"Whenever I need something from someone, I buy chocolate," said Carol, a 44-year-old schoolteacher.
"Why's that?" I asked.
"Chocolate never says no," Carol replied.
"How much chocolate do you eat?" I asked.
"A lot," Carol said.
Unhealthy sacrifice leads to dysfunctional independence. If you are a DIP—a Dysfunctionally Independent Person—you are trying to do your life all by yourself without help from anyone else. This is your way of declaring to the world: "I have no needs." Truthfully, you have plenty of needs; it's just that you suppress them. Why? Probably because you are trying to avoid a repeat of past disappointments when some of your needs were not met. Inevitably, you end up more needy than most, but you cover it up by being strong, being a giver, being cool, being independent, being cynical, being busy and being dishonest with yourself.
Letting Go Exercise: When you let go of your dysfunctional independence, you feel so much more alive, open and abundant. You also discover that asking for what you want is a chance for others to connect with you, to know you and to love you. Being willing to forgive and let go of old wounds helps you to move out of separation and unhealthy sacrifice. Now, instead of expecting people to read your mind and know what you need or want, you can actually tell them. Doing this feels emotionally risky, but it's a risk that's worth taking. Now you're ready for a real relationship.
I find it difficult to receive fully from others.
"I hate birthdays," said Phil, a 38-year-old doctor from London.
"All birthdays?" I asked.
"God no! I love other people's birthdays," Phil said.
"You hate your own birthday," I said.
"I don't like the attention, and I don't like being given presents," Phil said.
"I love presents," I said, being a bit provocative.
"When someone gives me something I feel like I owe them, and I can't relax until I've paid them off," Phil said.
Unhealthy sacrifice promotes a kind of giving that blocks receiving. There are usually two underlying dynamics at work. The first dynamic is unworthiness. Your self-worth creates a personal allowance that judges how much you will let yourself receive from others. With especially low self-worth, receiving from others leaves you feeling indebted, obligated, owing and duty-bound to give back. The second dynamic is pride. And hidden beneath pride is competitiveness, superiority, egotism and other murky feelings. According to pride, to receive is unnecessary and to receive is to fail.
Letting Go Exercise: In my book Shift Happens!, I wrote a chapter saying there are no shortages, only a lack of willingness to receive. Being willing to receive starts with letting go of your fear of receiving. Complete the following statement 10 times: "One of my fears of receiving is..." After you have finished, look at each fear and discern for yourself if the fear is really true or if it is just a fear. At least 90 percent of fears are just fears that dissolve the moment you give them some attention. Next, make a decision to be a great receiver. Really! Make this your new affirmation: "I am becoming a great receiver."
Next: Do you say yes when you mean no?