Book Reflections: “Boys Adrift, The Five Factors Driving The Growing Epidemic Of Unmotivated Boys And Underachieving Young Men”, by Leonard Sax, M.D., Phd.

Boys Adrift cover

I had the pleasure of pouring over this book over the Christmas break this year and I have since been recommending it heartily to patients.  More and more, I see youth come into my office with apathetic eyes and the feeling of being forsaken; especially in the boys.  The boys’ parents are feeling paralyzed about what to do for them.

Sax attributes this shift to the the following five factors:

  1. Video Games:  studies show that some of the most popular video games are disengaging boys from real-world pursuits.
  2. Teaching Methods:  profound changes in the way children are education have had the unintended consequence of turning many boys off school.
  3. Prescription Drugs:  Overuse of medication for ADHD may be causing irreversible damage to the motivational centers in boys’ brains.
  4. Endocrine Disruptors:  Environmental estrogens from plastic bottles and food sources may be lowering boys’ testosterone levels, making their bones more brittle and throwing their endocrine systems out of whack.
  5. Devaluation of Masculinity:  Shifts in popular culture have transformed the role models of manhood.  Forty years ago we had “Father Knows Best;” today we have “The Simpsons.”

In his book, Dr. Sax goes on to describe how the phthalates in water bottles contain estrogens and that the ecosystems around dump sites are indicating some very disturbing results.  For example, large numbers of male fish are starting to lose their “maleness” and their sex organs are starting to look a lot like female organs.  Also, similar studies have shown that alligators’ testicles are shrinking.  This too has been linked to this phenomena.  Estrogen is softening our males, and turning them slowly into “girls.”  Yikes!

Our schools are also part of this grand phenomenon.  Well-behaved, pleasing girls are celebrated in school, where ill-behaved boys have been labeled with ADD, ADHD, and Autism is becoming epidemic.  We are seeing the results of an education system whose goals are to create female teachers while also making sports and gym class less accessible to boys.  Sax talks about how if you aren’t on the varsity team, there are less and less outlets to play sports simply for the fun of it.  Sax goes further to suggest that we need to educate boys separately and describes one classroom where the boys are even allowed to lounge about on the floor and in chairs as long as they are respectful of the teacher and the other boys’ needs to learn.

Dr. Sax recognizes that video games are the one safe place that boys can exhibit their maleness without disrespecting society’s expectations that they remain suppressed and quiet in their attitudes and behavior.  My son, Jordan, said to me just last week, that he wishes the world was more like the game “World of Warcraft,” as life is so boring!  He added, “First you go to school and then you grow up and work, and then you die.”  His bleak summation hit home in me and I can see how his mentoring by other unmotivated young men has contributed to this state of mind.  I sadly see this same lack of inspiration or motivation in the youthful boys I serve in my clinic every day.

I asked Jordan what he loved about this video game that he has been playing of recent, as he has been too dizzy and sick to his stomach to go to school last week.  I know that he is stuck in a state of grief or the feeling of the “unlived” life.  He responded that he loves to do “battle”, find the treasures, and change himself into a more and more stealthy warrior.  When he speaks of the game, he completely lights up and his symptoms completely dissipate.  When I shared his enthusiasm for the graphics, and openly admired his strength and power, he zinged with excitement.  It was palpable.  When I walked by, he would excitedly invite me to see this new world he was in, which beasts he was fighting, and even his “hallowed soul” illuminated and floating about on one occasion when he was defeated.

This past weekend, I invited 5 boys to shovel a winter’s worth of horse manure out of the barn.  A heavy, distasteful job for most folks.  I could hear them laughing and kibitzing from about 300 metres away.  It was like the most beautiful exorcism.  The stories from their past experiences, the bawdy jokes, the self-teasing and the rapturous laughing was all in glorious good fun and it was loud and full of motivation!

The job was done in four hours, minus the huge plowman’s lunch I served them.  The barn floor was clean enough to eat off of!  It was a pleasure being with them and feeling their camaraderie being born on a task that needed to be done … even over the task of moving a couple of tonnes of horse manure.   Half the boys had never met each other before and they were fast friends by the time the day was done.  One lad was from Hungary on a 6 month tour of Canada.  And one of the other boys said “he sure learned a lot about Hungarians today!”  At lunch they talked about hockey in Canada and soccer in Europe and who their favourite players were.

Since my own son struggles with the structure of school and hates homework, I’ve made it my personal mission to figure out how to  craft an environment to suit his blossoming individuality … on his terms.  He does not remotely resemble the children of my youth … however, he does resemble me.  He is an autonmous thinker, he is motivated only towards what he loves, he is pissed off at the establishment, he won’t settle for bullshit, he can read states of mind like Clint Eastwood in Fist Full of Dollars, and he would rather be left to figure things out for himself.  The current education system totally botches this way of tactile learning at the time you hunger for it.  I know, as I failed 4 courses in grade 11!  This month, however, I am finishing my post graduate studies in what I absolutely love and am destined to be … Heilkunst Medicine extended by the insights of Anthoposophy (the study of Man) and Orgonomy (the orgastic reflex that powers him).  Yeah Baby!!!  There is no life like it.

I only hope that my son will also light up when he is ready.  I also spent years moody, and suffering the depths of my dark side, like some kind of spiritual training that only allowed for lift-off of my desire function in my late 30’s.  Maybe this is the plight of the modern individual and it has to be crafted in this way to achieve the heights and depths of true thinking, feeling and willing.  Certainly Rudolf Steiner and Wilhelm Reich agree that there is a mighty incubation period and horrible “guardians at many thresholds” before true orgastic potency and illumination can be achieved.  With the art of Medical Heilkunst, we are helping to shorten the distance to this end.

3 thoughts on “Book Reflections: “Boys Adrift, The Five Factors Driving The Growing Epidemic Of Unmotivated Boys And Underachieving Young Men”, by Leonard Sax, M.D., Phd.

  1. Just wanted to thank you for you post in Austism “Boys Adrift”….my 18 years old son was recently diagnosed with Asperger… he tried to commit suicide a month ago…that’s how we found out he had asperger…you’ve summed up exactly how he feels about life… I am looking forward to reading the book.
    Thanks!
    Marie Joanne

  2. Dear Marie Joanne,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to my post. I am pleased to hear that Dr. Sax’s book will be helpful to you and your son. If you find that you are interested in pursuing Heilkunst treatment for him, please let me know as we’ve been able to help many Asperger’s individuals obtain greater freedom from their condition. My mother committed suicide when I was 8 years old and I love working with others struggling on this front. It feels to me like this is what I am ordained to do. My Warmest, Allyson

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