You Can't Always Get What You Want: The Subtle Art of Receiving

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What happens to humans around receiving?  Why can we not seem to "be good at getting"?

How is it that for a good many of us being on the receiving end of someone doing something for us, without asking or expecting anything in return, is about as awkward/painful/horrible a thought as a poke in the eye with a sharp stick?  Ouch.  That's not a fun game. 

It's truly a conundrum, because little humans begin their lives in full receiving mode, we literally cannot survive, let alone thrive without receiving on the regular.   We receive nourishment, a cosy home and loving energy from our mamas from the moment we are conceived.  We don't question it, we just take it, and keep on existing.   One would think we are biologically hardwired then to receive, would one?  No?  Oh okay.  Of course...that makes sense? #wtf.   

So, now the question begs: where does it get so warped? 

Oh humans: here we go with our weirdness again.  Houston we have a(nother) problem.

It's really incredible isn't it that for something that seems so straight forward, receiving now seems about as simple (or as pleasurable) as signing up for a kick in the nuts - when it should be the easiest thing on earth, something natural, something biologically hardwired into us.  What changes for us when we go from grabbing with both hands, to pushing away anything that is not in exchange for something.  When did receiving become a transaction that took two to participate? 

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I mean, really, this is bad enough, a pretty sad state of affairs by itself, that reciprocity became mandatory in regard to receiving, but here's the really big issue though: the real trouble with our inability to simply get for no good reason, is that it then becomes unnatural, weird or heinously uncomfortable. 

We also confuse it with taking (as distinct from receiving), which by extension is then associated with more loaded terms like snatching, grabbing and seizing.   We are told giving is FAR better than receiving, that no one likes "takers", and then the weight of judgment is attached to it.  Receiving becomes BAD, and giving becomes GOOD. It is warped from its innocent beginnings and becomes something ugly, instead of something beautiful and life-affirming. 

THEN, as if this isn't already a bit of a disaster, the importance of receiving is 1000 times amplified, given the fact that our ability to receive with grace and complete comfort is inextricably tied to the quality of our relationships with others.   The deeper your YES to receiving with ease and gratitude, the deeper the connection to the other and yourself.  The more you receive love, touch, kindness and affection with without hesitation or reticence, the more it will be given by others, simply because you are a joy to give to. 

Hence the greater your ability to get, the more connection you will feel to those around you because you will be in flow with abundance as a natural state of being.  The better we are at it at saying "yes please" instead of "no thank you", the more we will be provided with, because we are so good at receiving and it becomes natural, ingrained and effortless.  And there's more....(not just a set of steak knives from the Shopping Channel man), the more your receive, the more your internal monologue says "yes, I am deserving of this", instead of "god this is horrific and I am unworthy of all this love and attention", and the easier it gets.  Like actually breathtakingly easy.  Wow.  Well isn't that something? 

Sounds terrifyingly simple doesn't it?  Like almost too simple to be...simple? 


So then why do we often find it so incredibly uncomfortable?  If this is the ticket to relationship joy (be it romantic or platonic), why do we fight it so hard against it?  Why are we not grabbing it with both hands, and waiting eagerly for the next round? Why do we often reject it out of hand while simultaneously scrambling to even the score before the other person can (horror of horrors) given AGAIN while we are unguarded? Damn giving-ninjas.

Well, let's have a look at this a little more deeply...for there has to be some solutions if we just follow the breadcrumbs...but not THAT way Hansel (see what happens when you receive without knowing what it is really being offered ;-) #kiddiesgeteaten)

On the whole it's true that most of us are incredibly adept at giving.  For most of the people I know, our generosity gene is strong, we LOVE to give.  We are natural-born givers.  However, when it comes to receiving without the possibility of immediate reciprocity or worse (gasp) receiving with no appreciable prospect of ever been able to return the favour…the wheels completely fall off and we get…WEIRD. Really weird.  Bathing in acid levels of discomfort kind of weird.

Being able to receive, with an open and generous heart, without any associated feelings of guilt, is a skill.  Whether it's from others or from yourself (oh yes, that's a whole other bag of snakes).  It's something to be mastered, with persistent practice, a muscle that needs to be worked, to be kept in tip-top shape (like Armie's Hammer's chest...mmmm..delicious...what? Don't judge.).  Yet it seems to be something that the large majority of us can’t even begin to fathom: receiving without giving?  What? Oh no, anything but that.  Quelle Horreur. 

Frankly, and a little sadly, this seems to apply to all kinds of receiving.  From something like a little gesture, a gift for a friend, a compliment, a cuddle, a card from a colleague, a random coffee bought for a stranger, or something more generous, like someone loaning you their home while they are away, someone buying you a generous gift for no reason, someone giving you hours of their time to provide you with advice, or one of the trickiest ones of all, intimate receiving.  Oooooh yeah, that’s always a contentious one, particularly for us ladies.  Whoa mama, just ask the girl next to you as you read this.  If you know her.  DO NOT ask some random on a tram.  Youch. Touchy.   

