How to hear volumes in the silence of boys.
Pollack (Psychology/Harvard) founded the Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity of the American Psychological Association, and he is well-qualified to break the macho “Boy Code” that has many young men suffering in silence behind stoic masks. Not a spin-off of Sara Shandler’s Ophelia Speaks (1999, not reviewed), this book follows up on Pollack’s Real Boys (1998). In it Pollack’s boys remain anonymous throughout, except for the riveting account of a shooting victim from Columbine High School. Of the other couple hundred “real” voices, one boy refers to his divorced mother as “recognizing the issues” and being “supportive of the healing process.” Others favor terms like “repressed adolescent,” “dysfunction”, or “sociopathic.” Other boys apparently echo Pollack’s views on Louis Farrakhan or his theory that the lack of nurturing leads to sex, drugs, or violence. Nonetheless, the essays as a whole are coherent and relevant, allowing Pollack to introduce his two dozen topics with valuable insights into how to listen to the “action talk” of boys. Before a boy opens up to someone, he often has to join him or her in their favorite activity, on their turf, or in a “shame-free zone.” Pollack demonstrates that good boys will turn to antisocial behavior to express anxiety that they cannot articulate with language. While the “Columbine Syndrome” appears rare, the high-pressured, potentially violent dynamics for boys are seen as all-too-common. The author describes the warning signs of depression and suicide: even a roundabout walk to school, for example, can warn of a boy’s hidden turmoil. He also presents 15 ways in which to relate better to boys, and describes how to diffuse problems before they explode. Topics such as virginity, spirituality, bullying, divorce, drugs, racism, and sexism are discussed by both the boys and the author.
Somewhat redundant, Pollack offers many useful psychoanalytical insights worth repeating.