A Book Review by Jessica Withers
“Men!” How did you hear that word in your head—with frustration? Anger? Disgust? Humor? The men in our lives behave in ways we women just cannot understand; it makes no sense. Louanne Brizendine’s new book The Male Brain will give you a glimpse into its inner workings. Did I hear a snort of laughter from you? Now really, after hearing all about our own complex and sophisticated brain in Brizendine’s The Female Brain, its time for you to see just how intriguing the male brain is.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from my fellow women is that their men don’t sympathize enough. The woman wants to spend some time with her emotions, but the man jumps right into problem solving. Men prefer to use a part of their brain known as the temporal-parietal junction system or TPJ; the TPJ firmly separates out “self” emotion from “others” emotion. Next time your man pats your hand and offers his wisdom, it is because the TPJ swiftly takes over male thought processes when it comes to emotions. They may have a brief burst of empathy but then they are off to solve their partner’s obvious distress. And when they do come up with a solution (whether we women like it or not) they will get a victory rush. Feel good chemicals like dopamine will flood into their brain.
The victory rush is extremely important to the male brain. By first grade, it is programmed to be the best—at something, anything, from winning at sports to burping their ABC’s. As long as the male is “the best” then the brain is happy. If it can’t be the alpha male in a situation, then it will attempt to befriend and form an alliance with the alpha male. Showing strength and aggression will give the male brain a dopamine rush, add in a few insults and the feeling is even better. And since dopamine is an addictive reward neurochemical, men will gladly suffer pain and agony in their attempts to get it. For the male brain, the purpose behind play is to determine rank: are they the best at Wii Boxing? Are they the best at soccer? Are they the best at throwing stones at passing vehicles? A good father instinctively understands this and lets his sons periodically beat him at games. If you remember from The Female Brain, we women are more concerned with keeping relationships smooth and unruffled than in challenging those relationships. Personally, I’m perfectly happy to let someone else be the best at burping their ABC’s!
The men in my house seem to constantly be moving; even when sitting down a leg may be jiggling or fingers may be tapping. The male brain learns by doing; for example, when it hears the word “jump” it sends “jump” signals to the appropriate muscles. Men want to move, they want to see things move and make things move. In a freshman-level psychology class years ago, we were told that we should buy dolls for our future sons and trucks for our future daughters so that we did not pre-determine their gender. Research since then has shown that that tactic would not succeed; the male brain is obsessed with movement. Boys will consistently choose a toy truck over a doll; it’s in the makeup of their brain.
The Male Brain is full of important information for women. Wondering why your toddler son ignores your warnings? Struggling with a teenage son who is suddenly distancing himself from you? Upset that your husband let his ex-wife keep him away from their young children? These answers and more are in this book. The more we learn about why our men act and behave the way they do, the more comfortable our relationships will be.
About Jessica Withers
Jessica has been in a stepmother role to 3 children for almost 2 years. She has recently started a Stepmom Support Group for stepmoms in Tompkin’s County. She has worked in public and academic libraries for over nineteen years.