How To Be Thankful

How to Be Thankful: A Thanksgiving Post


This month a miracle occurred. Two of my psychotherapy clients fell in love. (Not with each other.)

Falling in love is always a miracle. But this is different. Both of my clients are in their late 30’s. Neither of them have ever had a boyfriend that they like, have great sex with, and is nice.

One is bringing a boyfriend home for Thanksgiving for the first time in his life.

Now that is something to be thankful for.

There are many clichés about therapists that I find distressing. My least favorite are the assumptions that we do this for the money, we get tired of listening to the same crap over and over, and we don’t care about the people we work with.

First of all, if money was my main interest, I’d be Glenn Beck instead of Glenn Berger. (Thank goodness we didn’t go to the same school – we would have sat next to each other! Now that’s something to be thankful for.)

Second, people don’t come to therapy to say the same crap over and over. I get to be with people when they are at their realest. There is nothing more nurturing than being with people when they are authentic. As compared to the too-large percentage of our population who hate their work, I end every day feeling invigorated rather than enervated.

I love my work. That is something to be thankful for.

Third, I care about all my clients. If I don’t care about someone, I shouldn’t work with them.

My clients are part of my family. They are like my children. When one, no, when two of my clients have HUGE breakthroughs and fall in love with someone who is good for them for the FIRST TIME IN THEIR LIFE I experience what my Jewish ancestors would have called naches.

What is naches? It’s the feeling a parent has at the end of a long road of hard work, sacrifice, and suffering when their child makes good. It’s a quality of satisfaction and joy that can only come when you’ve been waiting for it for too long.

That is something to be thankful for.

I had to say all that, but that’s not the point of this essay. Thanksgiving is a time when we are all meant to pause and be grateful. This implies that we are not grateful the rest of the year, and that it takes an extra-special effort, and lots of tryptophan from the turkey, to be thankful. I would concur. It’s hard to be thankful. It’s a problem I see in my practice all the time. It is one of the signs of what I call “having a lost heart.”

So the question I pose here is: how do you be thankful?

I’m going to use my two in-love clients as examples to answer this question.

For a long time, these two feared the very thing that is giving them so much happiness now. They both believed that being close to someone would be a trap. Then they realized that being alone was far worse.

I put it to them like this: you are either going to be annoyed or depressed. Let’s face it, people are annoying. They don’t pick up after themselves, they have bodily fluids and smells, they get in the way. But after spending enough time alone, you end up feeling, well, lonely, and a human being’s foibles don’t seem so bad.

Loneliness and disappointment help us appreciate what is really important. My clients came to recognize the value of someone who wants to spend time with you, who is attentive to you, who shows up when they say they will, who texts you the morning after, and who likes you. In other words, the best thing in the world is having someone in your life who is a trustworthy, honest, good person.

Some of us think that the only  thing that will excite us — that we will be thankful for — is to be with someone who is impressive, dangerous, and unavailable: a photojournalist in war-torn countries, the person who started the snarkiest web-site, your Argentinian personal trainer. But as it turns out, it’s pretty damn exciting when someone knows how to give you pleasure, and keeps almond milk in their fridge because that’s the kind you like.

Sometimes it takes a lot of suffering to recognize that the things to be thankful for are very simple.

So here’s how to be thankful, not just on Thanksgiving, but every day.

Look for all the ways that you are being given love, wherever it comes from, no matter how big or how small. Then close your eyes, take a deep breath, and say, “Thank you.”

To all of you who are reading this, I’m closing my eyes. I’m taking a deep, appreciative breath.

Thank you.


Dr. Glenn Berger is a psychotherapist, relationship counselor, business and artist’s coach, and young person’s mentor. He sees patients in New York City, in Mt. Kisco, NY, and around the world by Skype.

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  1. You are right – I’ve seen and experienced griping over a job or something and being miserable only to develop almost instant gratitude for it when that job/situation/person is threatened in some way. I think it snaps us out of the take it for granted mode.

  2. What a great post! I always use Thanksgiving as a prod to make a list of my “grateful for”s – and I’m never surprised that the loving gestures that have come my way top my list – both from dear friends who keep me in their thoughts (and prayers) year-round AND from relative strangers who send a random act of kindness my way.

    I share your consternation with the “just in it for the money” comments. Many (dare I say “most”?) helping professionals are in it to make a difference in the lives of others because making a difference makes a difference in our own lives. We do need to make a living with what we do with SOME of the minutes of our lives, but few of us are jaunting off to Rio, eating caviar and bathing in champagne with the fruits of those efforts.

    Still, I guess we can be grateful we are working in fields that light us up, making that difference, and are visible enough to attract those “money” comments from time to time, huh?

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours

    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, SCAC, MCC – (blogging at ADDandSoMuchMore and ADDerWorld – dot com!)

  3. Suresh Chandra Khere /

    Thanks giving is an art by which the receptor is influenced by the word and gestures which shakes the very foundation in his / her sub conscious mind and comes at the surface level by likes and dislike themes.further it is propagated through body language. In deep sense of psychology it is the intro communication which is being surfaced. So it is the intro communications plays the important roll on likes / disliked platform.

    The refinement of this intro communication can bring the MIRACLES .


  4. I will echo your statement, I care about my clients and if I didn’t care about them, I shouldn’t work with them. I agree. Genuine caring comes through even when we are being our most professional selves.
    As to the oft-believed notion that therapists are just in it for the money, it is, of course, a myth, since there is no money in it. By and large, most therapist do it because they want to make a contribution. Also, it is an occupation that never ceases to be interesting and challenging;I am grateful for that. I am grateful to have been in a position in life to be able to make the choice to complete all the education we have to do to get in this job that stays interesting and is never boring.
    You have a generous heart to be so happy for those 2 newly in love people-I think you explained your feeling very well when you talked about feeling parental toward them.
    Other notes on gratitude: Remember The Butterfly Effect and Paying It Forward.

  5. Patricia Tucker /

    Thanks for this post, Glenn!

    I agree, that our clients allow us to go with them on their journey to engage with life in the best way possible, is a gift every day. That we spend this time together exploring existence and it’s meaning, is a gift every day. That we are invited to be with not only another’s joys but also their sorrows, is a gift every day.
    I am so thankful for our work.

    Just one other note, Glenn. I hope that even if you were just in it for the money that you still wouldn’t be Glenn Beck!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  6. Hi Glenn,

    This post is such a wonderful reminder of what is important in life. Too often we long for something–love, a new gadget,or a special vacation–and yet, when we get it we take it for granted, or neglect to express proper gratefulness.

    I’ve always made an effort to not take things for granted, but when one of my sisters died from MS in 2005 I vowed that each day when my feet hit the floor I would start the day with “Thank you Father Mother God. This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” And I do.

    Within the past two weeks I have gotten the sad news of the passing of 3 different friends and once again have recommitted to being grateful and getting the most I can out of everyday.

    Now that my kids (and even grandkids–well, at least the first wave of grandkids–I’m holding out hope for more to come) are grown, my holidays are not as hectic, busy and full of the same activities as when they were all here. Because I’m a widow with no significant other in place (for now) it would be easy to dwell in nostalgia. But that would mean missing out on the present. Instead, I am grateful for and cherish the memories but am busy making new ones with the new life I’m living now.

    Expressing gratitude daily is one of the key pieces that ensures happiness. It is such an easy thing to do and pays great rewards.