Eliana’s GiveAway

“GiveAways” are marked by what is exchanged, usually something which has special meaning. Traditionally GiveAways involve exchanging things carrying great emotional energy. A typical modern GiveAway ritual is the passing on of family heirlooms, literally entrusting one’s history to another.

The “trust” factor has more importance than the items exchanged in the GiveAway, and often the binding of the GiveAway is given by an oath of some kind. Melodrama uses terms such as “I’ll guard this with my life” or “This was my grandmother’s, then my mother’s, then mine. Now it is yours.”

Some anthropologists consider the oath aspect the start of verbalized social contracts.

Another important factor in items exchanged is knowing we must part with the item in order for something else to come to us. This can’t be something we give away and then take back.

Most importantly, we must GiveAway something that we know has value to everyone involved. Again traditionally, this meant GiveAways involved exchanges of symbolic or real power, symbolic or real value, symbolic or real information, and there’s always an exchange involved to preserve the balance between the parties taking part.”

Eliana, a farmer-strong, middle-aged woman with waist-length, thickly-braided dark brown hair, cerulean-blue eyes, and wearing a paisley blouse with matching peasant skirt, sat opposite me.

Carefully, almost religiously, she placed a small, well-worn, red-velvet pouch tied with an equally old, faded red ribbon in my palm. Once there, it felt heavier than I would have thought and I realized there was something inside.

Once the pouch was in my hand, Eliana fixed her eyes on mine for a moment then returned her gaze to the pouch, ribbon, and whatever was hidden within. “Please open if for me, Joseph.”

Only an old ribbon – which looked it would split if I breathed on it – secured whatever the pouch held, and I was unsure of her offering.

As if understanding my thoughts, Eliana shivered and closed her eyes. “I can’t. I can’t let it escape.”

I focused on the unmoving pouch in my palm. “Is there something alive in there?”

A deep sigh lifted her blouse slightly and she shook her head. “No. Do you know what it is?”

My other hand’s fingers felt the form hidden within, touched it softly, gently, respectfully. “Some kind of horse? With a crown, I think.”

“It’s a unicorn.”

“Ok. You can’t open it because it’ll escape, and I can open it? Are you sure you want me to open it?”

Tears flowed from her closed eyelids. Her head fell back, her throat hollowed, and deep, quaking sobs escaped from some long, hidden place as if she were a volcano rending the bowels of the earth.

“This is very important to you. A memory of some kind and you’ve managed to put it in one place, to tie it up, to bind it so it can’t hurt you anymore, to put a noose around it and keep it and you safe. I’ll accept your gift and I won’t open it until you’re sure you want whatever this represents set free.”

She looked at the pouch again. “Do you know what the memory is?”


“My father repeatedly raped me when I was a child. Every time he raped me he would go out and buy me a unicorn. Through the years I’ve given away all the unicorns except this one.”


“Because he stopped raping me when I had my first period. This was the last unicorn he gave me.”

The symbolism of the unicorn bound in the red pouch astounded me. Even more so because she did it non-consciously, unintentionally.

Through all the work she’d done she was finally able to GiveAway, to release all that energy. She was ready to give it away, ready to move beyond.

“I need you to open it. You won’t let it hurt me. I trust you not to let it hurt me.”

GiveAways are exchanges and Eliana was giving me an incredible gift. Now it was time for me to offer a return.

“Let’s open it together. I’ll hold the pouch, you untie the ribbon and let the unicorn out. The moment you feel that the unicorn is going to hurt you again, I’ll close my hand so it won’t escape.”

She nodded and her sobs returned, except now she was releasing all she carried, all she withheld. She burst the dam and let the water run free. Sobbing and rocking, she untied the ribbon and pulled a beautiful, tiny carousel-style unicorn out of the pouch.

“It’s beautiful.”

Eliana nodded.

“You released all that energy, Eliana. It no longer has power over you. You’re free. And beautiful.”

There were some stains on the unicorn and she used her tears to wash them away, then placed the unicorn back in its pouch, tied the ribbon back up, and curled my fingers over it.

“Thank you,” she said.

I still have that red pouch, the unicorn back inside, and haven’t opened it since.

Eliana’s GiveAway was an incredible healing because that’s what giving it away was, a statement that the last of that pain no longer had a place in her life while recognizing it had been important to her life.

To her, the red pouch, ribbon, and unicorn within were a symbol of familial abuse and pain. There was incredible emotional power and energy there. But power is simply power. There’s no good or bad, there simply is. She trusted me with that power and, in Giving it Away, she utilized that power as an incredible healing by releasing herself from it’s hold.

Eliana’s gift to me was her trust. My gift to her was honoring that trust.


Joseph Carrabis
Joseph Carrabis
Joseph Carrabis has been everything from a long-haul trucker to a Chief Research Scientist and holds patents covering mathematics, anthropology, neuroscience, and linguistics. He served as Senior Research Fellow and Board Advisor to the Society for New Communications Research and The Annenberg Center for the Digital Future; Editorial Board Member on the Journal of Cultural Marketing Strategy; Advisory Board Member to the Center for Multicultural Science; Director of Predictive Analytics, Center for Adaptive Solutions; served on the UN/NYAS Scientists Without Borders program; and was selected as an International Ambassador for Psychological Science in 2010. He created a technology in his basement that's in use in over 120 countries. Now he spends his time writing fiction based on his experiences.

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