What’s Happening in the World…
On April 23, 2018 a young man (25) from Ontario drove a rental van down a crowded Toronto sidewalk. He plowed into pedestrians killing 10 and injuring at least 15. In a Facebook message he posted before the attack he wrote “The Incel Rebellion has begun!” (Incel stands for involuntary celibate and is a term a large number of sexually frustrated men identify with online.)
On May 18, 2018 an adolescent boy (17) armed with a shotgun and a revolver opened fired in his first period art class. Before he was taken into custody he had killed 10 and wounded at least 10 others. One of the individuals he killed was a female student who had previously rejected his romantic advances.
The sobering fact is that by the time you finish reading the articles in this series there will likely have been another mass shooting. The shooter will very likely be male and most likely he will be white. The shooting will almost certainly happen in America.
Something Has Gone Terribly Wrong
Boys are increasingly becoming killers. What’s happening? I’m interested in this question both professionally as a Clinical Psychologist and personally as the father of a young son. It is clear to me that many boys – in the absence of healthy masculine mentorship – have adopted a toxic masculinity.
Toxic masculinity is marked by an extreme sense of entitlement which fuels a heightened sense of resentment when one experiences rejection – as in being passed over for a promotion, losing a job, being turned down by a romantic interest, or experiencing a break-up or divorce. Extreme entitlement, experienced rejection, and heightened resentment can then lead to revenge and/or rage.
There is a need for us as a community to understand this phenomenon of toxic masculinity and push back against it with a corrective vision of healthy masculinity. I hope that I can contribute something worthy to that goal by this series of short articles.
For those interested in teaching boys to be good men I also highly recommend:
- The documentary “The Mask You Live In“
- The TEDxBaltimore 2013 talk by Joe Ehrmann “Be a Man”
- The book “Season of Life” by Jeffrey Marx
- The book “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday which provides historical examples of how men (and women) have used principles of Stoic philosophy to “turn trials into triumph”
- For those who may lean more towards a Christian view the books “Wild at Heart” and “The Way of the Wild Heart” by John Eldredge are also very good.
Here’s to helping boys become good men.
Dr. Sean Smitham, Ph.D. a licensed Clinical Psychologist and family therapist who lives and practices in Spokane, Washington.