Throughout my adult life I seemed to have been drawn towards dating unstable nutty dramatic women. Sound familar? Well, with age, I've learned that judging people only proves one thing, that we are being judgmental. Doing so attempts to remove the burden of our own responsibility in any given situation.
Looking at my past relationships purely factually based, I can definitely see some truth to referring to them as nuts, I mean getting things thrown at you is probably not a sign of a healthy relationship, but the fact remains that I was the one that consciously chose to have such people in my life, which doesn't say a whole lot about my own stability in my younger years.
Rather than go into some Freudian discussion about the reasoning for this bizarre attraction that we have towards chaos and drama, I wanted to share some insights which have changed my perceptions and have led me to the wonderful relationship I have now with my wife and a better understanding of the opposite sex.
Turn Frustration Into Motivation
I've always been artistically inclined and rather overly analytical. It's been a blessing and a curse at times. I thrive on picking things apart mentally and visually, try to understand them and how they work. I love to explore truths, sort out mysteries and then piece it all together and sometimes create something new. After a number of heart breaks and bad experiences I realized it was time to evolve out of my current paradigm. I was determined to turn my frustration and confusion into proactive steps towards self-improvement. To piece it all back together and create something beautiful.
About 10 years ago, I read the book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus“. It opened my eyes to a new way of thinking and finally I thought that I could at least find some logic in understanding women's needs and their way of thinking. What used to just be labeled in my mind as “woman are freaking crazy” now became a personal challenge to understand and respect their ways of thinking.
You can only alter two things in any situation:
1. The actions you choose to take
2. Your perception of the situation.
So rather than feeling helpless, I saw a few options to choose from to make a real change in my life:
A) I could continue to participate in complaining about how nuts women are.
B) I could try to change every woman I ever dated so she thought like I did.
C) I could be a single reclusive hermit.
D) I could learn to understand and change how I view women's way of thinking.
Being a guy, I kept my eyes on the prize, and (D) seemed like the only logical choice in meeting my life's goals.
Translation Does Not Mean Fluency
But even with these new insights which I'd learned from books and articles I've read over the years, the problem still remained that it was still a matter of translation. Which is to say that Female-Thinking would enter my brain and I'd have to translate it to Man-Thinking and then re-translate it back to woman-language. I'd then cross my fingers, hold my breath and hope that the translation I used worked. (As a side note, I wish Google would just create an app for this)
Even though intellectually I was beginning to understand and respect the differences, there was still plenty of times in my life that I just felt like metaphorically slapping my forehead and rolling my eyes in frustration* with thoughts running through my head such as “why does this situation have to be so dramatic or so damn complicated?”…or…”Not again…”
(*side note: Don't actually make that facial expression or say those thoughts out loud , chicks do not dig it.)
Every man can relate, just as every woman can relate to feeling emotionally ignored and not understood. That sort of thinking just perpetuates the problems we all experience. I see this with women friends of mine too where they claim to know how men think but they usually only understand intellectually and superficially…book smarts. But there's no relationship to the knowledge.
Despite the differences in genders, we have various levels of both male and female energy and thought patterns in the stereotypical sense at least. But as a broad observation, most people would agree that men as a whole are very outcome based and we pride ourselves on being logical (whatever that means) , whereas women are often socially connected and emotionally & intuitively driven. There are exceptions of course and clearly nurture plays a significant role but I think it's undeniable that we are hardwired differently.
Several years ago, when I finished painting in my studio, I got into a conversation with Chelsea in the kitchen. We were talking about the different ways that men and women think, which is a topic of debate that we've all participated in. I think that for us men, one of the things that makes it harder for us to fully appreciate how women work is to the fault of women. Yes ladies, sorry, but it's true….read on.
How often do women sit around and complain and gossip about other women saying how crazy this friend is or how bitchy that one is or how this girl makes no sense or how that one said this and that. When us guys hear that stuff, it just emphasizes our sexist stereotypes and verifies that ‘our way makes more sense'. Women reading this can list a hundred ways guys are self-defeating too and I won't deny that.
We went on to discuss some couple-friends that we care about a great deal. We were trying to dissect some of their relationship problems because we wanted to strategize ways to support them lovingly. We shared our viewpoints of how each gender processes the same situation differently and I think we did so in a very unbiased balanced way. (It's always easier to use this approach towards when you are not one of the people under the magnifying glass)
I was trying to explain to her during our talk, that in this phase of my adult life, I usually intellectually know how women's brains process situations. However I still didn't see the value in solving problems and coping with life in this emotionally dramatic and intuitive way. It made no sense to me.
