Tag Archives: relating

Men Do, Women Process (an encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

This is Part 2 in our summer re-runs of a series I posted a couple years ago on gender differences. Last week, we talked about the hierarchal vs. egalitarian male/female difference. This week, we’re going to have some fun with the next gender difference in relating, which has to do with how men and women approach problems and deal with their emotions.

Meet caveman Charlie Spearhead. (Okay, folks, get your minds outta the gutter! We’re not going to have that much fun.)

 

Charlie is really beat. He had to chase that damn elk halfway to the end of the world. As his stomach rumbles, he contemplates the rabbit stew that should be bubbling over the fire at that very moment, and afterwards a nice romp in the furs with his cavemate, Georgette. He grins even as his stomach growls a bit louder.

He soon discovers, however, that a fat elk haunch is not going to be sufficient to buy him a peaceful and fun-filled evening. Georgette starts in the minute he crosses the cave threshold. “You will never believe what that Gertrude Deerhunter did today when we were tanning hides.”

“Hummpf,” Charlie says.

“She had the audacity to imply that my hides are always stiff and I never get all the hair off. Oh, she didn’t come right out and say that but…”

Charlie yawns and scratches his chest, looking hopefully in the direction of the stew pot.

“Charlie, are you listening?”

“Just ignore her. Why do you care what she thinks?”

“I don’t care about her, but she was putting me down in front of all the other women, and she was being so indirect about it that I couldn’t confront her. She’s gotten so high and mighty every since her husband got elected war chief… Charlie, what are you doing?”

“I’m cleaning my spear.”

I’m trying to talk to you here.”

“Hurummph.”

“Charlie, are you listening to me?”

“Yeah, yeah.” He puts down his spear.

“As I was saying, I couldn’t confront her directly. I’d be the one who’d come off sounding like a bitch, and we’re all going berry-picking tomorrow. I know she’s gonna start up again–”

“Why don’t you go out early,” Charlie interrupts, “and strip all the berries off the bushes before she gets there.”

“I can’t do that. All the other women will think I’m trying to cheat them out of their share. I just can’t believe how she’s just gotten so full of herself since…”

Charlie starts to nod off, sitting by the warm fire.

“Charlie!”

“Hummf, I’m listening already. Can’t we eat while you talk?”

Georgette dishes up some stew for him. “And I can’t believe that nobody else said anything in my de–”

Charlie jumps in. “Hey, why don’t you wear your good dress? The doeskin one that’s so soft. That’ll show her.”

Georgette glares at him for interrupting again, then her expression softens. “Actually I kinda like that idea.”

“Good, glad to help. Man you’ll never believe how far I had to chase that elk today.”

“I still can’t believe that nobody came to my defense, not even Wilma–”

“Why are we still talkin’ about this, Georgette? We solved the problem.”

“Well. I guess you just don’t care that they hurt my feelings. After all, why should my feelings matter when your feet are sore from chasing elk!”

“Hey, why are you getting mad at me?”

“Cause you never listen!”

“Hunh? What have I been doing for the last half hour?”

“Cleaning your spear and eating your dinner.”

Kissing the idea of a romp in the furs goodbye, Charlie sighs.

Are you feeling a bit sorry for Charlie about now? Or are you thinking Georgette married a dimwit? This poor couple has stumbled into one of the most common pitfalls of male-female relationships.

This pitfall is caused by a major difference between the way men and women deal with feelings and problems. Men take action; women process feelings. I’m not saying women don’t act to correct a problem; they do. But they prefer to sort out how they feel about it first, and most women like to do that by talking about the situation and their feelings out loud. And sometimes they have to repeat themselves a few times until they’ve vented sufficiently to move on to a plan of action.

Men don’t get that, because that’s not how they are programmed. Their minds jump immediately to action-oriented problem-solving. So halfway (or sooner) through the venting/sorting out feelings process, they start jumping in to suggest what the woman can DO about the problem. They are then totally mystified as to why their woman is now mad at them!

Men, on the other hand, tend to mull it over inside their own heads when they need to sort out how they feel about something. Then if they think it’s relevant to share, they’ll tell you about it. So they get real quiet when something is on their minds.

Now, women tend to be fairly sensitive to the non-verbals of emotions (I’m not making this up; research has found this to be true). The woman catches on pretty quick that something’s bothering her guy. So she asks, “What’s the matter, honey?”

