Cycles.Oops, I said it.. That’s kinda the polite word for periods. Yes women have periods often from as early as age 12 to 51 or older. And in this cyclical phase of our lives, we bring a certain unpredictability to our work and decision making. It might frustrate you and others around you, but it can also be seen as a gift, a change in worldview so dramatic that it can enhance our creative ability.
We shift perspectives, we see things with entirely new eyes every 28 days, and then back again. Or maybe to a new spot altogether. That is practically the definition of creativity.
In my research for Sex, Lies & Creativity, I identified the differences between men and women and how those differences might affect creativity, mostly because I came to believe that what is unique to us as a gender becomes a certain gender-based intelligence. An inherent male intelligence, and an innate female intelligence. I also became convinced that if we understood our own intelligence and gender differences our empathy would build and we’d be able to collaborate and create better. This empathy and willingness to collaborate could enhance our ability to create at home with a spouse, or in the workplace or community groups.
Here’s an excerpt from Sex, Lies & Creativity, on the subject of how women’s cycles affect creativity:
From puberty until menopause, women’s brains, have a monthly cycle with sometimes dramatic hormonal changes that can shift their view of reality and alter their perceptions and actions. It’s no wonder women are conditional. We know on some level, we might feel very differently on the subject in the following week. The good news about that worldview change and its impact on who we are, is that we’re more likely to be open and flexible. And that’s a necessary mindset for creativity.
A woman’s cycle introduces a third major hormone in menstruating women (12 ½ to 51 ½ years old, US average ages) – progesterone. Progesterone protects and prepares for pregnancy, and is highest in the second half of the cycle. The (fun!) attributes of progesterone are listed below.
Table 3. Effects of Progesterone on Human Behavior
Effects of Progesterone on Human Behavior
- Sensitivity to emotional nuance
- Sedative effect
- Heightened need for approval
- Increased desire for affection
See, it’s not just you. It’s not inexplicable…It’s progesterone. In weeks one and two of the cycle, estrogen and testosterone rise, with T reaching its highest at ovulation, giving the woman her highest verbal, intimacy and sex drive of the month. She may feel keen, hopeful… masterful. In the third week, there is a second but smaller rise in estrogen coupled with progesterone, as the egg descends and the body prepares for the possibility of pregnancy. Testosterone drops off considerably. As progesterone rises, women become more sensitive to emotional nuance, such as approval and disapproval, acceptance and rejection. This is when women are most likely not to feel like “themselves.” Pre-menstrual symptoms have even been blamed for everything from feeling low to committing crimes.
Once the period begins, progesterone flattens, and estrogen and testosterone begin to rise again. The menstrual cycle has an effect on the woman’s entire body, including the brain.
That’s the long and the short of it, but can you see how this shift in mood and mindset might be precisely what was needed to solve creative problems, be the vehicle for delivering new insights and breakthroughs. Men don’t get it. And I don’t mean they don’t understand it; some do and some don’t. I mean they don’t get to have this built-in creative advantage.