Givers and Takers

A friend on Facebook recently posted on Facebook, and it brought together something my wife and I have been mulling. Are there just “Givers” and “Takers?” The gist of the post was a couple of health issues that kept her bed-bound for several months at a time and, except for her mom, no one visited. Her message to folks, commenting on the current lockdown, was to get over this intense, but relatively short coronavirus stay at home.

Via Facebook, I knew of one time, a surgery, and while responding with encouragement, I was not in Houston to even contemplate a visit. We are not close, but it still make me sad that no friends visited her. What led to this blog is, I am somewhat sure she is a giver having helped an elderly relative for many years. And I relate, having been a giver most of my life; I would now classify myself as a recovering giver.

Barb and I disagree a bit as she thinks most people are relatively balanced on the giver/taker continuum. I do know a few that seem balanced, but most folks I know are predominantly one or the other, and, I think, takers outweigh givers. Maybe because I have lived with so many takers and glad to love a fellow giver, I see the world more polarized in this area.

We all know takers, and while no one is always 100% a giver or taker, I have found that most takers only give when expedient for themselves. Many are narcissistic, but not all narcissists are flagrant takers. Where ever they are on the “taker spectrum,” I do not find takers ever having any doubts or concerns about being a taker; when deemed necessary to give, I see them as self-centered givers. While there have to be some, I have not come across any recovering takers.

I find that givers do reluctantly take at times, but only when they think it absolutely necessary. I know; been there, done that. So it is not surprising to me that, if my friend is a giver, she would not reached out during her recovery time to request something for herself. My wife is a “pretty much” a recovered giver; we jokingly call our tendencies to fall back into being a full giver, the “Chip and Dale” syndrome. After you, oh no, no, no, after you! Oh, no, no, no, I insist, after you! Etcetera!

Neither of us has lived with a predominant giver before and, while certainly not making us uneasy, it was very different! As I have said before, different is not either good or bad, but it can be somewhat disconcerting! We checked each other out in the way we were most comfortable. Being from Human Resources, she had me take the Myers-Briggs before getting serious!

Being a psychologist, I made us do a giver exercise; one of us talks for three minutes, saying all the wonderful things we like about the other and then switch. The one listening cannot say anything, just receive, and then it switches back for as many rounds as needed before running out of accolades for the other. Pure hell for a giver to sit and accept all those compliments without responding!

I initially theorized that givers do not like receiving because we think that will make us a taker, an anathema to our existence. But, as I have found out, that is incorrect. In the end, we givers cannot unconditionally give what we do not choose to sometimes receive. I call this healthy selfishness or healthy taking. So maybe we givers are not scared to be takers, we are just uncomfortable receiving!

Like Barb says, maybe some naturally fall in the middle, neither a taker or a giver. Are they simultaneously both naturally, or are there many more recovering givers/takers than I am aware? I do not know, but I will have to be more observant to find more normally balanced takers/givers!

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What’s in your cup?

A few interesting occurrences happened when I last visited my dad in an assisted living facility. I saw something earlier in the day on Facebook about spilling coffee. The vignette talked about if we were walking with the cup full of coffee and we got bumped, would it be coffee spilling? The answer of course is yes, but only because there was coffee in the cup. What if it was tea, soup, flour, or marbles? The point being, we spill whatever’s in the cup, and then the meme likened this cup to ourselves. So if you are inconvenienced, what spills out of you? What are you carrying that will come pouring out when someone inconveniences you?

So later, I took dad downstairs to dinner, which is a bit of an arduous task for my father who has emphysema and is on oxygen. With many stops to catch his breath, made worse because he breaths through is mouth when the oxygen goes to his nose, in the past I would have become very impatient at best or angry at worst. I would have been blaming him for smoking and not taking care of his health and now it makes a three-minute journey into 15 minutes. That is what I carried in my cup back then, lots of anger. Now, I just stay in the loving and enjoy be present with him; I like my cup much better now!

