A friend of mine often says, “Thank God for our Pains!” It reminds her
of “being alive!” She says that we should be grateful for the pain in our
knees, hands or other areas of our body. “We are lucky to have those
body parts…” Well, I really had to think about that while up in the
aerosol room on Friday, grumbling because I had just hit my shin on
a metal rack!
Understanding differences in how men and women are, often comes
up in my writings. I have spent hours on end, trying to figure out why
I have had my history with men! When I was reflecting back, I thought
of how in education they say boys learn differently from girls. They
have research to back up this, that girls have better communication
skills due to the area of the brain that is used is more highly developed.
While boys are great in math and science, girls are better in reading
and writing, especially while collecting facts and putting them into words
into a paper. For over thirty years, at least! there have been studies to
help emphasize the differences betweent the sexes in their learning
and genders’ weaknesses, so that we can improve our teaching
approaches. Bridging these “gaps” can make us not only better learners,
but also better partners in our relationships!
Of course, this was very helpful in my approaches in teaching my own
three children (girl-boy-girl, birth order) and also, in my classroom. I was
a Language Arts teacher, first in middle school. I liked projects, I knew
that the boys liked to put their “hands on” approach to these, those
props held while presenting papers, really helped them relax. If I had
a month of mysteries, with the different kinds of spelling, writing,
English composition and current events, say for October lessons,
I encouraged making paper mache masks, posters and any other
three dimensional projects that suited the book they had read.
Two of my favorite presentations were boys that had put together
a “radio show” to demonstrate their reading of “War of the Worlds.”
It was quite different from the famous one that you have heard of!
Also, the young man who made a paper mache heart to talk about
the short story by Edgar Allen Poe, “The Telltale Heart” and his little
tape of an actual heart beating heard behind the words he told in
his report: Awesome!
Anyway, understanding how we learn, how we feel (pain, included)
and what we both need are very important to help our relationships.
Relationships, I often say, are the reason I wrote this blog, because
they truly “reveal our hearts.” Most research of the sexes, determine
vast differences in the way we do those three important areas, learn,
feel and need.
I have to put this musical “shout out” to Billy Joel! I have used the
song, “Tell Her About It” many times in arguments or let’s put it nicely,
“discussions” with men. Love through words can really make a huge
difference in bringing people who love each other back together.
Equally important, through that hands on approach, men feel that
showing affection through actions is important. Men would like to
have more sex and women would like to have more romance in
As far as pain studies and research go, new strides are being made
at understanding the differences between the way men react to
pain and women do.
Here are the different versions of the definition of pain:
1.) Physical suffering associated with disease, injury or other bodily
2.) Harmful stimulus that a basic bodily sensation results in the
characteristics of physical discomfort.
3.) Acute mental or emotional distress. (otherwords, grief.)
4.) The care and effort in accomplishing something like taking
great “pains” to make someone feel better or get something done.
5.) Someone or something that annoys or is troublesome. (Men
are a ‘pain in the neck!’ or she’s a real pain!)
Very new studies in how we are able to cope and react to pain have
been uncovering startling differences between men’s and women’s
thresholds. Sure, for years, we thought women were able to handle
pain better due to the gender specific fact that women carry and
give birth to babies. Also, side note: I often wondered why my exes
seemed like “babies” when it came to any sickness or pain. Probably
not done a study on that yet!
Humans need pain! I found this out by reading on the subject of pain
recently. My daughter, some of you who have followed me for the
past year, may remember deals with rheumatoid arthritis. She has
had it since a child, hence its JRA (juvenile rheumatoid arthritis).
She has been in case studies at Ohio State and also, Children’s
Hospital since she was 11. She has more white blood cells than
red blood cells, usually, she also has the joints of a person over
65 years old. She still ran on the soccer field and when benched
due to her not always being the “best,” chose her senior year to
go onto the Cross Country team and made it into the top ten in
the district meet. (OCC) She is not a “whiner” nor does she mention
this to new dates. I called her a “hero” in an essay contest and we
had our picture taken and put in the Columbus Dispatch contest
in her high school years. When other teens didn’t want to get off
their butts from their computer, gaming and other areas of their
lives, she worked at Kroger’s as a cashier at 15, ran and also, did
not use it as an “excuse” to get out of anything!
