Here's an interesting article: Stress Undermines Empathic Abilities in Men But Increases Them In Women. The article summarizes:
Stressed males tend to become more self-centered and less able to distinguish their own emotions and intentions from those of other people. For women the exact opposite is true... [s]tressed women, however, become more 'prosocial'....
Sometimes, I think that men and women are not so different. Other times, I suspect that they are nearly different species in their thoughts, motivations and actions. The truth no doubt lies somewhere between the two poles.
I do not spend much time with other women. My offspring are grown, and so there is no young-mother camaraderie at the playground; I have traditionally worked in male-dominated fields, and so my peers and colleagues have more often tended to be men. I am not particularly interested in stereotypical "girly" activities such as shopping or hair/makeup/clothing styling, or even yoga or drinking wine, and so have not had much opportunity to meet and interact with other women over such bonding pastimes.
In truth, I do not necessarily feel as though I am 'missing' such female companionship. While I might occasionally be lonely for company, the company I would like is person-specific, and not generally gender-based.
Perhaps the crux of the matter lies in the degree of empathy I already use on a daily basis: there is a set group of people to whom I am empathetic and with whom I concern myself. There is only so much Me, and there are days -- many days -- when I think that I cannot take on another person, cannot spare any additional empathy because there is none left.
Would that be different if I knew more women? Perhaps if I had a more consistent wellspring of comfort and empathy for myself, I could draw strength from it, and could in turn nurture more people. It seems that other women might provide such a source. I cannot imagine having such a wellspring, though -- I may have done without it for so long, that it seems a foreign concept at the moment.
Right now, self-preservation requires that I limit use of my resources, lest I give too much of myself away and crumble.
I am the rock.
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