pmsangel

PMS, Reinterpreted

Do women tend to have higher natural emotional intelligence (EQ) than men? Most people think so although research hasn’t settled the argument yet. But if women do have higher EQ, I think I know the reason: PMS. (Men, you need to hear this, so don’t check out on me now!)

There’s this weird thing which happens with PMS. Every month you have a day or two where you are completely convinced that your life is awful, with no redeeming qualities, hardly worth living. You will find yourself collecting evidence to support this perspective. The money problems. The kid’s dirty clothes. That hole in the wall that’s needed patching for as long as the baby’s been alive. It’s all your fault, evidence of your failure. And it’s hopeless. You know for a fact that all those people saying things like “you don’t lose until you quit” are delusional unicorn-friending idiots. At some point you start to understand women who abandon their kids to smoke meth in a motel outside of Vegas with a truck driver. It makes perfect sense in fact.

But here’s the thing: while you are busy wondering if you actually have the cajones to go to the local truck stop and start talking up potential new boyfriends, it never, ever occurs to you that any of this is anything but gospel truth. It’s not until the next day when you discover for a fact that you are not pregnant that you realize – it’s just hormones! It’s not actually real.

It’s ridiculous, but completely true. Glennon Melton wrote about it too. In the comments, hundreds of women agree that once a month they too go crazy without realizing it. I’m sure there are plenty of women who are astute enough to realize, “hey – I think it’s been about 4 weeks since the last time I decided that my children were plotting to turn themselves into the foster care system. I should stop and grab a box of tampons on the way home tonight.” But as the existance of women such as myself clearly demonstrate, not all of us are so quick-on-the-get-go. I think I was 30 the first time it occurred to me that I had PMS as it was happening. So it only took me like 16 years to catch on. I can be a slow learner.

I say that this common PMS experience is a completely plausible explanation for the purported EQ superiority of women. Because once a month, we experience a very graphic illustration of both the power of perception and our own inability to recognize the signs that we may have lost our minds. It’s a useful object lesson. And it’s a regular reminder that your most intense feelings don’t always accurately reflect reality.

When you experience this emotional roller-coaster each month, you learn what happens when you fixate on the negative about your life. Because it’s not like once a month women go crazy and think that they have been impregnated by an alien or that their teen boy smells so bad because he’s been mixing magic potions to poison the family with. Part of what makes the PMS experience so intensely real is that everything you look at as evidence for your fantastically negative view of life is perfectly real. You do have money problems. And your 6 year old really is wearing the same shirt she wore yesterday. And someone really does need to fix that hole before the baby starts dropping food into it. But on normal days, those things don’t define your life. They’re just dust on the display case of a lovely life. On PMS days, it’s like someone took your pro/con list and removed all sign that there ever was a “pro” portion. All you can see is the “con” side and it all seems really, really important. Until your hormones settle down and you realize again that they’re really not that big. And that the positives about your life actually do count for a great deal.

Losing your mind once a month also teaches you not to be so reactive to that very insistant voice which tells you, “what you’re experiencing right now is not only reality, but it’s the way it’s always going to be. This and this alone is reality.” This thinking – and the despair it inspires – is something we humans tend to be vulnerable to anyways. When you have PMS, it becomes the one thing you are certain of. Those times in the past when you thought your life was pretty good? Total lies. You were just too weak to see the truth back then, your hormone addled brain says. If that recognition that – oh yeah, this happens every 4 weeks – doesn’t kick in, you will descend into total despair, certain that what you see and how you feel just then is your new reality. But then the hormones lift and everything looks normal again. And it really is unnerving to look back and realize just how wrong you were when you were so certain your life as a happy human being was permanently over.

Yes, it’s annoying and even painful to go through this all the time. But each month PMS shows me the danger of fixating on the negative and ignoring the positive. It reminds me monthly that even very intense feelings can be wrong. Going normal to crazy to normal has helped teach me to hold my opinions fairly provisionally since I know that I’m completely capable of sincerely believing things that are false. And it shows me that I’m strong enough to tolerate intense psychological pressure without picking up a meth habit. These are important life lessons.

Frankly, I think it’s kind of a shame that men don’t get to experience the trials and tribulation of PMS. In fact, if it were possible, I’m sure I could even think of some specific men who would benefit from learning the wisdom of PMS first hand. But only for the good spiritual lessons, of course. Cramps are good for learning forbearance, after all!

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