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Jan 23, 2014

Must Reading for Anyone who is Either Male or Female

One person said that if you only read one book, The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine is the one. It indeed might change your thinking and relationships significantly. Her two books including The Male Brain, draw on hundreds of research studies including her own. They describe from a hormonal perspective the way our brains develop from conception. They convincingly demonstrate the source of many female-male differences and misunderstandings arising from those differences. In effect, ‘you can’t expect someone who is color blind to find the red car no matter how much you yell at them.’

She begins with conception and notes that all fertilized eggs are female until about week 8 when the Y chromosome begins to produce massive amount of testosterone in males which ‘marinates’ the brain and kills off some of the cells which would have developed into the communication and socialization centers and enhances those cells developing sex and aggression centers. For example, at birth, females naturally search the face of her mother for emotional cues; males are attracted to everything that might be interesting but not the mother’s face.

At puberty, human brains again experience a rapid development of new structures. However, in the female brain, under the influence immense increases especially in estrogen and progesterone, those centers for communicating, forming social bonds and nurturing are enhanced. On the other hand, the male brain gets a testosterone tsunami which tends to be toxic to those but rather encourages its amygdale and hypothalamus to grow to more than twice the size of that in the female brain. ‘Research shows that it takes extraordinarily intense sensations to activate the reward centers of the teen boy brain, and homework just doesn’t do it.’ Have you ever counseled a teenage boy that seemed sleepy, sullen, non-communicative, non-motivated? That is his ‘hormonal-given’ personality just as ‘talkative’ teen girls are expressing aspects of their new estrogen-enhanced brains!

Note that most school systems are set up to reward behavior appropriate for the teen female brain and are in conflict with behavior from the teen male brain that has just been reconfigured under the influence of massive amount of testosterone and vasopressin.

And that is the main point of this blog—when was the last time you read about counseling theories, research and techniques which made a clear distinction between males and females? Of course there are many similarities between males and females but there are also significant differences between the structure and organization of their brains affecting what they notice, how they interpret what they perceive, what they are motivated by, etc.

For parents it can be very disconcerting when preteen brains morph under the influences of their respective hormones into teen brains thereby creating entirely new personalities.

If you are a counselor or a male or a female, these two books will give you new perspectives on every relationship you have—even that with yourself. They are also a delight to read.

[Note that although I feel everyone should read The Female Brain and The Male Brain, I do have some difficulties with the way she conceptualizes and reports on the research but my concerns do not distract from her significant observations.]
Ray McKinnis is a counselor with special interest in 'spirituality beyond religion' and veterans 'beyond PTSD'.  He is now on staff with New Hope Clinical Services, LLC. 

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