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4.01. Gifts


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4.01. Gifts

Gifts to customize, original gift idea and personalized gift: Gifts   The hidden meaning of gifts... What our gifts...
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4.02. Gifts and their hidden meanings

Gifts Gifts and their hidden meanings:   Gifts and their hidden meanings, "what our gifts say about us", gifts on...
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Gifts to customize, original gift idea and personalized gift:



  1. The hidden meaning of gifts…
  2. What our gifts say about us
  3. Psychologically:
  4. Tell me what you offer…
  5. Opportunities to offer 
  6. And after the presents…
  7. Reasons to resell your gift?
  8. Conclusions.


  1. The hidden meaning of gifts…

“The Indian word for gift, sabir chinook, means both gift and… poison, as Michel Lejoyeux teaches us in his book “Awaken your desires”.

The choice of a gift is therefore not insignificant, and one exposes oneself to enthusiastic, neutral, negative or even worse, hypocritical reactions. But let’s not dramatise. This is not the spirit of the site. Above all, I wanted to share with you an important piece of information for the success of a gift: the hidden meaning. We will complete the site with advice (validated by science) so as not to make a mistake in the choice of the gift.

Consider the following cases and their psychological and symbolic significance:

>  A gift that does not come out of its wrapping:

Denotes the presence of childhood trauma. There is a painful parties-related effect that the person does not wish to evoke.

>  A gift that is too expensive to be honest: 

A gift that is too expensive to be honest: when you give a gift that is too expensive, it is perceived as an attempt to dominate and a demonstration of superiority. There is, therefore, discomfort, especially when reciprocity is impossible.

A school bag or a textbook: this type of “useful” gift shows a fear of emotions. It is a way of reassuring oneself by the functional nature of the object.


>  A gift voucher:

This utilitarian choice is either a fear of transmitting one’s emotions and choices, or a lack of interest in the person… An electric train or a teddy bear to a young person who doesn’t want one: this is a roundabout way of filling a personal gap. We offer what we wanted during childhood.

 > A gift resold on a site the very next day:

We do not tolerate a desire imposed on us, or it may be a negative opinion of the person who offered it.

> A gift that we like for a long time:

 A gift that we like for a long time: it shows a good knowledge of our desires by ourselves or by those who want to spoil us. It also shows that we know how to express what we like through conscious or unconscious messages. A real good surprise: a gift that we did not expect or hope for and which awakens new or forgotten emotions.


2. What our gifts say about us


At the beginning of the last century, Marcel Mauss, an ethnologist, began to study donation in so-called archaic societies. He visited the Maori of New Zealand and the Kwakiutl, the Amerindian people of Canada. His observations, recorded in 1925 in his famous Essay on Giving (InSociologie et Anthropologie PUF, “Quadrige”, 2004), remain curiously topical in order to understand what happens under our trees when our little shoes are filled with flower cups, cufflinks or CDs by the thousands.

As in the kula, the exchange system of the Maori, or in the potlatch, its equivalent among the Kwakiutls, we too play the game of compulsory voluntary exchange: we offer partly because we want to, and partly because tradition obliges us to. We are even, revealed the ethnologist, subject to a triple obligation: to give, but also to receive (who dares to say “no, thanks” to Aunt Nicole’s gift?) and to give gift for gift, otherwise our relations may be broken.


3. a) Psychologically:


  > love requests


Psychologically, these rules have some consequences. In principle, our gifts are tokens of love,” notes psychoanalyst Samuel Lepastier. Emotional nourishment that finds its prototype in the gift of food from mother to child. The successful gift is, therefore, one that, in the same way, satisfies the most intimate need of the person receiving it. In reality, “to give is to take,” continues psychologist Maryse Vaillant. It is an idea that shocks our Judeo-Christian imagination, where giving must be free and disinterested. But, as in Mauss’ potlatch, we are putting our beneficiary in the position of a debtor. In a way we expect a return on our investment. As such, those who give the most are often those who tend to complain about people’s ingratitude. “Under generous exteriors our gifts would therefore be, above all, requests for love.

