Today we are continuing this weeks series of posts on the issue of how complementary therapists (and others in the helping professions) can get comfortable with the process of earning a fair wage for what they do and what they offer the world.
Pablo Picasso once said: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
Now, I must admit, that the first time I read this quote, my cynical side thought “Pablo Picasso, one of the richest painters and artists who has ever lived… I hardly think he gave it away that much.”
But, knowing now more about the man and his art, that was an unfair thought… because even though Picasso charged for his paintings… (Boy, did he know how to charge!)… he also gave them away for free at times.
But, if Pablo is looking down from above, I hope he will not mind too much if I change his quotation slightly to…
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to… share it.”
And that is an interesting word… share.
The primary definition which I found online states: “a part or portion of a larger amount which is divided among a number of people, or to which a number of people contribute.”
And there are two interesting points which arise from this definition.
First: The definition does not say that which you intend to share will be given away for free… but neither does it say that it will definitely have a price attached. It is neutral around the question of money.
But when complementary therapists contemplate the subject of sharing their gifts with the world…
“To charge or not to charge when sharing, that is the question.”
… then for some reason many of them come to the conclusion, remain firm to the belief, that sharing = for free.
And I think it is because for many therapists, when they interact with their clients, they do so in an atmosphere of caring, they do so from a Heart space… and when you do that, when you interact with people from that space… then you tend to equate sharing with for free.
It’s almost as if, at the end of a session, complementary therapists need to find a way to come out of the Heart space, so they can say “That’ll be so many dollars or pounds please.”
Other professions – i.e. lawyers, car mechanics, taxi drivers – do not tend to interact with their clients from a Heart space… (or rather the ones I have met to date don’t tend to)… and so for them, sharing their gifts also implies a fair exchange of energy / money for what they have given / contributed. For them, sharing also includes an element of monetary exchange.
You see, in the main, human beings are programmed towards there being a fair exchange between parties, and our civilization could not function if this was not the case.
Nietzche once said man is a bridge between the animal and the Divine.
And this is true… as we contemplate the Divine, while in human form, we need to also recognize that a lot of our biological programming and behavior was established back on the Serengetti plains in Africa, over 3 million years ago, when our apelike ancestors came down from the trees and started to walk upright.
And if you are a zoologist, and you spend time with any of our nearest relatives in terms of evolution – gorillas, chimpanzees etc – what you find is a sharing… but a mutually beneficial sharing.
The phrase “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine…” is literally true when it comes to grooming, which is one of the main acts of social interaction within gorilla society say. And it is something which we cannot do successfully on your own.
The sentiment behind grooming is very much… if you will help me, then I will help you… and over all, we all have a better chance of surviving “if” we all share, if we all support one another.
What you don’t find in these gorilla and chimpanzee tribes, are individuals who go “Don’t worry, I’ll groom everyone else… but I am not expecting anyone else to groom me. I am happy to help others, but I don’t want to be groomed in return.”
… If any odd individual ape ever did that, then they would end up one smelly, flea infested gorilla.
But that is basically the same thing which happens when any complementary therapist doesn’t charge a fair financial rate which positively supports them. They become all giving, and no receiving… and in the end, they’re the ones who suffer.
Now I am not saying that, from time to time, you shouldn’t give away a therapy session for free… people have helped me in the past without charging… and I have done the same to people in need (i.e. you pay it forwards).
Life isn’t always black and white, and outside of physics and chemistry, rules aren’t always 100% fixed… and sometimes the Heart is more important then earning money.
But what I am saying is that, if practicing a complementary therapy is your primary way of earning a living, then it is important that you ensure there is balance in your interactions with others, if you give then you also allow yourself to receive… and in our society… the best way of receiving is via money.
Remember Pablo Picasso gave the occasional painting away for free, but he also knew how to charge for his gift to the world. So, if you need… be more like Picasso.
More Picasso wisdom soon.
(c) Brian Parsons, August 2016.