Dr. Helen

New empathy after living like a man

The Washington Post has an article about a female writer who took testosterone and (finally) had some empathy for her husband. It’s a couple of years old but still worth reading:

I had been taking estrogen replacement therapy for four years prescribed after my hysterectomy at 36. But two weeks ago, my doctor added a special cream to boost my testosterone. She warned me of “odd symptoms,” but she didn’t mention this constant sexual distraction. Or the irrational anger. The day before, I dropped a fork in the kitchen and kicked it. It clattered into the base of the cabinet, but that wasn’t enough. I picked it up and threw it into the sink with a force intended to harm. When the mailman carelessly slammed a box onto the front steps, I resisted the urge to slap him silly….
Doctors alter the hormones of millions. And in that, we have an opportunity to learn. Living for a few weeks with extra testosterone gave me a new understanding of men. Now, when I notice my husband glancing at an attractive woman, I don’t take offense. Testosterone turns your head and makes you look. Sometimes, I whisper, “Yep, she’s beautiful.” He jokes that I’m now one of the guys….

Could I have achieved this compassion any other way? Empathy is complex. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute reported in 2013 that humans are basically egocentric. We tend to view others’ emotions in light of our own. Our brain can counteract this self-centeredness, but we have a better chance if our emotions are neutral or in the same emotional state as the other.

I have noticed that the majority of women simply have no clue how men feel about much or they assume a man should feel like they do. Feminists ask men to understand and respond in female fashion about women’s views and feelings about the world but they do not even try to reciprocate with understanding how men feel and think. They expect the impossible and then chide men for not providing it. If women wish to receive empathy, maybe they should learn to be more empathetic towards men as well.