Since my last post Reciprocity and Giving Freely, people have been asking me how to give freely. Giving freely is for most people a learning process, because it is so far from old patterns of expectation. The question is whether you give and receive because you are obliged to, or because you choose to. I’ve been looking at the processes involved in getting to the point where you can give and receive freely, and here are my suggestions:
1. Start by recognizing that sometimes you give more than you would have liked to.
Of your time or your energy perhaps. Hanging out with people who drain you, taking on tasks you really could have done without – I think you know what I mean.
So the first step is to recognize that this is more than you would have felt comfortable giving. Why? Because you are acknowledging that you have overreached your boundaries. A boundary is the line between what is ok for you and what is not.
2. Begin to understand your boundaries.
Only you have the answer here. Find our what feels right and what is too much. Spend time looking at areas where you could give more as well as the areas where you want to withdraw a little. Your boundaries are your boundaries. No one have the right to impose on these. This part of the process actually never stops because our boundaries change as we live and gain experience.
Be prepared for old emotions to resurface as you come to terms with what has been before as well as what is now. Get emotional support in processing emotions. Find ways to express and channel your emotions in artistic ways, perhaps through dance, painting or singing. Join a theatre group or walking club – find a supportive community for yourself.
3. Test out your new awareness of where your boundaries are.
Practice saying no. Remember that good girls were often so wrongly taught never to say no, so this one might take a long time to get right. And remember that a balanced person does say no. Saying no isn’t about being grumpy or mean, or selfish or uncaring – it is about setting appropriate boundaries.
Learning to set appropriate boundaries takes time, so enlisting the support of friends who offer constructive feedback is really useful. Spend some time every once in a while to talk about what has worked and what hasn’t. In this learning phase things can be quite fluid.
Perhaps you don’t really know whether you would like to or not? Well, that’s ok. Just voice your dilemma to people you can trust, and they will be open to you changing your mind. This will give you the experience to handle situations with people who don’t like your setting boundaries, or who don’t like your changing your mind. And just remember, they will get used to the new you.
4. Remember you don’t have to justify your boundaries.
They are your boundaries, and that’s all there is to it. Once you have spent time getting to know them, you’ll feel much more comfortable asserting them. So now you know what you don’t want, and you know how to say it. Not being drained by unnecessary stuff is key in the process towards giving freely, because now you have the capacity to say yes to the things you want.
5. Say yes to something — do it because you want to.
You do it freely. It feels comfortable, and it is something you do with pleasure. Resentment has been removed from the equation along with feelings of guilt and obligation. The magic here is that when you start giving freely you can also receive freely. It is a liberating, life-affirming spiral of empowerment.
One way to visualize this is to imagine you have a flowerbed. People keep demanding flowers from you, which you reluctantly give. Soon you’re out and no-one is particularly happy. You feel bad because you haven’t got any more to give, and people are feeling bad because they only got one or two straggly flowers each.
Giving freely means nurturing your flowerbed until you decide what to do with them. Perhaps you put all the flowers in a vase on a table, for everyone to look at and enjoy. Perhaps you divide the flowers into smaller bunches, giving them to people who are special to you. Perhaps you give flowers to walkers-by.
Now when you’re out of flowers you’re going to feel happy and content, and so will the people around you. You have done a lovely thing that wasn’t expected, and the people you have touched will pass this joy on. You change the energy in the cycle or reciprocity from negative and demanding, to positive and grateful.
Vild Prestegard is an anthropologist, holistic therapist, Reiki master and public speaker based in Norway. She is a regular blogger for Cycle Harmony. You’re welcome to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions and comments.
Image source: Provided by the author.