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  • Writer's pictureGwyneth Kerr Erwin, Ph.D., Psy.D

Whether ‘Tis Better To ….?


Giving and its “sibling”, Receiving, are pairing counterparts to one interpersonal dynamic. But like siblings, they are not the same. Each has its unique function, each has its specific activity, even personality, but, ideally with the same purpose: to express love. But, not unlike siblings, Giving and Receiving can serve up manipulation, expressions of regret, shame, fear, or even anger. Many people dread giving, or receiving, others, prefer one or the other, wanting to come across as bountiful with giving, while demurring receiving. Still others, battle with feelings of envy or greed during this intricate psychological process.

I LOVE giving, and I LOVE receiving. There is a child inside me, still very much alive, who delights in lovely surprises, finding just the perfect item for someone I love, enjoying their pleasure and excitement, and, on the other hand, finds equal delight in opening something to be discovered and appreciated. I can credit my dad as well – he was a great gift giver, generous and thoughtful. Having been poor growing up to become successful, he found great happiness in gifting. Flip the coin, though, and he was not good at receiving, since his boyhood poverty propelled him to buy for himself whatever he needed or desired, without being showy.

My husband, Bill, was another story of giving and receiving. He studied the whole process. He pondered all its psychological ramifications. He embraced receiving and then suffered over exactly what to give. Not the act of giving, but of getting it “right.” We knew each other better than anyone else in the world. He knew, for instance, that I love pens, and have hundreds and use them all, each for a different reason. He knew I love technology, which mainly stymied him. And he knew the problems the discs in my back caused me. On one of my birthdays, glowing, he laid out his wrapped gifts to me: The first, a shopping warehouse package of 50 Bic Pens (my least favorite!, they glob). The second, a bright orange, 50’ power cord (not a power strip!). And then holding up a finger for me to wait breathlessly, he rolled in a several-hundred-pound-capacity hand truck dolly! I struggled to turn my ovalling mouth into an expression of delight.

Then I looked at his beaming face, his eyes lit with excitement, his smile spreading wide. He’d done it! Given me everything I possibly could have wanted! My heart melted, and his true gift of knowing me, striving to meet me where I was at, wrapped itself around me, raising me to my feet. Embracing him, I whispered in his ear, “Perfect!”

I don’t think he ever went shopping for me again without taking my daughters along.

Whatever our ages, whatever the season, whatever the occasion, Giving and Receiving is all about “meeting,” about saying “I see you!” I know you!” “I love you!”

For further self and other understanding, order your copy as a gift for you or someone you love of The Developmental Lens: A New Paradigm for Psychodynamic Diagnosis and Treatment, today.

Thank you. Dr. Gwyn Erwin

P.S. And don’t forget, for those who yearn to write and find their voice, uplevel their writing skills, or for professionals to develop their ideas on the page, look for the The Flow Write Card Decks available on my website,, and The Flow Write Journal (Annual and Seasonal) on amazon.


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