When Blessings Go Missing
Sometimes it’s hard to count blessings. Being sad beyond belief, grieving the loss of love through death or divorce, watching as a friend or lover suffers unspeakably from a medical condition, it’s hard to “see the bright side.” It is at times like these that you must “drop your gloves” (as they say in hockey) and fight for your happiness.
The sense of loss you’re experiencing is tied to a blessing that has gone missing. Be it health, love or security, that missing blessing hurts.
The antidote is like an inoculation. You must disappear more blessings, at least for a moment or two, to be able to recapture their worth. Like taking in a small amount of germ to build up a resistance, taking in a little more pain – in the form of imagining blessings to have gone missing – will help you remember what you do have.
In psychological terms this is called “mental subtraction,” and studies have shown it is more powerful than simply adding up what we do have. Why? Because it works against our normal tendency to adapt to the good things in our lives and take them for granted. Mental subtraction allows us to recapture the magic of just how wonderful the things we have in our lives, but may have become used to, actually are.
How’s your health? Imagine for a moment that you had to live with constant pain, with frequent visits to the doctor, with the side effects of medications. How’s your job? You have one? Imagine the stress and the strain of trying to figure out how to pay your bills without a steady income? How’s your relationship? Imagine that person gone from you. Who would you tell your day to?
So many of our blessings become hidden from us by familiarity. Removing the blessing, even as a thought experiment, and then reveling in its return can help to offset the other areas of a life that is strained.
Imagine having to walk for miles just to find clean water. Imagine having to ride a bicycle to work because they’re no other way to get there. Imagine having to walk around with a mask on your face because the air in your town is so dirty. When was the last time you counted so many of the blessings you’re taking for granted?
Psychologists don’t know if you can adapt to mental subtraction. But if you save it for those desperate times when blessings truly do go missing to help put some perspective back in terms of what’s good about your life, you’re probably safe. And don’t always focus on the same blessings when it comes to doing your mental subtraction. Vary the blessings you eliminate from your life, and then get busy counting those blessings again.