Finding balance in the second half of life

Too Much of a Good Thing?

In Community on December 18, 2010 at 5:01 pm

An article in a recent Time magazine has me thinking. It reports on a study that shows that the pose you take–like leaning forward aggressively or sitting back with your arms and legs crossed–can affect the amount of testosterone in your system. A “powerful” posture can double the amount of testosterone in 15 minutes.

That can be a good thing, I suppose, if you’re needing to feel more assertive in a business setting or with your kids or a recalcitrant volunteer committee. As the article points out, it’s further evidence that “fake it until you make it” can really be true. That was demonstrated earlier with happiness research: People who smiled, or even gripped a pencil in their mouths in a way that uses the same muscles, were more likely to have positive feelings.

I’m just not sure that what the world needs now is more testosterone. A study at Harvard and Columbia showed that people with those posture-produced higher levels of testosterone were more willing to gamble and lose. Which reminds me of the New York Magazine article about what would have happened on Wall Street had women been in charge over the last few years.

They pointed to more research that confirms that hormones correlate with aggression and risk-taking but, helpfully, also caution against “being reductionist about hormones and gender,” since it’s a “sure way to misjudge a complicated individual.” Sheila Baer, chair of the FDIC, is both cautious about categorizing people and conscious of the need for balance. “… From a risk-management standpoint,” she says, “having diversity and different perspectives and attitudes is helpful.”

Which I certainly agree with. Collectively, we don’t want to be either bossy and reckless or retiring and inertia-prone. Just be careful of your posture, or you may accidentally skew your contribution to our diversity.

-Lois Maassen

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