And what answer does she get?

“Nothin’.”

“I can tell something’s bothering you. What’s the matter?”

“Nothin’. I’m fine.”

“Is it me? Did I do something to annoy you?”

“I said, I’m fine,” he says through gritted teeth.

Now she is totally convinced that he’s mad at her, and he is, because she’s not leaving him alone to sort things out.

John Gray, in his book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are From Venus, talks about this. He shares the advice passed along by a woman who attended one of his workshops. She said her grandmother had told her, “When a man withdraws into his cave, do not try to follow him, or you will be burned by the fire from the dragon that lives in that cave.”

Image by Antonella Nigro, share alike license on Wikimedia Commons

Does any of this ring a bell for you? Have you ever been burned by the dragon fire? Any fun, or serious, stories to share about venters vs. mullers? Or maybe you know of some exceptions to the rule?

(Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist and college professor turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington Mystery series.)

We blog here at misterio press once a week (usually on Tuesdays), sometimes on serious topics and sometimes just for fun. Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!

Did Your Mom Give You ‘The Look’?

As we head into the season of overspending, overindulging, and dealing with relatives we don’t always like, I figured it might be helpful to pass on some advice I learned years ago about guilt.

My mom had this look. From across the room, she could make me want to crawl under the nearest piece of furniture. She didn’t have to say or do anything else. The Look was enough to tell me I’d screwed up big time!

Nobody but nobody can make us feel guilty quite like our mothers can. And that’s a good thing, because moms and dads are responsible for teaching us right from wrong. It’s their job to instill guilt in us!

I'm 5, Mother just gave me The Look

Me, age 5, looking quite subdued, after my mother (the one with the crossed arms) just gave me The Look! (This was an in-laws’ Christmas night party my father endured for many years.)

As kids, guilt may stop us from doing stuff we know our parents wouldn’t like, even if we’re not too sure why that stuff is wrong. We just know our folks will be mad, and disappointed in us, if we do it. Guilt starts out as a variation on fear. Fear of rejection by someone we care about, i.e., our parents. So at first we feel guilty mainly if we think we’re going to get caught, or if we’ve already been caught doing something wrong.

But once we’ve got a fairly good conscience established, the guilt isn’t necessarily linked anymore to whether we’re likely to get caught. Indeed, children will sometimes confess to their parents that they did something wrong, just to make the guilt go away.

Now guilt has become a motivating emotion in its own right. It keeps us on the straight and narrow.

The Big Guy in the Sky knew exactly what He was doing when He invented guilt. He was the first parent to give The Look, as He tossed Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden for disobeying Him.

Adam and Eve beingin banished from the garden

(from free clipart by christiansunite.com)

The purpose of guilt is to remind us of the rules we internalized as kids. It’s supposed to stop us when we are about to do something that breaks those rules. It keeps us from stealing or from hitting people when we’re pissed at them. If we feel the desire to do those things, the guilt kicks in. If we don’t do the behavior, the guilt goes away.

The problem comes in when we’re not quite sure what we’re feeling guilty about, or when we feel conflicting emotions about something. Then what do we do with those guilty feelings? When I was still a novice psychotherapist, more years ago than I am willing to admit, I learned a simple five-step approach for dealing with guilt.

  • First, you determine exactly what behavior you are feeling guilty about. It may be a behavior you’ve already done, or one you want to do, or something you feel you should’ve done but haven’t, and/or don’t particularly want to. Sometimes it helps to say it out loud: I feel guilty because I want to/don’t want to/did/did not __________ (fill in an action).

  Example: I feel guilty because I don’t want to go to my in-laws’ for Christmas dinner.

  • Second, you identify the internalized rule that the behavior is breaking. You may notice that the rules often have the words always or never in them. This is because children are all-or-nothing thinkers by nature. So the rules get recorded in our conscience in this child-like absolute language.

In our example, the rule might be ‘One is always supposed to be nice to one’s in-laws.’ Or perhaps, ‘One should never make people feel rejected and unloved.’

  • Third, you analyze the rule to decide whether or not you still believe it is valid as it stands, or does it need to be modified, or perhaps ejected completely from the rule book.

Let’s say in our example that the in-laws are not very nice people and they don’t treat you or your spouse (their own grown child) very well. Every holiday spent with them is totally miserable.

