Wisdom School - Difficulties in Decision Making
By Andrew Shykofsky
There is a cliché that men are not in touch with their feelings and women are incapable to make big decisions. These assumptions are ridiculous because men certainly can be in touch with their feelings just as women can learn how to make decisions and accomplish most anything. But at the same time, this is true for the vast majority of men and women and thus the cliché has some validity.
As someone choosing to walk the spiritual Path, you will want to examine yourself to see if either of these descriptions applies to you regardless of what gender you are. It is certainly possible that women can be out of touch with what they feel just as some men will procrastinate and complain but not make a decision or take action to change something.
Now I want to say something that is likely to upset people. Love is a feminine characteristic and confidence is a masculine characteristic. This is true because love is born in the heart and is a feeling. The feminine aspect in both women and men is the love aspect. Conversely, confidence comes about from trying things on our own, or making decisions and taking action. These are masculine characteristics alive or dormant in both men and women.
The big problem in our society and in many cultures worldwide is that men are not taught nor encouraged to connect with their inner feminine nature. It is not considered manly for men to express feelings except for certain emotions that personify masculinity (or more accurately mock masculinity). Such emotions include anger, arrogance, cockiness, indifference… in other words, nothing that leaves a man vulnerable. Our society has decided that men who exhibit tenderness, hurt feelings, compassion, love and others like this are weak and to be mocked for their effeminate nature.
This is sad because a man who is out of touch with his feelings can’t possibly reach a state of peace, balance or contentment. His peace is dependent upon being in touch with his inner feminine side where his feelings reside. Feelings, especially the deeper feelings must be known as an essential step in making sound, wise decisions. Feelings are one way that God within communicates to us and lets us know that something significant is going on.
This dilemma is often played out outwardly in relationships when a man makes a decision that affects his partner but doesn’t consult with her first. Very often, an emotional outburst ensues and paralyzes progress. This is because the feminine side when not heard rebels and can lead to emotional chaos.
The feelings have a voice and an energy within both men and women. You might think of it as the voice of your heart and this voice will sound very different than the voice of your mind. It will speak more simply and will be all about the feelings, not reasoning or using logic. Both men and women need a method to go within themselves in order to know what they are feeling, honor it and incorporate it into a process in order to come to a decisive point before taking action (or in some cases not taking action).
The other piece involved in decision making is the processing of the circumstances both inner and outer. This can be thought of as a reasoning function, a function of the mind which we will consider a masculine attribute in both men and women. The calm and balanced mind recognizes that it must gather information about the consequences of an impending decision instead of acting impulsively based merely on intuition or a hunch. True, sometimes impulsive action is the best choice because an opportunity arises that only leaves a small window in which to act. Think of two strangers crossing paths on the bus and the man feels an attraction to the woman. He can’t necessarily go home and meditate on what to do. Sometimes he just has to take action and talk to her without much time to think.
This lesson however is more focused on decision making that requires a process and where impulsivity isn’t generally recommended. An example might be whether to stay in one’s job or leave hoping for something better. Or whether or not to buy a house or sign a lease your apartment for another year. You might be trying to decide which college to go to or how to resolve a problem with a family member. There are hundreds of situations where we would benefit from having a developed process that allows both our masculine side and feminine side to participate as we move towards a firm decision and action plan.
In the man who is not in touch with his feelings, he analyzes the situation, and might even do so brilliantly. Next he thinks about his options and reasons through each one intellectually and determines the course of action that best supports his intention. Generally then he makes a decision and begins taking action confidently. This sounds pretty good but is only partially complete. If he hasn’t considered his feelings, he is possibly going to be in for an emotional rebellion shortly if the action he decides upon continues to consider his thinking only.
As an example, imagine a husband who needs to earn more money because he and his wife are having a child shortly. He thinks through his options and decides to get a second job working in a restaurant on the weekends. But he doesn’t consult with his feeling side which really looks forward to spending time with his wife during that time. He reasons that he needs more money and he has free time on the weekends so that’s a good course of action.
However, as he begins this second job, he finds himself irritable and depressed a lot of the time, even though he’s making the extra money he needs. This is because he hasn’t listened to his feelings which actually would rather be with his wife on the weekends. If he had listened, he might have thought a little harder and found a better way to earn more money without giving up the time with his wife. Or even if he still decided to work on the weekend, he might’ve considered how to make up the lost time and thus take care of his feelings.