As a man, we have a tendency to focus on our goals, aim and shoot. Anything not having to do with our goals doesn't warrant a place in our thoughts because it's a distraction. Us men focus all of our attention into the leakiest part of our ships. If something is urgent and important it gets top priority, if something in our career or long term goals needs attention, it gets it all. If something or someone seems ok, we ignore it because it's already checked off as “OK” on our To-Do list.
Sadly, people and roles in our lives that are not part of our current “mission” become collateral damage because we as men don't see an intuitive need to maintain,nurture and balance other areas of our lives unless we consciously make it a direct goal. I'll call this “Target Thinking” often known to women as Typical Man Thinking.
Chelsea reinforced to me that women on the other hand will get in their heads a pattern of thinking and start going off on tangents looking for other areas of their lives where this way of thinking can apply. A thought or comment about what plans are for next week might quickly transmute into panicking over worries about having children or where their next home will be or how plans need to be made to catch up with college friends.
“Really?“, I thought, “…women really need to find parallel issues to other seemingly unrelated areas of life in order to work though problems and feel connected? Why not just focus on whatever the issue is at hand and tackle it then and there?”, I continued. This female “Parallel Thinking” made sense on paper, like I understood what she was saying as the words came out of her mouth, but how does that make any sense? How is that useful? I was glad that I kind of understood it, it's a helpful skill to work on as a dude, but I was sure glad to be a man because that still seemed kinda' nutty.
(Insert the metaphorical lightbulb going off over my head here)
I LOVE ART. I love painting, I love drawing, I love sculpting, I love doodling on napkins and imagining things in the clouds. It's always been my release. I learn about myself and the world through the meditative and often stressful process of creating art. When I am in my most intuitive creative mode, when I am in the zone, I am actually often using “Parallel Thinking”! “Holy shit!!! How could I already be connected to my female way of thinking so deeply and not have seen it?”, I thought. All along what I referred to as my artistic ability was actually closely related to being able to think like a woman. (gasp)
So I explained this revelation to Chelsea and I felt more connected than ever before to this side of me. I described times in my studio when I would get lost in my own mind and go off on what seemed like spiritual tangents which inevitably would become some of my greatest work. Moments of clarity that led to me to search for beauty, identify patterns in shapes, linear composition, subject matter & colors that normally might have nothing to do with each other. Bending and distorting objects and figures because it felt right and not because there was logic to it. What a magical way of thinking.
The down side to this Parallel-Thinking during the creative process for me is that I can get lost in my own head and emotionally feel drained and allow that negative pattern to seek out other areas of similar criticism in my personal or professional life. If left unchecked it can throw me into a low level of self-confidence and I feel drained and yes, it makes me bitchy.
During these low moments, I'll be seen slouched over my easel with complete frustration on my face. I feel that this painting might never be able to be completed. I feel worthless. I know at these times that I'm being overly dramatic and that this feeling will pass but I get in moments of crisis nevertheless. “Is this similar to how women feel?”, I asked her. She nodded and agreed.
How could I possibly do what I do as an artist without Parallel Thinking?! Focusing on emotional connection & intuition drives me to paint the way I do. But then, if I didn't use my ability to Target Think with my focus on outcomes,structure & logic, my paintings would have no cohesiveness or attention to detail. I need my ability to use ratios, mathematics and color theory to bring together all of the emotional elements. Creating art for me is really a search for that perfect balance between Target-Thinking and Parallel-Thinking.
When I going off on too many tangents with a piece, I find myself thinking how unnecessarily complex I am being. When I get too logical with a painting it loses it's soul and magic. Just as this applies to my art, both genders need to learn to balance and embrace both male and female energies. Both Parallel and Target Thinking methods need to find harmony, because without both we are not complete.
I learned through my love of art that a woman needs to seek connection and explore her thoughts across her whole life in the same way that I need to do so when I paint. But just as every man must learn to value and connect to this side of himself, every woman needs to acknowledge and focus on outcomes and goals so she is empowered to pull herself out of the downward spiral that too much Parallel-Thinking can lead to.
So the next time you find yourself feeling like your gender's way of thinking is the right way, take a moment to think about the hobbies, career goals and favorite life experiences that need both sides of your thinking to be in harmony.