They say that whoever helps should have a short memory, but whoever receives should have a long memory. Helping, giving and facilitating are verbs that have to do with gratitude. There is no doubt that helping is an act that feels good, but it is equally true that being thanked for the effort, attention or time dedicated is just as comforting. Because by dint of helping, without receiving anything in return, even the heart goes into exhaustion.
But some people don't share this perspective. They are people that we could define as ungrateful because they do not recognize or appreciate what others do for them. These people not only do not appreciate the help they receive, but they always ask for more favors. And the day we stop helping them, because we have a slight suspicion that they are using / manipulating us, they tell us that we are not very empathetic, making us feel guilty for not helping them again. What lies 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 just a feeling we experience when we are the object of beneficial actions by others. If someone gives us a hand when we need it most, gives us a gift or dedicates part of their time to us, a feeling of gratitude should automatically be activated.
However, gratitude isn't just an emotion, it also has a cognitive component. To feel grateful we must first be able to appreciate. Appreciate the gesture received, appreciate its positive effects and appreciate the effort or intention of the other. And appreciation is a skill that ungrateful people haven't developed.
In fact, psychologists at Hope College in Michigan believe that ungrateful people simply don't have the ability to feel grateful. They affirm that gratitude "is an experience of abundance, of awareness that one is the recipient of a good gift from the giver", which implies appreciating the act itself. They also explain that “gratitude is about donors, gifts, recipients and the attitudes of donors and recipients to each other. It is a profoundly social emotion. "
Psychologists at the University of Manchester have taken it a step further by suggesting that gratitude is not just a skill, but is experienced on a dispositional level. They claim that it is an attitude towards life that involves 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 not good enough or up to them, so they cannot feel gratitude.
All this indicates that ingratitude probably develops during the first years of life. If parents do not teach their children to value and appreciate what others do for them, children are likely to eventually develop what is known as Emperor's Syndrome. As a result, that self-centered view of the world will follow them into adulthood and assume that others are expected to satisfy their needs and desires. This way of understanding the world will prevent them from feeling gratitude.
The 5 risks that ungrateful people face
Ingratitude is not a good travel companion. It is true that those who offer help may feel disappointed if they do not perceive gratitude in the other, but those who do not feel gratitude are worse off.
1. Chronic unhappiness. "Unhappiness is a contagious disease caused by a chronic lack of gratitude," wrote Mokokoma Mokhonoana and science confirms it: the ability to feel gratitude has been linked to high levels of happiness. In fact, the study conducted at Hope College shows that gratitude is an excellent indicator of the level of happiness, well-being and satisfaction in life.
Ingratitude, on the contrary, would condemn us to chronic unhappiness. Since gratitude is felt not only towards people who offer us help, but also in life, ungrateful people would be doomed to perennial dissatisfaction. Not being able to appreciate life as an extraordinary gift, they are more likely to feel permanently dissatisfied.
2. Related to trauma. There is no better tool than gratitude for dealing with adverse situations and psychological trauma. Several studies have shown that we can feel grateful in different conditions, even in the most difficult ones. In fact, the people who recover faster from trauma are those who learn to focus on the positive things in life, feeling grateful, instead of focusing on what they have lost or don't have.
Benefit-centered revaluation implies a more positive approach that activates beneficial emotions and provokes positive neurophysiological reactions. Gratitude helps us disconnect from toxic emotions and ruminating 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 psychological problems. In the long run, ingratitude generates an unhealthy psychological state characterized by cycles of unrealistic expectations and frustration in which the person is unable to fairly appreciate the positive experience.
That is why it is not strange that a study conducted at Virginia Commonwealth University reveals that ungrateful people have a higher risk of suffering from psychological disorders such as major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, different types of phobias, bulimia nervosa, as well as falling into the addiction to nicotine, alcohol or drugs.
4. Doomed to despair. One of the biggest dangers that ungrateful people face is that their life becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ingratitude causes others to stop being nice to them, so ungrateful people end up trapped in the trap they have built themselves. When they stop getting help, they think the world is a hostile place where there is no goodness, without realizing that it was their attitudes that pushed them away from others, leaving them alone.
A survey conducted at the University of Manchester showed that ungrateful people are more dependent and less autonomous than those who feel gratitude, which means they have a deep need for others. These people also have a hard time accepting themselves and often don't have a purpose in life.
5. Worse health. Ingratitude not only condemns the person to bitterness, but it can also affect their physical health. Gratitude has been shown to reduce the level of stress, anxiety and worry, so it's no wonder that a study conducted at the University of Michigan found that ungrateful people have higher levels of stress and more physical symptoms.
Gratitude also greatly improves sleep quality. Not only does it allow us to fall asleep faster, but it ensures a deeper and more restful sleep. Because? Gratitude inhibits automatic negative thoughts that keep us from falling asleep when we rest our head on the pillow.
The good news is that gratitude can develop. An ungrateful person is not doomed to be forever. The secret is very simple: don't take anything for granted. Start thinking of your life as a wonderful gift. After all, as novelist Thornton Wilder put it, "we can only say that we are alive in those moments when our hearts are aware of our treasures."