Recently, I digested another excellent brain book, “The Male Brain.” In this fascinating follow-up to her bestselling “The Female Brain,” Harvard neuropsychiatrist Dr. Louann Brizendine leads readers through the lifespan of a man’s brain. To put this in a social perspective, let me quote:
“I now know from my twenty-five years of research and clinical work that both men and women have a deep misunderstanding of the biological and social instincts that drive the other sex. As women, we may love men, live with men, and bear sons, but we have yet to understand men and boys. They are more than their gender and sexuality, and yet it is intrinsic to who they are. And it further complicates matters that neither women nor men have a good sense of what the others’ brains or bodies are doing from one moment to the next. We are mostly oblivious to the underlying work performed by different genes, neurochemicals, and hormones.”
Mostly oblivious? Yup, you bet we are … and in both directions. Reading Dr. Brizendine’s two books has helped me realize how extremely oblivious we are (and I certainly include myself) to the central role of our brains’ chemistry in our relationships with others and, indeed, ourselves. In addition, the book was a learning pleasure, chock-full of interesting conclusions based on scientific research, like the following tidbits:
Once he reaches manhood, he will likely find himself pondering an age-old question: What do women want? While no one has a definitive answer to that question, men do know what women and society in general want and expect from them. Men must be strong, brave, and independent. They grow up with the pressure to suppress their fear and pain, to hide their softer emotions, to stand confidently in the face of challenge.
The female brain is trying to discern whether a man has what it takes to be a good protector and provider. Researchers find that this holds true regardless of a woman’s level of education or financial independence. … In studies of mating behavior in primates, biologists have discovered that females have more sex with males who bring them meat.
Brain chemistry is very complicated, but new brain-scanning technologies are amazing. The author does a great job explaining the different effects of the major neuro-transmitters (testosterone, estrogen, oxytocin, etc) — differing levels of which create such different brains in males and females. Regardless of gender, “brain-mindfulness” is what I’m calling the emerging skill of becoming aware of — and actually affecting — our own brain chemistry, to the advantage of greater love and happiness (look for future blog on the book “Buddha’s Brain” :-).