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The New Feminine Brain: Developing Your Intuitive Geniusby Mona Lisa Schulz
Women have a unique feminine brain. It is different from a man's brain. And it has its own styles of thought. Yet for the last fifty years women have had to fit their brains into a "male" world. We have had to learn how to, as the song says, "walk like a man," and "talk like a man," but stay a woman inside. To accommodate these two divergent roles, our brains have had to rewire themselves.
It's a biological fact that the process of learning any new skill creates physical, structural changes in the brain. Much research has demonstrated learning-induced changes in the brain. A recent study showed that even learning to juggle objects caused physical changes in brain anatomy. When a woman learns to juggle the traditional feminine role with newer, once typically male responsibilities, her brain changes physically and functionally. And as our world has gotten more technologically complex, the task of assuming roles common to both sexes has taken its toll on women's emotional and physical health.
So just being a woman today gives you some inborn mental and emotional challenges. However, the unique wiring of your brain and body also gives you some unique gifts and abilities.
In this book, I'll tell you how, as a woman, you can keep your brain tuned in to your natural mood cycles and thought patterns, but also be able to tune in to the new challenges that you face as you go to work in the boardroom, the home, the hospital, or the office — without compromising your health.
I can help you do this because I have done it myself.
After four years of medical school and three years of a Ph.D. program in neuroanatomy and behavioral neuroscience, I knew how traditional science viewed the female brain. I had studied it and compared it to the male brain. I had researched how emotions are wired in the brain; how memory and attention are wired; how morality, movement, desire, and passion are wired; and how the brain and body are interconnected. But fourteen years ago, when I walked onto the medical floor at Boston City Hospital as a medical student doing a clerkship, I looked around at the other doctors and realized that a lot of women working there didn't have the traditional feminine brain I'd learned about. Sure, there were the empathetic, motherly types who went into pediatrics or family practice and in their spare time ran recycling drives and worked for the homeless. But one woman we all had pegged for pediatrics shocked us by going into surgery — the most macho of all medical specialties.
In short, my understanding of how a woman's brain is wired was turned on its head. And what I had learned in seven years of training didn't amount to a row of pins when it came to making clinical decisions about my patients. At no time was this more obvious than my first day in the hospital, when I was sent to the emergency room to examine my first patient. I looked the part of a traditional doctor in my brand-new white 100-percent-cotton doctor's jacket, carrying my brand-new black doctor's bag. But it soon became apparent that despite two advanced degrees and $275,000 in tuition (and student loans), the traditional — read, masculine — approach to medicine wasn't going to work for me.
All I was told about the patient was her name and age. But as soon as I heard her name, information about her started coming to me intuitively. I could see in my mind's eye where her body was affected, and at the same time, I could sense her emotional state and how that might have predisposed her to illness. With these clues, I quickly checked the reference books in the on-call room for background in illnesses and conditions associated with her symptoms and made a note of tests I might need to do to make a diagnosis. It was the intuitive information, combined with all the knowledge packed in the traditional doctor's bag of my brain, that helped me approach that first patient with some degree of skill, if not poise. Even so, using my ophthalmoscope that first time, I shone the light into my own eye, not the patient's, to her great amusement.
Though I quickly realized I wasn't going to be a traditional doctor, it seemed that I wasn't going to be like some of my female colleagues either. I still couldn't get my hair and wardrobe organized like many other women, and I didn't go for the bib jumpers and clogs of some of the female doctors headed for family practice. I knew I had to figure out how my brain worked so that I could fit into this system and be successful.
Today, I know that's what we all do when thrust into a new situation or encountering a problem: We learn where our strengths lie, where our areas of genius are, where our flaws and "loose screws" are, so we can cultivate the areas in which we excel, and work around our shortcomings. Back then, I figured it out by trial and error. I learned, for example, that I was really good at finding a vein and drawing blood, but I was terrible at figuring out blood gas — checking the oxygen level of the blood leaving the heart, a delicate procedure that involves inserting a needle into an artery. We medical students learned each other's strengths and weaknesses, so that together, as a team, we could combine our skills and create one big brain. Some drew blood; others took blood gas readings.
