We learned at a young age to thank the convenience store cashier when she offered us a candy. The gentleman who brought us our balloons. The professor who handed us our copy. The office colleague for important information. Thank you here, thank you for that: everyone knows how to do it. True gratitude seems, on the other hand, much more difficult. Firstly because it puts us in a position of momentary weakness in the eyes of the other. We admit that we need him, which in our hyper-individualistic society advocating autonomy can make us feel indebted or dependent. Gratitude is also risk taking: if the other is not benevolent, he could use it to mark his superiority, highlight our failings and plunge us into a moment of shame.
As we unveil, we thank him for accepting us as we are. We are recognized by the other in our uniqueness and totality, writes psychologist and gestalt-therapist Sylvie Schoch of Neuforn about what the philosopher Martin Buber so aptly named the "I-you" encounter. Then come the pure moment of mutual confirmation, "each one making himself available to the other, each being revealed by the other," she adds. This moment, sometimes a few minutes, takes a rare density, a thickness that seems to last for hours.
"A presence is not something fugitive and slippery, it's a being that awaits us and remains," said Martin Buber. But for that, one must recognize the other's otherness. It's because I'm different that I need him. It is his singularity that I thank. To express our gratitude engages us in an entire presence to the other, without reservation or pretense. It is an abandonment, a leap into the unknown of the encounter that makes us transgress our own limits and leave the certainty that we have of ourselves. An unveiling that teaches us about what we did not know about us, because we had not yet revealed ourselves in this singular encounter. "It is true that to go out to the other one, one must know intimately the place of departure. We must have been at home, be at home, "admits Martin Buber. Gratitude is a movement out of oneself towards the other, which puts us in an alter ego relationship, ennobles and elevates us.