It’s Not A Friendly World - II

Today boys are at risk. Fundamentally, they are in danger of aging without becoming men. Their day-to-day experiences do not prepare them for manhood in any real, meaningful way: a manner that identifies, affirms, supports and develops their inherent male goodness, their soul capacities, or their deep purposes for being alive in this time.

I’d like to set out a hypothesis based on two contemporary understandings. First, a central threat in our lives is to the ecological welfare of the Earth as an environment to sustain human life. The second is that Consciousness includes a non-local aspect, not limited by time and space and which incorporates every single human mind. In a nutshell, boys know that human behavior is jeopardizing the survival of our species. The hypothesis is that an aspect of boys’ troubles relates to this knowing and the frustration they feel (which can become futility) in their thwarted efforts to become men who can make a difference.

A deep element of the male archetype is to protect, preserve, and provide for the welfare of family and society. In post World War II life, that quality was taken up with “doing well in school” in order to “get a good job.”

The emphasis on getting good grades in school so he can get a good job is archaic. It is fundamentally in conflict with his deep knowing that there is a genuine threat to humanity and that his purpose plays a part in the story of how humanity will meet the danger to its survival.

His growing up and becoming a man is essentially a sacred path incorporating a boy’s soul purpose with ensuring the continuation of his people. The inner activity of a boy’s soul life is unbalanced by neglect, the absence of cultural validation, and pressure to conform to a cultural system that wishes his attention be focused on what he experiences as meaningless goals.

Boys play like there is no tomorrow and their play is to prepare them for manhood. When their society directs their play away from genuine survival tasks and their place in the continuation of society, it creates stress, conflict, and ultimately ill-health and misbehavior: life makes no sense.

Boys are all body and their bodies resonate with the sense of themselves and everything around them. Their attention is focused, most importantly on what is real and meaningful to them, and their sensitivity picks up on the world around them. This has to include the deep knowing of the threat to humanity. When their society overwhelms their body knowledge and sensitivity with apparently useless information, fears they cannot develop any control over, and commands their attention towards desires and behavior that have nothing to do with growing into men who are purposeful, positive, and powerful, it undermines their fundamental soul intent: to become men, resulting in misbehavior and ill-health.

A fundamental force for boys is their desire to grow in strength. Strong begins as a physical body experience for boys. It is meant to develop into psychological and spiritual strength in the form of integrity, confidence, meaning of purpose, and a living experience of centeredness through which the power of Life flows. It is strength independent of relationship: it doesn’t depend on the weakness of someone else. When their society corrupts the call to strength through images that are grossly physical, violent, and destructive and denies the existence of a sacred path to a man of genuine strength it perverts boys into becoming what Jed Diamond and others describe as “monster boys:” boys in the body of men bent on destruction and, fuels depression, disease, and violence.

Boys long to live their souls purposes and become men. It isn’t something they put into words. Swimming in feelings and senses and not having an easy time verbalizing their experiences, the imbalance and conflict between their soul life and their “not so friendly world” is displayed through their behavior. Unfortunately, it won’t show up through psychological testing, or ADD/ADHD evaluations, learning disabilities assessments or any other instrument that looks at boys through our contemporary social lenses. It will show up in their behavior: he doesn’t want to do schoolwork, or chores, and wants to get away with whatever he can, and is simply reluctant to grow up.

The irony is boys always want to do well - be “good” if you will, because it relates to strength and sensitivity. But the challenge is huge when the price they pay to “be good” and “fit in” costs them to deny developing in accord with their deepest desires and knowledge including playing their part in the survival of humanity.

Boys are unaware of the risk they face. As they approach adolescence, an unease sets in that is usually explained as “adjusting” to middle school. It’s more than that. The imaginative play period is fading and a dawning awareness of “being-in-the-world” begins: a world that both deeply calls them to soul growth and making their place in the great story to sustain human life on Earth and, at the same time, denies, obstructs, and perverts soul growth, replacing it with directing him towards goals that, in fact, further the danger to humanity.

©2011 Ted Braude

Related: Issues, Books

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Youth is wholly experimental. - Robert Louis Stevenson


Ted Braude is a health psychologist, speaker, writer, musician and a second degree black belt in the Japanese martial art Aikido. A former school teacher at Friends School in Detroit, he's been practicing psychology since 1982, blending his diverse interests and understandings into his meeting with people of all ages in individual, couple and family therapy. Ted is well known for his work with boys and their families, especially his Dragonwork with teenage boys. Ted is a columnist in the The Detroit Free Press "Body and Mind" section and apprentices in Aikido and in Ki healing with martial arts and Ki master Katsumi Niikura Sensei. His offices are in Royal Oak and Milford, Michigan. Contact Ted at E-Mail or visit

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