Do you really have to keep being nice to people who aren’t nice to you?

(A word of caution here. This exercise is not meant to be used to justify whatever you want to do by changing the rule. Ask yourself if you honestly still believe in the rule!)

Or perhaps your in-laws are nice enough people but you just really hate the long drive and the boring conversation.

Is it okay to make them feel rejected and unloved just because they’re boring?

  • Fourth, depending on how you now feel about the rule, you either modify the rule and/or the behavior so that they are in sync with each other again.

First Scenario (nasty in-laws): You might decide to change the rule to ‘One should be nice to one’s in-laws unless they are nasty people who mistreat you and/or your family members.’

There are several alternatives for changing your behavior. If you really hate going to your in-laws, is it time to take a stand and insist they treat you all better? (This, of course, must be discussed with your spouse and it’s their call ultimately, since it’s their family.)

If your spouse isn’t ready to deal with it, then you might decide to suck it up and go anyway. But now you are doing it to support your spouse, not out of guilt because you’re supposed to be nice, even to people who aren’t nice to you.

Second Scenario (nice but boring in-laws): You may very well decide that the rule should stand as is. Wait, let’s take that word never out of there. Absolutes like that are rarely a good idea.

 How about: ‘One should try very hard not to make people feel unloved or rejected.’

So you probably want to suck it up and go spend one evening with the boring but harmless in-laws. You don’t need to feel guilty, however, about not liking it!

Which brings us to step 5…

  • Fifth, once the behavior and the rule are in sync, thank the guilt for doing it’s job and then send it on it’s way!

But wait, you might be thinking, I still feel guilty for not liking my in-laws!

Why? No, no, not why don’t you like your in-laws; we’ve already determined that they are either nasty or boring. Why are you feeling guilty about your feelings. Guilt isn’t about feelings; it’s about behavior. We can’t control how we feel; we can only control how we act. (See The History of Emotion for a somewhat tongue-in-cheek description of how our society came to the erroneous conclusion that we should control our feelings, not just how we express them.)

If you’re doing the right thing, it’s okay to let go of the guilt–pat yourself on the back even–and move on.

This really hangs some people up though. I had a client say to me one time. “Well, I know it really is okay to do that, even though I was taught not to. So if I feel guilty about it, then I can go ahead and do it.”

Is your head spinning maybe just a little? Mine did at the time. I finally figured out what she meant. Her guilt was the sacrifice to the Parent Gods so that she could then go ahead with the behavior; i.e. it’s okay to break the rules Mom and Dad taught you, as long as you feel guilty about it.

No, no, if you don’t believe in the rule anymore, then change the dang rule! You’re a grown-up now. You get to think for yourself.

If you really have trouble letting go of the guilt, sometimes a ritual is helpful.

For example, I’ve had clients write out the whole thing on a piece of paper. “I feel guilty about… The rule is… I have changed the rule/behavior to… The guilt has done its job. Thank you, guilt. You can go now.” Then I’d give them a book of matches and have them burn the piece of paper (over an empty trash can) as a symbol of letting go of the guilt.

I love this 5-step exercise. It has helped me sort out my guilty feelings more than once and pointed me in the right direction to act appropriately.

What about you? What do you tend to feel guilty about? Can you let guilt go once you’ve figured out what to do?

By the way, the contest celebrating the release of Celebrity Status, A Kate Huntington Mystery, is still going on through next Sunday. Clcik HERE to enter.

 (Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.)

 

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us by filling in your e-mail address toward the top of the column on the right, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!

 

Men Do, Women Process

I decided the previous post on this topic was a little too serious, so I’m going to have some fun with this next gender difference in relating.

Meet caveman Charlie Spearhead. (Okay, folks, get your minds outta the gutter! We’re not going to have that much fun.)

Charlie is really beat. He had to chase that damn elk halfway to the end of the world. As his stomach rumbles, he contemplates the rabbit stew that should be bubbling over the fire at that very moment, and afterwards a nice romp in the furs with his cavemate, Georgette. He grins even as his stomach growls a bit louder.

He soon discovers, however, that a fat elk haunch is not going to be sufficient to buy him a peaceful and fun-filled evening. Georgette starts in the minute he crosses the cave threshold. “You will never believe what that Gertrude Deerhunter did today when we were tanning hides.”

