Tis the season for giving and receiving gifts.
Do you know which you like best?
Do you know how you respond physically and emotionally to giving and receiving?
Does it matter?
I think it does, and had reason to delve into this matter myself over the past week and have been unearthing some interesting information about myself in the process.
It started with a prompt in an online course I was doing (lead by psychotherapist and coach Miriam Grace) to reflect on what happens to me when I imagine receiving or giving a gift.
Because of my Alexander Technique background, I was especially interested in my physical response, but of course my thoughts and emotions around giving and receiving are all part of that response too.
Since then I’ve also had the opportunity to explore this idea with others – clients, members of Caregivers Central, and other Alexander Technique teachers.
Before I share what I discovered, I’d love you to try the experiment for yourself.
First simply think of the general idea of GIVING a gift. Close your eyes if it makes it easier. Imagine yourself giving, but more as a concept rather than of a specific occasion.
What do you notice in yourself physically? Do you notice anything change in your body in any way?
And what about your thoughts and emotions?
Then, if you’d like, you can move on to thinking about a specific instance of giving a gift, and go through the same awareness process of your physical, emotional and cognitive responses.
Now shift to imagine RECEIVING a gift. Again, keep the idea non-specific at first.
How do you respond physically and emotionally? What are your thoughts about this?
What have you discovered about yourself?
Do you have a different response to RECEIVING to GIVING?
For me, and many, but not all, of the people who explored this with me, GIVING felt so much easier. Physically I felt more open and expansive – I literally felt more at ease in my body.
With RECEIVING, on the other hand, I felt myself contract and draw inward – I withdrew! There was a little more excess tension in my body. It didn’t feel good. It felt like my body was trying to push away the gift!!!
Wow! I didn’t know this about myself!
There’s no right or wrong way to feel. This is simply information. And, with this comes an awareness that could help us, possibly, consciously choose a different response if we wish.
I certainly would wish to be more open about receiving a gift if possible.
Indeed, when I moved on to explore specific occasions of giving and receiving gifts, I found myself thinking about times when RECEIVING a gift had been a beautiful experience of joy, and the experience in my body was one ease and opening as I remembered them.
I could also recall when times when GIVING a gift had me feeling anxious, awkward or embarrassed (Would they like it? Did I get the right thing? Did I spend enough/too much?). As I recalled this, I felt my body contract and get more tense.
So, specifically I had experiences with both GIVING AND RECEIVING that were more open and easeful, and that were more tense and closed off, whereas, as a general idea, GIVING for me had a far more easeful response in my body than RECEIVING.
It seems to me this also relates to other kinds of giving and receiving – not just of gifts, but of things like help, support, kindness, praise and compliments. For me, it feels like ALL types of GIVING are generally easier than receiving.
I decided I would like to be intentional about RECEIVING with more openness and ease this holiday season. After all, giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin – by receiving I am allowing other people to give!
I wondered; how can I use my Alexander Technique skills to help me?
So, I decided to make a very simple experiment.
Instead of simply thinking about RECEIVING, I changed the framework to:
“I am free to receive.”
I noticed when I framed the thought in this way, it created a very different response in my body – indeed I felt myself opening up!
I’d created a “Freedom Direction.” *
If I am FREE to receive, then I have permission to both receive or not receive (I don’t have to!) and permission to receive in any manner I want! It’s by not forcing a change (which isn’t possible anyway) on myself that I’d open the doorway to change.*
You can also try out:
“I am free to give.”
It’s a momentary shift in how you’re thinking that can help you respond in a different way. You are choosing, in that moment, a different response to the stimulus of either giving or receiving.
That, for me, is what body intelligence is all about – awareness, mindfulness and choice.
I intend to put this into practice this Christmas. I’m thinking many of you will have opportunities to practice, too, in the coming days.
If you try out my little experiments, I’d love to hear what you discover about yourself. I think you’ll find it enlightening. Let me know in the comments below.
And whatever you celebrate – or don’t celebrate – I wish you much joy this holiday season.