Women have an URGE to MERGE.
We’ve all heard of the survival instinct termed the fight-or-flight response, our instinctual behavior of either confronting a threat with aggression, or fleeing from a perceived threat, by withdrawing from the situation as quickly as possible. Conventional wisdom holds that we adopted this evolutionary programming from our Neolithic ancestors. And in the Stone Age, this may have been true — for men. As humans were evolving, men needed to exhibit their level of status and power within the group through aggression or dominance. If they could not attain the hierarchical dominance, they would back away.
Research by Dr. Shelley E. Taylor and her team at UCLA shows that the female response to the fear of threat is a tend-and-befriend instinct. This means that in times of stress, women lean toward social support, communication, cooperation, and strong relationships. Women’s higher levels of the hormonal production of oxytocin and estrogen reduce fear and anxiety, and promote a care-giving response. These “feel-good” hormones, which are also the hormones involved during heightened sensations of euphoria and orgasm, promote social relationships and bonding. Women create, maintain, and use social networks (especially forming female friendships), to manage stressful conditions. In turn, the strong bonds of community lessened the effects on females of stress and the fear of threats.
To the degree that men spend much more time and energy in the pursuit of dominance (think of the stereotypical “high powered” business man, or the alpha-male, vying for status in the group), women focus much more on bonding, collaborating, and communicating. Thus, the things that scare us are very different. We have been looking at our evolutionary response to fear in a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all, or more specifically, a one-gender-fits-all approach, that just doesn’t do us justice.
Clearly, from our cavewoman ancestors to our present day challenges, women and men are on different paths to ecstasy.
Next time, we’ll explore the way to face your fears in a fiercely feminine way!