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What Makes Receiving Difficult To Do?

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Receiving

What Makes Receiving Difficult To Do?

It’s how we view receiving that makes it so difficult for us to accept.

Many of us grew up believing that it’s more noble to give than to receive. This edict safeguards us from becoming self-centered monsters—scanning our environment to see what we can extract to fill ourselves. Recognizing others’ needs, honoring their feelings, and being responsive to the less fortunate safeguards us from the unbridled narcissism that runs wild today.

Yet there are hidden downsides to prioritizing giving over receiving. I’m referring to interpersonal relating, not social policy, which could use a hearty dose of the golden rule. Is it difficult for you to receive love, caring, and compliments? Do you silently squirm inside when someone offers a kind word or a present—or do you allow yourself to deeply receive the gift of kindness, caring, and connection?

Here are some possibilities for why receiving is often more difficult than giving:

1. Defense Against Intimacy

Receiving creates a moment of connection. Prioritizing giving over receiving may be a convenient way to keep people distant and our hearts defended.

To the extent that we fear intimacy, we may disallow ourselves from receiving a gift or compliment, thereby depriving ourselves of a precious moment of connection.

 2. Letting Go of Control

When we give, we’re in control in a certain way. It might be easy to offer a kind word or buy someone flowers, but can we allow ourselves to surrender to the good feeling of receiving a gift? And to what extend does our giving come from an open, generous heart versus bolstering our self-image of being a kind and caring person?

Receiving invites us to welcome a vulnerable part of ourselves. Living more in this tender place, we’re more available to receive the subtle gifts we’re offered every day, such as a sincere “thank you,” a compliment, or a warm smile.

 3. Fear of Strings Attached

We may be uncomfortable receiving if it came with strings attached when growing up. We may have received compliments only when we accomplished something, like winning atsports or achieving good grades. If we sensed that we weren’t being accepted for who we are but rather for our achievements and accomplishments, we may not feel safe to receive.

If parents narcissistically used us to meet their own needs, such as to showcase us to their friends or cling to an image of being good parents, we may equate compliments to being used. We were recognized for what we do rather than for who we really are.

4. We Believe It Is Selfish to Receive

Our religion may have taught us that we’re selfish if we receive: life is more about suffering than being happy. It’s better to be self-effacing and not take up too much space or smile too broadly, lest we bring too much attention to ourselves. As a result of this conditioning, we might feel shame to receive.

Narcissistic entitlement—an inflated sense of self-importance and believing we deserve more than others—is indeed rampant today. Interestingly, a new study(link is external) suggests that wealth can actually increase this sense of entitlement. But the perils of destructive narcissism might be contrasted with healthy narcissism, which reflects sound self-worth and a right to relish life’s pleasures. Receiving with humility and appreciation—living with a rhythm of giving and receiving—keeps us balanced and nourished.

 5. A Self-Imposed Pressure to Reciprocate

Blocks to receiving may reflect protection from being in someone’s debt. We may suspect their motives, wondering “What do they want from me?”  Presuming that compliments or gifts are attempts to control or manipulate us, we pre-emptively defend ourselves from any sense of obligation or indebtedness.

Conclusion

If everyone were busy giving, then who’d be available to receive all that good stuff? By receiving with a tender self-compassion, we’re allowing ourselves to be touched by life’s gifts. As I put it in my book, Dancing with Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships(link is external):

The parched earth can’t let in a life-giving rain if it is covered by plastic tarp… Without the capacity to be touched by caring and appreciation, we render these gifts less meaningful. Sacred receiving, letting things in with heartfeltgratitude, is a gift to the giver! When we are visibly moved, it conveys that they’ve made a difference in our lives. We may then bask together in a non- dual moment in which there is no distinction between the giver and the receiver. Both people are giving and receiving in their own unique ways. This shared experience can be profoundly sacred and intimate—a moment of delectable grace.

Suggestion: The next time someone offers a compliment, gift, or looks lovingly into your eyes, notice how you feel inside. What’s happening in your body? Is your breathing relaxed and your belly soft or are you tightening up? Can you let in the caring and connection? Bringing mindfulness to the pleasant, uncomfortable, or perhaps fiery feelings of delight might allow you to be more present for the present.

[John Amodeo]

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John Amodeo, PhD, MFT (#MFC14453), is the author of Dancing with Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships (Quest Books), which received the Spirituality and Practice Award as one of the best spiritual books of 2013. His other books include The Authentic Heart: An Eightfold Path to Midlife Love (John Wiley & Sons) andLove & Betrayal (Ballantine Books). He holds graduate degrees in both Clinical and Transpersonal Psychology and has been a licensed marriage and family therapist for over thirty years, with offices in San Francisco, San Rafael, and the Sebastopol area. A former writer and contributing editor for Yoga Journal for ten years, he has conducted workshops nationally and internationally on love, intimacy, and couples therapy, and has been featured on national television and radio programs that include CNN, CNBC, Donahue, and New Dimensions Radio. He has been interviewed or written for publications that include The Chicago Tribune, Cosmopolitan Magazine, The Dallas Morning News, The San Jose Mercury News, The Rocky Mountain News and The Toronto Sun. He has led workshops at centers such as Esalen Institute, The Omega Institute, and The New York Open Center, and is an adjunct faculty member of Meridian University. He has trained in Somatic Experiencing, developed by Dr. Peter Levine for dealing with trauma and is a Certified Focusing Trainer. He has had training in Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples with Dr. Sue Johnson, and has co-authored a chapter with her in her edited book, The Emotionally Focused Casebook: New Directions in Treating Couples (2011). To learn more about Focusing-Oriented Therapy, please visit: www.focusingtherapy.org. To learn more about Focusing, please visit: www.focusing.org.

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