The attitude of gratitude is something you’ve probably heard repeated in the personal development world, with the benefits of being grateful and even keeping a gratitude journal. It leads you to focus on what’s going right in your life, what blessings you have, and aims to shift your energy. And in the faith of Islam, this is no different, and we’re taught about the beauty of gratitude in the Qur’an:

“If you are grateful, I will certainly increase you.” (7;14) 

Reading this verse, you wouldn’t think there’s a problem with showing gratitude, or expressing gratitude to Allah (God), right? When a calamity hits, you say, “Alhamdulillah” (All praise is due to Allah) and accept there to be good in all circumstances, and this is commendable. What I’ve noticed happening, though, is that we’re using this verse and the concept of gratitude to mean we can’t or shouldn’t feel anything else. We’re numbing with gratitude.

The side-effect of numbing with gratitude

When we numb with gratitude, we deprive ourselves of the space and opportunity to acknowledge what we’re truly feeling. We make what Allah has made permissible for us, impermissible, and we go about our business only ever allowing ourselves to supposedly ‘feel’ gratitude and nothing else. Emotions come up, and we push them down with gratitude — again and again and again.

What does this lead to? 

Eruptions. Just like a volcano, these repressed feelings and emotions rise to the surface and erupt. And it’s never pretty. Allah designed the human body to feel an array of emotions, acknowledge them, and move through them. As praiseworthy numbing with gratitude might initially feel, our body will signal to us that it’s not working.

Your emotional wounds are no different to physical wounds

Let me ask you this, my lovely: If you had a physical ailment, would you just put a band-aid on it and keep it moving? Or would you take action and search high and low to find the right treatment? You and I both know the answer to that, so what makes it okay to mistreat yourself when it comes to your emotions and feelings? 

I get it, I really do. I know it’s not easy, and I know it’s scary to feel and face everything you’ve been suppressing. And I also know that numbing — even with gratitude — is harming you instead of helping you; it’s also negatively impacting the people you love and care about.

You weren’t created to live like this.