Neuropsychiatrist and author of The Female Brain, Dr. Louann Brizendine gets to the root of the problem: "The anterior cingulate cortex is a whole system in the brain that allows for critical thinking—it's the reason why you'll buy one brand over another or shop at one store over another—that part of the brain is turned off when you're falling in love with somebody." So part of the reason it's so easy for a woman to lose herself is because part of the process is to lose yourself?
"When it comes to falling in love," Dr. Brizendine says, "part of the wiring in the female brain is that she will start to see the world through his eyes, and she'll buy it hook, line and sinker."
To uncover why a woman loses herself, we need to take a step back and look at her environment. "Culturally, it's still true that women are trained to be dependent; boys are given more freedom," Engel says. "We don't worry about boys getting hurt as much as we worry about girls getting hurt." A parent's protection can delay the development of a young girl's pride and self-confidence if she isn't given the freedom to accomplish something. While a young boy is learning to act out his aggression by tackling an opponent on the football field, his sister may be encouraged to apologize for not being nice to the babysitter who ate all the ice cream. "Boys are taught to fight back, and girls are discouraged from doing that. Instead, they learn helplessness," Engel says. Repeat this pattern long enough, and she'll learn to simply to go along with whatever situation she's in. You may think you have a perfectly well-behaved daughter now, but you may be setting her up to fail as an adult.
For parents in unhealthy relationships, things get even worse. "Girls learn how to be in loving relationships by watching their mothers," Engel says. "And, unfortunately, there are still far too many girls who have role models that are allowing themselves to be abused."
Women, as it turns out, are also biologically hardwired to value connection over confrontation in relationships. This means that rather than standing up for herself, a woman will try to smooth things over or bite her tongue to keep the peace. Engel elaborates: "She'll pretend to agree when she doesn't really agree, she'll go along with things she doesn't really believe in, and if she does that long enough, she'll no longer know what she feels."
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