Dedicated to Diane Evans, a good friend, cancer warrior and an amazing sister.
I recently read this interesting article on the benefits of sisterhood to women’s mental, emotional and physical health:
The premise is that women when stressed or anxious seem to ‘tend and befriend’, and don’t fit so neatly into the fight, flight or freeze response to threat like men seem to. The justification for this, is that much of the research into our fight or flight reflex has been historically carried out on male subjects, as women’s moods were seen to be too changeable, due to our ‘hormones’.
However this is the very difference we need to understand. When adrenaline levels rise due to stress in males, so does their testosterone, but in women their oestrogen and oxytocin levels rise. These differences can cause remarkably different responses, and not all of them useful.
For instance if a woman’s response of tending and befriending is provoked by domestic abuse, it can mean she stays attached to the person perpetrating the abuse long after it would be safer to leave. Yet this hormonal response makes much sense out of the reasons and beliefs that reinforce a woman’s inability to leave.
In times of illness, women will come together not only with practical support but also with emotional, and mental support. Talking things through, expressing feelings and sharing experiences is a large part of any sisterhood. Finding a solution is not necessarily goal orientated; the catharsis, understanding and belonging bring feelings of welbeing and an ability to cope.
This support and emotional care received through women gathering together, is often overlooked, especially in an age where we rarely have enough time for our homes, careers, children and partners.
Making time to gather together with a trusted group can make a real difference to your health and wellbeing. Many red tent groups, moon lodges and women’s groups are springing up in response to this need. Maybe you could check out one in your local area or start one of your own.
PLEASE NOTE: Any article or research that highlights gender differences can be contentious, it’s is not my intention to denigrate men, but to further our understanding of different responses and why they might occur.
Domestic abuse is an issue which affects both men and women and if you are affected, please seek help from your local support services.