The power behind gift giving and receiving. Christmases and birthdays — celebrations that include receiving gifts — are emotionally-loaded times for me. Like most traumas, the root of my discomfort is lodged in childhood.
I was taught that finding joy in receiving was selfish but to give was divine. “God loves a happy giver,” my parents preached.
It was not until my forties that I began to examine my discomfort around receiving gifts. I remember one Christmas when I was eleven years old. Instead of the FOA Schwarz castle and knight set I had prayed for, my father opted for an educational toy, a chemistry set. A chemical engineer by training, my father couldn’t understand why I wasn’t stronger in science.
Christmases were like that in the Siegel household. Gifts had goals, and few were given freely. Most had hidden messages, and all had sticky invisible strings attached to them.
One year, Dad gave Mother an ornate sterling silver punch bowl. Upon opening it, she burst into tears. Hers were not tears of joy; Dad had been after Mother for years to entertain more.
It’s not the actual gift that matters; it’s the intention behind it. When I know the gift was given with the expectation that it will thrill me, it usually does. I feel loved.
The right gift can help us feel seen and understood. When we receive a gift that hits the mark, it is as if the recipient has said, “I see you. I know who you are.”
Likewise, when we receive a gift that is totally off-mark it can make us feel sad and misunderstood. As recipients, we have some responsibility in helping others give to us.
When I am asked what I want for Christmas or my birthday, too often I reply, “I don’t know; I really don’t need anything.” I respond similarly when a friend senses that I have an emotional need. I don’t want to appear needy, but when I don’t share my wants and needs how can I expect others to know them — and know me?
I used to think that if they really knew me they would magically know my needs. I now know better. I have a responsibility to speak out and let others know what I want and need.
Receiving still causes me some angst; old patterns are hard to change. But it is less stressful than it once was. When I let people know my wants and needs I give myself the greatest gift of all: I allow others to really see me and know me for who I am.
My Gift to You: To thank you for your friendship and support, I’d like to offer you a free copy of my special report on Your Ideal Work Environment.