This metaphor was enhanced twice more when we finally made it to the dining room; there was a line waiting to get in and so we were standing there talking. A woman, also in a walker, comes up behind us and engages me in light conversation. She then asked if a table for four becomes open, could she join us? In the past, because I was so externally focused, I would have felt duty-bound to accept her request in order not to disappoint her, even if I did not really want her to join us for whatever reason.

That, too, was a cup I carried around. I am so lucky to now have, as I have stated in other blogs, what I call “healthfully selfishness.” I don’t get to see my dad that much and I want to maximize my time with him. I nicely thanked the woman for her invitation and politely begged off explaining why. To her credit, she graciously accepted; whether this is because I phrased my declination in a non-threatening manner or she too was internally focused, I can’t say. And then the next interesting occurrence happened.

A couple of women came up behind the lady I had been talking with, and a bit of an altercation started. The woman I had been speaking with accused the woman behind her, also in a walker, of running into her. They exchanged a couple of words and then even began to get personal! Literally like children, “Yeah, well you never smile!” “I do so!”

I almost started laughing out loud not only at what was being said, but because the woman I had been talking with actually had run into me with her walker when she first got in line! We tend to project on others, either negatively or positively, when we do not want to confront behavior we don’t want to see in ourselves. In this case, a woman who had encroached on my space and not wanting to see herself as rude, unaware, etc. jumped all over the woman behind her doing the same thing! Anytime (and I don’t tend to use the words any, every, etc. often, but in this case, it fits) we feel an emotion, it is a signpost to our internal state of being.

If we become angry with someone, it is because we see in him or her what we choose to deny in ourselves. Humans are a relational species, and we are constantly acting as mirrors for those around us and then the other person also acts as a mirror for us. When we accept this, we begin to use our emotions for what they are, a wake up call for internal introspection that we need to address. If my wife says something and I find myself reacting, I don’t see what she said as criticism, but wonder why I am taking it as criticism?

While we tend to see this more easily when the feeling is negative, it also works in reverse. If there is a person whom you admire, they too are acting as a mirror and showing you that you have the same positive traits within yourself that has you respecting them. Do you recognize this as reality or do you say to yourself, “I wish I were like them!”

The last idea I want to cover is the “coincidence” that happened, seeing the Facebook item and then having it acted out for me several times. Most people, when they observed something coincidental, tend to think that two random occurrences just amazingly happened at the same time. However, the “co” indicates joint or mutual; so instead of being happenstance, coincidental actually means the two incidences are working together to call our attention to what is occurring. We accept this when there is a hyphen in the word, such as co-ownership, co-writer, or co-morbid.

Certainly, there are words that start with “co” that do not mean joint, such as command or conscientious. But the hyphen has disappeared in some words such as coincident and cooperation. So reading that little vignette on Facebook and then witnessing the altercation behind me was truly co-incidental; it could not have been better scripted! When I was bumped from behind, forgiveness spilled out of my “cup.” Even if I didn’t voice any forgiveness, conversing politely showed my forgiveness. But when the lady doing the bumping was herself bumped, anger spilled out.

What’s in your cup?

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Stay single until…

A yoga instructor I know posted on Facebook a list of positive qualities to look for in a guy before deciding to marry him. We became friends while in the same Ashtanga certification class and I would see her from time to time either in the studio or her place of work. She is still single and dating, so I can see why this speaks to her.

Checking the source, I realize I have seen some of this website’s ( other postings on Facebook, but I had not checked any out until now. For the most part, I agree with most of the list; maybe this is showing a bias against millennial (and Gen Ys) guys, but if a guy does even half these things, he is probably a keeper!

