Open Hearts: Practicing the Art of Receiving

February 16, 2021

“Gracious acceptance is an art–an art which most never bother to cultivate”-Alexander Smith

It seems like months in advance, sweets and treats fill the store aisles as many prepare for a day of sharing love and affection with those they care so deeply about. All around us, there are symbols and celebrations of giving love and being loved, meaningful relationships, connection, and self-love. For many women, giving of themselves to others comes easily—often doing it without hesitation for those they love and cherish.

While our conversations in the wellness community have particularly emphasized the importance of self-love in this season (which is so important and necessary), we’ve noticed a critical missing piece in this conversation, which is the art and practice of receiving. A skill which, if not attended to, can very much impact one’s ability to receive love from others and from oneself. How can I practice self-love if my heart is not in a truly open stance to receive it?

There are so many factors that may impact one’s comfort or discomfort with receiving. If I haven’t had many experiences of receiving from others, it’s likely going to be unfamiliar and strange for me. If I was taught that my role in this world, whether by my culture, family, or society is to only give and not receive, I may struggle to reconcile my innate desire to receive. If I have deep-rooted fears of intimacy and closeness, I may struggle to receive.

If I was shamed or abused in response to having emotional and physical needs, I may feel guilty when I express or receive what I am needing. For those who have experienced trauma, receiving care and love from others may feel uncomfortable, scary, or overwhelming—perhaps because of a fear of what may follow or the visceral unspoken vulnerability associated with receiving.

We want to share with you some ways to recognize if receiving may be challenging for you, and provide helpful strategies to begin growing your receptive capacity.

Possible Signs and indicators:

  • Inflexible or rigid independence: frequently trying to do everything on your own versus asking for help or accepting help.
  • Discomfort when others show up for you or express their love and appreciation for you.
  • The consistent determination that other’s needs, wants and desires are more important than your own.
  • Feeling guilty when you are given help, love, affection, or positive affirmations.
  • Difficulty trusting motives or intentions of others when you are shown kindness or good-will.
  • Denying compliments or positive feedback from others due to not feeling worthy.
  • A consistent pattern of one-sided giving in your relationships and comfort with the lack of reciprocity.
  • Deep-seated beliefs that you are undeserving of good things, love, respect, or happiness.
  • Difficulty recognizing what healthy receiving from others looks like.
  • Worthiness and value being heavily tied to productivity.

If this rings true for you, we want to share with you that like most new skills, you can take steps to begin building new neurological pathways in your brain and begin practicing new behaviors and patterns to build your receptive capacity. Here are a few simple strategies to help you get started:

  1. Pause, slow down and notice thoughts, feelings, and sensations that occur in your body and mind when others want to give to you or when you are receiving. It’s important to become aware of what receiving brings up for you in your mind, body, and spirit.
  2. Open your heart: When you receive positive feedback, love, or affirmation from others, sit with your feelings and give yourself permission to receive them, letting them sink in and settle into your heart instead of dismissing them. Visualize your heart opening to receive all that you feel.
  3. Start small—practice saying yes more often to assistance and allow yourself to be supported.
  4. Practice on yourself: gift yourself with what you are needing, such as time for self-care, rest, or encouraging and uplifting words.
  5. Talk with a therapist about your hang-ups and struggles with receiving. In the therapeutic space, you can safely explore your personal barriers to receiving from yourself or others and gain tools to help you increase your receptive capacity.
  6. Bodywork: Try simple yoga poses focused on opening the body and heart (always check with your doctor before beginning any type of exercise or physical activity).
  7. Practice simple positive affirmations frequently:

I am open to receiving good things in my life

I am open to receiving love.

I am worthy of love

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You are worthy. You are loved. You are valued. You deserve good things. Today, will you open your hands, minds, and heart to receive?

Authors: Janiel L. Henry, Psy.D. PSY#28724, Jennifer Sasaki, LMFT #82462

*Please Note: The information provided on or through this website or blog is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use. Engaging with this material does not constitute a client/therapist relationship*

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