Thich Nhat Hanh copy

The Pain of Mars vs Venus


Today I found myself thinking about this idea that “men and women are different species”.
To be precise, I found myself “sensing” how much pain this “idea” brings out for people.
Especially men.

See, here’s the thing. As women, we are “allowed” to talk about our feelings and our inner worlds. We are allowed to connect with each other.

Men are not granted that privilege. If “this over here” is their inner self, they are expected to live “over there”. In another galaxy, in another Universe. Separated from themselves… and by definition, separated from everyone else.

The result is that men spend their lives “disconnected” from everyone.

And because men and women are presumed to be so “different”, that means there is no common ground for us to relate to each other. Which in turn means that we can’t “connect” with each other… EVER.

Let’s rewind back to men’s childhood… when they get to experience perhaps the closest relationship they ever have with another human being… the mother.
Fast forward to adult men, who are told in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that this close connection with the mother is “wrong”. And then, for those men who are attracted to women, society tells everyone that men cannot and will not connect to women. EVER. Because we are all too different.
Men spend their lives hankering for a bond they’ll never have again. Cue in Freud…

To summarise women at least are allowed to connect with each other. But men… they are left to connect with nobody. EVER.

The picture you see above is one of doom and misery for all involved. Not pretty. Everyone suffers from this “Mars & Venus myth”.

The truth is that when it comes down to it, there’s very little difference between one human being and the next.
But if that’s true… why are men so “hell bent” on proving that they are a different species to women?

Answer: because they are in pain. The lack of connection to themselves and to others is causing them pain. And acknowledging this pain and what is causing it would be very painful indeed.

But of course this is something that both men and women do. I caught myself thinking the other day “men can’t really love that much, surely”.

So what’s the way out of this situation? To bring awareness to what is going on with compassion and love.

The Techniques

Here’s a primer of the techniques we can use

  • Notice what you are thinking. When you catch yourself thinking “oh, men are so *X*”, pause and say to yourself “ok, I am totally thinking that men are this thing. This is what I’m thinking right now.”
  • Notice when you are in pain. Describe your feelings with as many words as possible. Perhaps you are feeling: disconnected, hurt, lonely, sad, scared, anxious. It helps to find out how a thought makes you feel
  • Try as best you can to release all judgement of yourself. Say to yourself “this is a thought pattern I have right now. It doesn’t say anything bad about me. It’s just what I’m thinking and feeling right now. I’m sure I have a reason for thinking and feeling this way
  • Listen to the voice that says “men really are *X*” and pay close attention to what the voice says after that, like “so there’s not chance they’d understand you” or “so you couldn’t possibly be close to one”.
  • Last: remember that this thought patterns and “voices” are only trying to help. In my case they are trying to spare me the pain of seeing how my dream to be loved “that much” by a man has crashed and burned many times over. It hurts less to convince myself that “men can’t really love that much”, rather than acknowledge that “it’s me who hasn’t been loved that much”.

It hurts to know the truth. But it hurts far less than going though life forcing yourself to accept an idea that’s causing you pain.


4 thoughts on “The Pain of Mars vs Venus

  1. Men feel the need to otherize women because they’ve grown up indoctrinated by a culture of dominance. While Hanh has a point, I don’t like the implication she is making that the more enlightened among us should volunteer to be caretakers of other people’s emotions. That’s exhausting, and the eternal mommy / caretaker role is another form of slavery.

  2. Cheers, M. K. Hajdin! You are officially the first commenter in this website! WOO!!! *throws confetti*

    Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk. I chose the quote because, though he is referring to the whole of humanity, he uses the pronoun “he”, so I read it as applying to men.

    But the Buddhist idea behind it is not to take care of other people’s emotions at all. That wouldn’t help them: it would keep them forever dependent on other people, which is kinda what happens with men, who are forever dependent on women to handle their emotions.
    What he’s referring to is this: when you know in your bones that the person making you suffer is suffering himself, you don’t get mad at him. And that’s essential to stop the “I get mad at you, you get madder at me, I get even madder at you” circle.

    All we have to do is acknowledge that the other person is suffering. But acknowledging it deeply. Which is hard work, but it’s also worth it.

  3. I keep getting this Hanh mixed up with my school friend named Hanh who was a she. :D

    I see your point, but remain skeptical of Buddhism. They treat female monks really badly.

    Also, as the Clash say, anger can be power.

  4. I’m skeptical of Buddhism too. And yoga. And everything else, really.

    Here’s my mantra for… life: Take what serves you… discard the rest ;)

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