Friday, July 2, 2010

Giving and Receiving: The Sacred Dance of Life

When we are feeling angry with our partner, the fastest way to release that anger and regain a loving attitude towards them is to do a simple act of giving.  Just by doing something nice for them, we focus our attention off of the obsessive quality of our anger and refocus into the loving feelings we have for them.  The act itself is a release that allows us to feel a greater sense of purpose in our chosen relationship.

Giving in general, such as simply opening a door for someone, allows us to regain a sense of missing personal empowerment.  We may not be able to completely control our environment, and we certainly cannot control another’s actions, but we can control whether or not we do something nice for another person.  And in doing so, we reconnect with that sense of personal power that has been eluding us.

No matter what spiritual beliefs you may hold; giving, and its inseparable partner receiving, were the first acts of creation in of our world.  It was the original experience.  And for a moment, it was the only experience.  From that simple act, all of life sprang forth.  Whether you believe it was God or some other cosmic force, we were the receivers of the gift of life.  As a result, it is the most basic and purist experience that reflects back upon our very beginning of existence.  Through it, we can honor and expand its meaning and presence in our lives.  It’s quite a powerful little tool we carry in our psychological back pocket. 

Depression - When individuals are depressed, they are focused inward on themselves.  They can become lost focusing internally on themselves.  Sometimes, we aren’t able to see alternative solutions because we have limited ourselves to running over and over an internal and unchanging landscape that offers no way out.  There is nothing in there to offer a different perspective.  It becomes self-reinforcing and we spiral further and further into our sense of despair and loneliness. 

Giving to another, then, becomes an effective and powerful way of bringing ourselves out of depression’s grasp.  In depression, we are fooled into thinking that we are alone.  The simple act of giving breaks us out of that framework and challenges the misguided perception that we are alone.  In the very act of giving, we are challenged to acknowledge that we are not alone.  That in and of itself gets us out of the way we had been thinking.  We start looking outside of ourselves.  Giving challenges us to acknowledge we are not alone.  That realization becomes the first step in the recovery and healing of depression.

Simply volunteering somewhere will allow you to tap into the power of giving.  And as you do, do not neglect your very important role as the receiver.  This kind of healing requires both giving and receiving.  Allow yourself to accept and fully enjoy the good feelings that come from giving and receiving.  For, if one only gives without receiving, it can be a way of feeling control over another or a way of defending the self from the good feelings that are generated from the other’s act of giving.

Sacrifice - It is the ultimate form of giving.  It literally means to make sacred.  That for which we sacrifice is made sacred.  Sacrifice, through out time, has been our way of interaction with the spiritual.  

The sacrifice of a mother for a child is the highest and most revered form of giving in our existence.  It touches the divine.  In the moment of that giving, you can ask any mother who has done so, the gift they receive in the moment of their sacrifice is an overwhelming sense of purpose in their life.  Within the suffering of their sacrifice, there is contained an indescribable joy and a moment where they experience and understand the depth and power of the love that they carry within themselves.   

Giving and receiving are inextricably joined together.  So by giving, we feel a greater connection to our world and in the process, it gives us the opportunity to find greater meaning in life.

There is quite a bit of research on the connection between giving and health.  People who have pets have been shown to live longer and live healthier lives than those who live alone.  Owning a pet requires us to be a caregiver of another life form.  As a caregiver, we are willingly taking on the role of giving.  People can say that the pet is giving to the owner as well.  That is absolutely true.  The pet owner is dynamically engaged in the dance of giving and receiving.  They are engaged in the dance of life.
Some people have a difficult time receiving because they have unconsciously tied reciprocation expectations onto the gift.  There may be fear around feeling an obligation to return the gift and fears of their own inadequacy at doing so begin to surface. 

We are taught that it is more blessed to give than to receive, but it clearly does not say that receiving is not a blessed act as well.  In order for the giver to have the experience of giving, there must be a receiver who allows them to experience the act of giving.  To turn down a compliment, gift, etcetera, it actually prevents the giver from experiencing the intrinsic rewards of giving.  The unrequited giver hears in the subtext of the gift-refusal that their offering is unworthy. 

When we turn down a compliment, we are subtly telling the giver that they are wrong.  That kind of experience leaves both parties with a rather empty and unfulfilling experience. 

If you find that you have a difficult time receiving, and are willing to change and grow beyond that limiting belief, you can try the following simple exercise:

Every single day somebody will offer to you a simple act of kindness.  We are so conditioned to not receive that we often do not acknowledge or even recognize those moments when we are the recipient of a gift.  With this awareness, begin your day with a quest to find that simple moment that appears in you life.  It may be as simple as someone letting you into traffic or as large as being told how beautiful you look today. 

In either case, the first thing you can do is to recognize that a gift is being held out to you then tell yourself that you recognize it.  As you practice, you will begin to notice more and more of those moments of gift offerings in your life that you have been missing. 

If you don’t know what to say in that moment, simply say, “thank you” and do the best you can to tolerate the anxiety that might arise in you.  You do not need to say anything else, nor do you need to "match" their offering with an obligated return gift.  Giving is always done freely.  If it isn’t given freely, and you feel obligated to return it in kind, it becomes a sale and the sacredness of the moment is lost forever.

Dr. James E. Walton, respected Marriage & Family Therapist, TV & radio host, and author, has won multiple international awards for his fast selling album series including Best Album of the Year in self-help from the 2009 JPF Independent Music Awards, the largest independent music award organization in the world.  With hundreds of thousands of tracks sold, he is a leader in the field of self-help. For more information on Dr. Jim's self-help audios with free samples, log onto  For videos and more information on Dr. Jim, and to obtain free audio affirmations, log onto his website at

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