By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D.
"No matter what I do, it isn't good enough." "No matter how much I
give, it never seems to satisfy." Over these past holidays, how many
times have we heard, or made, such comments?
Let's face it. There are people who, no matter how much they have
or have been given, never appreciate it. You could pour your heart
out, work until you drop, share until you're empty, and they still
wouldn't acknowledge your effort with a simple "thank you."
Somehow, it seems that people who need appreciation are often paired
with people who never express it. They are caught up in a destructive
cycle: the more person A needs to be appreciated, the more he or she
strives for the "thank you's." The more A seeks appreciation, the
more obligated person B feels to express his or her gratitude. The
more guilty B feels, the more likely he or she is to rebel and
withhold appreciation. This leads to further emptiness in person A,
and the subsequent increase in A's need for appreciation. This cycle
is often experienced during holiday times when "giving" and
"receiving" is expected
People caught up in this psychological cycle experience life as an
endless dependency, filled with fear, helplessness, hostility, anger
and above all, unfulfilled needs. Both parties caught up in this
cycle are very needy of personal validation and support. Both
desperately need to feel appreciated and valuable.
This helpless-hostile-dependency (HHD) cycle is simple to change in
theory. (You know how simple we psychologists make things... "in
theory") Changing the HHD cycle in day-to-day living is often very
Breaking the HHD cycle can begin with saying "thank you". That's
right. Saying out loud, "I appreciate..." or, "thank you for..." is
the beginning of altering the HHD cycle.
"Thank you" communicates many messages. "Thank you" says: I
recognize you; I like you; I appreciate you; I have seen or heard you;
I realize your effort, work or accomplishments; and best of all, I
value who you are and/or what you do. Feeling valuable for who you
are as a person, as well as what you do, is probably the most
important consequence of receiving "thank you's." When we feel
value-able, we feel able to be valued...to be cherished...to be loved.
Feeling value-able means we are important as individuals in and of
ourselves. When we feel personally valued, we no longer need to
frantically seek approval from others. We no longer need to feel
frightened of our own inadequacies. We are valuable for who we are as
persons. What we do, or our behavior, may or may not be appreciated.
But that isn't as important, if we feel valuable as the individual
persons we are.
When we are appreciated for who we are, the need for validation is
filled and the old helpless-hostile-dependency cycle is replaced by
one of confident-caring-intimacy (CCI). No wonder Nobel-prize winner,
Hans Selye, said the most healthy emotion you can experience is one of
gratitude. Selye's famous research about stress and it's effect on
human health, indicated that "vengeance" was the most harmful emotion.
"Gratitude" the most beneficial.
In changing the HHD cycle to the CCI cycle, the importance of the
regular and persistent saying of "thank you" for being you, and "thank
you" for what you do, cannot be over-emphasized.
Thank you for reading my column today, for responding to it and
especially for being the valuable people you are.
Dr. Thomas is a licensed psychologist, author, speaker, and life
coach. He serves on the faculty of the International University of
Professional Studies. He recently co-authored (with Patrick Williams)
the book: "Total Life Coaching: 50+ Life Lessons, Skills and
Techniques for Enhancing Your Practice...and Your Life!" (W.W. Norton
2005) It is available at your local bookstore or on Amazon.com.