Gender Differences and Self Actualization – Psychology 33

There are numerous differences between the behaviors of males and females. Some of these differences are biological and others are driven by society and/or culture. Regardless of how the differences originate, there’s no denying the fact that there is indeed a difference between heterosexual/homosexual males and females.

A substantial portion of these differences are constructed during a process called sexual differentiation. Sexual differentiation occurs soon after conception at the six week of gestation and is considered a critical period. During the six week, reproductive organs are forming on the undifferentiated zygote. As the zygote is approaching the fetal stage it produces a wolfian duct and a mullerian duct, which with further development, will differentiate whether the fetus will become a male, female, or in some cases hermaphrodite (having both male and female reproductive organs). If the semen upon conception contains the male Y chromosome, the wolfian duct will be exposed to testosterone, triggering androgen receptors, eventually producing male reproductive organs. If the exposure of testosterone does not occur, the wolfian duct will regress resulting in the development of female reproductive organs.

As male and female reproductive organs are different, the brains of both males and females are extremely different as well. In most cases, girls are more verbally fluent and better with language skills than boys, but males are usually better at spatial calculation and directions. The development of the male and female brain occurs during a critical period similar to the reproductive organs; this occurs during the 12 week of gestation.

During this time, the fetus is being bombarded by hormones such as testosterone, androgen, and/or estrogen. These hormones will play a substantial part in the development of the fetal brain. High levels of testosterone will result in a larger hypothalamus, which is an important portion of the brain during this period, because it is a part of the brain that controls human arousal and sexual urges. In heterosexual men, the INAH-3 (Interstitial Nucleus of the Anterior Hypothalamus) of the hypothalamus can be, and usually is, up to two times larger than that in women; inevitably deciding an individual’s sexual orientation in most cases. Some studies have shown that brains with smaller amounts of INAH-3 are present in a majority of homosexual men. Thus, confirming that the amount of INAH-3 in the hypothalamus plays a substantial part in the biological reasoning of sexual orientation, in most cases.

Sexual orientation is, on average, a biological reference to one’s sexuality: heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. Although there are biological factors that assist in creating this orientation, cultural and social factors can have a part in directing one’s sexual orientation as well.

In western cultures such as ours, society, culture and media can play a huge part in what’s considered “right or wrong” for boys and girls. In most cases, from the day babies are free from the womb, they’re labeled as being male or female. This can occur in many ways, but the most relevant is the flooding of specific colors such as, pink (girls) or blue (boys) on babies’ environments from birth until early childhood. Also, the way that children learn to play and the gender milieus they experience extremely help dictate the way boys and girls are “supposed to be” in our society. The environments that boys and girls play in are extremely different, in most cases. Boys are usually involved in rough and tumble play such as, football, basketball, war, etc. Whereas, girls are usually involved in more communal, sharing types of plays such as, house, dolls, cooking, etc.

All of these biological, cultural, and societal factors have an extreme influence on the direction children will take in life, based on gender, starting at extremely young ages. Eventually, these factors will help shape children through adolescence and into adulthood, providing keys along their early lifespan, enabling them to unlock the door of actualizing their selves on a more elaborate level.

Each of us, from early childhood on, cognitively obtain morals and values (both consciously and unconsciously) presented to us through family, society, and the media. All of this information that we perceive and process contains a considerable amount of life as a whole, which I feel we need to fully understand our own being’s self. Indeed, this is difficult to do, because truly identifying one’s self can be viewed by many perspectives, if identified at all. You must first understand what your self is before you can proceed in identifying it. To me, self is your own being, both positive and negative traits, accompanied with all of the life experiences that you have retained over the course of your existence and also, how those experiences and traits move and shape you as a human being.

We all grow through life both physically and cognitively regardless if you are aware of it are not. During our perception of life we obtain virtues and vices that can be both positive and/or negative. In some cases, we as humans tend to turn a cold shoulder (so to speak) on our negative virtues and vices by stuffing them in what is called our “black bag”. The problem with this it is, no matter how far you suppress or cover up these object “feelings” or “trademarks”, they will always follow behind you uncomfortably in your “black bag”. In most cases, you might be able to psychologically blow them off in your mind by consciously trying to forget about them, but a majority of other individuals can see right through that bag you’re dragging, because whether you like it or not, those negative aspects are indeed a part of what makes you, you.

All of these “feelings” and “trademarks” that we possess help create our individuality. Our individuality is basically the state or quality of being a person, separate from other people. At the same time, we as individuals possess our own needs, goals, and desires. I feel that those needs, goals, and desires that we possess are a huge part of our humanistic urge to find meaning and purpose in our lives. In my opinion, it is also fair to say that our meaning and purpose in life is directly tied to our potential. Our potential can be defined as the utmost greatest functionality that can be produced by an individual as a whole, utilizing all aspects of our existence: our mind, body, and psyche. Many times an individual’s potential isn’t exceeded because of social and/or cultural conformities. These conformities can be described by the metaphor “procrustean bed.” In some cases, no matter how great or minute one’s potential, you are confined to a predisposed set of standards which can withhold or enable one’s full potential.

Ultimately, regardless of cultural or societal values and/or norms, we’re all indeed individuals. Individuals striving to be all that we can be in this game we call life. We are intelligent individuals whom process information unlike any creatures on this earth. We experience an excessive amount of emotions and situations, both consciously and unconsciously throughout our lives that all play a part in creating just what we are, individual human beings. Thus, we as individuals can decide to be, or not to be, the hero’s or heroine’s of our journeys.

By Mathew Kleinhans
Woodland, California

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