Violence and boys

The push toward early separation and independence for a boy, usually by toddler age, can set the stage for depression when adjustment problems occur later. And conflicts of identity and sexuality that arise in adolescence are fertile ground for complications when boys are given a second push to be self-reliant and repress needs for ongoing nurturing.

But William Pollack warns us that repression of vulnerable feelings may cause a boy to further harden. Anger and rage, as the only acceptable male emotions, can create a formula for violence. When this equation gestates over time, unexpressed inner grief can take the form of outward rage.

When disconnection has reached crisis proportions inside and out, violence can become the distorted cry for help. Anger and rage are perceived emotions of strength and even power -- while sadness, fear and loneliness are considered weak. When a boy believes this, he acts accordingly. Cut off from his own emotions, he becomes disconnected from himself. Perhaps it is when this disconnection becomes complete that the choice to kill ensures that others will know the pain he feels inside.

In the absence of any one committed adult who cares, the situation can worsen -- with destruction expressed toward oneself and others. Or, as in the Columbine tragedy, both. Certainly there are many contributing factors in the formula for violence of this kind, notwithstanding the availability of illegal and sophisticated weapons, the anonymity of the Internet and the potential for desensitization to violence than may evolve from the common violent imagery found in the movies our children watch and the video games they play.


Still, the line between reality and fantasy are crossed because of serious emotional illness, which has not been adequately addressed by people and the systems we create as a society to raise and nurture our children.

Our society's formula for manhood is a part of the equation for depression, which may help set a boy on a course toward "crying bullets" to express his sadness and break his isolation.

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