I began to think about the gift of giving when I attended an event Some years ago where I was asked to speak about the value of developing philanthropy in young people. In thinking about what I might say, I obviously had to consider the rewards of giving, and as I am wont to do, I ended up relating this, in my own mind, to a relationship focussed on Dominance and submission.
All relationships are about give and take, but in a D/s relationship there is a really strong emphasis on the give, rather than on the take. Because it is based on A Power Exchange, each one person is thinking about the needs of each other and the emphasis becomes very much about what you can give your partner to make their life easier or more pleasurable or more exciting or more of whatever it is you think will make them happy.
In listening to philanthropists talk, I can see that the reward isn’t about the acknowledgement or the thanks they get from other people. In fact many seem to move from one event to the next, with an increasing commitment or challenge to themselves in a way that seems almost to be addictive in terms of bringing them self fulfilment. It seems to be less about the feeling they get because their benefactor appreciates their contribution, and more the way it makes them feel on a personal level.
I think that this can be the same for the giving that takes place in a D/s relationship too. There is some science to this of course. When we act out of generosity certain parts of our brain are stimulated and particular chemicals are released which cause pleasure. The concept of this will come as no surprise to those amongst us who love nothing more than to float away on the endorphin rush of a good scene and drift along on the natural feel-good drugs of the brain.
If this is not for you (I can honestly recommend trying it) then it would also be comparable to the rush or hit that you get from an intense physical workout and the feeling of well being which you can be left with post-exercise. For many of us these things can become addictive, not in the sense of living only for the next fix, but more in the sense that they give us a sense of happiness and pleasure, and somehow enrich our lives.
One part of the brain that is stimulated by giving is in the ventral tegmental area. This area contains dopamine releasing cells which are part of the drug and natural reward system of the brain. This part is important not just for motivation and cognition but also for orgasm, addiction and intense feelings of love. The second part is the subgenual area and this region is rich in serotonin transporters and can affect the mood and self-esteem.
Eek – I hate science, but I do like feeling good about myself and about life and I do like giving to HL in a way that makes me feel selfless, while at the same time knowing that there is something in it for me. To be honest it is paradoxical: by putting him first and doing things that I think will make him happy, it is actually releasing chemicals into my brain which make me feel good, as well as him being pleased and doing nice things back for me.
This has to be a win win situation. And, in my opinion, to be somewhat addicted to being kind and helpful and serving someone else is not a dangerous addiction to have. We have come to see addiction as bad but actually if our learned responses are to do with the rewards that we receive, and that becomes something we wish to keep emulating, surely there is no harm in that?
The theme of giving and of submission as a gift runs strong in Dominant submissive relationships, as in other power exchange dynamics. Whether this is for play or, like us, a lifestyle choice, it makes sense that focussing on pleasing someone else will make you feel good too. When you don’t have to worry about taking care of your own needs because someone else will do that, it works even better. I have found that I am happier, calmer and more confident to take risks.
I am not sure about an addiction, but I wouldn’t give it up easily. The advantages are plenty worth the work and effort that we both put in and it feels like positive energy which is well spent. So while the details of the ways I give to my marriage are my own, I also see advantages of encouraging giving, whether this is in terms of time, money or in some other way, to the young philanthropists of tomorrow. And in the words of Winston: We make a living by what we get, but a life by what we give.
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