what i’m reading: “real boys”

Summer is rough for me.  I take fewer classes, I have lots more free time, and things are generally a lot less unstructured.  This means my life is full of chaos.

One thing I’ve noticed about school, recently, is that if I’m not taking any psychology courses, I become indifferent about working towards a degree.  It’s hard slogging through generals for any student, but in my case, where there’s limited amounts of time and money to spend on pursuing an education, it just feels like it’s not worth the hassle.

So, summer is a little rougher for me, and I’m looking forward to Fall and Spring semesters again.

In the meantime, and I’ve been doing this for awhile, I always have one book about psychology or counseling that I’m reading.  Right now, I’m making my way through a great book called “Real Boys.”

If I could summarize the book, it’s basically documenting the effects of boys not expressing their feelings.  I was going to expound on that, but that’s just about how it goes.  I also use the term ‘boys’ here from the author’s context, not mine. He tends to cover a large age group, from about eight to sixteen.

Flipping it open tonight, the page I started on perfectly expressed the “why” I want to work with youth so much — or, that is, the kinds of problems I want to encounter and help people out with:

When boys become hardened, they become willing to endure emotional and physical pain–even to risk their lives–if it means winning the approval of their peers.  Boys can become so thoroughly hardened that they literally anesthetize themselves against the pain they must cope with.  And they are often left unsupervised at an earlier age than girls and are usually discouraged by adults from engaging in help-seeking behaviors at their time of greatest vulnerability or need, boys learn to remain silent despite their suffering.

Incredibly sad commentary, of course, but also accurate.

I suppose that the solution could be summed up in “love your kids,” but what I see happening is that culture is a strong influence of how to love them — when to cut them loose, when to have them “man up,” and so on.  Culture is a poor guide for determining personal milestones.

I’ve been learning more about counseling and people not just with what I read, but as I casually observe people and realize how simple things are.  The realization is dawning on me that humans are alike emotionally, wanting the same basics subsets of love and caring: respect, communication, validation, correction and instruction.  Things that people do that are “weird” or “out there” are most times going to be tied back to some fundamental need that is unaddressed.  And in the cases where that is the case, there can be a check for internal chemical imbalances (depression, schizophrenia, OCD, mood disorders etc.) where medication can do a lot of good in providing more stability.

On a personal level, not an academic one, from helping out others, I’ve noticed how important it is that people have someone that will look them in the eye and listen to them.  I’ve noticed that just looking at someone directly often times can slightly startle someone, since it is so unexpected.  I’ve seen though, how talking calmly and directly to someone will both relax them and engender some trust.  People just want to be listened to.

Anyway, it’s all fascinating stuff, and I love reading up on it, and discovering new things.  In a lot of ways, I’m finding that counseling is based on really simple principles of caring and communicating.

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1 Comment

Filed under Psychology

One response to “what i’m reading: “real boys”

  1. Hi Steve,

    “Real Boys” was not my favourite publication on the topic of boyhood development, and especially on the correlation between emotional development and socialisation. If you’re looking for further reading, I would suggest any of the books by Steve Biddulph:

    http://www.stevebiddulph.com/

    I think that he offers some very unique insight into child rearing, and especially emotional / behavioural issues.

    I am en route to a PhD in Child and Adolescent Counselling Psychology, so if you ever want to discuss what you’re studying, I’d love to chat.

    Cheers,
    Nathan Zachary

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