This book will show you how you have done much the same thing in your life — compensated for your weaknesses by developing your strengths. When you were born, you had a traditional female brain that combined the genetic heritage of your parents and the in utero environment in which your mother developed you until you were born. Then, as you grew up in the incubator of your childhood, that genetic heritage was molded and acculturated to life in this society.
At the same time, you discovered the ways in which you weren't Everywoman. You found unique parts of yourself that were decidedly your genius, and other parts that tripped you up. You learned very quickly what your flaws are, and chose whether or not to show that vulnerability in relationships, in vocational settings, or even in your family. You learned very quickly whether you had the attention span of a gnat or you could stare for hours at a flower or a puzzle, trying to figure it out. Your mother and father learned whether they had to give you a list and copy it in triplicate because your memory was like a sieve and you lost everything. And your friends learned very quickly whether you had a memory like the Encyclopaedia Britannica and recorded anything they said or did.
Perhaps your personality, your temperament, was your foible but also your genius. Maybe everyone thought of you as a Mother Teresa, always ready to help with a kind and caring smile. Perhaps when you became a teen, you hit a dark, rainy week and cloistered yourself until your mood lifted. Maybe you were habitually irritable, but were also capable of focusing that edginess into creating an amazing short story or a play that kept your entire class riveted. Perhaps you jumped a mile when someone sneaked up behind you; anxiety and nervousness were your challenges, but also kept you alert to what others wanted or needed. Maybe you put your obsessiveness and compulsivity to good use in a detail-oriented after-school job such as shelving books at the library or canned goods at the grocery. As you were thrust out into the adult world, you learned to identify your particular struggles with attention, memory, personality, and mood.
We all have challenges in every one of those four areas. We are not Everywoman; each of us is unique. Contrary to what I learned in my medical and scientific training, there is no longer a traditional female brain. This is confirmed over and over in my clinical work as a neuropsychiatrist and as a medical intuitive. The complex world we now live in — like the complex hospital world into which I was thrust in 1991 — has molded, remolded, and rebuilt our brains. This capacity of the brain to remold itself is what science calls "plasticity." Women's brains today physically reflect our responses to the unique challenges that confront us. And our brains continue to change as we struggle with our list of expectations: to be mothers, to hold down full-time jobs, to come home and run households, to be attentive to our mates or partners, to be active in the community.
While juggling all these roles, we are further challenged by all the ways in which information comes to us today. Centuries ago, we got our information by talking to friends and neighbors over the back fence, and from letters, telegrams, books, and newspapers. Then came the telephone, radio, and TV. Now we have satellite radio and cable TV, email, pagers, cell phones, the personal digital assistant, the Web. We have to perceive and pay attention to all this information, sort through it for what's important, and try to remember that. Even if you choose only one television information channel, such as CNN or ESPN, you're really getting several: The newscaster is speaking on the main audio/visual track while running text across the bottom of the screen feeds you updates; and then there are the commercials.
All of this input affects your perception, attention, and memory circuits. A recent study showed that children who watch too much television too early in their lives have an increased risk of developing attention deficit disorder (ADD). Cartoons in particular feature frequent changes of scenes with manic activity that can "prime" a child's brain to shift quickly from one topic to another instead of learning to focus and maintain attention in the way needed to learn and stay on task in a classroom.
Your temperament, too, affects your capacity to perceive, pay attention, and remember. If you are moody, irritable, or nervous, or if you're even a bit obsessive or compulsive, your ability to perceive, process, attend to, and remember information will be challenged by today's information environment. And finally, even though the brain's capacity for adaptation is immense, your unique genetic predisposition for handling information will place certain limits on your brain's ability to change. All these factors will remold the brain you were born with so that it can be as efficient as possible. But still your brain can get tripped up by the main demands it faces.