   > Mirrors of the soul


While psychoanalysis was still in its infancy, Marcel Mauss made another discovery: gifts have a soul. In the Maori language it is said that they contain the mana, the spiritual essence of the giver, but also the haughtiness, the spirit of the object offered. One shudders to learn that “the Indian word for gift, sabir chinook, means both gift… and poison” (extract from “Marcel Mauss today”, an article by the sociologist Jean-Paul Molinari, available on the Internet: In any case, “the gift symbolises the person loved,” sums up Samuel Lepastier. Like a cuddly toy, it reminds us of his or her presence and helps us to bear his or her absence. “Conversely, it also seeks to symbolise the recipient, responding to what we presume to be his or her tastes and interests. This is why a failed gift hurts us so much,” explains Maryse Vaillant. Because it reveals how little the giver knows about us, and reveals the image he is trying to lock us into. »

3. b) Psychology: what our gifts reveal (decoding with a psychotherapist)


“Giving a gift is not an insignificant act. The gift says as much about the giver as it does about the receiver”. Our gifts speak. About oneself, the giver, and about others, the receiver. To decipher the hidden meaning of this gift, it is useful to know why we give a gift, how we receive it and what it implies in return. Deciphering this ritual: 

               > Our love for each other.

 The gift is first of all the mark of attachment. “In the private sphere, giving a gift marks the emotional bond that one forms with the other, whereas in the professional sphere, it is often a social ritual that cannot be cut off,” explains Sylvie Tenenbaum, psychotherapist in Paris and author of “Ce que disent nos cadeaux (Editions Leduc)”.

Our gifts speak for themselves. Of oneself, the giver, of others, the receiver. In order to decipher the hidden meaning of this gift, it is welcome to know why we give a gift, how we welcome it and what it implies in return. Deciphering this ritual that most of us respect.

               >  mark of attachment.


Our love of the other. The gift is first and foremost a mark of attachment. “In the private sphere, giving a gift marks the emotional bond we form with the other person, whereas in the professional sphere, it is often a social ritual that cannot be cut off,” explains Sylvie Tenenbaum, a psychotherapist in Paris and author of “Ce que disent nos cadeaux (Editions Leduc)”.

               > offering it, receiving it and giving it back


“The gift implies three acts, offering, receiving and giving it back, an implicit gesture, but a real obligation and, for some, a real constraint.”Our modesty. Do you hate giving gifts? Perhaps avarice has nothing to do with it. Perhaps you are simply uncomfortable with your emotions. But giving is giving a part of yourself. Those who don’t like to give can also be people who are afraid to reveal themselves and don’t want to open up to others,” says the expert. They may also be people who do not want to enter into social rituals. Strangely, some people will skip Christmas and prefer to give a gift on Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve. This is a certain form of anarchism. »

               > Our selfishness.


“When we take the time to choose the gift, when we try to identify what will really please the other person rather than just buying a candle jar in a hurry, we really maintain the relationship and the other person receives it with pleasure. The gift is then a success, explains Sylvie Tenenbaum. On the other hand, there can be egocentric gifts, gifts that are made for oneself, regardless of the other person’s tastes. Sometimes the gift may be luxurious, but you’ve missed out. »

                > Our bragging rights.

 “When we give very expensive gifts or drown each other in an avalanche of presents, the message is often: See how generous I am! This can make the other person uncomfortable, especially if the recipient cannot return the gift to the same level as the one received,” continues the psychotherapist. For some, however, doing so is a way of redistributing to those who have less than they have. »


  1. Tell me what you offer: deciphering.


     a) According to Maryse Vaillant, psychologist:


 “There is what we offer. But above all there is the way we offer it, with more or less confidence, good taste, staging.” 

                    >The one who offers what he has lacked


Every childhood is marked by missed gifts. The one we had hoped for so much (a bicycle, an electric train, a doll) and never got. The ones we remember are the ones that, in an episode of vulnerability, came to signify the incapacity of our parents to give us, at that moment, the love we so longed for. In adulthood, the gifts we receive sometimes bear the trace of those failed gifts of childhood. Whoever gives them to us gives us the gift of the unheard love he has dreamed of. The touching question: is it a child’s dream?


                  > The one who makes beautiful gifts


There is the one who, like Emperor Caligula, rains gifts on the crowd. By his largesse, he puts himself in a high position. Great generosity is sometimes a strong indication of the will to dominate. Beware of the great lover lord who covers us with jewels. Beware also of friends who always keep the table open, willingly lend us money, help us out in case of need. Their prodigality can be a way, insidious and unconscious, to gain the upper hand over us. The question that hurts is: what place do they want to occupy?


                     > The one who offers useful gifts


A pie shovel, a hoover, a drill…Useful gifts are often the most disappointing. Not only because they are down-to-earth, devoid of poetry or dreams, but above all because they often convey an indelicate message in passing. Offering a slimming programme to his wife, an oven to his daughter-in-law is tantamount to disapproving of their appearance or their talents, under the pretext of bringing them help. The question that kills is: what is it good for?

