Several years ago in a session with my therapist she said to me, “you feel emotions like a woman”. At times I have valued what she said as recognition of a gift to be able to, at some level, relate to and interact with women on their emotional level. Then I think of my sorted track record with relationships and conclude that the ability is apparently not contributing to having successful love relationships with women. With that realization thoughts begin about feeling emotions as deeply and fully as I do being a curse. Then again maybe the ability is not the issue and it actually is a great gift. Then maybe it isn’t. Confused? Yep. Me too.
From “10 Big Differences between Men’s and Women’s Brains” by Amber Hensley: Emotions. Women typically have a larger deep limbic system than men, which allows them to be more in touch with their feelings and better able to express them, which promotes bonding with others. The down side to this larger deep limbic system is that it also opens women up to depression…
After reading that paragraph my quandary continues. It does shed a little light possibly on why I have a tendency towards depression here and there. But my primary question remains unanswered. In regards to relationships with women, am I better off with my heightened ability to feel that my counselor sees in me? Or would I be better off to function more like a typical American male?
Michael G. Conner, PhD, clinical & medical Psychologist: At the heart of sensitivity is our capacity to form, appreciate and maintain relationships that are rewarding. For men, what demonstrates a solid relationship is quite different from that of most women. Men feel closer and validated through shared activities. Such activities include sports, competition, outdoor activities or sexual activities that are decidedly active and physical. While both men and women can appreciate and engage in these activities they often have preferential differences. Women, on the other hand, feel closer and validated through communication, dialogue and intimate sharing of experience, emotional content and personal perspectives. Many men tend to find such sharing and involvement uncomfortable, if not, overwhelming.
Maybe that hints at something I can wrap my mind around. Having never cared much for sports I really don’t know if that is because of my diagnosed “feminine” way of feeling or simply the fact that I was blessed with hardly any sports abilities. Conversely, I know many women who love participating and watching sports, so clarity on this “feelings” subject is still elusive.
My confusion grows as I read what Dr. Tara Palmatier wrote in an article to women about how in the last few decades society has attempted to change male emotional expression. She concludes her article with a section titled “The Lie and the Truth”: In this confluence of events, men tried to become the sensitive guy modern women claimed to want, but did they? In reality, most women don’t want men who cry when they watch “Beaches.” In fact, most women don’t want to be with men who would willingly watch Beaches or a Lifetime network movie.
(If this is true, then I may just be an odd-ball. I like typical male shoot ‘em up movies but contrary to Dr. Palmatier I also really do enjoy “chick flicks”.)
They don’t want men to be unfeeling robots, but want them to be men–strong and reliable, yet capable of tenderness. The result? American men, once stalwart bull mastiffs, turned into angry confused Pekingese drowning in a sea of mixed signals unleashed by women. I sympathize with men. As a group, they were put into a no-win situation by women who didn’t understand their changing roles or what they wanted.
Accept and embrace the differences. Why swim upstream? It’s a lot easier to appreciate and desire men in all their glories and faults, then to try to make them become “like us”. It makes relationships easier. It makes life easier. It makes it easier to forgive and to love.
My conclusion is, I am what I am. Whether I feel emotions like a man or a woman really is irrelevant. There is no intention within to want to be different than I am. Even with the heavy weight the attribute to feel deeply can bring on occasion I have a deep appreciation for me just the way I am. So what if I went to see “Time Traveler’s Wife” or “One Day” by myself at the theatre. That’s me and I am good with it. There is nothing to figure out. What is, simply “is” and that’s that!
It’s great to slowly but surely become more comfortable in my own skin and to not care (much) what others think. Finally I am becoming grown up enough to accept myself (mostly) just as I truly am. For that I am profoundly grateful.
He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.