This book will teach you how to appreciate, care for, and cultivate your unique genius, your brain's special power. You'll come to understand how your brain works, how it is wired — both your traditional brain and your New Feminine Brain. You will learn how your particular challenges are also wired into your brain. For instance, perhaps you have problems paying attention to a lecture or to directions your boss gives you for finishing a task or you have trouble remembering names and dates. Perhaps you have a winning personality that can get you in any door, but you also have problems with temperament and mood, with irritability or anxiety, any of which can affect how you fit in, as well as how you follow rules. Or, perhaps your challenges affect your ability to cultivate your own creative impulses in your vocation, to express your purpose in life.
Are you able to use your brain's power for building a sense of security and self-esteem, for feeling rewarded in life, and for avoiding addictive behavior? How do you use your brain's unique gifts in relationships? Are you able to feel a healthy empathy or do you love and feel so much that it hurts? Can you bond with children, your own and other people's? Do you have a capacity to love others? To love yourself? How do you express your uniqueness or eccentricities? Can you appreciate them? Can you learn to love the eccentricities of others? We'll deal with all these questions and how the New Feminine Brain's makeup affects your answers.
When I speak of the New Feminine Brain, I don't mean to imply that the brain of our female ancestors was not as good as ours today. Newer is not better, just different. Calling it the New Feminine Brain simply acknowledges the huge impact of all the different challenges women face today. As a result of the many competing pressures we have to deal with, we also have an increase in chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, environmental illness, multiple sclerosis, alcoholism, eating addiction, compulsive gambling, eBay addiction, ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder), and obsessive-compulsive and attachment disorders. Many of these illnesses of body and brain that women struggle with now simply were not as prevalent in the ancestral brain — even a couple of generations ago.
As we talk about all of these psychological and biological challenges, we will also talk about the importance of intuition — the ability to make good, beneficial, or correct decisions with insufficient information. Normally, we make decisions based on concrete information that we can see or hear. However, when we can't get enough facts from the outside world — or we are overwhelmed by too much information — we can function effectively by using our intuition. Despite what you've been led to believe, intuition doesn't come to you through tea leaves, tarot cards, a Ouija board, or from another world. Intuition is a natural product of your brain and body.
In all my university studies in neuroscience there was never any discussion of intuition. Yet we cannot talk about the New Feminine Brain without talking about intuition. Our lives as women today are bombarded with greater and greater complexity, so the New Feminine Brain has to exaggerate — to overdevelop — its intuition. We women today need to appreciate our intuition, which has sometimes been denigrated by our culture. We need to understand how it's wired into our brain and body and develop it further. Intuition helps us learn to adapt to what the world demands of us.
Many people try a variety of routes to gain access to their intuition and improve it. There's a lot of New Age nonsense about how to increase intuition, from burning incense to help pump up your intuitive circuits to wearing crystals to sitting under a pyramid. But intuition isn't enhanced by New Age paraphernalia. You don't need external devices to be intuitive.
If you have a brain and a body and you sleep at night, by definition, you have all the equipment you need to be intuitive. By managing problems with mood (Chapters 4 and 5), anxiety (Chapters 6 and 7), attention (Chapter 9), and memory (Chapter 10), you can clear out and open up brain pathways for intuition on your own. Learning your unique left brain/right brain style (Chapter 1), and learning your body's tendencies toward illness, also helps you find and use your intuition. In fact, the areas of your feminine brain and body that make you unique — whether you have an exceptional talent or are challenged by depression, anxiety, or other health problems — are exactly where to look to find your intuition.
I depend a lot on my own intuition and started to learn to do so almost as soon as I joined the working world of the hospital. During one of my first days on the medical floor at Boston City Hospital, I wrote an order on a patient's chart but forgot to put up the little red flag that alerts the nurses to check for a new order. I was standing near the nursing station in my white doctor's coat, when an immense presence started moving toward me from the other end of the hallway. Dressed all in white, from the old-fashioned nurse's cap to the white stockings and lace-up shoes, this wasn't just any nurse: It was the head nurse. Boom, boom, boom, boom, she marched up the hallway, barking "Doctor! Doctor!" I was looking all around to see who she was talking to, until I realized she was talking to me. "Did you put this chart on the order stand?" she demanded. I could only stammer, "Ah, ah, ah." "You didn't put the flag up," she continued. "This isn't going to happen again, is it, Doctor?" she said pointedly. All I could squeak out was a meek, "N-n-no." After that, I realized that the nurses are the ones really in charge.
