George W. Albee, Ph.D., in his 1970 presidential address to the American Psychological Association, said, “We have taught our students for years that mental cases include those people who are dangerous to themselves or others.”
This message seems to have escaped public awareness. The young boys and men who have engaged in mass shootings and school shootings are generally not seen as sick and needy but as criminals.
It is not surprising that we have not recognized the need for psychological help. We see that men already have the greater power over world events and a preponderant role in important local decisions. They have the greater share of the world’s material goods and the principle role in their use. As a result, it is widely held that the male is to be envied and emulated.
However, a truer picture of male “superiority” is suggested when we inspect some statistics and their role in current shooting events. Then, it is evident that many males show a genuine need for psychological change. Society needs these male changes as well.
Virtually every day the news media announces the killing, stabbing or other physical harm befalling an individual or group. A recent Vernon Action News report of the incidence of mass shootings showed 324 attacks in the United States in 2017 alone.
Virtually every attack was by a male, and that means we need a “Men’s Movement” to emphasize the need for identifying and correcting the psychological causes for the negative male behaviors. Inherently, this calls for psychological appraisal of the way to change the causes.
A second reason to initiate a Men’s Movement is the unrecognized prevalence of male dissatisfaction with their lives. The suicide rate for men is six to seven times greater than that of females. Males constitute over 90 percent of the prison population, their rate of drug and alcohol addiction is greater, as are drug overdose deaths.
Is this “success?” Both genders agree that if you told someone that a particular male is a success it would mean he is wealthy or has a very lucrative job or both. In a country where possessions and the means for procuring them are highly regarded, it is easy to falsely believe that men are more successful than women.
However, both genders also generally agree that the ultimate acquisition of success is happiness. Success entails a general satisfaction with life, a preponderantly good attitude toward self and others, being loved, being helpful and feeling wanted as a person.
A Men’s Movement is needed to enhance the enjoyment of life for all men.
It starts with the inspection of some harmful ideas and psychological practices in the rearing of boys. Consider the harm it does to young males to tell them that they should not cry or that they should not show fear. Successful psychologists know that stifling these emotions is not a good route to mental health. In the United States, boys are warned against hugging, kissing, or holding hands with other boys.
In sum, disallowing expression of negative emotions in addition to preventing the show of positive emotions is psychologically harmful to the developing boy-child.
Another rearing practice that primarily befalls boys is the over-emphasis for boys to win. The dictum was made clear by sports mogul Vince Lombardi, who declared, “Winning isn’t everything. It is the only thing.” The problem is that there is only one winner. The rest are “losers.” Thus, at some level men experience the feeling of inferiority in regard to their physical ability.
The same feeling of lesser worth can arise from comparing individual male differences in physical prowess – strength, muscle mass and height. Here again males are too often raised to be competitive, and it is possible that male school shooters have felt some kind of negative comparison. If feelings of inferiority become unrelenting or are somehow accentuated for a boy, profound negative emotions can follow. As a result, troubled boys can find a very wrong way to avenge (get even).
We have a pressing need to uncover the psychological factors that are precipitating those acts of violence.
A child or an adult who is mentally ill enough to shoot innocent people is guaranteed to say or do something that is identifiably out of order. He will show aberrant behavior or say things that are worrisome enough to be noted by the majority of ordinary people. Inevitable warning signs are the key to prevention and the initiation of psychological help. It is also the way to a humane treatment of those who, being ill, are themselves victims.
We need a Men’s Movement to be the cornerstone of help for those who need psychological assistance to prevent harmful behavior. Such a movement would also help needy males to become more loving and kind rather than harmfully competitive or themselves become victims of unwanted behavior. A generally good psychological outlook and feeling by males should be a major aim of a Men’s Movement.”
The immediate remedial step is to keep guns out of the hands of persons who want to use them against other people. Strong background checks are a legal, quick and necessary first step. Changing the laws on purchase powers is another quick preventive, and at the federal level is the only way to ensure uniform effectiveness.
We need these immediate psychological preventives to eradicate or lessen the present violence. However, for the long term we need to recognize that the shooting of innocent people can be caused only by persons who have some form of personality disorder or other mental health issue.
We have so far either killed the present shooters or jailed them. If they live and are captured, we need to appreciate them for their valued answers regarding the psychological factors in precipitating their terrifying behavior.
Psychologically, we need a Men’s Movement not only to end the antisocial behavior of errant males but to acquire views and practices that are more psychologically reliable in giving men better lives.
This means foregoing the belief that material advantage in favor of males is the reliable way to make them happy. It means that females should not be urged to become more materialistic. In a country where materialism is rampant, this aim will be a hard sell. However, that should not keep us from seeking a better world for both genders.
Resources available from author
Constance P. Dent, Ph.D., is a practicing psychologist with Countryside Haven for Health in Mertztown, Pa. She may be reached by fax at 610-641-0005.