                       > the one who gives poisoned gifts


These are the gifts that can never be returned, as their value is so overwhelming. But also those that give us a responsibility that we have not chosen. A typical example: a dog, if we have not asked for it. As a gift, it is a sum of constraints that is offered to us. As if it were a way to keep us on a leash…

The poisoned gift is also the one that denies us our place (the grandmother who offers our child the gift we had refused her) or deprives us of a pleasure (that of choosing or acquiring the offered object ourselves). The angry question: what freedom do I have left?

                        > The one who never offers anything…


… or not much at all.Under stingy exteriors, those who give few gifts often hide a great narcissistic fragility. They may not have been brought up with the idea that they could please, and they may have lacked confidence in their own generosity. Rather than giving of themselves at the risk of disappointing, they prefer to offer conventional gifts at a low price or refrain from doing so. And suffer in spite of their loved ones. The question that sheds light on: what fragility is behind it?


                       > The one who gives vouchers


Giving a voucher or a little money, the gift is easy and quick to send. But what can pass for indifference may, once again, be the fear of falling by the wayside. There is in this immaterial gift modesty (the one who offers does not reveal his tastes, his imagination) and respect (even if he does not know how to give us some, our pleasure matters to him) The question that brings us together: how to reassure him?

       b) Bénédicte Régimont: author specialised in the psychology of the home, lecturer and entrepreneur – (


“My reflection was inspired by this young girl who shared her distress with the whole bus when the conversation with her boyfriend should have been in private: 


“But why do you always remind me of the price of the gifts you give me?” 


Who has never received a poisoned gift? Who has never been perplexed by a gift that resonates with revenge or proves that the other person does not know you, even if it is someone close to you? Gifts are unconscious messages that we offer to others while waiting for a subtle (or not) appropriate response.

“For yes, the gift is not always unselfish. It is a way of becoming attached to the other person, or even of buying them. Blackmail (harmless at first sight) begins in childhood: “You’ll get this lollipop if you’re wise.” I don’t blame anyone, as I myself have used this fallacious principle. Later it continues, sometimes into adulthood. Family gifts, when they involve heritage, can be double-edged. Gifts are not always unselfish, far from it.”


               > The mirror gift


“Offering is above all an onanist act. We offer for our own personal pleasure. No need to get carried away in the comments, even if you think of the other, there is you in the gifts you offer. The gift is above all about yourself. We offer what we would have liked to receive, we offer what we didn’t receive as children, we offer what we think the other person will like, we offer what the other person will like so that he or she will love us in return. It also shows what we are willing to do for the other person: “If you only knew how much it cost me”. And this sentence alone has the power to spoil the pleasure by bringing in the notion of sacrifice and guilt. If you can’t afford to give a gift, don’t do it, and if you do, let it be with heart, even if you eat pasta until the end of the month”.


             > No, I don’t want a gift


How many people say “no, for Christmas, don’t give me anything, I don’t need anything” knowing full well that a gift will be given to them in spite of everything. This false disinterestedness will be followed by indignation when you actually bring nothing. At best the person wants to be understood without saying a word (= you pay attention to me, you understand me) at worst it is because they have no desire to give you a gift in return. If you give one, he or she will feel indebted to you. There are also people who have such low self-esteem that they don’t allow themselves to receive.

           > To receive is to accept the image that the other person has of us.


If giving is learned, so is receiving. We must have the ability to accept the message of the other through the gift. If the grandmother who systematically offers you an eau de Cologne with heart-shaped soaps has not seen you grow up, she will bring a kind smile because deep down she carries a lot of love for you. On the other hand, accepting a gift from a relative that is a free sample from the company where he or she works requires more self-sacrifice. The exchange of gifts is an opportunity to see if the other person has understood who we are. What stress, what anguish, on both sides. Blessed was the time when we were writing our letter to Father Christmas, the one who knew how to understand our every wish…

           > Why would it be rude to ask for what you want?


Giving a gift is so simple when you know what will please the other person if he or she has had the good idea to evoke it. Wedding lists are becoming more and more distant from the ideal couple’s trousseau. Simply because morals have changed and we have already lived together before getting married. The 200-piece housewife no longer really has a place in gifts. Couples often prefer an envelope to give themselves the trip of their dreams. But some resist and still offer what they have in mind in spite of the couple’s wishes. The gift is a mirror reflecting the selfishness behind false good manners.

            > Is there an ideal gift?


The success of the gift lies in the emotion felt by the recipient. My preference is for gifts that can be shared, those that create a moment of complicity, those that will be remembered, not because they sit on the fireplace, but because we have seen the pleasure and joy in the other’s eyes. I love gifts that are consumed: Pastries, a good bottle, a restaurant… or when the request has been clearly formulated.  And for me the best gifts are spontaneous. Giving a book, an object to the person it reminds us of or because it evokes a recent conversation… It’s a nice way to prove to the other person that he or she is important to us, outside of all social conveniences.


