The Taxonomies of Gratitude
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After my previous newsletter, I received a lot of interest from people looking to learn more about gratitude, so I decided to expand the idea into a short series on gratitude. This is the second post, focused on the logical, rational, and emotional dynamics of gratitude.
Alright, let’s dive in.
PS-don’t forget to try Gratitude Pulse, the free gratitude tool.
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After repeatedly trying — and failing — to consistently feel grateful for good things in life, it occurred to me that I may be taking the wrong approach. Instead of abandoning the approach, I decided to take a first-principles approach and analyze how and why it wasn’t working for me.
So it got me thinking:
Could gratitude actually be logical and emotional?
After digging further, I realized that there are three types of gratitude that we can focus on:
These are the different types of the same species, similar to the way we define and organize organisms, or what is commonly referred to as “taxonomies.”
Taxonomies of Gratitude
After digging into my own gratitude practices, I realized that, while there are different types of gratitude, they are still all categorized as gratitude. These are the different types of the same species, similar to the way we define and organize organisms, or what is commonly referred to as “taxonomies.”
In order to name and organize, I recommend using the binomial naming system to categorize the types of gratitude, where the first word—Gratia—represents the Latin name for “Gratitude”, and the second word—Logicus, Motus, Rationale—represents the Latin name for the specific kind of gratitude.
Now that we’ve defined the naming and organizing principles, let’s look at how logical, emotional, and rational gratitude differs.
Gratia Logicus (aka Logical Gratitude)
What is logical? I can’t tell you how many arguments I’ve had based on this simple question. Logical thinking can be a superpower, as it allows one to escape the challenges of emotional—often illogical—thinking.
The modern definition of logic is:
Reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity.
Logic states that for something to be logical, it must also be valid, correct, or accurate. By definition, logic leaves no room for errors or inaccuracies. Feelings and emotions, which can’t logically be verified, simply can’t factor into this equation, as logical equations are designed to eliminate such inefficiencies.
What is Logical Gratitude?
Logical gratitude is the most common, formulaic way of analyzing and capturing thankfulness. It typically recounts factual statements like “I achieved x, I completed y, I have z.” For years, this was my approach to gratitude. I created a formulaic way to analyze my life and the realities of the world around me, using them as a proxy for happiness.
This works really well because I can always write a logical equation. For example:
Food + shelter + job + romantic relationship = happiness
Most techniques, from Counting Blessings to Three Good Things, coach people to look at good things, which can often result in an oversimplified, logical view of gratitude.
But gratitude isn’t logical.
We have feelings that don’t always align with our logical reality. We experience the world through our senses, and our mind attempts to make sense of these experiences. Emotion plays a critical role in our ability to be grateful.
💭 Takeaway: Logical gratitude is the easiest place to start, but may leave you unfulfilled.
Gratius Motus (aka Emotional Gratitude)
Emotions are tricky. They’re hard to pin down, difficult to describe, and deeply personal. This is reflected in the lack of consensus on the definition, which Wikipedia states as:
Biological states associated with the nervous system brought on by neurophysiological changes variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioral responses, and a degree of pleasure or displeasure.”
Emotions don’t need to be accurate. They don’t require consensus. They don’t need to be proven. They simply are. And that’s what makes them beautiful and terrifying.
Emotions are powerful forces that underpin how we live, interact with others, and exist within the world. As much as we think we’re logical beings, the reality is that emotions drive the choices we make, our perceptions of the world, and how we approach our environment. Our emotions often become our experience.
So, logically, if experiencing positive emotions like happiness, pleasure, and comfort will help us make positive decisions and improve our perspective. The same research shows that emotions are not siloed. The emotions we experience in one situation can bleed into another.
What is Emotional Gratitude?
Emotional gratitude is the antidote to logical gratitude. It resides on the opposite side of the gratitude spectrum, allowing us to focus on connecting with that which does not answer to logic.
Understanding and relating to emotions can have a major impact on your day-to-day actions and decision-making abilities.
Most people see logic and emotion as polar opposites on the decision-making scale. And in many ways, they’d be right. But the good news is, there’s a third option.
: Emotional gratitude may be the most difficult, but can be the most fulfilling.
Gratia Rationale (aka Rational Gratitude)
The world isn’t binary, so why should our gratitude be? Far too often, we create an artificial divide between logical and emotional thinking. But the reality is: we exist in both camps. Instead of thinking of logic and emotion as binary decisions, we should instead look at them as two points on a spectrum.
Rationality is not about a series of formulaic constructions that provide a binary answer to our internal analysis. Rational thought differs from logic in that it cannot be objectively proven 100% of the time. Rational thoughts are not always logical, nor are they solely emotional. They often include emotion, creativity, imagination, social conventions, and biases.
What is Rational Gratitude?
Rational gratitude dares to break the binary divide of logic and emotion. It is what allows us to hold opposing ideas that we cannot reconcile. For example, we can be grateful for something terrible that led to something great.
But what does it mean to combine logic and emotion? Let’s try an example.
If something is objectively failing, we should not be grateful for the pain it causes, right? Wrong. Rationally, we can experience the emotions of gratitude for our experiences without it logically making sense.
This is rational gratitude.
Rational gratitude allows us to be grateful for something challenging that exposed a growth opportunity. It empowers us to be grateful for anything, as long as we accept that logic is not required.
: Rational gratitude combines the logical approach to seeing positivity, while incorporating key emotional states.
Putting Gratitude to Work
If there’s one takeaway here, it’s that each species of gratitude is unique. What works for one person may not work for everyone.
If we’re always looking for logical gratitude, we’ll rarely find it. Emotional gratitude can be finicky and tricky to connect when our brains seek out logical conclusions. But rational gratitude offers a safe space for even the most data-driven, logical thinker.
No matter your proclivities, I recommend starting a gratitude practice to keep you in touch with the positive forces that could propel you forward in work, in your relationships, and in your life. Our gratitude pulse is a great place to start, but all practices are recommended. Gratitude transcends boundaries, so use it as a force for improvement in the years to come.
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Thanks for reading, and see you next week,
— Kevin K. (@kkirkpatrick)