The place where the women often get messed up in the decision making process is in a lack of confidence in their ability to act. Our society doesn’t consider certain activities feminine and thus we don’t teach women how to do them. An example might be working on cars or other activities involving tools. This is a classic activity that fathers often teach their sons to do but will not teach their daughters. Stereotypical thinking teaches that a woman working on a car is too manly and thus not attractive. Other skills that are not taught to girls include money management, business negotiating, being handy, or activities that require significant physical exertion.
This is unfortunate because it isn’t in fact natural for women to avoid a lot of these activities but a learned behavior that then creates problems in relationships. Since women are not taught that they are capable in a lot of a reas considered highly necessary in life, they fail to develop their positive masculine side and instead hope to attract a man who will carry this responsibility for both of them.
In what is known as ‘traditional’ families, this is perfectly normal. The man makes the decisions and is the money earner. He fixes things when they break, he takes out the heavy trash and he makes the big decisions on behalf of the couple. The woman nurtures the family, tends to everyone’s feelings and does the cooking and cleaning. He is the confident king of the household taking necessary actions to keep things going and she is the loving, accepting and caring one who soothes away the rough edges.
But over time, each of the participants generally develop resentment toward their partner because half of their beings are being suppressed. The way that a woman overcomes this conditioning or what is sometimes called ‘The Handless Maiden’ syndrome is to find that masculine part within her, generally an aspect involving her reasoning mind coupled with some courage. She must learn to dialogue her feeling nature with her thinking nature. In most women, they are more aware of their emotions though not necessarily their deeper feelings. The difference between the two is a subject of another lesson. However, even knowing one’s emotions is a good start.
While sitting in a meditative state, her task is to bring these two aspects of herself ‘online’ so to speak, and allow them each fair time to speak what is important. In the beginning, it can feel like 2 strangers with highly differing objectives and very little common ground. This is because we are not taught to honor one or even both of these parts of ourselves. For some, the feeling side has some pent up anger for not being listened to for a long, long time. In most of us, we have been trained to pay attention to our automatic thoughts and our bodily cravings. Both of these ‘expressions’ of ourselves are not good guides.
But a well developed reasoning mind which reasons both deductively and inductively, in harmony with ones’ deep feeling nature is in fact the perfect marriage. The women then can experience this marriage, just as men can by finding the voice of their feelings, and giving it ample room to express. Once it begins to feel heard and that you are checking in with yourself regularly, it will greatly simmer down and become one of your strongest allies. The rebellion into unproductive emotional states will begin to cease.
When one’s feeling side, or heart or feminine voice interacts with one’s conscious mind, or reason, or masculine voice, a beautiful thing happens. These two parts learn to love, respect and enjoy each other. It sounds funny but it is a common experience that often has the immediate effect of calming away a desperate need for a romantic partner. The relating that we crave with the opposite gender becomes an inner experience.
To review, enter into a meditative state and drop into your heart. Connect and listen to what you are feeling. If you have a particular situation that is up for review, ask your heart what you feel about it. In the beginning, this voice might feel quite young and not articulate super clearly what is going on. Now is the time to bring in the voice of your conscious mind. Ask clarifying questions and validate what you hear. Make it a real dialogue.
The feminine side within us really enjoys the process of sharing even if things are not resolved. You can probably relate to how women enjoy talking at length about certain situations even if no solution emerges. This is an aspect of the feminine that is healthy and brings women together. But men often can’t stand the meandering that doesn’t appear to conclude. That’s because the masculine part has a duty to move things along to a decision, a resolution and thus can confidently take action. Men who are not in touch with their feminine side might have a hard time listening to a group of women sharing about feelings with no one suggesting any conclusive ideas.
Keep in mind that the same dynamic will play out within you. The early stages of this relationship within might find the mind or inner masculine aspect trying to rush things too quickly to a decision in order to call it a done deal. The inner feminine might get too wrapped up in feelings and reiterate over and over what is happening. So be prepared to be patient as these emerging parts of yourself learn to relate.
Look to be compassionate to the feminine side which might be having some difficult feelings and honor what this part shares. And when this part of you feels heard, allow the masculine to take command and make a decision, having felt considered. This is truly a wonderful inner process and if two people in a romantic relationship have been developing it within themselves, they will likely find they have a good foundation to resolve matters within their relationship promptly and peacefully.
Teacher: Andrew Shykofsky