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Right Brain... Left Brain... His Brain... Her Brain...

© Thursday, October 23, 2003

Years ago, a study was done on the thought process differences between men and woman. From that study, the finding reported that one sex uses the right part of their brain for generating thought and the other sex used the other side, predominantly.

I’ve decided, after a lot of study and meditation on this subject, though I’m not a professional in this matter, that there is only one real difference between the thought processes of men and women. That is: the way we were taught to think as children, not the way we were physically created to think.

Most of us realize that society poses many of our non-verbal influences as we’re growing up, through the fictional portrayal of family structures in movies, representations in magazines, cultural mores and family traditions. Hormone balances, or the lack thereof, assert physiological influences in our thought processes as well as determine our physical attributes. Religious teachings, or the lack of them, often inflicts what many consider damnedable limitations on what, how and why we think certain ways. And then... there is our own inner penchant, that internal voice that buffers out some input and sharpens other input.

One thing is for certain: repetition of any one influence, in our behavior which we judge more suitable than another influence, patterns one pathway of the way we think.

When I first met my husband, Horace, we were both new cadets in the Florida Police Standards courses (1969). What drew us toward each other (besides an intense sexual appeal) was our instinctive similarities in the way we think.
Some call that instinct ‘being on the same wave length.’ Some call it ‘Kismet.’

We could often anticipate correctly the other’s need, or reaction, in a hostile environment. Sometimes we were on the opposite side of buildings and we’d know how the other was going to react in a training exercise.

I will use him as my example for several reasons. First, he is the first and only man I can honestly say I know well, having spent thirty-three years with him in some rather tight circumstances. Second, he’s a perfect example of a well-balanced human being. Thirdly, he can get mad about what I say, but he won’t sue me because then we’d both be broke longer!

That is not to say that we could always anticipate that the other was about to pull some practical joke or bestow some welcome blessing. We just accepted that as fact.

Knowing our basic personalities were well matched, pulling jokes or nice surprises for the other was part-and-parcel of our life-game. Expecting the unknown, at any time, was an inevitable part of who we are.

Our formal education levels are about the same: some college. Our instincts are about the same: inquisitive. Our personalities are about the same: gregarious. Our religious choice is the same: Charismatic Fundamental Christian. Our moral parameters are the same: strict and biblical. And our most aggravating vices are the same: tenacious stubbornness!

So, on most fronts, one would assume we would follow the same standards in our thought processes. But we don’t always do that. Being inquisitive, we try to trace out why we do some of the things we do and consciously re-pattern our behavior to make our marriage more comfortable.

This is what we have concluded: Our early childhood training was very similar. In fact, I really didn’t know I was a whole woman, though I’d had a child during a previous marriage, until I met him. He brought out in me a feminine side I didn’t know existed! Why? Because I’d always been taught to THINK LIKE A MAN.

There was a difference in the kinds of labor my mother and father did, but it had nothing to do with gender. It had everything to do with necessity, opportunity and sheer power. They were both hard working, inventive, intelligent, articulate and physically fit. And, as most of us, they had their own brand of dysfunction and insanity!

My parents didn’t intentionally teach me to think like a man, but it occurred naturally because the struggle for survival for my family was somewhat extraordinary. My father was a World War II Naval Frogman, and a Post-Traumatic-Stress-Syndrome battle veteran with violent flashbacks and killer instincts.

He was a man who couldn’t really adjust to social life back in the peaceful quiet of Modern Mediocrity.

To him, cars backfiring sounded like sniper fire, and an unexpected pat on the back was met with a split-second Ju Jistu take-down! He often caused those around him (myself included) to be paralyzed still with fear.

In the 1950’s, he moved his family of four into the boondocks of backwoods Florida, where we lived like pioneers: without electricity, roof and walls, plumbing or transportation.

Man! When we traveled through the old Appalachian mountains in the early 1950’s and I heard Mom and Dad talking about those “poor HillBillies” (no offense intended) I marveled! They looked like the California version of Jeb Clampet to me! If he thought they were poor... what were we? They had houses, and cars, and farms, and machines! We lived in an Army Surplus barrack tent!

As a child, I was expected, from about five years of age on, to be a contributing, integral part of the overall family unit. There was no division of labor by sex, just by strength.

Even in school, though I had girl friends, I was more into competition with the boys. I could run as fast, throw every bit as good a baseball, and I knew more survival things than most of them. But none of that had anything to do with “Right Brain” or “Left Brain” capacities. It had to do with training opportunity and practice.

About ten years ago, I had the occasion to think through all this because I suffered a series of physically and mentally debilitating traumas. I had been experiencing a deep pain in my feet and legs that seemed to defy medical definition, and it kept getting worse. Then I experienced a debilitating physical injury to my head, neck, shoulders, back and right hip when I fell over things placed carelessly on a concrete warehouse floor where I worked, where overhead lighting was deficient.

During a prolonged period of excruciating recovery and a vast variety of medications, coupled with the lack of funds it created, I lost my short-term memory... completely... and began to suffer more violent headaches than I knew were possible!

