Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Facts vs. Feelings: Looking at the reality

Years ago, a woman I worked with returned from a church-sponsored couples retreat--all heterosexual couples, of course--and raved about the inspirational messages she’d heard there. When she parroted the minister’s message that the reason men and woman are different is that men deal in facts and women deal in feelings, I had to speak up or bite my tongue clear through.

“Actually,” I said, “that should be something like ‘men in general deal with the concrete and women in general deal with the abstract.’”

I can’t deal with rhetoric about the inferiority of women in business, politics, religion, and family relationships. And to me, that was the message conveyed in the minister’s analogy.

I explained it this way: “The opposite of fact is fiction. Feelings are real. They are fact, not fiction. Men in general--not all men, thank goodness--learn the dangerous lesson to suppress their feelings. All humans have feelings. Even animals have feelings. When positive feelings are suppressed, a person’s better nature is suppressed and they eventually erupt in the form of negative feelings. That’s why war, the worst example of bad feelings gone amok, is viewed primarily as a male activity.”

Ouch! I’d touched another nerve. This lady was a super-warmonger too. Her main regret in life was the fact that her husband had joined the Air Force right after Vietnam, so he missed the combat experience. More importantly, she’d missed what she viewed as the “romance” of being a war wife.

It gets worse. Being older than she, I’d had to send two different husbands off to serve tours in Vietnam on three separate occasions, all while tending to one, then two youngsters at home. So, add her jealousy to the mix. It didn’t help that our experiences had convinced me and my husband that there must be a better way for societies to solve problems. By then, I was a budding peace advocate. Double ouch!

She had a hard time understanding why I didn’t think everything her minister said came direct from the Mind of the Almighty. Knowing the horrors that have been committed over the centuries in the name of God, that didn’t do it for me. That’s why I took the minister’s admonition with a huge dose of salt.

But anyone who claims women’s feelings are not real just doesn’t talk to me. And that’s the message I got from that analogy. What’s more, by that time in the mid-‘80s, I was already aware of the nascent research into the fact that what used to be dismissed as mere “feelings” has real physiological effects on the body. From adrenaline to brain chemistry, when we feel things, we’re actually experiencing chemical changes that can effect long-term changes in many of our internal organs.

So feelings are certainly not fiction, and that’s a fact!

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