Pain alerts us to danger and injury. If you touch something sharp,
hot or painful, this will trigger an electrical signal and releases
chemicals from cells in your fingers, racing up nerves of your arm,
to the area of the brain. To be technical, the thalamus and midbrain.
These are involved in sensory perception. The sensation goes to the
neocortex and the limbis system which gives us the type and intensity
of the pain. Memory and emotion assign us a “level of pain” on
how it registers and we react. If our memory is more painful we may
react differently to somethingwe have already experienced.
Someone, for example, who has had a hammer land on their foot
previously, may react with excruciating pain. The past memory
exacerbates it, making it seem even worse than the person who
for the first time, has a hammer land on their foot.
I get very upset when I bump or bash my legs. I am much more
likely to bruise, that knowledge makes me try so hard not to do
the bumping, but this morning, I rammed my leg on an open
cabinet! I almost screamed in frustration! I could see the bruising
and also, see redness and the future of broken capillaries. That
is my fate, I can look back at my Dad’s bruised, black and blue
veins on his legs and I can look at my Mom’s when I am in the
bathroom with her. We never recouperate from those bumps
and bruises. I tried to sit down and put ice on my leg, sat and
did “mindful chewing” and ate my breakfast. I know that it
will not be bad, in comparison to other’s daily pain nor should
I dwell on it too much. That is life in my body. But this led me
to write about the subject today!
Here is a reference on this subject, Allan Basbaum, PhD. who is
the chair of the anatomy department at University of California,
“Pain signals that are repeated over and over can eventually
cause physiological chemical changes that make nerve pathways
ultrasensitive. Once that happens, your brain interprets pain impulses
traveling on them as more intense and harder to regulate and
This is sad, because pain messages may become embedded in your
central nervous system so that your brain may keep sending them
** Even when they no longer exist! This is distressful to those with
fibromyalgia. Those pathways in your neurosystem, have developed
into extremely sensitive places where the slightest ache is intensified.
This explains also why women are the ones more likely to have this
and also, fill up the pain clinics. There is a different brain structure
that is like a wall where the pain is processed. Studies have found
the brain structures that help control consciousness, emotions, and
pain processing differ between the sexes. The women’s wall is thicker,
in the brain area studied, female patient who suffer frequent migraines
specifically. Along with the fact that only male rats are used for drug
studies, we have still a long way to go to discover sex appropriate drugs
to “cure” or “treat” different ailments. Only after the 1990’s have we
begun to start tracking the differences in the way sexes react to drugs.
This is directly shown through the difference in the way women have
heart attacks and strokes and men do. We are beginning to understand
that heart attacks and cardiovascular disease strikes the sexes differently.
As we get older, we all will need to adjust to the differences in the way
the sexes age, get diseases and how to handle them. While it may not
seem important to the younger readers, it is important to us all in society
who have parents, elderly relatives and friends, too. The ways we differ,
in our communication, effect us in the workplace and at home. We need
to understand that men feel useful if they are the ones who are fixing,
earning and doing. That is the way their gender, from childhood on, is
developing. It is out of their control! If you read about counseling or have
been through marital counseling, one of the most often heard phrases is,
“But I show her I love her by working hard, I come home, mow the yard,
and doing other chores. I am showing her I love her through my actions.”
Women, also often breadwinners, will emphasize the other side of love,
through emotions, by saying they express their love through telling their
partner that they appreciate this or that, they “remembered” their spouse’s
favorite meal to make or scent to wear. Communication is learning how
the other person thinks and feels.
Sympathy towards the other person’s aches and pains of growing older,
will go a long way towards staying connected, showing you care and
warming up your relationship. I am going to give you a few suggestions
of how to do this while we are all going through one pain or another
in this life. Take a bath or shower together, give back, foot or other
bodily parts massages, and try something new together that is enjoyable
to get your minds off the pain. It will help you to bridge back to your
younger selves to learn how to dance, go to the Y and swim, take cooking
lessons (remember to find a healthy cook since we do need to be careful
with our bodies as we age!) and take leisurely bike or walks through parks,
enjoying the scenery. Hold hands, watch t.v. on the same sofa, not your
separate areas or Lazy Boys!
Lastly, we knew our brains were different between the sexes, but who
knew how different?! I am sure that this contributes to that thought we
came from different planets!