The qualities are:

  1. Stay single until you meet a guy who opens every door you walk through.
  2. Stay single until you meet a guy who makes sure you walk on the inside of the sidewalk away from the street.
  3. The guy who holds your hand shamelessly and will kiss you in public.
  4. Stay single until you meet a guy who wants to bring you home to his parents.
  5. Stay single until you meet the guy whose friend’s already know about you before you meet them.
  6. Stay single until you meet the guy who will drop whatever to be wherever you need him.
  7. The guy who says, “text me when you’re home safe,” and stays up until he knows you are.
  8. Stay single until you meet the guy you’d proudly introduce to your father.
  9. The one who doesn’t try and change you.
  10. The guy who always texts back no questions asked.
  11. Stay single until you meet a guy who doesn’t have time for games and is brutally honest always.
  12. The one who pulls you close in public and kisses your forehead.
  13. Stay single until you meet the guy pays out of respect for you and doesn’t let you touch your wallet.
  14. Stay single until you meet the guy who keeps his word.
  15. The one who knows when to apologize when he’s wrong.
  16. The one who sends you flowers to your office, just because.
  17. The guys who sends sweet texts in the middle of the meeting he knows you’re stressing over.
  18. Stay single until you meet the guy who makes you want to be a better woman.
  19. The one who motivates you to achieve more and be better.
  20. Stay single until you meet a guy who is sure of you and never makes you doubt how he feels.
  21. The one who is certain of you and his career and a future he wants you apart of.
  22. The one who says I love you first just because he wants you to know.
  23. Stay single until you meet the guy who never stops trying to keep you.
  24. Because he knows getting you wasn’t the hard part but constantly giving you a reason to stay is what you deserve.
  25. Stay single until you meet the guy who makes you feel more beautiful just standing beside him.
  26. The one who still gives you butterflies when you walk in a room.
  27. Stay single until you meet the guy who makes you not want to be.
  28. The one who changes the standard you once had and suddenly no one can compare.
  29. Stay single until you meet the guy you can’t live without.
  30. Until then. Stay single.

Naturally, I have some comments on a few of these and would add a couple more!

  1. I encourage clients to refrain from using words like “every,” “none,” “always,” “never,” etc. I do not know the author but have heard “Always, and Never statements are always false!” Every door! So a guy ticks off 99% of this list and forgets to open one door and you supposed to dump him; I do not think so! I also think this applies to everyone, a nice courtesy to a fellow traveler on Earth.
  2. Wow, that is an oldie, but goodie. I remember my dad telling me this 50 years ago!
  3. & 4., 5. Yes!
  4. Come on. Drop something unimportant for him and very important to you, yes. Otherwise whatever he is doing should be considered just as important to him as what you want to do is important for you.
  5. & 8. Yes!
  6. Yes and vice-versa! There is an adage that women marry men with a list they want to change in him, and men marry women thinking they will never change; both are so wrong!
  7. Yes!
  8. Here we go with “always” again! And what is with the word “brutally?” Honesty, yes, yes, yes; brutally, a big no! Many guys think that “softening” the truth (still a lie!) will make it easier on the relationship when the opposite is true. Bad news gets worse with time. However, in love, the truth is not brutal. In love, hurtful truths need kindness, understanding, and no expectation on how it will be received. The truth might still shatter a relationship, but truth wins more often than not.
  9. Yes!
  10. Another blast from the past. Today’s women do not need taking care of; they are quite capable of doing this for themselves. Money can be a HUGE issue in relationships, but only because it is not usually discussed until there are problems. Just talk about who is paying for what before going out, but do not allow the relationship to degrade into an accounting ledger!
  11. & 15. Yes!
  12. & 17. Mostly yes! Sending flowers to her home is one of life’s few absolute “yeses!” But to work, forgo the surprise and ask first to ensure it is appropriate. Same with texting during a meeting, this can be very inappropriate. He will give the same boost doing it before the meeting and then again afterward.
  13. & 19., 20. Yes!
  14. Mostly yes! Again, this is an area relationships may have problems if not discussed early on and revisited as situations change. Most guys are internal processors, to whom the five worst words are “Honey, we need to talk!” External processing and negotiating when the issue is not hot will usually allow for a smooth relationship journey.
  15. – 25. Mostly yes!
  16. Yes and… Relationships are like a warm fire; both sides need to fed, stoked, and nurture that fire to keep it burning.
  17. & 28. Yes!
  18. Yes and… This sounds romantic, and I am parsing words here, but words have meanings. What if your guy dies, are you really going to not go on living? Feel like it, yes, but not literally.

