“Is it better to breathe in or out?”
I asked my client who’d been struggling with devastating health issues after a recent break-up with her fiancé.
“Out,” she said, thinking she’d captured some metaphysical wisdom in a metaphor about giving and receiving.
It wasn’t her fault, the paradox was in the way I posed the question.
Better isn’t an option when both are required
Both inspiration and expiration are mandatory for life. One isn’t preferred over the other.
The question was a metaphor, but the point was to illustrate the paradox of constantly giving, without allowing herself to receive.
She was hurting physically and emotionally.
She secluded herself. At great physical cost, she allowed no one to help, until she was literally hospitalized and forced to receive.
She couldn’t even receive a compliment. She shot those down with her anti-aircraft missives. “You’re ridiculous, I’m so exhausted, my eyeballs are bleeding.”
I see this often with strong independent people who are “givers,” but never allow someone to get close enough for them to receive.
On the surface, it appears noble. Being self-sufficient is an outstanding skill to have in one’s repertoire, but taken to the extreme, it is a defensive act, born from a place of past rejection and a belief you aren’t going to be taken care of.
Ironically those who make the attempt to care for the hurting person are held at bay and can’t establish intimacy. Or their viewpoints are invalidated for giving compliments.
And so the cycle perpetuates itself.
Inadvertently, trying to prevent rejection, the thing most feared, i.e., not being loved and cared for happens, because the person is pushing others away.
In other words, they slam into exactly what they’d hope to avoid.
Receiving, is ironically a way of giving.
It is a gift of allowance, intimacy and trust.
How we receive gives back to the other person.
Gratitude, appreciation, recognition.
These are gifts we give for receiving.
The question isn’t, “Is it better to give than receive?
When giving and receiving are done with purity of intent, the cycle is inextricably tied together and the parts can’t be distinguished. It is one rhythmic beautiful breath.