During those first weeks on the medical floor I realized very quickly which female doctors would survive this hazing and which ones would not. If you tried to be Marcus Welby — to issue orders like one of the male doctors — the nurses would run you into the ground. If, on the other hand, you tried to be empathetic or overly familiar — to bond as one of the girls — they would also cut you down. They could detect a brown-noser a floor away. Yet, in spite of the nurses' toughness, they were also the most tuned in to their patients — the most intuitive — of all the health professionals. I had to learn very quickly how to utilize both my brain and my intuition to master the subtleties of the situation.
Different Women, Different New Feminine Brains
You can see how differently New Feminine Brains are wired by looking at how you and your friends act in different situations. Let's take three women, Norma, Mildred, and Mandy, each of whom decided to redecorate her living room. On Saturday mornings Mandy would phone Norma and suggest that they go pick out a fabric for Norma's couch. Norma would put her off by saying, "I've got to pay my bills," but Mandy would arrive at her door anyway, honking the horn and waving a cup of coffee. Off they'd go to the store, and Norma would pick out swatches and bring them home. For three solid years, they looked at fabrics. Norma would come home, drape the swatches over her couch, and never choose one, because nothing seemed quite right. "Quite right" and "just so" behavior is the sine qua non of an obsessive-compulsive, anxiety-ridden kind of wiring in the brain. Suddenly, one Saturday, Norma found a new couch in a fabric she loved, bought it, and paid in cash. Everyone, including Norma, thinks the couch is perfectly divine.
Mandy, too, had been thinking about decorating for a long time. Then one Saturday night, while she was watching television with her best friend, Liz, she suddenly announced, "Come on, we're going to buy a couch." Off they drove to L.L. Home — a subsidiary of L.L. Bean that is open twenty-four hours — where Mandy ordered an entire living room set in leather. She had never visited the store before or picked out a swatch. Yet at 10:45 p.m. on a Saturday night, she slapped down her credit card and bought an entire suite. Liz thought Mandy was having a psychotic episode, but Mandy loves her furniture, and her cats love it, too — something she had failed to consider in her enthusiasm. And then there's the impulsively incurred credit-card debt that she's still paying off. (Unlike Mandy, Norma not only plans her purchases carefully but never incurs any debt.)
Norma and Mandy represent two extremes. On one end is Norma with her swatches, an example of compulsivity and perfectionism — organizing and planning. These functions occur in one area of the brain and usually lead to the area that governs movement. But Norma takes a long time to get out of one brain area and to the next for movement and execution. Mandy is the other extreme — impulsive. Her brain areas for imagination and perception are very active, but then she skips organization and planning almost completely and goes right to movement — often without thinking through the consequences.
Their friend Mildred is the head researcher in the medical firm for which they all work. She falls somewhere between Norma and Mandy. When Mildred decided to buy a couch, she looked through catalogues for a week or so, then drove calmly (and always within the speed limit) to the furniture store. She had a relaxed, twenty-minute discussion with the salesperson, then wrote out a check and arranged for delivery, after checking her appointment book to make sure she could be at home. Mildred's brain in this circumstance progresses in an orderly way from the area for perception and attention to organization and planning, and then to movement and execution.
Yet, for all her balance, Mildred often has to rely on her friends. Norma, as Mildred's business administrator, lends Mildred her perfectionism and supreme organizational skills. Mandy, Mildred's research partner, has tremendous creativity and isn't held back by convention; she lends Mildred her spontaneity. Together, the three friends have one complete brain.
In this simple example of buying furniture, you can see clearly how three different feminine brains, each with its own unique genetic heritage, approach a task and execute it according to their unique styles of attention, memory, personality, temperament, mood, and anxiety. But while the brain is highly adaptable, the body is less so. One of the important lessons you'll learn in this book is what happens to your body when you ignore or override your brain's unique gifts and challenges.
