?”

It is an invitation for social interaction. It is a harsh and tense invitation, but still an initiative to reach out.

To throw a tantrum or guilt-trip someone is a social manipulation. We can attempt to manipulate other people by threatening (or displaying) social rejection of them.

One approach is “if you give me a cookie, I will be your best friend.” The contrasting approach is “I deserve a cookie. Why doesn’t anyone around here appreciate the obvious fact that I deserve a cookie? I do not know how I put up with these greedy punks who do not offer me a cookie every time that I come in to the room. I am such a GENEROUS person. I forgive them for their offensive crimes of not giving me a cookie. They should be more generous like me and give me a cookie. Aren’t they GRATEFUL for the fact that I am here? Don’t they LOVE me? They should, RIGHT?!?! “


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