If you’d prefer to listen to this article, click the audio player below:
I’ve recognized over the years that men are entirely different creatures than women are. IMAGINE THAT?! Yes, it sure can take a while, but in the end we do learn something over the course of our lives, don’t we? We may have started recognizing the way boys are different from the girls when we were 3 – 4 years old, and from then on, we’ve walked forward in an unfolding journey, one that has coursed through our lives, teaching us the myriad ways in which men and women think, act, behave and are motivated by entirely different impulses in their lives.
In more recent years, studies of the male and female brain and hormone chemistry have been catching up with what we have intuitively known since childhood: men and women are different, and not just different genders of the same internal physiologies. And so it is in the appreciation of these differences that we can find our way to love and support our mates, co-workers and family members, and put down the notion that we must make the other more like ourselves. For in the knowing is the understanding, in the understanding comes the empathy, and the empathy gives rise to the opportunity to truly be of support to another, instead of just giving lip service to that which we do not understand.
It’s the knowledge of these differences that I use to coach men and women, and I pay especially close attention to how these variances are playing out in their lives.
Women, for example, are motivated by relationships. Not just romantic ones, but all of them, whether it be her children, other family members, co-workers, clients, neighbors or best girlfriends. She needs and wants to know that she is connected, and it is fulfilling for her to know that she is and that all her relationships are in good order.
Men, on the other hand, are highly motivated by accomplishment. They have a goal to achieve, and it is in their realm of responsibility to get that done. It is their job, and having a job to do is what gets him up in the morning, gets him to give it all he’s got and decides how he feels about himself. Now, it doesn’t mean that all men are this way, or all women are a certain way, but it means that in general, the hormones and brain chemistry have demonstrated that that is how we function and that is how we are happiest. In general that is how we can proceed forward in understanding ‘the other.’
When a man’s testosterone levels are in the normal range, he is driven. His brain chemistry is set up for him to be highly focused in one area of specialty in the brain at a time. He feels an agenda. He wants to drive that agenda forward and get to the end goal so that as soon as possible, he can sit and relax. He will work very hard, be highly focused and have a clear objective in mind that he is working to finish. For him, interruptions, having to manage multiple tasks simultaneously or to not have clear objectives in front of him causes his stress levels to rise. He feels better about himself if he can get things done independently. He needs to point his arrow and shoot, on his own and not spend a whole lot of time talking about it. “Just do it,” the Nike by-line is a great example of the masculine energy pin-pointed.
Women on the other hand – when their estrogen levels are within normal range – are exactly the opposite. Imagine that. The brain activity supports a diffused focus, accessing all specialty areas of the brain quickly and easily, and sometimes several at once. They can do scans of all areas, whether it be mentally or assessing what is around them physically to determine if everything ‘is alright.’ They are highly detailed in vision and perception and are propelled to have things in order and well functioning before moving on to the next endeavor. They want to provide care for ‘what is’: her people, her surroundings and to make sure that all those within her jurisdiction are happy, healthy and whole.
If a woman has to maintain mental focus in one area of her brain alone, this will cause stress levels to rise. So will an abundance of too many details to assess and take care of cause her physical distress and the resulting disruption in hormone balance. She wants to be able to walk out into the meadow and make quick assessments of what is occurring. She wants to measure the resources available, coming weather patterns, danger lurking anywhere, children staying within hearing distance… then she can move forward on her task. She is happiest when this can be accomplished together with others and talking during the whole process will actually increase seratonin levels in the brain and reduce her stress levels, putting hormones back into balance. “Calgon take me away!” is an excellent description that invokes the feeling of a woman’s world being alright. Now she can finally indulge herself in beauty and luxury. Ahhhhhhhh.
So when I am coaching men, I look to support them in clarifying the objective, clearing out what is interruptive in their lives and causing a difficulty in focus. I ignite their spirit by having them verbalize what it is that spurs them on for that goal. What will be the end result? What is your Big Why? Rest and relaxation will be what is needed at the end of any big accomplishment, and indeed at the end of every workday in order to replenish his testosterone levels.
With women, I want to know what and who is in their world that they feel the need to be providing and caring. Are all of these their responsibility? Or are we volunteering to do more for another than they are even doing for themselves? What area of life might be ‘a mess’ that needs straightening? It is difficult for a woman to move forward unless immediate needs are addressed. What are their own personal needs, and are they being neglected? “A woman’s work is never done” is an axiom that is very true. She doesn’t need to stop after an accomplishment for long periods like men do, but instead, if she can keep a steady and balanced pace, she would be so happy to just keep going and growing.
Another issue particular to women is that we, as a culture of women in America have been growing and evolving professionally since the early 80’s and 90’s. We took on more masculine stances as a means to thrive, expanding our rights and opportunities and determining greater access to power and decision making roles in our worlds. But we need to remember our own intuitive guidance – the way our brains work – and use that to our advantage in creating our lives. I like to remind women to be careful not to fall into the trap of trying too hard to be like men. It just doesn’t work and leaves us exhausted at the end of each day. By regularly checking in with intuition on which courses of action to take, a regular and paced balance of activities and rest can be accomplished.
Next week, I’ll be fine-tuning this message with a more integral discussion of how to use both the masculine and feminine energies within yourself to support your life more fully and easily. Each energy system has its manner and function to play in creating our highest and best experiences of growth and expansion.