I learned this the hard way. After I completed my M.D./Ph.D. program in Boston, I was all set to go south for a residency in neurology. Several days before I was supposed to begin, I blew out two vertebral discs in my neck, which paralyzed my left hand, so I had to postpone the residency. In the interim, I took a job working with Christiane Northrup, M.D., an expert on women's health, well known for her innovative work as an obstetrician-gynecologist at her clinic on the Maine coast. Still, the last place I ever expected to find myself was working with another doctor, especially one like Chris, who had an angel mobile flying over her desk, and ate roasted tofu instead of prime rib. I'm sure people who knew me thought I'd gone soft in my head, because from that moment on, half of my career turned to intuition. I had learned in medical school that I had a talent for medical intuition, but even more important, it seemed that whenever I didn't use my intuition, my own body got sick. So while I took advanced training in psychiatry, I began to do phone consultations as a medical intuitive.
How this works is that a person calls and gives me his name and age, and I describe a specific emotional situation in his life that might predispose him to illness. Then I scan his body intuitively to see where he might be prone to physical challenges. Our relationship isn't that of doctor and patient; my clients are required to sign a consent form before our session acknowledging that. But in our sessions, people learn how their body and brain are uniquely wired for intuition, and how, if they don't listen to their brain intuition about what they need to do with their life, their body intuition will let them know through symptoms of illness.
For a while, I was leading a double life. I was either in the hospital being a medical doctor or I was on the phone being a medical intuitive. I even wrote a book, Awakening Intuition, to teach people how to use their mind-body connections for insight and healing. Then I blew out eight more discs in my spine and had to have surgery implanting a series of steel rods from my neck to lower back. (On an X-ray, my spine now looks like the Brooklyn Bridge standing on end.) Shortly after I recovered, I was at a bookstore signing copies of my book, when an ethereal-looking woman planted herself in front of me and asked, "Do you think that your health problems in your spine are because you're living a split life? They say that if people have two divergent personalities, they snap. Do you think having two separate careers is bad for your body?"
At that moment I had my Sharpie pen poised to write an inscription, and a long line of people waiting to have their books signed. I was in no mood to have some stranger named Ariel telling me about my health or my career. But weeks later, when I went to my doctor after rupturing yet another disc in my neck, he said, "You know, you can't keep doing this. You have to find out why you're blowing all these discs."
I walked out of his office feeling really shaken, because I finally realized that my body couldn't take it anymore. I hated to concede that Ariel was right, but I had to admit, I'm a doctor and I'm a medical intuitive, and separating those two identities in practice, legally, is important. But trying to separate them in my psyche — in my understanding of who I am — could kill me.
Mine is an extreme case — in line with my extremely intuitive and impulsive temperament — but you can see that, if you don't perceive, accept, and appreciate your own unique genius, and adapt your life to it, your body will snap. Maybe it already has snapped to some degree or other. You will learn where your body's vulnerable spots are when you take the body questionnaire later in the book.
Another good way to see how the different parts of the brain express themselves is for me to take you on a brief visit to my neuropsychiatry clinic. My patients are unique among the medical population. They have disorders that most doctors in my part of Maine don't treat, such as autism, mental retardation, Asperger's syndrome, brain injuries, stroke, dementia, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. All of these disorders exaggerate one or more of the brain networks you'll be learning about in this book. In medical school, we were told that cases could be divided into two groups: "horses," or common disorders, and "zebras," out-of-the-ordinary complaints. I had trouble paying attention to ordinary cases. Zebras, on the other hand, sparked my interest. I don't treat horses. I treat zebras.
My clinic is a symphony of eccentricity and uniqueness. At one moment, we might have someone locked in the bathroom, while outside the door, a very normal, horse-like caretaker is saying, "Mary, Mary. Unlock the door. Come out of the bathroom, now!" Inside, Mary is carefully tearing apart the toilet paper and making a neat pile of the individual sheets. At the same time, in the waiting room someone is changing the dial of the radio from easy listening to a rock station that's playing the Rolling Stones' "Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown." In the far corner, a man with fifteen TV remotes stuffed in his pockets is saying to no one in particular, "Honest, I wasn't there when they stole the TVs. I was just watching."
