Backstory: I know a very sweet girl, let's call her Sarah, that I have a friendship not quite relationship with. She's attractive, intelligent and exceptionally sweet... but perhaps a little naïve. She is seemingly selfless - and many of her qualities remind me of my ex before children. These set off red flags for me so I've never gotten too close to her, but I like her so I've kind of kept her in orbit as a friend and we've hooked up on occasion. Its very clear to me that she wants more.
She's a year out of college and back living with her parents, but she shows up at my place at random, uninvited, unannounced. I don't know if I like that or if I don't like it. I met her family and get along very well with her father. We talk about cars, sports, politics, economics and how women are crazy while drinking on his deck while the women come and go. I think I spend more time around him when I'm over there then I do her. He has no sons, and I feel this bizarre fatherly vibe from him. He gives advice to me like one would give advice to an elder son... and somehow he always puts me to work when we're there. At first it was a little odd, even bothersome, but now its just normal and I kind of like the way it goes and being useful/appreciated. I even took care of his lawn while he was recovering from back surgery awhile back.
So anyway, Sarah and I were hanging out this weekend and decided to go swimming at her place. I'm talking to her dad like always and I mention that I need to get a get a tool cabinet. I have a ton of tools in a variety of smaller tool boxes, even cardboard boxes, and while I don't really have a garage, I have a secure private parking garage with an extra space where I park my bikes that I also use as a workshop. Its around a corner kind of on its own, and my building is pretty upscale folks - mostly bmws and lexus' down there, so I've never worried about someone stealing my stuff. So anyway, Dave says that I can take his off his hands. He was planning on selling it anyway. He doesn't do the car work he used to and doesn't need such a large cabinet so he was going to downsize his tools and put in a deep freezer. So I ask him how much he's asking for it and it says, "don't worry about it, just take it".
Thus triggered my crazy. This is like a $1000 cabinet new. Now obviously he won't get that for it if he sells it, but he could still get several hundred dollars for it. So I said, "no, really, what do you want for it?" and I got the ol' "your money is no good here". This went back and forth and he became a little heated for a moment that I wouldn't take his cabinet but he wouldn't back off. So I basically declined and made up some bs about thinking it was too big for the space I had anyway, but he was still seemingly ticked off by my not taking it. It was all just very weird.
Sarah didn't understand why I didn't just take it and thought I made a happy gesture into a bad thing. I tried to explain how I hate gifts and she says its just stupid. It reminded my of a time my ex-father in law tried to give me a lawnmower and I declined. I don't really know why I declined, I needed one considering I had just bought a house at the time, but I didn't want his. I could get my own.
Anyone else out there hate gifts? Doesn't even matter if its a good gift, or exactly what I want, I get twitchy about it. I don't want them, I tend to shut down and not be enthusiastic when I get them, but still manage a "polite" kind of happy... while shifting the focus as quickly as possible. I also feel compelled to match any gift I've received. More than one person has told me I'm crazy.
I don't really know what to do about it though. I really really don't like gifts, and when I receive them, I'm totally OCD about returning the favor. Yet, when I give a gift, I have no desire or expectation to receive one in return. I still don't want one. It stresses me out and makes me twitchy.
Its been a point of contention in multiple relationships now; I hate gifts and refuse to ask for favors or help (sort of feels in the same vein as a gift). I don't really know why, I just can't stand these things. I even go out of town on my birthday, usually a solo motorcycle trip to Deal's Gap, to avoid my friends potentially arranging a birthday outing, or having cake/ice cream at work and avoiding any potential birthday presents.
The thought is sometimes at the back of my head. Especially when someone gives me something totally unexpected or at an unexpected time. I don't have negative thoughts about gifts around birthdays, xmas and anniversaries.
When I do suspect that someone is giving me something and it's because they want something. I try to take solace in the fact that since they are not asking now, I can still say no later. If they try to guilt me into it, then they are not really a friend and I'll dump them.
I see. I hate that sense that something is owed. I think my issue is a kind of bizarre control freak thing: avoiding any perception that I owe anyone anything, thereby avoiding coercive guilt.
I'm also crazy about avoiding dependence and neediness though. Gifts are out, acts of service that are in front of my eyes are out (acts of service I don't see, don't seem to register... unless it is pointed out - then I freak out and make sure to take care of it myself). I've read this might have something to do with being raised by an unstable single mom and thus a need to avoid being a burden, but I've never managed to figure out how to make myself comfortable with these things.
It annoys the hell out of most women I've dated. It even extends to simple things like "Can I get you something to drink?" I always say I'm fine and get myself something to drink at some point.
I know its nuts, but its automatic. I literally can't just say "Yeah, a glass of water would be nice." Its literally uncomfortable.
The fact you recognize that it's an automatic reaction is good. It's hard to change things we don't see.
