Friday, June 23, 2006

Can Men Ever Understand Women?

Can Men Ever Understand Women?

When men talk about women, the most baffling aspect for the male of the species is understanding female emotional reactions. Not that men don’t feel even though I know quite a few women who come close to believing that. It is just that the depth of female feelings sends men into a quandary to understand. And this is especially true around the topic of “PMS”.

Well, I have discovered a fool proof way for men to understand women’s emotional reactions, and the female dread of PMS. When men develop prostate cancer, hormone therapy is often used to reduce the size of the prostate and to reduce the cancer. These hormones act as blockers of testosterone, as this male hormone can create prostate cancer. Without testosterone, men would never get prostate cancer. And, once on these drug therapies, the side effects are both humorous and enlightening. Swollen breasts, night sweats, and emotional roller coaster rides are all reported by men who take these hormone drugs to fight their cancer.

I have been on this drug regime for six weeks now, and let me tell you, I think I understand PMS better than I could ever understand it listening to women try to explain the experience. Let me try to explain. In my life, I have emotional swings that follow events and facts. For example, if I make a mistake, a feeling is associated with that mistake. Or if something happens to someone I love, emotions appear around the facts of the incident. Before taking hormones, I could always tell how far the emotional swings would take me. After living as long as I have, I am reasonably clear how far the emotional roller coaster takes me. I knew the bottoms. I knew how long the feelings would last. I had come to accept the emotional components associated with my day to day living.

But with a change of the hormonal balance in my system, I have found that I can no longer predict how far the emotions will take me. This is new for me, and can be quite unsettling. I like to know the bottom of my feeling states. I have been there before and I know how long the feelings last. I have become over the years accustomed to my emotional swings and that knowledge gives me comfort. In the certainty, I could handle the predictable ranges.

Not any longer. I find myself emotional during commercials. I find worry, fear and depression intensifying. Of course I know these are “just emotions” and that they will pass, but the unpredictable part of the mood swing is unsettling. I have listen to women tell me this for years, but now I have experienced the roller coaster. Like the Robert DeNiro character in “Analyze This” the emotional aspects of life have become both humorous and scary.

I have wondered if all men shouldn’t be placed on hormone treatment so as to understand what their female partners experience. Like the Indian proverb “may you walk a mile in his moccasins” to help understand one another better, having hormone treatment is not only good for battling prostate cancer, it may also be good for understanding the other sex. I also wonder if society should not place criminals on hormone treatment as testosterone is the male hormone that produces most of the negative male aggression.

My medical friends who understand the powerful side effects of hormone treatment, all laugh when I tell them what it is like. They have seen too many men experience these results. Handling life’s painful experiences with humor is the only sane way I know to get through the insanity. Looking for the positives within life’s lessons, helps me stay balanced.

So thank you hormone therapy, for now I think I understand what it is like to suffer PMS and perhaps even menopause. At least that is what I think I have gained, however I’m not too certain because this may all be an emotional reaction to the hormone treatment.

Fear Cripples The Spirit, While Love Opens Up the Heart

Fear Cripples The Spirit, While Love Opens Up the Heart

A relationship between two people who love and support each other will open up the heart, let in the sunlight, and produce harmony for both. The other side of that equation is that fear cripples the spirit, shuts down possibility and destroys all that you dream and hope to achieve.

As humans we are extremely complex but within the complexity, some simple truths are self-evident. Such self-evident truths are, ‘love is healthy, hatred is destructive’. ‘Anger eats you up inside, while forgiveness bring peace of mind’. All faiths teach these basic truths because they are observable to reasonable people over time and have thus have become constant observable truths.

When you find yourself in a relationship feeling fear and anger, you need to find the causes of those feelings, and the pathway out of these self-defeating attitudes. Otherwise they will destroy yourself and the relationship you are hoping to build. Fear has many causes, but usually it is the result of attempting to control life so you will not re-experience a past event that produced the fear you fear to feel again.

Perhaps you have experienced a horrific event in the past, and are bringing the feelings of that occurrence into the present. By carrying the unhealthy experience within, you are probably hoping to stop feeling the feelings you felt when that experience occurred before. Thus you are unconsciously holding onto emotional junk as a defense against feeling it again. Better to let it go and trust that if it shows up again you shall know how to handle this one differently. Then you can really face your fears with a new power and with new vitality. Carrying the pain around inside is disastrous for you, your partner and everyone who is close to you.

