Boys, fitting in, and pack energy

As parents, it is our role and responsibility to support children to have the confidence to know who they are, and the skills to live this, in spite of the fierce pressures to fit in. This ‘fitting in’ informs children they cannot be sensitive as that leaves them feeling vulnerable, so there is an unspoken directive that to survive they have to toughen up.

Is it possible that this toughening up and fitting-in feeds into the ever-increasing number of physical and mental health issues that too many men are suffering from today?

This pressure to toughen up can be around from a very young age as an unspoken agreement in families, yet can also be seen when boys get together in groups and the pressure to fit-in kicks in. It is a 'pack energy' that can change their way of thinking and behaviour, but it doesn’t come out of nowhere, it doesn’t ‘just happen’. It is nurtured through needing to toughen up and fit in through the childhood years. The physical response when in the pack energy is that it literally takes over the body and we may find our sons doing things which shock us, things which we would never have imagined them considering on their own, let alone acting out with others. Even they can question why they did what they did once they are away from the group.

It has been described as “becoming like foot soldiers, obedient to the group, leaving the sensible brain at home”

When boys get into groups, they conform to a dominant group agreement that rules by force, no words are needed for everyone to know what is expected and what is not. They can become intoxicated with its power, as a result of living in fear of being the weakest link, they become disconnected and cannot recognise the behaviours they are going into and the hurt and damage they are causing. On their own and on a one-to-one basis, most, genuinely don’t want to hurt anyone, but in the pack energy they don’t care, it just doesn’t register that there is anything wrong with what they are doing or saying.

Ultimately the 'pack' knows you want to fit in and that is how it ‘rules’. Those deep in the pack energy don’t question it. They turn on authority, anyone who looks vulnerable, anyone they feel offends them. They can pick on anyone outside the group, or they can turn in on themselves. They have a radar for who the group perceives to be the weakest link, anyone who questions the behaviour is the one most likely to be targeted and under no circumstances is it safe to be that; it is very primal, and it can feel scary and intense. Therefore, being part of the pack can feel like an imperative for their safety - making it less of an option to be part of the pack and more of a need.

It is very important that we don’t just let this run. However, seeing why this pack energy has a ‘pull’ or is perceived to be attractive is a start, it is a foot in the door.

If we take 100 steps back, children are looking for connection. So how do we offer a connection and build that to be more attractive than the pack? Rather than finding connection online, in games and in devices, what if connection was offered as a foundation of the family together.

In that space, there is less focus on fitting in and more focus on being fit to be in the world.

Photo by Bibhash on Unsplash