On the whole (and I think I safely speak for my "people" here), women make lousy receivers.  This is especially so when it comes to sex, touch or intimacy. Whether giving it to ourselves or receiving from others.  As natural nurturers and givers, this frequently renders us "receiver retarded" when it comes to just laying back and letting it all happen without feeling like we have to lift a finger.  Or not our fingers anyway...

To illustrate this point, I will tell you a rather personal tale: I once had a boyfriend who was specifically gifted in the provision of oral sex department ("boyfriend" is a slight exaggeration, it was complicated, but let’s go with that label for brevity), and he taught me the not so subtle art of receiving pleasure for no reason other than:

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(A) it feels un-fucking-believable to give it (for his part);

(B) it is equally as exhilarating to receive it (especially how he gave it); and

(C) in summary, and is a pretty damn good way to spend your time on any day of the week. 

In the initial instance of my time with MP, I kicked and fought desperately to "even the balance" between us in the bedroom, I was exceptionally uncomfortable with receiving without the prospect of being able to return the favour, even if at some far off point in the future.  Yes gentlemen, this is how women REALLY think.  It was like a perverse game of sexual point scoring, which is...not...exactly ideal when it comes to intimacy.    In fact it's pretty damned pathetic actually, and all came down to the need for control on my part, so that I could hide the fact that I was not comfortable with receiving because I did not honestly think I was worthy of the attention being lavished on me (solely) by this gorgeous man.  I could not truly grasp that I was absolutely deserving of this, and more, of this fabulous affection in perpetuity.

I learned very quickly that my model of pleasure had built primarily around providing pleasure to others. People pleasing in the extreme.  Thankfully, this was about to come unstuck with this particular man, real quick.  There was no room for no with him.  He was not going to  hear my sorry excuses for why I had to give back.  Nope, not interested, sorry, try again tomorrow. 

This was one of the most valuable lessons for foisted upon me (like it was some kind of CHORE - ha!) both in an intimacy sense, but also more broadly in life.   I had to get good with getting, and pronto. 

Learning to receive and not give back immediately (or ever), to relax into the moment and enjoy being provided for, taught me the incredible humility required for receiving a gift like that (or anything really) with grace.  "Just say yes", he used to whisper in my ear (swoon).  So yes I said, timidly and begrudgingly at first, and absolutely more boisterously later on, and I never looked back.  From that time onwards, I worked hard to receive with more grace, and I applied this liberally to my life in all areas (although who doesn't reserve a bit of extra effort for something mind-blowing?? ;-)). 

Now, I am not saying that I am perfect, some days I am graceful as a newborn giraffe, BUT I now am aware of any awkwardness around receiving, and I just do my best to ease into it, in whatever form it arrives.   As my grandma always said "never look a gift horse in the mouth Angela".   I, to this day, don't know what a gift horse is, or why looking in their mouth is bad...but I got grandma's drift.  I stopped saying no, and, started saying HELL YES, REAL quick.  Thanks MP.  You were a greater teacher than you can ever imagine, on so many fronts, I never think of you without smiling and shaking my head with happiness that you appeared when you did, and stayed for so long, even after you were physically gone.

So, the moral of this part of the story is, next time your man/woman/friend with benefits wants to please you (and I don't just mean sexually) without a reason, grab it while it's hot.  Don't reject their offer because YOU can't handle the sole focus of their loving attention of a willing partner.  This is a YOU thing, not a HIM/HER thing.  Remember, the more you say no simply because you don't feel worthy, the less likely he/she/they will to be willing to offer it again in the future.  Rejection is rejection folks.  And ladies, calm your farm: I assure you, you’ll get your turn another day, you can give back but you ought not to turn down the chance to receive when it's offered up on a sliver...plate ;-).   But that’s a WHOLE chapter for another day….

However, if you are in any doubt about the strength of your unconditional receiving game, and want to test what willing a recipient you would be, just try that one on for size.  Let your partner provide you with pleasure on the express understanding you won’t be reciprocating.  WHOOSH!  That was the sound of every man around the world simultaneously putting his hand up and saying "PICK ME for the neverending blowjob".  Not you boys, not today, you sit this one out.  Ladies, this is your round.  You may not even be able to get this far, perhaps, as an initial step, just think about what that might feel like for you.  Wriggling around in your chair yet?  And that’s not a happy wriggle is it?  Hmmm, thought as much. 

Many women will just about go into a coma even just turning their mind to unconditional receiving, particularly sexually.   Eu veh.  We'll deal with that hot mess in a minute. 

