Tomorrow I am attending an event where I will be speaking 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 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.
I guess in listening to some philanthropists talk, I began to see that the reward of doing something for charity wasn’t about the acknowledgement or the thanks that they got from other people. In fact many seemed to move from one event to the next, with an increasing commitment or challenge to themselves, in a way that seemed almost to be addictive in the way it brought them self fulfilment. It wasn’t so much the feeling they got because their benefactor appreciated their contribution, but the way it made them feel on a personal level, and 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 as they 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 are left with post exercise. For many of us these things can become addictive, not in the sense of that live only for the next fix need, 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 Sir 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 feels a little selfish really. 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? So minus the not so acceptable details of the ways in which I give to my marriage, I think I have my ideas straight on the advantages of encouraging giving, whether this is in terms of time, money or in some other way, to the young philanthropists of tomorrow.