All of these people have wonderful hearts, and I find something to love in every one. Each one has an area of uniqueness — and though it's clearly extreme, it's only an exaggerated form of a behavior that we all have to a degree. Like Mary in the bathroom, we all have an area of compulsivity — something we pay extremely close attention to and want to dissect to pieces. We all have an area of sociopathy, like the guy with the remotes — the small white lies we tell in daily life that help us fit into society. And all of us have our unique music in the brain. In the following chapters, we will explore the symphony of sound in the New Feminine Brain. You'll discover the songs all women share, the unique sounds that are your genius, and the discordant notes that have kept you from fully utilizing your brain's power to adapt to life's changing demands.
Coming to Terms with the Unique Feminine Brain
I first faced my own feminine brain's emotional style around puberty. On the first day of school in the eighth grade, I was fidgeting at my desk. The teacher looked at me and snapped, "Stop fiddling around with things on your desk...you're driving me crazy." I started crying, which really drove her crazy, and she sent me to the guidance office.
I told the guidance counselor why I was crying and he told me, "You're never going to be able to go anywhere in life if you cry like that in public. You've got to be more thick-skinned." (Not all girls and women are like this, of course, but some of us are.) I figured I'd make up for my emotional thin skin by building up my intellect and getting "brain-tough." From the age of seven, I had known I wanted to be a doctor and a scientist. I worked hard and got into Brown University.
During my sophomore year at Brown as a premed student, I was failing organic chemistry, which is known as a course that derails many wannabe doctors. The harder I studied, the lower my test scores were. Those scores went from 60 percent to a 26 percent to an all-time low of 6 percent (yes, out of 100 percent).
To continue in premed, I had to pass organic chemistry. So, I hired a tutor to study for the final exam, which counted toward half of the final grade. My average grade going into the final was so low, I overheard one of the teaching assistants say, "The Mona Lisa is going to smile again in this same class next year." After hours of tutoring, though, the information all magically came together in my mind at the testing, and I got 105 percent on the final. That did make me smile.
This embarrassing situation had actually turned into a learning experience for me. I had noticed that many other people were also failing and the majority of them were women. Then, as now, women tend to approach the learning process in classes differently. No matter how hard I work to learn something, I never learn well "in captivity," that is, in the situation where the teacher lectures and the student listens, takes notes, learns the information, and finally takes the test. As a result, I never did well in any of those large college lecture lab classes. But I learned what I needed to do to master the material.
When I was graduated from Brown, I got a job in a research lab. To my amazement, I found that I excelled at learning in the more "hands-on," practical, learning environment. Working as a scientist, I was able to pay my way through medical school. I created an artificial gonorrhea cell that did nearly everything a real cell does. I was able to publish several papers because I was well suited to designing experiments and learning the scientific principles as they applied to a project as I went along.
My success at research, not my premed grades, probably got me into an M.D./Ph.D. program at Boston University. Unfortunately for me, medical school classes are frequently taught in the same didactic style as premedical education. So once again I sat for six to eight hours a day listening to teachers lecture. I took notes, studied hard, and failed. Once again, I wasn't alone. By the end of the first year of med school, twelve people were failing at least one class and nine of them were women. Since our medical school class was almost exactly 50 percent women and 50 percent men, I couldn't figure out why a disproportionate number of women was failing. This time, the class I was having problems with was gross anatomy. Since I wanted to do my Ph.D. in neuroanatomy, I was scared and embarrassed.
I went to the head of the anatomy department to get a tutor. I showed Dr. Brown (not his real name) all my diagrams, charts, and notes, and asked him to please tell me what I was doing wrong, why I had failed the exam. I looked at him, he looked at me, and I started to cry, just like when I was back in the eighth grade. I felt like an absolute failure. First, I was an emotional failure, because I couldn't not cry when I was very upset. Secondly, I was an intellectual failure. I was starting to think I was stupid and didn't belong anywhere near a graduate school or a medical school, let alone a patient. As I stood there marinating in self-pity and despair, Dr. Brown said, "I can tell by your notes and charts that you have a different way of learning. You have to see the whole picture before you can understand and demonstrate your knowledge of the details on the exam. Don't worry. This will all come together on the makeup exam."
