Connectedness and gift giving

It’s Christmas time, and I enjoy getting gifts for people even though I’m not religious. I’ve also been enjoying getting rid of lots of stuff I don’t use/need. This not only makes me feel like I’m clearing out mental space (I have Tyler Durden’s words echoing in my head “The things you own, end up owning you”) but also makes me feel good that other people are getting something that they want/need. Especially since I’m either giving the stuff away or selling it cheaply on TradeMe.

I googled “It’s better to give than receive.” since that’s the quote that’s automatically been ingrained into my psyche. Turns out it’s from the Bible, Acts 20:35 (King James Version):

“I have showed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

(I guess “more blessed” translates to “better” these days.)

Never mind that giving psychologically makes us happier than spending money on ourselves. It also physiologically affects us, by releasing, not only the good old reward molecule Dopamine, but also the love neurotransmitter Oxytocin (unfortunately the mention of oxytocin isn’t in the abstract, but it’s discussed here).

There is another aspect of gift giving I want to mention, which I haven’t got any references for, but is based on my intuition on the mechanics of intelligence. When we give someone a gift, we usually have a reason for it, and when we choose a gift for them we tend to think “Will the person like this?”. The act of that means we have to emulate, model, and predict what they want and by activation it re-enforces their pattern within our mind. Does this inadvertently get us thinking of other aspects of their personality and of what other people might like too? I’ve discussed how part of love is the strong bonding of patterns, one’s self in another mind, their mind emulated in the self. This twinning makes us feel connected to the other person. To me, it makes sense that going through this process while selecting gifts for other people will inevitably make one feel more connected in general. And as mentioned above, the neurotransmitter associated with love is also released during giving.

Maybe this is why the gifting economy of Kiwiburn (and the American equivalent) is such a central part of the festivals and contributes to them being such enjoyable experiences.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
— Winston Churchill


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