Wait­ing On The Knight Of The Liv­ing Dead

MidWeek (Hawaii) - - Front Page - Amy Alkon

When my hus­band c o me s h o me from a stress­ful day at work, he likes to play shoot-‘em-up games on his phone. He says it re­laxes him. I’d like to con­nect and talk be­fore he goes into his men­tal man cave. Also, when he’s into a game, it’s an­noy­ing even to ask what he wants for din­ner. Your ad­vice?

A stressed- out woman wants to talk about her feeli ngs; a stressed- out man wants to gun down 87 slob­ber­ing zom­bies on his phone in hopes that his feel­ings get bored with him and go away.

It turns out that in deal­ing with emo­tional stress, men and women have some dif­fer­ent neu­ro­chem­i­cal over­lords.

If men’s had a name, it would be The Earl of Overkill, which is to say men tend to re­act neu­ro­chem­i­cally to so­cial stress as they would to be­ing chased through the woods by a ma­niac with a cross­bow. First, there’s a surge of ep­i­neph­rine and nor­ep­i­neph­rine, neu­romes­sen­gers (aka neu­ro­trans­mit­ters) that are the band­leaders re­ac­tion. These kick off sur­vival-pro­mot­ing changes in the body, like the heart beat­ing faster, the re­lease of the en­ergy-mo­bi­liz­ing stress hor- mones adren­a­line and cor­ti­sol, and blood cours­ing to the arms and legs (all the bet­ter to punch or run!).

Mean­whil e , s y s t e ms not needed to fight back or scram — like di­ges­tion and higher rea­son­ing — get pow­ered down. Yep. That’s right. Higher rea­son­ing goes all lights out; no­body’s home. So try­ing to “con­nect and is like try­ing to have an exis- ten­tial de­bate with a va­cant ware­house.

It’s even worse from the man’s end. He’s got­ten chem­i­cally and oth­er­wise phys­i­o­log­i­cally mo­bi­lized to bolt or do bat­tle. But when there’s no cross­bow-wield­ing dude to run from — just a bunch of so­cial stress — there’s no use for all of these bod­ily re­sources that have been mus­tered up.

Psy­chol­o­gist John Gottman calls the ef­fect from this men feel very phys­i­cally un- com­fort­able and get ex­tremely frus­trated that their ac­cess to the brain’s de­part­ments of in­sight and witty bits is blocked. Not sur­pris­ingly, what makes them feel bet­ter is men­tally check­ing out un­til these un­com­fort­able feel­ings go away.

Un­for­tu­nately, the thing that makes men feel bet­ter is in direct con­flict with what works for women. Psy­chol­o­gist Shel­ley Tay­lor finds t hat women’s re­ac­tion t o emo­tional stress is me­di­ated by oxy­tocin, a neu­ro­trans­mit­ter that fa­cil­i­tates emo­tional bond­ing. This leads to what she calls a “tend and be ing through car­ing for and emo­tion­ally en­gag­ing with oth­ers. In other words, wom- en tend to deal with emo­tional stress mon­sters by gab­bing them down to size.

But, good news. You can have what you need if you just wait for your hus­band to calm down and re­set so his brain’s higher rea­son­ing cen­ter is no longer in “Hello, my De­cide to­gether how much time that needs to be — half an hour, maybe? Af­ter that, he thrower and “ad­vance to the com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and not just the sort where you ask him, “Is that ‘mmmph’ to steak, or ‘mmmph’ you just ended World War III and saved the

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