FINDING RELIEF IN THE CAVE
When a man is stressed he will withdraw into the cave of his mind and focus on solving a problem. He generally picks the most urgent problem or the most difficult. He becomes so focused on solving this one problem that he temporarily loses awareness of everything else. Other problems and responsibilities fade into the background. At such times, he becomes increasingly distant, forgetful, unresponsive, and preoccupied in his relationships. For example, when having a conversation with him at home, it seems as if only 5 percent of his mind is available for the relationship while the other 95 percent is still at work. His full awareness is not present because he is mulling over his problem, hoping to find a solution. The more stressed he is the more gripped by the problem he will be. At such times he is incapable of giving a woman the attention and feeling that she normally receives and certainly deserves. Flis mind is preoccupied, and he is powerless to release it. If, however, he can find a solution, instantly he Will feel much better and come out of his cave; suddenly he is available for being in a relationship again. However, if he cannot find a solution to his problem, then he remains stuck in the cave. To get unstuck he is drawn to solving little problems, like reading the news, watching TV, driving his car, doing physical exercise, watching a football game, playing basketball, and so forth. Any challenging activity that initially requires only 5 percent of his mind can assist him in forgetting his problems and becoming unstuck. Then the next day he can redirect his focus to his problem with greater success. Let's explore in greater detail a few examples. Jim commonly uses reading the newspaper to forget his problems. When he reads the paper he is no longer being confronted with the problems of his day. With the 5 percent of his mind that is not focused on his work problems, he begins forming opinions and finding solutions for the world's problems. Gradually his mind becomes increasingly involved with the problems in the news and he forgets his own. In this way he makes the transition from being focused on his problems at work to focusing on the many problems of the world (for which he is not directly responsible. This process releases his mind from the gripping problems of work so he can focus on his wife and family again.
Tom watches a football game to release his stress and unwind. He releases his mind from trying to solve his own problems by solving the problems of his favorite team. Through watching sports he can vicariously feel he has solved a problem with each play. When his team scores points or wins, he enjoys the feeling of success. If his team loses, he suffers their loss as
his own. In either case, however, his mind is released from the grip of his real problems. For Tom and many men the inevitable release of tension that occurs at the completion of any sporting event, news event, or movie provides a release from the tension he feels in his life. HOW WOMEN REACT TO THE CAVE When a man is stuck in his cave, he is powerless to give his partner the quality attention she deserves. It is hard for her to be accepting of him at these times because she doesn't know how stressed he is. If he were to come home and talk about all his problems, then she could be more compassionate. Instead he doesn't talk about his problems, and she feels he is ignoring her. She can tell he is upset but mistakenly assumes he doesn't care about her because he isn't talking to her. Women generally do not understand how Martians cope with stress. They expect men to open up and talk about all their problems the way Venusians do. When a man is stuck in his cave, a woman resents his not being more open. She feels hurt when he turns on the news or goes outside to play some basketball and ignores her. To expect a man who is in his cave instantly to become open, responsive, and loving is as unrealistic as expecting a woman who is upset immediately to calm down and make complete sense. It is a mistake to expect a man to always be in touch with his loving feelings j ust as it is a mistake to expect a woman's feelings to always be rational and logical. When Martians go to their caves they tend to forget that their friends may be having problems too. An instinct takes over that says before you can take care of anybody else, you must first take care of yourself. When a woman sees a man react in this way, she generally resists it and resents the man. She may ask for his support in a demanding tone, as if she has to fight for her rights with this uncaring man. By remembering that men are from Mars, a woman can correctly interpret his reaction to stress as his coping mechanism rather than as an expression of how he feels about her. She can begin to cooperate with him to get what she needs instead of resisting him. On the other side, men generally have little awareness of how distant they become when they are in the cave. As a man recognizes how withdrawing into his cave may affect women, he can be compassionate when she feels neglected and unimportant. Remembering that women are from Venus helps him to be more understanding and respectful of her reactions and feelings. Without understanding the validity of her reactions, a man commonly defends himself, and they argue. These are five common misunderstandings: 1. When she says "You don't listen," he says "What do you mean I don't listen. I can tell you everything you said." When a man is in the cave he can record what she is saying with the 5 percent of mind that is listening. A man reasons that if he is listening with 5 percent, then he is listening. However, what she is asking for is his full undivided attention. 2. When she says "I feel like you are not even here," he says "What do you mean I'm not here? Of course I am here. Don't you see my body?"
He reasons that if his body is present then she shouldn't say he is not there. However, though
his body is present, she doesn't feel his full presence, and that is what she means. 3. When she says "You don't care about me," he says "Of course I care about you. Why do you think I am trying to solve this problem?" He reasons that because he is preoccupied with solving a problem that will in some way benefit her, she should know he cares for her. However, she needs to feel his direct attention and caring, and that is what she is really asking for. 4. When she says "I feel like I am not important to you," he says "That's ridiculous. Of course you are important." He reasons that her feelings are invalid because he is solving problems to benefit her. He doesn't realize that when he focuses on one problem and ignores the problems she is bothered by that almost any woman would have the same reaction and take it personally and feel unimportant. 5. When she says "You have no feelings. You are in your head," he says "What's wrong with that? How else do you expect me to solve this problem?" He reasons that she is being too critical and demanding because he is doing something that is essential for him to solve problems. He feels unappreciated. In addition he doesn't recognize the validity of her feelings Men generally don't realize how extremely and quickly they may shift from being warm and feeling to being unresponsive and distant. In his cave a man is preoccupied with solving his problem and is unaware of how his indifferent attitude might feel to others. To increase cooperation both men and women need to understand each other better. When a man begins to ignore his wife, she often takes it personally. Knowing that he is coping with stress in his own way is extremely helpful but does not always help her alleviate the pain. At such times she may feel the need to talk about these feelings. This is when it is important for the man to validate her feelings. He needs to understand that she has a right to talk about her feelings of being ignored and unsupported just as he has a right to withdraw into his cave and not talk. If she does not feel understood then it is difficult for her to release her hurt.