I thought he was just being nice because I was an "emotional woman" crying in his office. Having nothing left to lose, I said, "You're just being nice because I'm crying." He disagreed, saying he had already told a few students not to bother taking the retest but to instead come back and repeat the whole first year of medical school.
Using Woman's Intuition in a Field Dominated by Men
For the entire next few months, I studied with another failing female medical student, Lynn. We devoted ourselves to the material day and night. Yet we couldn't possibly memorize everything in the textbooks. We simply didn't have enough time. Intuitively, I got a strong sense that we should, however, learn in detail the anatomy of the male and female reproductive systems, especially its "lymphatic drainage."
Both Lynn and I passed the makeup final exam. I got 103 percent. We both nailed the essay, which was worth 30 percent of our score: "Please describe the lymphatic drainage of the uterus, ovaries, penis, and testicles."
Who knew? We had followed our intuition, we were prepared, and we succeeded. This was the first time I successfully used intuition in medicine. And it became clear to me that it was important to use that part of my brain along with the studying and hard work.
The best part of this difficult experience was not successfully passing gross anatomy in the first year of medical school and staying on the path to becoming a doctor. The best, most healing aspect was finding out that intuition matters and having the professor, Dr. Brown, validate that there is merit in my unique style of learning. That's why I know that I can help you learn about your intuition and your own brain's style of dealing with information — and with life!
I eventually figured out that the traditional "mind-set" with which other people approach class material and learn is typical of male brains. I'd listen to the teacher with my native feminine brain style, but learn the information in the male brain style. By also using my intuition, eventually I passed every test and was graduated. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. I learned to see, think, and act like a man and a woman. But over time, that sort of overwork and overcompensation will wear you down and take its toll on your brain and body. It did for me — and it does for most women.
The world's changing demands on women force us to sprout dual brain types to adapt and accomplish all of our tasks. On top of our inborn feminine wiring, we must develop or sprout new pathways in the brain — new responses, actions, and behaviors, too — to survive in jobs and careers that require a more male, compartmentalized brain style. We have to develop more compartmentalized brain pathways for separating emotion and empathy so that we can make key business decisions. We have to develop a way of walking and talking in the business world that masks our moods and fears. We have to develop attentional pathways and memory pathways that accommodate the huge amounts of information that come at us from the media. And we have to figure out how to gain access to our intuition and use it to survive and thrive.
Developing more masculine brain pathways on top of her inborn feminine brain style comes at a cost to a woman's emotional, intellectual, and physical health. Her brain, the New Feminine Brain, doesn't have all the bugs worked out of it. Women may develop moodiness, depression, nervousness, anxiety, inattention, and problems with learning and memory. If you are emotionally porous, whatever you attempt to compartmentalize or shut down may actually get overloaded and increase your risk for developing certain health problems. The New Feminine Brain's recently acquired brain pathways can create tension with the old brain and body, leaving a woman stuck in the middle, unable to make key decisions about her life, including vocational goals, relationships, or her place in society.
"What should I do with my life?"
"Should I take this job or go back to college?"
"Should I stay in this relationship or get a divorce?"
"Should I have a baby right away, or should I wait?"
We are bombarded every day with too many choices and too many decisions to make.
Making balanced decisions every day requires a healthy brain. By that, I mean a brain that can learn and remember and has the capacity for stable emotions. If you have problems with depression, excessive anxiety and panic, attention deficit disorder, or problems with memory, you can get stuck when you try to make decisions. How do you live your life to its fullest and maximize your potential when emotional stress, information overload, or inertia overwhelms you? You learn to keep your brain-body pathways open and healthy.
