Interconnected

Gratitude and a possibly inappropriate technological intervention

I was reading Melanie Klein's Envy and Gratitude and Other Works (which I still haven't finished) and there's something about Kleinian gratitude which is crucial in developing the primal relationship between mother (the good object) and child. It is also the basis for the child perceiving goodness in others and herself.

Conscious gratitude seems to be more focused on the other, rather than a self-centred idea of being the cause of goodness or its reverse. Developing gratitude might allow for greater capacity for appreciation, acceptance, and the sharing of love.

Gratitude is inherently outwards looking. And surprisingly hard! It touches all kinds of other feelings like deservedness, and is easily corrupted with responses like entitlement.

So I was thinking: a habit of gratitude would be an interesting thing to foster. Gratitude being a component of prayer, I know, but I don't pray. So. I need to get it somewhere else.

Anyway.

We can fix this with technology. I know, I know. Forgive me.

What I do is I have a folder in Ulysses, which is a writing app I have on my iPhone (and I use for everything). The folder is called: What I Am Grateful For.

Please also forgive the ugly dangling preposition. It upsets me too.

In that folder are tons of notes. Each note has a date, and a line of text: the thing I am grateful for that day. Sometimes big, mostly small. Sometimes easy to observe, sometimes really, really difficult. Always interesting to note when I’m going through a phase in which gratitude is a challenge to attain, and with what that correlates.

Back to the tech.

Once a day, at midday, I get a notification which says "What are you grateful for today?" I tap the notification, and a text box opens up on my phone. I type into the text box and it gets saved into the folder.

Here's how that bit of automation works:

  • I use an app called Workflow which links together different apps and lets you program them in a flowchart sort of way
  • I've written a particular workflow called "Grateful Daily" that does all the work of opening the text input box and saving it to Ulysses. You can get the workflow here. If you copy the workflow, you'll have to update the special Ulysses code bit to make sure it saves to the right folder
  • Another app called Launch Center Pro is able to trigger workflows on a timer. I have it set to run Grateful Daily at midday

Cross-app automation is a nascent but interesting area. I'm finding myself able to do pretty complex workflows from my phone now (I also have a process to edit and deploy code, using multiple different apps). It's got a way to go as a pattern of user behaviour, but I'd like to see iOS or Android take automation more seriously. To see where it could go. It has a different nature to automation on PCs, and I think there's the opportunity for these automation scripts to unbind from the smartphone and move into the cloud (somehow). Maybe use a bit more intelligence too. Centaur automation.

Yeah but so: gratitude.

To receive - and to be open to receiving! - something which is good, and to take in that goodness and to internalise it, but to also appreciate the goodness itself, and its source and the source’s reasons. A tricky business.

I don't even pretend to have even half a handhold on Klein, or Kleinian gratitude, or hell even gratitude, but her words opened something in me. (Thanks!)