An appropriate path away from fear is to surrender to what you cannot change, and accept the mystery of life and the gift that is beyond human understanding. But before we find this secret pathway out of fear, most of us get bogged down in the futile attempt to control life, other people, your lover, and even your own unchangeable nature, which will lead to frustration and more fear.

Fear is the great cripple. President Roosevelt (physically crippled, but emotional strong) during the great depression said that fear created much of the suffering of the time and added, "The only thing we need to fear is fear itself.” How true. How wise. Of course it has been said may times and in many ways. We must all face our inner demons that produce the fear and leads us to overly controlling our lives and the lives of our loved ones. Until we begin the battle and overcome the inner demons we become paralyzed by our own negative feelings.

In the second story of Star Wars, “The Empire Strikes Back”, George Lucas presented this simple truth so graphically when Luke had to fight Daeth Vader during his training to become a Jedi knight. Yoda sent him into the wilderness to face his demons. After fighting the evil Vader, and cutting off his head, Luke saw the enemy. Daeth Vader was himself. The head he had dislodged was his own face. Fear is our own worst enemy, and fear must be conquered if we want to have peace of mind, happiness and success in relationship.

The cartoon character Pogo expressed this truth so wonderfully when he said, “We have met the enemy and he is us”. Now that simple statement is a universal truth.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Is Marriage and Family for Everyone?

Marriage and family is not for everyone. Those who marry should consider that you give up some cherished personal freedoms for the many benefits of being a couple. Humans need socialization, and being married can be the best way to fulfill that need. But like all human accomplishment, a good marriage is at times hard work.

For a moment, let us suspend the romance of marriage and look at the complex issues that need to be dealt with. If people did this before they got married, we would have far less divorce. Most divorces are the result of not understanding all the complexities of a marriage before entering into such a complex commitment.

We silently and consistently condemn everyone who fails at traditional marriage. We staunchly demand that marriage be workable for all, and yet we allow very little difference in the make up and structure of marriage. We demand romance, we reject arranged marriage, we dismiss homosexual marriage, and we have Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura give us simplistic answers to the complex demands of marriage and family life because we want it to be simple.

Marriage is perhaps the most complex of all human relationships. By it’s very nature, marriage is a struggle between two competing for power and domination, surrender and control. The woman’s movement began by rejecting marriage, only to find that the feminist movement lost its direction in the declaration that “a woman needs a man, like a fish needs a bicycle”. The woman’s movement is currently lost in its transition from being against something to being for something else, when it comes to marriage. In this current confusion, society has rushes back to old tradition values that may be outdated, unworkable, and unrealistic.

So lets go back to the basics. Marriage is not simple. It is very complex. The romantic image of marriage bears little resemblance to reality. Reality is that marriage requires constant compromise, frequent communication and lots of attention. The minority master marriage, and when they do they make it look easy. But that is an illusion. Successful marriages are created by hard work just like all successful human endeavors. Success is 90% hard work, and 10% luck. But we all want to believe in luck, because then we are not responsible for the 90% hard work.

A good marriage is essential for a successful family. In my estimation, this means both parents in the couple need to commit to being some form of a team until the youngest child is ready to leave home, usually at 18 years of age. If you consciously decide to be a parent, I submit you should decide to establish the necessary teamwork with the children’s other parent until the task is complete even if you get divorced. Wanting to have a child is not a good enough reason to have a child. Children are not dolls to be played with. They are little beings that need constant guidance and support for at least 18 years. Of course for this to be true, it would be helpful if humans had to qualify before having children. But nature has not set those parameters. Unfortunately children can be born to people who are unqualified to have them, while qualified couples sometimes are infertile. Evolution is not evolved in this regard.

If you decide not to have children, how you structure your marriage is your business. But when you have children, the partnership should succeed well enough for the two of you to co-parent the children even if you cannot live together in marriage. This responsibility of co-parenting with someone you are divorced from is what is missing today, and society is paying a large price for this condition.

Marriage as an institution is not for everyone. Society will be better served once we understand the hard work and commitment involved in marriage and family, and relinquish our romantic notions about how easy marriage is.