Hating and panic over buying presents for others

My entire life, I have hated and been panicked about buying presents for others, whether it was a little thank you gift or a birthday present for my children or worst of worst, Christmas presents (because there were so many to buy PLUS so much to organise in terms of festivities).

When observing ANY people around me, I would be amazed and envious that they seemed to enjoy the prospect of thinking of a present for their loved one and enjoy the experience of shopping for the right thing. I just didn’t know why I wasn’t like them?

Christmases were a tense nightmare as a child

My Christmases as a child were not happy ones, the family atmosphere was always tense, so it seemed to make sense that my bad feelings about buying presents must originate from there.

However, my siblings did not have that problem? This observation compounded my own self-loathing for not being to do something they obviously had risen above. . . The fact that they and everyone else always bought me things that pleased me made me feel even worse . . .

Agonizing for hours over buying a present?

So I really hated to plan Christmas or birthdays for my kids -especially that as all children do, they had big expectations which I felt incapable to fulfil- but even simple presents for anyone were for me a horror to buy, and I did everything I could to avoid having to do this. If possible, I would sneakily arrange for someone else to go through the dreaded chore for me, or I would simply buy nothing at all (the feeling of embarrassment for not giving anything was less painful than my fear of buying something!).

If neither of these solutions was possible, I agonized for hours and days about WHAT to buy; I simply NEVER had any good ideas or ideas that EVER felt right, and when I would go into stores to finally try to buy something, I would walk from aisle to aisle, my stomach in knots, terrified of buying something that was not right, and also terrified about spending money in a useless way. And of course, in those dreadful conditions, my choices were most of the time bad ones . . .

It was REALLY awful to be this way, but as I had always been like this as far as I could remember, I just lived with it and did my best anguished self . . . and then breathed sighs of relief as soon as the gift giving was over . . . until the next hellish present buying duty came along.

I subconsciously avoid being around at Christmas time

Then I got divorced . . . feeling freer and a bit more empowered to do things as I wished, I dealt with my hatred of present buying by daring to tell my kids (much older by then) that I would not buy them presents any more but just support projects (like pay for a plane ticket) . . .I would see my kids during the normal year but they ‘conveniently’ (I think I subconsciously arranged for this) went to celebrate Christmas with their father so I could ‘conveniently’ go travel to some country during the season ‘wherever Christmas did not exist or was not seen much’. I did this for 7 years in a row. . .

Then a year ago, my lover invited me to spend Christmas with his family. Oh hell, that would mean presents, wrapping paper and family reunions! I was truthful in telling my lover why I didn’t like that holiday, that I had knots in my stomach instantly coming back at the thought of facing meeting new people during such festivities AND having to bring presents for all of them! How absolutely horrible of a prospect!

A recent festive invite sets off the panic again

My lover first tried to reassure me by saying that his family was not into fancy holidays, that no one was much into presents and that he himself was not good at giving or receiving them and that he just dealt with it by making really quick decisions, buying books or simply giving money. It made things very slightly better for me, but still, I was in a panic. My lover thought I was really strange to make such a deal of so little especially since he repeated his family did not make much of a fuss about presents at all, so I had not rational reason to worry. But I STILL did. Panic and dread are not easily controllable by the rational mind?

Seeing this was not enough to help me and wanting to make light of things and relax me, he spoke up a scenario in which he was jokingly announcing my fear of presents and holidays to his family joking to my lover and his family is their way to release tension around uncomfortable situations, assuring me that everyone would laugh and certainly not condemn me and that I would be fine. . .

Well, rather than ease my tension, hearing about this mere possibility made me immediately burst into tears and beg him to not say anything, I was SO embarrassed and hated myself so much for not being able to do what everyone else seems to be able to do so easily!

How is it possible to have such a huge reaction to such normal events?

My lover, to say the least, was floored by my huge reaction over something as trivial as this . . .

Well, yes, my reaction had been so emotional and so strong that I could not avoid the issue any longer. It seemed like the time to resolve it had come blaring AND I needed help if I was actually going to say yes to this invitation. Because right then, I only felt like running away or finding ANY excuse to not go! Yet I knew running away was not going to make the problem go away so I had to ‘go for it’ and face it.

It seemed crazy to work on such a trivial issue where there are so many bigger ones to resolve, but it was ‘right in my face’ and REALLY hampering my days; every waking hour, I was once again tied in knots and they would not go away . . .

The beginning of the end of this reaction and panic

Well, Clive sent me one clearing focus to do around it.

Within hours, my panic and anxiety eased enough that I was able to say yes to the invitation.

My lover helped me out by saying we would buy the presents as a couple and so we chose books together. Only I was in charge of hunting for some antic prints shop for a special present. I found a suitable store without too much problem and I did spend way too much time choosing a print but STILL, I did it and without horrible stress.

The Christmas celebration went well: I was at ease with all the new people, not afraid of the presents, in part because indeed my lover’s family was way more relaxed about this gift giving and receiving than I had witnessed in my own family and I had also the support of my lover. So I felt quite happy, and even made peace with the idea of the Christmas celebration.

What happened would not prove much except that since then, so in the last year, without working on this issue any more in any way, I have simply noticed that every time I have a present giving opportunity, I don’t run away from it any more. I do not get into a panic, AND I always seem to know what to give. AND I am not worried about not giving anything if no good enough idea comes to mind . . . or if it is not crucial to give a present.

I now have a relaxed choice

I have choice to give a present or not, and if I DO choose to give one, I can do it well and with ease! In other words I’m amazingly relaxed about it all.

It’s been a wonder for me to watch myself knowing how to choose /decide on a birthday present for my lover’s daughter or one for my daughter’s fiancé, all without inner struggle and also to see their delighted faces when they open their package!

It’s so strange (but fantastic!) to see such an issue which has been such a part of my entire life be completely gone. For a few months, a part of me was still so imprinted with fear that it still sort of expected it to appear as various gift-giving times arrived . . . but it didn’t and all would go well. Even this anticipation is 95% gone now.

And what did it take to resolve a small but crippling and agonizing issue which I lived several times every year for 30 years?

Not a long drawn-out analysis of my childhood memories, but one simple focus, which took 5 minutes to do, geared at targeting what was acting AGAINST ME to MAKE ME incapable of choosing presents???

It seems so impossible, and all too simple a solution to be believable, yet it’s a true story. Do, you reading this have the same? Would you like this resolved too?