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Tend and Befriend

April 6, 2007

Fight or flight? We all know this phrase and we all know the feeling of that rush of stress hormones that make our hearts race and our hands sweat! But did you know that all (ok most!) of those studies about the effects of hormones and our reactions to stress were done on men?

So one day, some scientists (women) were sitting around and noticed that when men are stressed, they go off alone and hole up and work harder. When women are stressed, they clean up the lab, make some coffee and sit around and talk to other women. That observation led to their research on the effects of stress on women.

They found that women produce oxytocin also and estrogen enhances the effects of oyxtocin. Oxytocin is that glorious hormone that is released when we nurse our babies. Some people call it the feel-good hormone. In my quick skimming around the internet, I see oxytocin levels correlated to trust levels. Higher oxytocin means easier to trust.

So while men are having the stress response enhanced by testosterone – women are having the stress response mediated by estrogen which enhances the effects of oxytocin . All I can say is wow! Read the abstract here…

I love the imagery of tend and befriend. The idea that when threatened, women gather and tend to the children and seek comfort with others. What a paradigm shift this would be if as a nation, a civilization, a planet, we tended and befriended instead of lashing out.

How trusting are you? Where are you tending and befriending in your life?

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One comment

  1. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment on my blog. I am just venturing forth for the first time to see what is up with those who took that kind of care. Being in an ongoing family crisis that shows no sign of abating, my sense of how trusting I am has been going through some disturbing permutations lately. The same could be said for whom I tend and befriend. I’m at the kind of bedrock zone of pscyhological/emotional damage and exhaustion where the most truthful (and perhaps ultimately the most empowering) answer I can give is that I’ve grown (somewhat reluctantly) focused mainly on tending and befriending of myself. Since I am appalled to find myself flat out of outreaching trust, compassion, and a sense of creativity/healership at the moment, such tending and befriending is no small thing. I keep thinking about a certain low point in Carl Jung’s life where he retreated to create a mud and stick village in his back yard. I am SO there …



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