“Hummpf,” Charlie says.

“She had the audacity to imply that my hides are always stiff and I never get all the hair off. Oh, she didn’t come right out and say that but…”

Charlie yawns and scratches his chest, eyeing the stew pot hopefully.

“Charlie, are you listening?”

“Just ignore her. Why do you care what she thinks?”

“I don’t care about her, but she was putting me down in front of all the other women, and she was being so indirect about it that I couldn’t confront her. She’s gotten so high and mighty every since her husband got elected war chief… Charlie, what are you doing?”

“I’m cleanin’ my spear.”

I’m trying to talk to you here.”

“Hurummph.”

“Charlie, are you listening to me?”

“Yeah, yeah.” He puts down his spear.

“As I was saying, I couldn’t confront her directly. I’d be the one who’d come off sounding like a bitch, and we’re all going berry-picking tomorrow. I know she’s gonna start up again–”

“Why don’t you go out early,” Charlie interrupts, “and strip all the berries off the bushes before she gets there.”

“I can’t do that. All the other women will think I’m trying to cheat them out of their share. I just can’t believe how she’s just gotten so full of herself since…”

Charlie starts to nod off, sitting by the warm fire.

“Charlie!”

“Hummf, I’m listening already. Can’t we eat while you talk?”

Georgette dishes up some stew for him. “And I can’t believe that nobody else said anything in my de–”

Charlie jumps in. “Hey, why don’t you wear your good dress? The doeskin one that’s so soft. That’ll show her.”

Georgette glares at him for interrupting again, then her expression softens. “Actually I kinda like that idea.”

“Good, glad to help. Man you’ll never believe how far I had to chase that elk today.”

“I still can’t believe that nobody came to my defense, not even Wilma–”

“Why are we still talkin’ about this, Georgette? We solved the problem.”

“Well. I guess you just don’t care that they hurt my feelings. After all, why should my feelings matter when your feet are sore from chasing elk!”

“Hey, why are you getting mad at me?”

“Cause you never listen!”

“Hunh? What have I been doing for the last half hour?”

“Cleaning your spear and eating your dinner.”

Kissing the idea of a romp in the furs goodbye, Charlie sighs.

Are you feeling a bit sorry for Charlie about now? Or are you thinking Georgette married a dimwit? This poor couple has stumbled into one of the most common pitfalls of male-female relationships.

This pitfall is caused by a major difference between the way men and women deal with feelings and problems. Men take action; women process feelings. I’m not saying women don’t act to correct a problem; they do. But they prefer to sort out how they feel about it first, and most women like to do that by talking about the situation and their feelings out loud. And sometimes they have to repeat themselves a few times until they’ve vented sufficiently to move on to a plan of action.

Men don’t get that, because that’s not how they are programmed. Their minds jump immediately to action-oriented problem-solving. So halfway (or sooner) through the venting/sorting out feelings process, they start jumping in to suggest what the woman can DO about the problem. They are then totally mystified as to why their woman is now mad at them!

 
Men, on the other hand, tend to mull it over inside their own heads when they need to sort out how they feel about something. Then if they think it’s relevant to share, they’ll tell you about it. So they get real quiet when something is on their minds.

Now, women tend to be fairly sensitive to the non-verbals of emotions (I’m not making this up; research has found this to be true). The woman catches on pretty quick that something’s bothering her guy. So she asks, “What’s the matter, honey?”

And what answer does she get?

“Nothin’.”

“I can tell something’s bothering you. What’s the matter?”

“Nothin’. I’m fine.”

“Is it me? Did I do something to annoy you?”

“I said, I’m fine,” he says through gritted teeth.

Now she is totally convinced that he’s mad at her, and he is, because she’s not leaving him alone to sort things out. John Gray, in his book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are From Venus, talks about this. He shares the advice passed along by a woman who attended one of his workshops. She said her grandmother had told her, “When a man withdraws into his cave, do not try to follow him, or you will be burned by the fire from the dragon that lives in that cave.”

Image by Antonella Nigro, share alike license on Wikimedia Commons

Does any of this ring a bell for you? Have you ever been burned by the dragon fire? Any fun, or serious, stories to share about venters vs. mullers? Or maybe you know of some exceptions to the rule?

(Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.)
 

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us by filling in your e-mail address at the top of the column to the right, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!