Now; don't think my steady gaze has escaped you gentleman.   Thought you'd got off lightly did you? Nope, not on my watch.  You gorgeous creatures absolutely have issues receiving yourselves, "the love space" can be a tough one for you lot, but also but yours can also tend towards discomfort around the more material.   This is a sweeping statement, but on the whole, in my own personal holds true.

Boys, for you, if you want to test your own mettle at receiving, perhaps think about letting your partner or mate pay for a holiday for you?  Maybe even let a lady buy you dinner? What about your partner or friends sharing words around the depth of the love they have for you, and what kind of extraordinary human you are for them? Whilst maintaining eye contact and not looking nervously at the floor.  Yeah.  That.  Too much for your brain to boggle over?  Yup, got it in one!  Join the queue of lousy receivers and take a number please :-).   Gentlemen of the world, your homework is to get better at having the people in your life, your partners, your; family, your friends, tell you how extraordinary you are without your testicles retreating up inside your body.  Let's start simple, and move our way up from there. 

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Now, lest you think you are alone beautiful humans, you're not.  I confess, in the past, as I mentioned earlier, I have REALLY struggled with receiving myself, and I believe that primarily, this was because I wasn’t convinced I was worthy of whatever was being offered.   This, folks, extended from simple things like coffees, advice or dinner, to more complex offerings like love, support or unsolicited care and kindness.  

Yes, you heard me right, there are times in my past where I can absolutely say I didn’t think I was worthy of unconditional giving being offered up in my direction, and would actively fight it or sabotage it.  I would lob a grenade at the poor person who dared to deign me worthy of some kindness or generosity.  Huh? Who does that?  Well, me. I did that.  I did it a lot.  

Aaaaaaaand as it turns out, about a billion other people. It is now my experience that very few people are good at saying ‘YES THANK YOU, AND NOW MORE PLEASE’, when it comes to receiving abundance.  An abundance of money, love, sex, kindness or anything else you can think of.  Given this is absolutely what we should ALL be aiming for, given there is an endless supply of abundance for everyone, what the hell are we do it throwing it back every time it comes our way, in whatever form it arrives?

Let me tell you why…

I think it boils down, fundamentally, to one really important thing: our sense of self-worth and how deserving we feel we are of this kind of love.  When we have high self-worth, we are far more open to receiving, because we understand two critical things: one is that there is more than enough abundance for everyone (love, things, kindness, sex – you know all the good things).  Two is that we know we are worthy of receiving our share and then some.  We don’t question why someone, or life more generally, would be providing all we want, pray for and then some.  Nope, we know intrinsically that we are worth it, and that we give and take in equal measure, and everything is in balance. 

So these days, it's a LOT different for me.  You want to buy me dinner?  Sure, I’m in, that would be amazing thank you.  You want to loan me your home while you are away?  Thank you so much for your generous heart, I am so grateful to have you in my life.  You want to give me 3 hours of oral sex with no expectations of anything in return just because you want to?  Great, sign me up.  Yes thank you, more, please.  Immediately.

When you are in this space of happily receiving without feeling #totesawks, you understand that there is always more where that came from, you know inherently that you are participating in abundance and you give more than your fair share, and that this your goddamn birthright to both give AND receive.  Independently of each other, and you never question the balance, because you are in the flow of abundance, and both now feel equally as good to you, you can experience and embody the joy that comes from giving and receiving equally. 

Ask yourself this: how good are you at unconditional receiving?  Shitty?  Worse than shitty?  Downright horrendous squirm-inducing plonked in a tank-of-killer worms type horrific?  Yeah, been there, got that t-shirt.  I feel you.  It’s so insanely uncomfortable and completely counterintuitive, isn’t it?  So, what can we do about that?  How can we get good with the give AND the receive?

Initially…just be aware of it.  Make a little mental note when someone offers to do something for you, and you feel uncomfortable or some other equally non-positive feeling.   Observe your reactions.  Do nothing else at first, just watch. 

Then…after that…after you can see the pattern begin to emerge, start gently probing about why this might be.   Why can’t you just “get”? What’s with the need to immediately reciprocate? Is it that you don’t feel deserving of nice things or kindness?  Are you so against self-love that you can’t allow others to enjoy the pleasure that comes from giving to you?  Because if you think about it, responding to someone giving to you with discomfort, or worse something more aggressive, also makes the giver feel shit.  They feel rejected and unwelcome.  Oh oh.  Double whammy.

Now comes the advanced level stuff, the ultimate practice round.  Start allowing people to give to you, and practice simply saying “thank you”.  No need to gush or behave like a lunatic, a simple thank you, and acknowledgement of your own part in this, that you have just taken an enormous step in showing up for yourself, and telling yourself through your actions that you are in fact worthy, worthy of all the amazing things that can be thrown at you.  

Now all that is left to do, is saying “THANK YOU, MORE PLEASE”, and hope that Daniel Craig walks in the door.

Wishing you so much beginning of the week happiness.

Miss Cook


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