You don’t believe me? I have science backing me up. The Huffington Post’s article by Peggy Drexler explains how scientists discovered that men are hardwired to be more emotionally sensitive than women.
University of Pennsylvania neuroscientist Dr. Ruben Gur says that the same way men and women have different bodies, they have different brains — with eons of evolution creating distinct wiring. It goes well beyond the formative impact of testosterone and estrogen. Other studies elaborate on the biological link to male-female communication styles. Men are wired to act during times of high emotion, since emotion can lead to violence; there is a shut-off mechanism. He stops talking — just when women, wired entirely differently, want to talk.
The article goes on to say:
… boys reacted to the crying with a higher release of stress hormones. Boys are more fragile than girls medically and emotionally. Boys are more susceptible to birth defects and developmental disabilities; they are more vulnerable in the womb, with more fetuses lost in miscarriage. As children, they are more easily stressed, which means they cry more when they are upset and have a harder time calming down. And they are more emotionally vulnerable to the ill effects of extreme lack of affection.
Men avoid confrontations with emotional women
I know I am not alone in saying that I have avoided confrontations with a partner when she is upset. Obviously, I do it less now that I understand what’s going on. Yet, I still find myself recoiling when a partner is upset. I can taste the sharpness of my cortisol and norepinephrine rushing through my blood. I want to run, but if that doesn’t work, than the urge to fight arises.
At the same time I feel the love and concern for my partner. I am overwhelmed between my reptilian-brain needs and my love. Then my head jumps in to tell me what I should do. I feel trapped in a no-win, triple bind. All this is going on while my partner is getting more upset.
Does this feel familiar?
Understand the biology before condemning the man or woman
Both the man and the woman are in an autonomic nervous system reaction – a fight-or-flight reaction that might be linked to a past event(s). One or both of you could be having a mini or major PTSD event taking over. Regardless of what it is, it is overwhelming. On some level you and your partner are scared. The person who loves you the most, understands you the best and feels safest with you, is not the enemy.
When I posted this article by Peggy Drexler on Facebook, there was a heated exchange between a man with a PhD and a woman with an MD discussing… arguing about how each didn’t understand it, or understand their sex. Both were making great points, both were ultimately more in agreement than not, but both were doing what we all do: a beautiful job illustrating what the article and this post is discussing, and at the same time not listening to the vulnerable feelings behind the words.
It was obvious these two people were intelligent, caring and committed to a better world. Yet they still became more excited than connected. I know I continue to project and react when I am excited. A few hours later they both apologized for their overreaction.
Do you let your biology rule? Do you deny your physiology and emotions? What do you do when both of you are reacting?
You breathe. In survival you naturally try to eliminate your options so you can react quickly. Your instinct kicks in to choose what is best. This narrowing of choices restricts your connections to others. When you breathe, accept the distress, give up control – I know that’s hard, but you gradually relax to experience a bigger world. The pressing need to take action subsides and you see the person moving closer to you. Like the Facebook example, sometimes what we need is time and space to stop our PTSD cycle.
The paradox: love deepens when signals say step away from the person, and we move forward. That act of courage goes against our dominate biology of the moment. In the face of our experience, you bet everything—what feels like your entire existence—on a hope that love is there and it will be received and returned if you take the risk.
Photo by MissTurner
Please read part two for how to make all this work for you.