It was the year 1974 when the sociologist Phillip Kunz conducted a very curious experiment. He sent Christmas cards with a photograph of him and his family with a handwritten note to 600 people chosen randomly. The recipients of the cards were complete strangers, but soon the Kunz mailbox began to fill with greeting cards.
He received almost 200 responses. Why would so many people respond to a complete stranger? It is the law of reciprocity: those people felt obliged to return the favor. There are, however, those who do not apply that rule and become avid recipients and greedy givers. We must be careful with them or they will end up draining us.
Who gives, also has the right to receive
They say that whoever gives, must have short memory and who receives, a long memory. It is true that the real help is that which is born from the heart, the one that does not ask for anything in return because the simple act of helping is enough as reward. However, we can not give continuously, day after day, wearying to the limit of our strength, without receiving absolutely nothing in return.
It is not a quid pro quo nor to account for the favors and the help we have given, but we need, for the sake of our mental balance, to receive compensation in the form of affection, kind words and recognition, the kind of compensation that lets us know that the other person values our effort and that everything we do is not useless.
We must not forget that love is the food of the soul. It is as important to give love as to receive it. The continuous giving, without receiving anything in return, ends up being exhausting, it is like emptying the soul forgetting to refill it.
Sometimes we don’t give up for weakness, but for having been too strong
By dint of giving, many people lose themselves because they end up putting the needs and desires of the others before their own. They lose themselves in the act of continually giving, because in order to satisfy the others, they must silence their “self”.
That type of exchange is toxic. The lack of reciprocity fuels a spiral of dissatisfaction, disappointment and frustration. When you give much without receiving anything in return, in the depth your needs for affection and recognition remain unsatisfied, which usually generates a deep emptiness inside.
Assuming the role of “giver” also hides another danger: not to be able to ask for help when you need it. Generally, the strongest person becomes the support of the others, so that not only he’s burdened with his problems but also with those of the others. As a result, it is not strange that it ends up falling overwhelmed under so much weight.
That person, accustomed to resorting to his own resources to deal with different situations, is likely to not even consider the possibility of asking for help. The problem is that our resources are not unlimited and, sooner or later, they will end up being exhausted.
Signs that you are giving too much
– You keep giving, even in those situations where you feel emotionally empty
– You feel alone in your relationship and can barely meet your own emotional needs
– That person asks for help continuously but is never available to help you or does not recognize your effort
– You are afraid that if you stop giving, that person moves away from you, which shows that, finally, it is an interested relationship
– Your selfless help has become a heavy obligation, so that person demands it
– It has been created a dependency relationship in which you have assumed the role of donor, while the other only receives
How to get out of this type of relationship?
Every time we help someone we offer an important part of us. Unfortunately, many people are not aware of it and do not realize the magnitude of that help until it ceases.
To avoid these unbalanced relationships it is important to cultivate a good self-esteem. When we value and appreciate ourselves, it is more likely that the other people too will value our help.
If the others do not do it, maybe the time has come to gently move away for dedicating to take care of ourselves or simply to make them notice how much we are contributing and reestablish a balance in those relationships.
Kunz, P. R. & Woolcott, M. (1976) Season’s greetings: From my status to yours. Social Science Research; 5(3): 269-278.