Women's and men's brains are wired differently for mood, anxiety, attention, and memory. And women's and men's bodies are vulnerable to illness in different ways. How a woman's brain and body have been shaped by emotion, learning, health, and illness determines how her body receives intuitive information. Learning your body's tendency toward symptoms of illness also helps you get in touch with your intuition and use it.
In Chapter 1, you learn how your feminine brain may be wired between its left and right hemispheres. In Chapters 3-8, you learn how your feminine brain circuits are shaped for experiencing feelings that can predispose you to mood problems and anxiety. In Chapters 9, 10, and 11, you learn how your brain is uniquely wired for thought, which may cause you to pay attention, learn, and remember differently. These feminine brain circuits that give you the most difficulty are the very areas of your brain through which intuition can come to you. To put this in a more positive way: what makes you different — your tendency toward moodiness, depression, anxiety, panic, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, or memory problems — can actually provide you with a unique capacity for intuition. You can learn to appreciate and maintain these natural mood cycles and thought patterns. And learning your personal language of intuition will ultimately help you have a healthier mood and lower, healthier levels of anxiety. It will also help you pay attention, have a sharper mind, and better memory.
This is not a passive book. Don't think you can just sit down and read it. You're going to need a pencil and some paper. You're going to be drawing. You're going to be filling out questionnaires. One questionnaire will walk you through a series of situations from daily life. Your responses will show you how your unique feminine brain works. You can also get your loved ones to answer the questionnaire and see how their unique brains are wired. Then, by filling out another questionnaire, you'll find out how your body speaks to you through symptoms, so that you learn to cultivate your brain's unique genius.
I'll also be telling you about typical cases from my neuropsychiatry clinic, and stories of some of my clients from my practice as a medical intuitive. From the stories of my patients and clients, you will see how various people have learned to cultivate the unique genius of their New Feminine Brains by understanding how their brains are wired and then rewiring those parts that made it harder to handle their lives. And you will learn how to rewire your own brain by learning new behaviors with the help of exercises, nutritional supplements, and — under your doctor's supervision — the latest medications.
In my first book, Awakening Intuition, I wrote about the science that supports intuition and the fact that emotions have very definite physical effects on the body. The New Feminine Brain focuses on how our femaleness is naturally wired into our brain and how to develop and use our feminine intuition in order to understand our brains, bodies, and emotions. We'll start with a look at how our brains work compared to men's.
All of this will help you see how to keep yourself well, prevent illness, and improve your health — because a lot of your health depends on what you do for yourself.
Most of psychiatry — including talk therapy — doesn't work much of the time or for very long. In comparison, in internal medicine, most patients readily respond to treatment because the diseases are much easier to diagnose and treat. If someone has a bladder infection, you can see evidence of disease by reading the patient's vitals and looking at the bacteria in the urine under a microscope. After the patient gets antibiotics, her vitals return to normal, the bacteria disappear, and the patient rapidly gets better.
Treating the psyche is not nearly so straightforward. The most common forms of depression and anxiety cannot be accurately diagnosed with a scan or blood test and the treatments that are available, medicine and psychotherapy, do not have lasting, permanent, dramatic effects that can readily be measured. It's common for many women and men to be in "talk therapy" for years, even decades, without measurable change or improvement other than a sense of "social support." Millions of people take Prozac, Zoloft, Valium, Xanax, or go from medicine to medicine looking for relief and, although they may experience a year or two of improvement, eventually their symptoms return, limiting their relationships, careers, and finances.
What's worse, problems with the psyche don't stay in the psyche. Eventually, chronic depression and anxiety increase your chances of having debilitating health problems including obesity, heart disease, pain disorders, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and cancer.
This book is going to show you how to get your life on the right track and on the track you want to be. It's going to let you pull together your hopes and your reality. You'll see why you keep going after the wrong goals and the wrong guys. You're going to introduce your right brain to your left brain so you can live in harmony with your body, capture your intuitive genius, and live out your dreams and potential.
Let's start with a look at how our feminine brains work compared to men's.
Copyright © 2005 by Mona Lisa Schulz, M.D., Ph.D.
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