by Norman M. Brown Ph.D. |
We submit that it is not likely for men and women endowed with significantly different hormonal makeup to “naturally” understand each other without considerable learning about the ways they function differently. And it is also likely for the less powerful gender, women, to gain more insight into how men behave mentally and habitually than vice versa. By surveying human behavior today we find three major problems that arise from what can be a radical gender difference between love-motivation as central personality focus for women and power-motivation for men.
The first and most toxic problem is exploitation, pollution and degradation of the planet due to some men’s and some groups’, companies’ and nations’ greed for power, wealth and control, mostly driven by male training and capacities. Not all men are dominated by power and wealth motivation. But as long as these urges are accepted as “normal human nature” in many cultures, attitudes will not change in time to adapt to our climate crisis and the resulting cascading imbalances in many living species and ecosystems worldwide. Despite the vehement denials of wealth- and power-motivated groups and the handfuls of scientists in their pay, this is the greatest threat to the sustainability of our species and our planet.
The second problem is the crisis in understanding and emotional intimacy between the sexes that is based in part on the differences between men and women in emotional competence. Women who had adequate mothering normally have far greater access to and hence capacity for conscious experience with the nine inborn emotions than men. But men’s access to five of the nine inborn emotions is likely to be stunted due to male modeling in childhood. These are joy, surprise, shame, distress/anguish and fear. By contrast women themselves typically lack comfort with anger. (See Emotional Fluency, part 2.) Thus women are likely to feel enduring disappointment that their fear, distress-anguish, shame-hurt, surprise-wonder and joy, once well-handled by their mothers, are dismissed by the men in their lives. They discover that they’re doing all the emotional work in love, family and friendships for men who don’t know how to do it for themselves. Many women may not even understand what is bothering them in relations with men. For they are unable to express themselves and thus learn how to articulate their own emotional needs. They are hesitant to speak up because of their experience that “saying the wrong thing” can make a man’s anger suddenly erupt and lead to violence.
I’ve known young women who’ve had one or two relationships with young men, with the disappointments that seem normal for young adult loves. But I see huge numbers of middle-aged and older women who have given up on men as partners. Their assessments of men they’ve loved range from immature, irresponsible, clueless and deceitful to closed-off, self-centered, unstable and abusive. Yet they look wistfully at couples that seem happy and conclude that there just aren’t enough halfway decent men to go around. The Love and Power Institute is developing training for individuals and couples to address these issues directly, which can be found in our Workshops section.
The third problem grows from the second and adds more urgency to the first. Since so many women’s needs for heterosexual love and emotional intimacy have been frustrated due to the mismatch in emotional relating in their lives with men, they have unconsciously sought emotional relations with their growing children well into their adulthood. They may be having children that contribute to overpopulation to gain some respect and intimacy they don’t get from their husbands. That means that we need to support women’s continued gains in pay equity and satisfying work and help men and women to develop more emotional fluency and competence in relating to each other, so that our birth rates can continue to stabilize and thus put less pressure on planetary resources. We’re left with a final question that brings us back to where we began this blog on Joy: What’s love got to do with it?