“Lists (birth, birthday, wedding…) allow both parties to be happy.”


  1. Opportunities to offer

                         > The Christmas truce


The particularity of Christmas gifts is that they are exchanged “in a context where we are trying to update the myth of family harmony,” deciphers Samuel Lepastier. But the gathering of the group automatically leads to an accentuation of the tensions that run through it. From then on, the gift becomes more than ever a language. It allows each person to assert his or her position, to settle scores. »

Christmas is also “a ritual in which it is important to show one’s availability to others,” suggests Maryse Vaillant. Maturity would require that one be able, at least for the time of a feast, to show that one accepts to be part of the clan, even if it is not the case all year round. »

The Christmas spirit would benefit from being inspired more by its pagan origin. During the winter solstice, when the days are shortest and the fear of death is at its height, lights were turned on at night,” says the psychologist. A gift is a contribution to the Festival of Lights. “And she adds, mischievously: “Do you know what role I think everyone wants the most? It’s Father Christmas. The one who lights up the children’s eyes and gives them a lot to see. A generous position? Nothing could be more narcissistic! »


  1. And after receiving a gift …

As many Christmas gifts have been arriving on resale sites from person to person for the past few years, the phenomenon seems to be becoming more and more part of our fellow citizens’ habits,

This situation is undoubtedly due to poor gift choices or the duplication of a gift unless it is the result of economic difficulties among some citizens or simply to have cash available, often for a completely different purpose.

However, undergarments offered at Christmas are not very appreciated as Christmas gifts and are massively resold on these resale sites as early as Boxing Day .

Whether on Ebay, Priceminister or elsewhere few dare to claim that they are reselling a Christmas gift received from a relative or friend.

The resale of gifts on the Internet is “a more important societal phenomenon than last year”, no doubt linked “also to the crisis”, adds Laurent Radix, president of In the past, the gift that is not suitable “remained at the back of the cupboard, today, we try to enhance it”.

The managers of PriceMinister (French site) estimate that between 26 December and 15 January between 3 and 3.5 million new objects are offered on resale sites, a figure twice as high as the annual average over the same period?

The majority of resellers wait until January to put on the unwanted Christmas gift(s),

According to Leyla Guilany-Lyard, spokesperson for Ebay France, we are also seeing the use of smartphones for the sale of unwanted Christmas gifts. This method would be more impulsive and faster.

Using your smartphone on Christmas Eve to sell your gifts is more discreet than using your computer and above all much faster: you take a photo of the object and in a few tens of seconds it is placed on the sales site…


  1. Reasons to resell your gift?

– Duplicate gift and to have a little bit of money 

summarises Olivier Mathiot, the co-founder of

“It ends up becoming a habit, especially among the youngest, and it is often linked to the fact of having duplicate gifts or a desire to have a little money.” 

According to a survey carried out by Ebay in November 2013 the reasons for reselling your gift for:

– 40% of French people give themselves something else.

– desire to save for 38%.

– pay part of the cost of the Christmas parties for 29%.

– offer something to a loved one for 9% of those surveyed.


  1. Conclusion choosing a gift (for scientifically proven pleasure)

Francis Flynn, from Stanford University, has studied in depth the art of gift giving. The result of his research is that giving a (nearly perfect) gift involves knowing how to put oneself in the place of the person receiving it (we were talking about empathy recently). The second factor, which is not really one, is the price. Indeed, the value of a gift is not measured by the price invested and that’s fortunate, you’ll agree!

“The key is therefore: personalisation“. 

 A gift voucher is therefore (use the following list as a checklist):

  •  personalised
  •  not too expensive…nor too cheap
  •  it pleases the recipient as much as it pleases the giver
  •  it reveals the personality and desires of the giver and recipient
  •  it makes you laugh without mocking

Thus, Michel Lejoyeux suggests, to please a teenager, to offer him time with you via a trip, an experience,… simple and yet so effective!

Tip: we will take the following advice within families: set a maximum price for gifts. This solves many cases of conscience and allows you to really focus on personalisation, in short, the essential!



Bibliographic references


– “ce que nos cadeaux disent de nous » –

– “Et comme tous les ans nous vendons nos cadeaux à Noël (25-12-2013) – L’express :

– “Dis-moi ce que tu offres, je te dirai qui tu es” Huffingtonpost”


–  “Ce que révèlent nos cadeaux” Le Parisien “Psychologie : Le 25 décembre 2010 à 07h00

“Le sens caché des cadeaux…Par Jeff · 2 Novembre, 2015

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