If you have someone close that you trust, open up to them about it. Ask them not to modify their behavior, but to point out to you when you are reacting (sometimes we see it in hindsight, but not in the moment). Then do your best to accept the favor of gift. The sense of obligation might be their, but don't act on it. It will fade.
It takes time, you didn't build that reaction overnight. Plus reactions built in childhood are some of the hardest to control. Talking with a good therapist can help too.
Yeah I only recognize it after the fact. Sometimes I'll even wonder, "why f didn't I just say 'yeah, can you get me a glass of water since you're over there?'"
Hm. Don't think I have that person to open up to though. I'm the person everyone likes to come to with their problems, but I don't really talk about mine in real life. I guess that's why I'm still on this forum. lol
1. "Giving is Better so Why Bother?"...
2. "Giving up Control"...
3. "Accepting the Gifts of Life"....
I copied & pasted this part >>
The Price of Receiving
Many of us instinctively resist receiving because we sense the power dynamics involved, which reduce the receiver to the weaker position. We all know how it feels when someone gives us advice for “our sake,” and we know it is really to establish his or her own wisdom. We don’t receive the advice, because we don’t want to confirm our inferiority. Harvard professor Ellen J. Langer puts such power dynamics to good use: “Receiving empowers the giver,” she acknowledges. “That’s why I advise parents to let their kids buy them gifts. When they receive them, it can make the children feel confident and good about themselves.”
Such dynamics might be acceptable in relationships of love and trust, as between parents and children, but they can make us uneasy in other contexts. A friend of mine, Jennifer Crenshaw, worked at an advertising firm in California for five years before she was laid off. She chose not to receive unemployment because of the stigma of having to take government assistance. She had grown up in an upper middle class family in New England with strong Puritan roots. For her, as for anyone influenced by Puritan values, needing help carried the hidden implication that she hadn’t worked hard enough. “Being on unemployment just made me feel like I had failed as an adult,” she remembers. “I felt ashamed at needing help.”
While shame at receiving government assistance might be less prevalent in European countries, where the social welfare system is generally accepted as every citizen’s right, the stigma attached to needing help is often a major stumbling block to accepting what’s given and putting it to good use. This is true in Western cultures, especially in the U.S., which so highly values achievement and earning that when we are actually given something unexpected or unearned we feel guilty.
Guilt is one way our conscience responds to situations in which we feel we don’t deserve the good things that come to us. “Sudden wealth syndrome” is the name attributed to a group of symptoms – including guilt, anxiety, sleep disorders, and fear of losing control – that can disturb those who win the lottery, inherit wealth, or bring in huge rewards from financial investment. “People who inherit large sums of money often feel a disparity between who they are and what they are being given,” says Stephen Goldbart, co-founder of the Money, Meaning, and Choices Institute in California, which addresses the psychological opportunities and challenges that come with great wealth. “Guilt is a way to address the emotional impact of this gap.”
Where does the guilt come from? “In the U.S, but also in tribal cultures, we have a basic belief system that we work for what we are given,” Goldbart explains. “If we are suddenly given to, without work involved or the appropriate degree of work, then our sense of self, our values, and our world view – including our ideas about fairness – are threatened.” In these situations, Goldbart suggests it is helpful have a “flexible sense of self, and a flexible world view. You’re just not going to be the same person afterwards.”
In order to receive, we might need to leave behind the safety net of a ‘work equals reward’ mentality. But this requires acknowledging the existence of forces beyond our control, and also allowing for the possibility that we never had to deserve what we’ve ‘earned’ in the first place. And if there is no deserving, then it means that some things, at least, are simply free.
Another reason behind our resistance to receiving comes from our fear that when we receive, we limit what goes to others. “One of the biggest reasons we don’t receive well is that we think receiving is going to take something away from someone else,” says Sobonfu Some, a teacher from the Dagara tribe in the Burkina Faso region of West Africa. “So we feel guilty accepting what we are given.”
Some, whose first name means ‘keeper of the ritual,’ left her Dagara tribe to bring the spiritual teachings of her people to the West. Based in Sacramento, California, she writes books and leads workshops around the world. She explains that among the Dagara, life is infused with spirit. When we receive deeply we are receiving not just from an individual but from spirit itself. And when we receive from spirit, “We receive from an abundant source that can offer whatever we need.”
“There is always enough for everybody,” Some says, “Everything from spirit is free. There is no price in receiving. We don’t need to earn what we’re given. We just need to turn towards spirit with an attitude of service. So, we can feel grateful, but there is no reason to feel guilty.”
I think my problem with gift is definitely related to control... maybe vulnerability. I can't accept a gift no strings. I FEEL the strings. I feel vulnerable to being called out or coerced by guilt at having accepted/received a gift. I generally don't like anyone doing anything for me. One fear I had about getting married that made me really hesitant to marry at all, was that one day I'd hear "I do all this stuff for you and you [whatever complaint]" - vulnerability.
Being deserving is probably an issue too. I don't want it unless I did something to get it.