We all want things our way. Did you know that your brain likes to keep things consistent? Thinking consistently using the same terms, words and mind images helps us feel emotionally secure. That’s why “I want it my way” feels so normal to us on a daily basis.
When our children want things their way, they are actually following chemical promptings in their brain chemistry. It’s interesting to know what’s going on in our own brains or those of our children for clear communication purposes. This is especially helpful during times of loss.
When dealing with loss, the last thing we initially want to do is accept and adapt to the instant change of not getting something in our own preferred way of knowing. Ned Herrmann made the knowledge of how the brain knows our world in his fascinating book, The Creative Brain. Once you understand more fully how your brain thinks, you discover that by working with, accepting and embracing change, you can better cope with the loss.
‘I Want It My Way’ Thinking
The difference between the way the male and female brains function is only about 10%. That means that each gender’s brain functions about 90% the same. However, that 10% difference can have life-altering effects.
For effective stress management, males need to have sufficient testosterone. This hormone/brain chemical internally prompts humans to protect, provide and focus on achieving goals. But, since the male brain is predominantly driven by testosterone, being able to protect, provide and achieve goals for men is especially important.
During times of loss, a male may be very stressed out and unable to think clearly. Typically, men are low in testosterone and dopamine. (Read John Gray’s Books or watch his YouTube videos on “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” to get more insight into how the brain chemistry affects males and females.)
A man needs dopamine to have energy and be able to focus. Dealing with loss causes us to become distracted and out of focus, unable to think clearly, due to stress. Though females also have testosterone and dopamine coursing through their brains, sufficient amounts of the hormone/brain chemical oxytocin helps females effectively manage stress.
When males and females deal with loss, especially a tragic loss such as when a loved one passes, our brain chemistry levels are affected. If a male could think and speak out loud from the voice of sufficient testosterone, he would say something like, “I want things to stay the same. I don’t like change. It requires me to burn up more testosterone.”
Biochemically, the nature of testosterone drives a man to protect and provide for his loved ones. During times of loss, he can’t “fix things” to make things better as a result of the loss. Thus, he feels stressed out and needs to do something to naturally restore sufficient testosterone levels to his brain and body.
In brain research, we know that men typically do not like the word “help.” They don’t like to admit needing help because biochemically, it works against the nature of testosterone which is to be strong so you can provide and protect whatever your loved ones need. So, it’s better to ask a man what can be done to solve (or improve) a problem instead of asking him if he needs help. Talking in short, brief, succinct language bursts makes sense to him, though it doesn’t make much sense to us women.
A woman’s brain needs to talk out loud to feel her way through a situation. That is oxytocin driving us to bond. Oxytocin is the hormone/brain chemical of relationship building. When women are dealing with loss, they often need to talk about things.
Women don’t necessarily want to hear a solution as they express their grief using words. Instead, they are venting, needing a caring listener. Often, a woman who expresses her grief when dealing with loss can figure out how to make things better if a male (or female) simply lets her know he (or she) is there for her. So, fellas, when the female in your life is doing a lot of talking about her grief, ask her if she wants a solution to a problem or is just venting. If she’s just venting her deep emotional feelings, just listen without interrupting. It will help her deal better with the loss.
How do you know if a woman just needs a caring listener or a solution to a problem? Just ask her. You can say something as simple as, “Are you looking for a way to improve the situation or, are you just venting and want to know I am here to listen because I care about you?” Then, do NOT minimize or dismiss what she needs. Don’t say, “Don’t worry.” Or “Don’t feel that way.” She will feel disrespected, minimized and dismissed. Instead, simply say, “I understand…” (even if you don’t) and let her vent for a little bit longer. As appropriate, after she’s vented for a bit, help her refocus. By being a caring listener to her, she will actually be able to start replenishing her oxytocin.
Need more ideas on how to naturally reduce stress while dealing with loss? Please contact me by email at [email protected].