Updated: Feb 23
Why is it that humans find it so easy to give yet receiving can be challenging?
Well, simply put, giving makes us feel good...when we give, endorphins are released which then lead to what's known as the 'helpers high'. Oxytocin & serotonin are produced by our brain which in turn reduce cortisol & stress, leading to a natural feeling of bliss. So, from a scientific viewpoint, it makes sense that when a ‘state of emergency’ occurs (increased stress), that a flux/high of giving & convergence results. Albeit a welcomed reassurance of the kind-heartedness that exists in the world. If we don't allow the natural personal giving process to occur, without support, we are left with the opposite feelings of guilt & helplessness. But enough about the giver, perhaps it's necessary to stop &
think about the WHY of giving...
This writing was fuelled after experiencing shocking end of decade bushfires in Batemans Bay, the beautiful tourist town on the NSW South Coast where I grew up. In the wake of the fires, the inundation of goods became a tiresome task for those on the receiving end who were already overwhelmed from the trauma of the event. 'Rogue' organisations necessarily stepped in to support official channels that were at capacity. Despite the renewed sense of community, nobody was able to keep up as the effects of trauma meant survival mode was in full swing. There was no time to pause & think about what was actually needed before the overwhelming waves of giving hit. Be it official, or not, without time to slow down & communicate sadly a lot of wasted resources & now extra clean-up became quickly obvious. Despite such, the survivors of these resilient communities keep plowing on
with humble & gracious hearts.
The obvious ‘quick fix’ answer to satisfy our innate need to help is then to donate money or do a
fundraiser; to just do our individual ‘bit’. This consumerist trait is a vital means of support for many
organisations who have the structure & expertise in place to support the survivors of such devastation
in rebuilding their lives. Sadly, the dilemma with consumerism & quick fixes is that the high is short
lived as it often doesn’t fulfill our underlying needs
that drive such behaviour. Our need for connection
isn’t always met when we give without taking the time to think about our WHY. There's no instant hit of happy hormones in this process unfortunately, it’s more of a long-term drip.
There is no one word answer on how best to give, because we all have our own perceptions & motivations. However, from living this experience, I personally believe the help that is going to be needed does not involve things or money. It is authentic connection, love, & working together LONGTERM that will promote true healing from the trauma of loss. There is no quick fix. Connection helps all parties FEEL seen & heard. Such things take time.
The definition of giving is to "freely transfer something to someone". On my journey of being a natural ‘giver’ I have learned that true unattached & sustainable giving/helping means:
1. Doing so without any expectation of something in return
2. Ensuring it is done from our own 'full cup'
3. Ensuring it is not driven by any of our emotional baggage
So, if you truly want to make an impact, I invite you to be still. Give yourself some space to check in
& notice where this desire to give is stemming from. Perhaps considering whether it's a long-term
solution to the needs of the receiver would also be useful. Or, better still, taking a moment to consult
rather than assume could also be worthwhile. After all, if there's no benefit to the person receiving
‘whatever it is that you managed to let go of your attachment to (including $)’ then isn't it effectively just passing on your 'stuff'? Sure, you feel great because you got rid of some baggage, and the endorphins kicked in! But the invitation here is to put yourself in the shoes of the person who lost everything in a fire, or who's loved one suddenly passed away. Can you imagine how it might feel when, before you’ve barely had time to process the loss, a tsunami of charity arrives...? Whilst it could be a welcomed distraction, perhaps it could also just be a band aid that doesn’t really heal the wound…
In my experience, receiving can be difficult at first...
but then, often just saying ‘yes’ becomes easier
than trying to explain why you don't want to accept a well-intentioned replacement for something you
lost. The shock that comes with loss & grief, also often clouds the ability to quickly know what we
need. Like all healing, feeling into what we need can only come with patience & time. It's all a part of
Having lost my boyfriend & greatest love suddenly almost 4 years ago, a vital part of my healing has been to get rid of everything I own in order to work out exactly what I need (physically, spiritually & mentally). Without giving myself the luxury of time & space to do this, I honestly do not know how I would have survived such a loss. Throughout this experience it is only by taking the time to visit some of the darkest places of my soul that I have been able to return to a sense of personal balance. But, what has helped me most during this healing process aren't the 'things' I own, or the amount of $ I do or don't have in the bank, it's the people who have stuck by me no matter what stage of metamorphosis I'm at.
It's my teachers who have guided me & the tools I have learned along the way that have enabled me to find the beauty in my broken. But most of all it's the stillness I have found...the space between the order & chaos. This didn't happen overnight and, according to many a great sage, certainly isn't something that can be rushed. "You can't rush your healing, darkness has its teachings..." ~ Trevor Hall.
If you truly want to help those who have suffered loss of any
kind recently, give the gift of connection & being present to truly listen to their needs & their story without trying to fix it...
allow & hold space for healing to occur in the long-term.
"I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it."
Oriah Mountain Dreamer (The Invitation)
Written by Gabe from Invert You
All images taken by @invert.you