A new study published in the Positive Psychology Journal explores how feeling and showing gratitude can make people feel less used and objectified.
“Objectification causes serious consequences, ranging from interpersonal indifference, reduced empathy and helpfulness, aggression and bullying, to even murder and genocide,” explains psychologist Xijing Wang of the City University of Beijing. Hong Kong. “Therefore, it is important to find interventions to alleviate objectification.”
According to Wang, objectification refers to treating others as mere things or tools that can assist in the achievement of one’s goal while denying the autonomy, needs, and feelings of others.
“Employees may be treated as mere instruments to aid the financial success of their employers, students may be treated by their classmates as note takers, and women may be perceived and treated solely as objects of sexual desire without having taking into account their personality or dignity. ”, illustrates Wang.
Combining classic definitions of objectification, Wang suggests that objectification is marked by seven key characteristics:
- Mediation: When someone treats a target as a tool for their own purpose
- fungibility: When someone treats a target as interchangeable with other items
- Violability: When someone treats a target as lacking boundary integrity and violable
- Property: When someone treats a target as if the target could be owned
- denial of autonomy: When someone treats a target as lacking autonomy or self-determination
- inertia: When someone treats a target as lacking agency or activity
- denial of subjectivity: When someone treats a target as someone whose experiences and feelings don’t need to be taken into account
Across a series of three studies that included writing letters of thanks and imagining the effects of gratitude in an environment prone to objectifying behaviors, Wang’s research concluded that gratitude, both as a feeling and as a gesture, reduced levels of objectification in a given environment. .
“The effect of gratitude in weakening objectification may be due to its ability to reduce people’s focus on their own needs,” explains Wang. “That is, when people care less about their own needs and wants, they are less likely to see others as instruments to satisfy those needs and less likely to fail to consider the personality of others.”
For people who want to cultivate gratitude in their daily lives, Wang offers three simple tips:
- Reflection: Take a few minutes every day to think about the wonderful things in life (like a movie, a book, a TV show we enjoyed, or even being able to enjoy the sun).
- Expose ourselves to nature: Spend time in nature traveling to a place where you can enjoy magnificent surroundings.
- showing appreciation: Write a note of thanks or verbally appreciate or thank someone.
Wang concludes: “Expressing gratitude doesn’t have to cost you anything financially. So do it.”
You can find a full interview with Xijing Wang about his new research on gratitude here: How Gratitude Helps Us Feel Whole