Oh, and ladies, do the same for him; each of you is 100% responsible for your 50% of the relationship, so don’t think he can carry the whole load. One last pet peeve of mine (I can be so old fashion sometimes!): Guys, ask what your date is wearing and match her effort! I am amazed at the number of young ladies I see on dates “dressed to the nines” with a fellow in a T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. Have a little pride in yourself and show respect for your dates! I know, I know, now I am judging!

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Decisions, Decisions

A Classmate from the University of Santa Monica, where we studied Spiritual Psychology, emailed me the other day to ask my opinion. The question she asked was, “I remember in class, that [one of the leaders of USM] said changing your name is a big thing. I was wondering what your thoughts are about me using my middle name. I have never felt comfortable about my name. But of late, my middle name just seems to resonate with who I am becoming. Me, not what everyone else feels I should be, but me, the person I truly am.”

Wow, I found this to be an interesting question! Partly because I well remember what was said in class and also remembered another classmate caught a bunch of grief when she changed her name in our second year, but she tamped down the criticism since she only changed to another common nickname variation of her real name. I also found it interesting that this classmate directed this question to me; I cannot remember if I ever told her that I had changed the pronunciation of my last name or if asking me was simply another amazing coincidence in my life!

Whether this question or any question about a change that any of us might be considering, I think the key to the answer lies both in the timing of the decision to change and the origin of the solution. When addressing the timing, I told my friend that her decision now is different from when we were in class. The Master’s program at USM includes many deep personal process sessions, much more that you would find in a typical graduate psychology course. I feel anyone truly taking in and practicing what we learned at USM and beginning a journey towards greater authenticity must feel as though they are a becoming new person.

However, even over a two year period, that journey is still very new, and we were still embracing and deciphering all we learned. Any decision in our lives that is not well thought out can be erroneous, hence the timing factor. We have all been victims of saying or doing something in our past that we wished we could take back! Parenting books stress the ten-second rule before disciplining children, and that rule works equally well in any situation!

The bigger the decision, the more time we need to tease out any unseen motivations and, equally important, unforeseen consequences. I have not found anyone that likes the adage that if an action or decision is correct, it will be correct in a few weeks; usually, when we make up our minds, we want to jump right in! However, it is sage advice, and so we need to give ourselves time to allow the solution to percolate and think about and feel into any unforeseen consequences.

The second factor is the origin of the decision; unless we are taught to rely on internal support, we tend to want external support. This process starts in childhood seeking our parent’s praise (or, unfortunately, to escape their wrath) and is magnified in middle school when we so desperately want to fit into a group; we learn to be someone we are not just to fit and be accepted.

We don all types of social masks, each an inauthentic self, to ensure we are not ostracized, and this external validation becomes a template for the rest of our lives. Hence, another reason behind being told in class not to change our names; the decision is probably externally based. Changing something outwardly, such as our name in society, if not internally based, is an effort to garner or force support from others to bolster our decision. I do not think we were told in class to never change something eternal about us, such as our name, but to consider why we wish to do so. One of my favorite quotes is from Hamlet. “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Before going to USM, I already knew I was changing and so celebrated that change by taking the pronunciation of my last name back to the original Scottish, as opposed to the phonic pronunciation. I did not know anything about internal/external focus or being true to myself, but I instinctively took the time to feel into the decision and then acted. This was somewhat easy for me as I traveled to the west coast to attend graduate school, so everyone out there knew me as “Coburn;” the tougher time came later when I moved back to where I grew up and had to re-educate all my old friends and acquaintances!

Since ten years have passed, I do not believe my classmate is making a hasty decision, and her explanation showed she was relying on her internally based, body led (as opposed to being brain led) understanding and told her so. One example of a body-based, as opposed to a brain-based decision, is being in a big city late at night and having to go all the way around a large block to arrive at your destination. There is a dark alley that will cut your time in half, and so your brain, being logical, tells you to take it, while your gut is doing back flips because of not knowing what might be lurking in the darkness. In this case, the body’s knowledge is probably “smarter” than the brain’s! I feel anytime we follow our heart, despite the good intentions or “help” of others, we are on the right path for us.

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