The Emotional Life Behind Gift Giving & Receiving

by | Dec 24, 2021 | Trend

In my practice, I observe how many people experience gifting as very stressful. Many place unnecessary pressure on giving “the perfect gift”. And although we may not like to admit it, most of us wish for “the perfect gift” in return. Historically this makes sense, as gift giving has largely been transactional in nature. So, when the gift doesn’t live up to our built up expectations it can take away from the excitement or satisfaction we feel. Worse, it can create negative emotions towards the other person, and that’s the last thing anyone wants during the holidays. 

To avoid this outcome, you have to focus on reducing the emotional stress around gift giving and receiving. Instead of obsessing over the “best” gifts for your loved ones, remind yourself that gift giving is also an opportunity to practice altruism and share feelings of admiration with one another. Connecting to the aspect of giving for the sake of acknowledging each other increases the chance of satisfaction. Your satisfaction comes from being better equipped to enjoy the gift giving when you’re not overly stressed about a perfect outcome. And, by remaining true to the positive sharing, cheerful spirit of giving – you’ve already been successful in your endeavors. 

Your satisfaction also has a better chance of remaining high when you remind yourself that you have the power to control it, by keeping your appraisal of the meaning of the gift realistic. (BTW, I am not naïve to the manipulative ways people might use gift exchanges. Still at times, your own past emotional gifting experience can skew your present interpretation of today’s exchanges. That might be causing you added stress. Check in with yourself in that regard.) Either way, you have a choice to own your reaction to it. For example, centering the exchanging of gifts around the selfless meaning of it reframes the exchange as something to look forward to, not worry about. It fosters more realistic expectations of having a successful gift exchange, because it expands the act of giving as an extension of your relationship with the other, instead of narrowing it to the art of perfecting. The way you appraise the meaning behind the gifts makes a big impact on the way you can reduce your stress level. 

I hope this has shed a new light on gifting this holiday season, and that you can use the tools to make it the best exchange yet. Have a wonderful, relaxing, stress free holiday, and I’ll see you in the new year! 

Happy holidays, 
Dr. Tal Leead, Psy.D. 


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