The saddest thing about my memory loss is that I knew what was wrong, and couldn’t seem to do anything about it. And, because of my physical injuries, I was helpless to do much about anything else either.

Now, I am a very strong spirit. By my early training and heredity, I am a relatively intelligent person. But it was through my latest training and experiences that I came to this particular conclusion: that the only difference between the thought processes of men and women is the way we were taught to think.

You see, because of my physical pain I couldn’t sleep for days on end. Only exhaustion brought sleep, and then, I couldn’t sleep long at one time.

Deep REM sleep is, scientifically, directly connected to the retention of short term memory. That was, at least, part of my problem. Most of my medications, I learned, were full of caffeine, which added to my sleep deprivation. Having been an avid reader since high school, I couldn’t even take comfort in that, because by the time I got to the third paragraph, I couldn’t remember the first two!

How did I get here from there? I chose to re-train my own brain by repetition! If I had learned it once, I could learn it again!
Despite our monumental medical bills, Horace indulged me and bought me a computer that was loaded with games. At first I couldn’t remember how to play solitaire. But I found that a computer won’t let you cheat, so it kept me on the straight and narrow road to recovery. My ever-patient husband reminded me day after day, hour after hour, what the rules were, and eventually, after months of work and, literally, thousands of solitaire games, I got it and it stayed.

I watched a miracle taking place! As my healing progressed, I could almost feel the new pathways that were forming in my brain. Molecule by molecule, day by day, new pathways were connecting to the old knowledge routes that remained in my brain, and my life and mind began to mend.

When my ability to think for myself, returned, I could ask more intelligent questions of my physicians and I began to take control of my own medical recovery.

I was wheelchair bound most of the time, and in most ways, that limited where I could go and what I could do. But I could go anywhere on the internet!

It took me longer to learn, perhaps, than the average adventurer into that world, but it taught me about my own brain connections, because every link on line is like a connection impulse in the brain. Junk in equals junk out! I stayed away from mental junk.

The more intelligently thought out questions I could ask, the faster I found the right medical answers. The answers led to better sleep... which led to better memory, and the pulse of that circle of life began to revive me.

Do I think like a woman? No. I think like an intelligent human being.

And you know what I found out about that ‘Right Brain – Left Brain’ experiment? The subjects of the study were all medically diagnosed as half-wits to begin with! They were detainees in a mental institution!

So, I have no intention of letting anyone label me using un-realisting, inaccurate, half-baked terms coined in some lopsided experiment!
I choose to be a woman who uses all my brain. How about you?


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The following comments are for "Right Brain... Left Brain... His Brain... Her Brain..."
by MaxiiJ

Thanks for your comment! I'm writing most of these as part of my autobiography for my grandkids, and I want readers imput so I perfect it before they get it. They may share your viewpoint and consider me a lost cause when they're older, but I want them to know what I did, and what I learned in the doing... hence the summaries I write at the end of each short article or story. So, your entire critique is valuable and I want to hear it.

Thanks again, "Marilyn" to the Max!

I'd love to know what you think on my submission on the FIGHT I won. It may not be posted yet, as I just finished it and submitted it this afternoon.

( Posted by: MaxiiJ [Member] On: April 28, 2004 )

Response to Jessicanm
Actually, you are completely right in saying it seems contradictory. I perceive you put the emphasis on the "contradictory" while I would put in on the "seems." I think the confusion arises out of different vantagepoints.

To say parental training is not a major FACTOR in who a person becomes would violate (I think) every principle of science. To say it is the only factor, on the opposite end of the spectrum, would be to deny God in life completely. That is not what I was doing. Sorry if it came across that way.

What I was trying to say is that from infancy until I was about 10, I had no real external influence about being feminine. After that, though I was taught, it was harder to pick up and assimilate. It didn’t come automatically.

I became the set of values that were instilled in my earliest years, even though I learned from watching my mother, who sewed, cooked, had children, cleaned house, paid bills, etc. Perhaps it was that we could not afford “girly frills” that I don’t miss them now.

It all comes to bear on who we become. However... there was always one main difference between me and the rest of my family, which is totally a “god” element. My family had no comprehension of “soul.” They could not empathize with anyone: which made them cold-hearted from the cradle to the grave. I find that the ability to empathize is one of the key ingredients all true Christians have; and many other religions share, too, as far as I can tell from the few people I know from other religions. For that reason, I kept asking my parents if I was adopted from the time I could speak until their deaths. They never answered either way.

I will reread it (since I originally typed it as a test for a literary agent, at two in the morning of that same day she gave the request) and see if I can clarify what I missed, which I can see from your comment, would leave a reader confused. Thanks for a great critique.

( Posted by: MaxiiJ [Member] On: April 29, 2004 )

Right brain etc
Really enjoyed your autobiographical snapshot. Something like those Readers Digest inspirational articles but better. It is now lodged in my brain and will get many airings. Ta

( Posted by: uschool [Member] On: May 13, 2005 )

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