What is the Boy Crisis? I stumbled across this idea as I was stepping into a new role at Spearhead Lodge. The Boy Crisis? What is it? How does it apply to the Spearhead guys? How do we heal it? The Boy Crisis is the idea that societal and parental standards have created an environment where boys are not supported in expressing vulnerable feelings, but are told to “suck it up”, “be a man”, and “stop acting like a girl”. These messages that society sees as harmless or “toughening him up” creates a series of shame messages that manifest as anger, violence, and hypersexuality. Young men are required to project the persona of hyper-masculinity and learn that this is the ultimate way to receive validation and respect. Being seen as weak in front of others is not an option.
We learn the concept of masculinity in childhood. The first is the association of masculinity and athletic ability: size, strength, skill. The second is the association of masculinity and social- economic status: power and possession. This concept excludes males who enjoy the arts, are not into sports, and don’t need power and possession to feel valued. Both sides of this coin are dangerous. Each sending shame messages of “not good enough” and imposes a measure of unrelenting standards. At Spearhead Lodge we meet the males who have found that drugs and alcohol enable them to loosen up the strain of societal expectations. Guys can tell their friends how much they love them only after having a few beers first. They feel more confident in front of a girl after consuming some liquid courage. This pair of behavior drinking/ using to feel better or more comfortable precipitates addiction behavior. So, what do we do?
At Spearhead Lodge, we take the work of Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development and address the issues with these young men. We challenged the clients to address issues around trust, shame, self-esteem, family dynamics, and ego. The young men who come to Spearhead experience treatment in a new way by participating in experiential groups, lectures, team-building activities, and much more. Each person is mentored by a 12 Step mentor who models what life in recovery can be. We believe that sobriety is about attraction, not promotion. These guys are provided a safe space to let down their armor of hyper-masculinity and are invited to explore vulnerability. These men are provided a language to express their emotions and connect through common experiences. We invite them to re-write their story; one they can be proud of.
To continue to heal the boy crisis, society has to have uncomfortable conversations. Individually, we invite the males in our life to share their experiences and emotions. Male vulnerability is male strength and male courage. Let’s invite the men in our life to live bravely as their authentic selves.