They say that whoever helps should have a short memory, but whoever receives should make sure they have a long memory. Help, give and facilitate are verbs that combine with gratitude. There is no doubt that helping is an act that makes us feel good in itself. But there is also no doubt that receiving thanks for the effort, attention or time provided is very comforting. Because by force of helping, without receiving anything in return, the heart also runs out.
However, some people do not share this perspective. These are people who could qualify as ungrateful because they do not recognize or value what others do for them. These people not only do not appreciate the help received, but then again ask for another favor. And so over and over again. Until it becomes the norm and obligation. And the day we decided to stop, because we have the slight suspicion that they are using/manipulating us, they tell we don’t have empathy, making us feel guilty for not helping them again. What is really hidden behind the behavior of ungrateful people?
Gratitude is not just a feeling, it is also a skill and a way of seeing the world
For a long time it was thought that gratitude was only a feeling we experience when we are subject to beneficial actions by others. If someone gives us a hand when we need it most, gives us a gift or dedicates part of his time, a feeling of gratitude should be activated automatically.
However, gratitude is not just an emotion, it also has a cognitive component. In order for us to feel grateful, we must first be able to appreciate. Appreciate the gesture they had for us, appreciate its positive effects and the effort or intention of the other. And appreciation is a skill that ungrateful people have not developed.
In fact, psychologists at Hope College in Michigan believe that ungrateful people simply lack the ability to feel grateful. They affirm that gratitude “is an experience of abundance, with the awareness that one is the recipient of a good gift from the donor”, which implies appreciating the act itself. They also explain that “gratitude is about donors, gifts, recipients and attitudes of donors and recipients with each other. It is a deeply social emotion.”
Psychologists at the University of Manchester have gone a step further by suggesting that gratitude is not only a skill, but is experienced at the dispositional level. They affirm that it is an attitude towards life that implies being able to notice and appreciate the positive that exists in the world. Therefore, ungrateful people would be programmed to see favors, help and/or gifts as if they were not good enough or were not up to it, so that they cannot experience gratitude.
All this indicates that ingratitude is likely to be developed during the first years of life. If parents did not teach their children to value and appreciate what others did for them, it is likely that children will eventually develop what is known as Emperor Syndrome. As a result, they will drag that egocentric vision of the world into adulthood and assume that others are bound to meet their needs and desires. That way of understanding the world will prevent them from experiencing gratitude.
The 5 risks that ungrateful people face
Ingratitude is not a good travel companion. It is true that whoever helps may feel disappointed if he does not perceive gratitude in the other, but who does not feel gratitude takes the worst part.
1. Chronic unhappiness. “Unhappiness is a contagious disease caused by a chronic deficiency of gratitude”, Mokokoma Mokhonoana wrote and science confirms: the ability to experience gratitude has been linked to high levels of happiness. In fact, the study conducted at Hope College in Michigan proved that gratitude is an excellent predictor of the level of happiness, well-being and satisfaction in life.
Ungratefulness, on the contrary, would condemn us to a loop of chronic unhappiness. Since gratitude is not experienced only towards people who give us their help but also in life, ungrateful people would be doomed to a loop of dissatisfaction. Not being able to appreciate life as an extraordinary gift, they are more likely to feel permanently dissatisfied.
2. Tied to trauma. There is no better tool than gratitude to deal with adverse situations and psychological traumas. Several studies have shown that we can feel grateful in different conditions, even in difficult ones. In fact, the people who recover more quickly from a trauma are those who learn to focus on the positive things in their lives, feeling grateful for them, instead of focusing on what they have lost or do not have.
The benefits-centered reassessment implies a more positive approach that activates beneficial emotions and causes positive neurophysiological reactions. Gratitude helps us disconnect from toxic emotions and ruminant thoughts, allowing us to focus on the positive. Or as Sonja Lyubomirsky said “Gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of envy, hostility, worry and irritation.”
3. More mental disorders. In the long run, ungratefulness generates an unhealthy psychological state characterized by cycles of unrealistic expectations and frustrations in which the person is unable to appreciate in a fair measure the positive that has happened to him.
That is why it is not strange that a study conducted at the Virginia Commonwealth University reveals that ungrateful people have a higher risk of suffering from mental disorders such as major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, different types of phobias, bulimia nervosa, as well as falling into addictive behaviors, either to nicotine, alcohol and drugs.
4. Condemned to despair. One of the greatest dangers that ungrateful people face is that their life becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ungratefulness makes others give up being kind to them, so ungrateful people end up trapped in the trap they have set. When they stop receiving help, they will think that the world is a hostile place where there is no goodness, without realizing that it has been their attitudes that moved them away from the others, leaving them alone.
An investigation conducted at the University of Manchester showed that ungrateful people are more dependent and less autonomous than those who experience gratitude, which means that they are in deep need of the others. These people also have problems of self-acceptance and often lack a purpose in life.
5. Worse health. Ungratefulness not only condemns the person to bitterness, but can also take a toll on their physical health. It has been proven that gratitude decreases the level of stress, anxiety and worries, so it is not strange that a study conducted at the University of Michigan found that ungrateful people often report higher levels of stress and a greater number of physical symptoms
Gratitude also improves greatly the quality of sleep. Not only does it allow us to fall asleep faster but it ensures us a deeper and more restful sleep. Why? Gratitude inhibits the automatic negative thoughts that prevent us from falling asleep when we put our head on the pillow.
The good news is that gratitude can be developed. An ungrateful person is not doomed to ungratefulness for life. The secret is very simple: do not take anything for granted. Start thinking of your life as a wonderful gift. After all, as the novelist Thornton Wilder wrote, “We can only say that we are alive in those moments when our hearts are aware of our treasures.”
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