My name is Jon Poindexter.
I am an artist and a healer; and I am an psychotherapist, an acupuncturist, Reiki Seichim Master and Yoga instructor. I manage a practice in Chicago where I and my staff work with adults, teens, adolescents, individuals, couples and families. I also travel to Oslo to teach yoga and see clients.
There are some ass backwards notions fucking up our relationship dynamics in the Western world. Some of these notions are based on a cultural supposition that men and women are predisposed to want diametrically opposite things in relationships.
Some of the most obvious and common of these ass backwards notions are:
– men are afraid of commitment and women are only interested in commitment
– a man is solely responsible for a woman’s happiness is a marriage (or romantic, committed relationship)
– in order for a woman to be happy in a relationship the man must make sacrifices that will make him unhappy (or vice versa)
– men do not want their woman to think and act independently
– men are not interested in their woman’s happiness
These attitudes create power struggles right out of the starting gate! These ideas are fantastic fodder for romantic comedies and soap operas, but make terrible cognitions for entering a relationship.
One the most common cognitions (thoughts) behind these types of power struggles (mentality) are “ men are intimidated by intelligent/strong women.” This cognition often times points to an underlying reaction and power struggle based upon gender role stereotypes. Additionally, it pre-supposes that
1) ALL men do not want WOMEN to be powerful
2) if a woman is powerful EVERY man will be intimidated
3) in a relationship ALL men do not want their woman to be strong.
Cognitively, that’s trouble. Cognitively, there is very little chance that this thought is going to produce a feeling of safety, well being and trust in the person (people, couple) who believe in that cognition. In other words, purely from the hard wiring of the brain, it is a thought that produces conflict. From the start, the the relationship is set to conflict.
On an emotional level, fear, suspicion and doubt are created. Splash in a little mistrust. That stirs up a little jealousy. And the party gets started from there.
While it certainly is valid to say that SOME men do not like “strong” women (whatever the hell ‘strong’ is supposed to mean. I’ll get to that in a second.) it is not to say that ALL or even MOST men do. When the above thoughts (cognitions) are in play, the position from the woman’s point of view easily becomes that she must assert herself or else she is being “weak.” There is also a chance for a disconnect between what is “being strong” and what is “being stubborn and inflexible.” For men, being “strong” is not the same as being “bossy,” “argumentative,” “loud,” “critical,” or “inflexible.” It’s also not to say that “all” or “most” men dislike “strength” in women any more than any other character attribute. Some men don’t like “quiet” women or “flirtatious” women or “women who snore.” Seriously, its at that level.
When a person or a group fights back for their rights and respect against another person, group or society, there is a backlash or pendulum swing of emotion. (For years in race relations, this phenomena was called “reverse racism”.) In a relationship, when the power dynamic is challenged, the one who is making an assertion to claim power can develop feelings of aggression, animosity, anger or even hate against the one who’s power is challenged.
This is the phase we are experiencing in our feminist and women’s rights movements.
As we (society) began integrating feminist thought into the mainstream culture, we experienced a kind of extremism. The pendulum has swung so that men who assert themselves in a relationship are “trying to put their woman down” and women must “stick up for themselves.”
In a relationship, many conflicts can be analyzed in terms of the power dynamics. Who feels empowered or not; who feels respected or not. And in analyzing the stereotypes and cultural subtexts in the cognitions, many conflicts can then be settled in a “humanistic” way.
In the mix of our cultural conflicts played over in our lives and in our media, no one speaks of compromise as strength. No one speaks of cooperation as a virtue.
Presentations and cognitions of cooperation carry the subtext of “keeping the woman happy/keeping the peace in the home” and “one person wins and the other loses.” In the words of Dr. Phil, “The home ain’t happy if mamma ain’t happy.”
That’s fucked up for mamma, poppa and all the baby bears!
So first, mamma bear is emotionally crippled. She is immediately doomed to either give all of her power of happiness to poppa bear (and by extension to baby bears) and have no impetus to secure her own happiness. Poppa bear has got to shoulder the emotional load, and if he’s unhappy, well that’s just the way it has to be cause its all about mamma bear. If mamma bear is unhappy, well its all poppa bear’s fault cause he’s gotta do it. And baby bears will react to boost up mamma bear: until one day they fail to make her happy. This is not the Berenstain Bears bedtime story.