I want to share a long held belief with you about men and women to see what you think.
I think that men and women have unconscious beliefs which hold us back from being authentically us.
Transactional Analysis uses the concept of Driver Behaviours, which are unconscious behaviours which sometimes serve us and sometimes don’t.
- Be Strong
- Try Hard
- Be Perfect
- Hurry Up
- Please Others
Here’s a summary of them:
My observation is that men are conditioned to Be Strong and women are conditioned to Please Others.
From an evolutionary perspective this might make sense. Men,the hunter gatherers needed to be brave and logical in order to hunt and kill. They couldn’t let their emotions get the better of them and even if they were hunting with others, they would have had their own part to play, their own role, to do on their own.
Women would have been in charge of the children and keeping the home fires burning. It would have been useful for women to please others, to look out for their own children and those of the other women. Fitting in to a group would have been the best survival strategy as foraging for food with children is hard (as anyone who has been to s supermarket with a 2 year old will know).
So I can see how these behaviours have evolved. My question is, are they serving men and women now?
Men and Be Strong
P has a huge Be Strong. He is used to problem solving on his own, he can be very focused and logical and finds it extraordinarily difficult to ask for help (ref trying to get the bed up stairs on his own). His Be Strong Driver has made him good at his job and great in a crisis. He can problem solve under pressure and is very independent. All really helpful.
I have another male friend who when he was going through a tough patch, went to the gym. He literally made his body stronger whilst absolutely avoiding expressing how he was feeling or allowing himself to attend to his emotional needs.
Another friend has been poleaxed by a family crisis which has been so tough that his Be Strong is crumbling, he’s not managing to hold it all together as he usually does and so he’s not only struggling with the situation, but by his lack of ability to tough it out as he usually does. He feels scared of the situation as much as his emotions.
Periodically, there will be reports in the news of men who have killed themselves (and sometimes their family) because they’ve gone bankrupt or lost their job. I think this is the tragic aspect of Be Strong when men feel like they can’t fail, can’t lose, can’t make mistakes and so would rather be dead than feel ashamed or ashamed or needy.
- Do you recognise this in yourself or the men in your life?
- How does Be Strong help you/them?
- How does it hold you/ them back?
- What are the beliefs you have about Being Strong?
Women and Please Others
I have Please Others in abundance. I was brought up to be a nice girl, to be polite, to not be too big for my boots and to put other people first. I think this helps me in my work as a teacher and as a mum. In those roles I want to look after the people I am with and to do all I can to help them thrive.
However, it is absolutely my Achilles heel. In relationships in the past I have lost myself and what I want and like because I have been so focused on my partner. On a wider level now, I am constantly challenging myself to be more of myself and to please myself in what I do, how I live and how I think and sometimes, frankly, it’s terrifying.
Please Others to some extent encourages conformity; if we are pleasing others we are not going to whistle blow, campaign or stand out in a crowd because the crowd wouldn’t like that. So pleasing myself runs the risk of disapproval, or being left out, of not being part of the group which from an evolutionary survival point of view would have been a catastrophe.
I see female friends who are hiding their rage, their dreams, their desires and their own needs in the service of others and I see them depressed and frustrated and resentful.
- Do you recognise this in yourself or the women you know?
- What do you believe about Pleasing Others?
- How does it help you?
- How does it hold you back?
So what now?
Be Strong and Please Others can become traps or fences behind which we hide ourselves; they get in the way of intimacy and authentic communication. They stifle us all from being alive in the moment and in touch with ourselves.
When we spot each other playing out these Drivers in an unhelpful way we have the opportunity to point them out and kindly challenge them in each other. We can ask our female friends and partners what they want, what they need, what they like. We can give them permission to take time for themselves and to do what they want.
When we spot a male friend or partner Being Strong when they don’t need to be we can ask how they feel, give them permission to ask for help, permission to get it wrong and to feel all that they are feeling.
We need to allow each other to come out from behind our drivers to be all of our self. Men and women can learn from each other and encourage each other to integrate the aspects of ourselves which we keep hidden.