I always thought it was me against the world. And then I realized it was me against me.
Accepting Who We Are
Like many young boys growing up I often felt vulnerable and weak but did my best to hide it. I still remember seeing ads to stop being “a 97-pound weakling” and become as strong as Charles Atlas. The typical scenario, usually expressed in comic strip form, presented a skinny young man usually accompanied by a female companion being threatened by a bully. The bully pushes him aside and the girlfriend joins in the derision. The young man goes home, gets angry and sends away for the free Atlas body-building book. Shortly thereafter, the newly muscled hero returns to the place of his original victimization, seeks out the bully, and beats him up. He is rewarded by the swift return of his girlfriend and the admiration of many other female onlookers.
I dreamed of becoming Charles Atlas, the world’s strongest, most dominant, and most alluring man in the world. It seemed that male strength came from constantly competing with other men so that we could become rich and famous and get all the pretty girls to throw themselves at our feet. I followed the sports dictum of UCLA Bruins football coach Henry Russell (“Red”) Sanders: “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”
I grew up in southern California and was the first one in my family to go to college. I wanted to get away from home, but not too far away. I was accepted at U.C. Santa Barbara, had aspirations of going to medical school. I was a biology major but took a philosophy class because I wanted to get a deeper understanding of humanity. We had a visiting professor, the eminent philosopher Paul Tillich. His class and his thinking changed my life forever.
“Every serious thinker must ask and answer three fundamental questions:
- What is wrong with us? With men? Women? Society? What is the nature of our alienation? Our dis-ease?
- What would we be like if we were whole? Healed? Actualized? If our potentiality was fulfilled?
- How do we move from our condition of brokenness to wholeness? What are the means of our healing?”
Over the years I’ve learned that the key to answering the philosopher’s three questions was to truly know and accept who we are and that begins with accepting who we are as males and females. In my previous article, “The Essential Difference,” I quoted the research findings of David C. Page, M.D., professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): “There are 10 trillion cells in the human body and every one of them is sex specific.”
I went on to describe the work of Dr. Shäron Moalem, M.D., Ph.D, an award-winning scientist, physician, and author of numerous books including The Better Half: On the Genetic Superiority of Women. Dr. Moalem offered the following facts of life:
- Women live longer than men.
- Women have stronger immune systems.
- Overall, women are better at fighting cancer.
- Women are simply stronger than men at every stage of life.
The question is why? The simple answer, which he gives detailed research findings in his book, is that women have two X chromosomes in every cell of their bodies while males only have one. Of course, there’s more to the story of who we are than our genetics, but too often we neglect our biological heritage or try and separate nature (our biology) from nurture (our social influence). The truth is our genes influence every aspects of our lives and every aspect of our lives influence the ways our genes are expressed.
These interactions show up in our brain structure and function. In his book, The Essential Difference: The Truth About the Male & Female Brain, Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen says, “The subject of essential sex differences in the mind is clearly very delicate. I could tiptoe around it, but my guess is that you would like the theory of the book stated plainly. So here it is:
The female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy. The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems.
I hoped I would prove to have the most kick-ass, male brain, on the planet (or at least put me up there with James Bond and Clint Eastwood). I couldn’t wait to take the two tests in the appendix: The “Systemizing Quotient test” (i.e. male brain type) vs. “Empathizing Quotient test” (i.e. female brain type.) To say I was surprised and disappointed with my two scores would be a monumental understatement.
Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen did offer the following statement at the beginning of the book, which I read, and promptly ignored (“just like a man,” I heard my wife shouting in my brain):
“Not all men have the male brain and not all women have the female brain. In fact, some women have the male brain, and some men have the female brain. The central claim of this book is only that more males than females have brain of type S (systemizing), and more females than males have a brain of type E (empathizing).”
But my scores were so high on the Empathizing (E) test that, not only was I higher than most men, but I was also higher than most women. And even more damaging to my macho male ego, not only did I score lower on the Systemizing (S) test than most men, but I also scored lower than most women.
I’m interested in how people respond to the idea that men are the weaker sex and that our weakness may actually be a source of strength.[ad_2]