A family during Christmas. Image Credit: Agency

DUBAI: Dr Alina Vasilache, Clinical Psychologist at NovoMed in Dubai, takes us through the many psychological aspects of giving and receiving gifts.

Receiving a gift, she says, is like receiving an approval from others or a social message that we are “good enough to be loved”.

“When we receive a gift, we automatically interpret it to be an affirmation of the fact that we are important for the person who offered us the gift. It is essential for people to feel loved and cared. The psychological reward [in receiving a gift] consists in adding self-value to our self-concept based on feedback (a gesture) received from others. Social rewards too are important for humans.”

Any downside for giver and recipient?

“The only possible downside is disappointment (which is a negative feeling) if the gift is not meeting one’s expectations. In this case, we are talking about being able to regulate expectations. At the same time, if the giver can sense the disappointment in the receiver that will also bring negative feelings and most probably not reinforce similar gestures in future. It’s the reaction that goes: ‘Well, if you don’t like it, I will never buy a gift again.’

“While disappointment is possible when receiving a gift, if it affects a relationship, this is normally a sign that the relationship is not strong enough and has other more underlying issues. If a relationship (no matter what type) is shaken due to a disappointing gift, clearly it has a weak foundation.”

Festive occasions are often a source of pleasure and dread as far as gifts go

“Buying gifts for many family members and friends at the same time can be stressful, especially if you are worried that you might disappoint with your gifts, but strategies can be used to reduce this stress. One of the most useful disciplines is to buy the gifts in time and not wait until the last moment. You can also make a note ahead in time about what each person wants or is interested in and delegate and share this responsibility with family or friends when buying the gifts.”

Are gifts all about how much money is spent on them?

“Gifts should be more about the personality and interests of the receiver because what we want is to give a clear message that we care about the receivers, so in reality this is where the focus should be. Of course, sometimes we want to give more than what we can afford, but we must work with the reality of our limited budget and work within that to convey the message that we care. As far as the expectations of the receiver, that is not our responsibility; we are not responsible of how they will react ... we are only responsible for having done our best to show that we care about them through the act of gifting.

“Most of the times though, when we say that a gift reveals the giver’s intentions, we commit a cognitive distortion called ‘mind reading’ ... we believe or we imagine what others think ... and it is not correct to do so. A judgmental attitude can also be a very good reason for choosing who you want to have in your life. The judgmental attitude says more about the receiver than about the giver ... it can be a good source of information about the former’s mindset.

Many times, the gift that are liked the most or treasured for life are what we call “emotional gifts” and not expensive gifts. These are gifts that express love and care only and, in general, they are very well-received.

“And finally, everyone must adhere to the basics when receiving a gift: To appreciate the gesture more than the gift itself.”