PREVIOUS: Healthy Give & Take (#1)
IMP: In the context of these posts being reciprocal means that we ACoAs are supposed to receive something in return for our efforts – it can be a Thank You, a smile, a vacation or even a house! It means we ‘allow’ others to give to us in return for something positive we have done (once or on a regular basis) – OR just because they like us! Can you imagine?
Being able to receive is a normal part of life. This is hard for many ACoAs to believe & grasp if we’ve been blindly obeying our Toxic Rules, such as “Only other people’s needs count”. Do-ing for others is all we know & taking anything makes us feel guilty! Because we don’t feel worthy of anything good, we’re not comfortable letting others give to us – even when it is done freely & with an open heart.
Participating in beneficial exchanges of any kind depend on:
a. Knowing our needs. Directly or indirectly, we were taught to ignore & deny having needs. So now – how can we know what to take & what to reject, if we can’t tell what’s good for us or what we need?
TOXIC rules: “No one wants to help me, nor ever will” , “I should never be comforted when in pain”….
b. Trusting ourselves. We learned that we could never believe in our own thoughts, experiences, emotions, good judgement or intuition! They told us everything we felt was wrong, stupid or the reverse! So now – how can we discern what feels right for us or unsafe?
TOXIC Rules: It’s weak & dangerous to have needs, ask for help, have feelings”,
c. Whoever we’re dealing with. If we can’t trust our own judgement we can’t be awake enough to identify who’s safe to take from & who’s not!
TOXIC Rules: “ No one is safe or trustworthy” , “Never, ever, hold anyone else accountable for their bad behavior”
d. The circumstances. When there’s too much uncertainly (as in alcoholic family chaos), exchanges are not possible, as one or both parties will tend to hold on to all their ‘valuables’ – time, info, money, affection, confidences….
TOXIC Rules: “Life is suffering” , “Don’t expect anything good – ever”
ACoAs – with the focus being so completely on the addicts & narcissists in our family, we were left out of the loop of information (Ts), nurturing (Es) & protection (As) that any healthy parent would have provided. Our training to not-be-given-to goes so deep that even the thought of someone legitimately treating us well can cause a panic attack. It can actually feels dangerous, terrifying & physically painful!
EXP: A successful business man found out (from some careful questioning) that over the past 10 years he had employed 3 different assistants who were ACoAs. One of them, Jane, was not only efficient at work but had consistently gone above & beyond her duties to ‘take care’ of her boss.
• This CEO wanted to show Jane his appreciation in addition to the usually expected business ‘gifts’, & asked her what he could do for her. She was adamant that he should do nothing more. He was puzzled & insisted she receive some additional compensation, such as an all expense paid vacation or free school tuition. She began to shake & cry, insisting she could not possible take anything more. Her reaction was so intense that he finally backed off, shaking his head in
• To become more comfortable with the idea of receiving, it’s helpful to know some universal facts about the way human society functions. In social psychology, the “norm of reciprocity” is the expectation (assumption) that people will respond to someone else’s behavior in like manner – they will reward a positive action with another positive action, and conversely will react to hostile behavior by responding either with indifference or hostility. The focus is centered on trading favors rather than making a negotiation or a contract with others.
• Reciprocity is basically an exchange of energy, and is beneficial to all concerned when the exchange is positive. It’s something everyone needs, like trees exchanging their oxygen for our carbon dioxide. So being a receiver is just as vital to smooth social functioning as being a supplier. And it’s not just about the things that are exchanged, which may or may not have value in themselves, but is a linking mechanism used as social capital (spend/expend) to bond with others – hopefully to create trust, affection & solidarity. It is a powerful mechanism for creating and maintaining social ties of all types – anywhere from 2 friends to 2 nations.
Reminder: Accepting honest kindness, respect & generosity from others is a way to say you value them. They are also some of the ways we can give back.
NEXT: Acceptance & ACoAs (Part 1)