It is the Tuesday evening before Thanksgiving and I think of the gifts I received earlier in the day. At 8 am, Jane, my massage therapist, worked on my pelvis, the psoas muscles in particular, bringing energy to places in my body where there had been only a trickle. When I arrived at my office I learned that Donna, my secretary, completed a difficult negotiation with an insurance company who had not been paying the contracted amount. Best of all, I received the gift of authenticity from four clients who dropped their masks and shared realistic concerns about the frustration of parenting, the chill of loneliness, the fear of dying, and a recent psychotic break followed by a dream of integration and healing. What an amazing day of receiving gifts from others!
As I was preparing food for the Thanksgiving dinner, I thought about a class I taught in New York City . One of the themes was “giving.” Atlunchtime I sent the students out into the street, 23rd Street and Park Avenue, with an assignment. In addition to getting lunch, they were told to give something of themselves to their fellow human beings, strangers who they met along the way. When the students returned from lunch, several said the assignment stumped them. Two of them confessed that they didn’t want to give anything of themselves to anyone. Others couldn’t figure out what to give. The last few said that they ended up giving money to beggars. I learned that day that the idea of giving to give, giving from one’s heart, and not out of obligation, or for a need to get something back, remained a difficult concept even for therapists in training.
Here are five points about giving. I am certain many of you could add other thoughts about giving as well.
#1 Giving to receive If a person gives in order to get, it’s manipulation. In contrast when a person gives from the higher self, that person has an amazing experience. True giving, without needing anything back, opens the energy centers and allows energy from the universe to flow into the body and fill the giver. Giving creates waves of vibratory forces which lead to an experience of pleasure and joy.
A Sister of Mercy I worked with in Philadelphia became a friend as well as client. She taught me more about “giving” than anyone. Although she had many complaints about the nuns she lived with, about her family of origin, and about her body, as she suffered from some serious ailments, in the middle of listing these sundry complaints, she would light up. She sparkled as she shared about the jobless or the homeless people who she found ways to help. Her face and body came alive with love. She looked like an old-fashioned Christmas tree with its candles aglow. The energy field around her became light and airy. My friend, the Sister of Mercy, taught me the true art of giving.
#2 Giving is Receiving You can also give by receiving from another. Receiving can be an important form of giving. One of my students described this process, saying that someone who she did not know very well gave her a poster. By receiving it with grace and expressing her appreciation, the giver felt happy — and my student experienced the positive consequences of giving by simply receiving. This principle is utilized by therapists, who receive their clients, helping them feel heard, understood, and accepted, sometimes for the first time ever.
#3 Giving means being genuine, authentic, and real Giving is saying what is true for you. It is being direct, even confrontational when necessary. Giving is letting the other know where you stand, even if it means telling someone you are not interested in them or no longer wish to spend time with them.
When I look at the relationships I value, they are those where I am honest and the other person is honest with me. I want to feel safe enough in my own skin to risk telling others the truth. When you look at the larger picture, giving is not simply about kindness, although that is certainly one aspect of it, but it is really about being in your truth.
#4 Giving is accompanying someone into the dark places Working with a patient who had a series of symptoms, mainly physical, accompanied by one obsessive thought, that occurred over and over again, I found giving can mean being a companion on a road that passes through some pretty dark places. This client’s thought involved a form of self-punishment. One day in session, he lay pillows down on the floor and told me that he wanted to release some stuff. He lay on top of the pillows and began to hit, kick, and scream. The screams were directed at his mother. He cursed her for negating him in every way possible, and then drawing him to her as if he were her little man. He screamed at her not to undress in front of him, that he did not want to see her without clothing, and that he was not her husband. When the session ended he was radiant. He turned to me and said, “I feel fine; I don’t need to analyze this” and then he left. There was no action on my part other than being a witness. As this example indicates the giving is in the witnessing, and in the accompanying of another into his or her dark, forgotten place.
#5 Giving is releasing negative energy When a person confronts his or her own rage, anger, hatred, fear, terror, and the myriad of forms these emotions take and releases these feelings through body work that is nonthreatening to others — that person is giving. The person is giving some aspect of her essence. By being honest about negative feelings, one achieves the freedom to be oneself. By expressing and confronting these inner horrors one frees oneself of shame and guilt. At times, expression of negative thoughts and feelings, if not directed at a specific person, can be the greatest gift of all.
#6 Precious memories of giving My Aunt Miriam was a giving person. When I would visit her as a child, she had activities planned for me to engage in. She let me play dress-up in her sexy nightgowns, she bought me pretty clothes, she taught me how to sell shoes in her store, and she gave me the confidence that I could and would succeed. As an adult I realize that Aunt Miriam is not as unique as I imagined. There are many giving people, like my Aunt Miriam on the planet at any given time. If you are reading this, you will think of someone you know who has given in a special way that will never be forgotten.
Never lose sight of the beauty of giving. It surrounds you. And here is the greatest challenge: to be genuine, to receive from others and express appreciation, to give from your heart, with no thought of getting back?,