If I had to characterize one personality type that has the most difficulty changing, it would be “the giver”. The giver is a person who spends his or her life doing for others. They consistently put their needs on the back burner and take care of all of those that come before them. Invariably, they hook up with spouses, children, grandchildren or employees that depend on them in an insatiable way. The more the person gives, the more the insatiables want.
After the giver has established a well-developed pattern of giving, the relationship between giver and taker gets ugly. If the giver decides to do less, the takers get desperate. They may start moaning and groaning that they can’t do it without the giver’s help. They may begin to manipulate or guilt the giver into giving.
I witness on a daily basis takers who tell their parents that they are selfish because they won’t provide them with material things. I have seen spouses expect to be given unlimited use of the credit card. I have seen people blackmail the giver to get their way.
When a giver comes into my office, they don’t necessarily come to “fix the giving”. They come because they are tired, depressed, or feel guilty because they don’t feel adequate. They know something is missing in their life, but they don’t know what.
Givers are in serious need of boundary training. They create high expectations and are easily manipulated into guilt. They fear if they don’t do things for the taker, the taker will not make it in life. The giver has created a vicious cycle where the more they give, the more dependent the other person is upon them.
The challenge becomes weaning them from the dependency with the least amount of guilt possible. When someone is totally dependent on you for their basic needs or money, not only will they get nasty when you withdraw it, but they will understandably have difficulty maintaining their existence on their own. There are all sorts of outcomes that may occur because the giver withdraws their financial, emotional or physical giving.
Unfortunately, the giver will have to witness things getting worse before they get better. This is an excruciating process to watch others suffer without intervening and yet it is necessary.
A dependent person can’t get better, stronger, and more self-reliant without struggle. It’s imperative that a giver understands that when they help their loved one they are hurting them because they are sending messages that they can’t do it for themselves. Psychologically, the giver thinks they have helped, but really they have created an unhealthy dependence that has conditioned the taker into thinking they can’t do it for themselves This is a hard concept for givers, because it goes against what they have been doing all of their lives.
I generally see a giver in therapy once they have been totally depleted of their emotional and physical resources. They come in when they have no more to give. This is when they need to work on receiving.
Givers are totally uncomfortable with receiving help or assistance from others. I explain to them that it cheats others from being able to give to them. I encourage givers to look for opportunities to be passive and to receive. Givers don’t know whether it’s tougher to stop giving, or to start receiving.
Once givers effectively break the pattern of giving they will experience the benefits of receiving and being replenished. When this occurs, sometimes for the first time, they experience the give-and-take of life.