Disclaimer: I have a strong sense that may I come across as a bit of a grinch/scrooge in this post or at least a totally ungrateful git at least :). Please let me assure you that I am immensely grateful for any gifts I receive and this is not a rant about getting “rubbish presents” but simply a discussion on the psychology and motives that we have for buying our loved ones gifts!
Have you ever received a Birthday or Christmas present that you don’t you really want? I’m sure you have. The queues at customer services on boxing day attest to this (so I hear anyway :)). It was my birthday last Thursday and it really got me thinking about this because, although I employed my gift system and asked for a few bits and bobs I really “needed”, I was also thinking I would really like to ask everyone not to get me anything this year as none of it was particularly essential. However for one reason or another, the day crept up on me so I didn’t get time to inform everyone, but ultimately I probably just wussied out on doing it. I did however go a fraction of the way by asking for no new clothes and for some second hand books, which threw up some interesting results. I guess it turned out to be a mini experiment on the psychology of buying gifts. But anyway before we see the results of that let’s have a quick look at…
A brief history of gift giving
Giving of gifts is so ingrained into our society because way back in the day, before money was even invented, this is how the economy worked. We know this because in small tribes of people discovered on tiny Pacific islands or in the Amazon rainforest a gift economy still reigns supreme. Joe the fisherman gives Bill the pottery maker some fish one day, this is mentally noted and at some point in the future Bill will make sure the debt is repaid by giving Joe a pot, some vegetables he has grown, or maybe his daughters hand in marriage, a fair swap in anyone’s book :). This worked well in small communities where everyone knows everyone else’s name*, but as soon as populations grew over a few hundred, a different accounting system was needed. Some cultures developed writing to keep track of things, while others such as the Incas used other mnemonics, who used knots tied in small pieces of rope.**
I came across an intriguing term the other day while on my internet travels: “Scanner”. Someone followed me on twitter which led me to their blog, so naturally I did one of the first things we all do which is to check out their about page, which in turn led me to the following passage:
“Margot and Barbara is the distillation of many hours spent trying to make sense of my giant, sprawling list of interests. I’m a scanner. Multipotential. Dilettante. Whatever. What that means is that I will never find the perfect job, never settle down to just one thing. Never grow up.“
Another hit for the wonderfulness of the internet/blogging world, I love it when stuff like this happens! The site in question, margot-and-barbara.com, is run by a lady called Elizabeth, who suggested also on her about page to check out the site Puttylike if we wanted to learn a bit more about Scanners.
What is a Scanner? Am I one?
Puttylike says that a Scanner is another name for a Multipotentialite. If this doesn’t clear things up for you here is the definition they give for Multipotentiality, which is actually from Wikipedia:
“An educational and psychological term referring to a pattern found among intellectually gifted individuals. [Multipotentialites] generally have diverse interests across numerous domains and may be capable of success in many endeavours or professions, they are confronted with unique decisions as a result of these choices.”
Some excellent lessons in life and dare I say, inspiring words, have come from an unlikely and somewhat esoteric source this week – a book on the psychology of golf that a friend lent me. The book in question is Your 15th Club: The Inner Secret to Great Golf by Dr Bob Rotella. As you’d expect the large majority of examples and advice in the book are related on how to improve your game, mainly concentrating on the mental approach you take and how to make this stronger. But it occurred to me very early on in the book that the majority of the advice transcends golf and falls into realm of general life rather neatly, and parallels between the game of golf* and real life situations, emotions, feelings, and other psychological affairs can be drawn very easily. So let me try to draw you a few.
When was the last time you threw a consumer item away in the bin, or took an item to the dump that was well and truly worn out? I mean totally beyond repair, or “proper mashed up” as the yewt of today might say? Like the equivalent of my lovely picture of the washing up sponge up there?