There are many pressures in life that inform boys they cannot be sensitive. To be visibly and openly sensitive is seen as a recipe for disaster. One child shared, “I might as well lie down in the road and ask to be run over, because I will be run over if I show a weakness just for a second. I’d be used as a door mat in Rugby and a punch bag in the changing rooms.” Teen workers told us that when they see the very visible boot mark’s and bruising from rugby boots all over boys faces, backs, arms, thighs and legs, they know it’s just one demonstration of the truth of what the risks are here.
There is an unspoken drive to survive - toughen up or cop the consequences.
Toughening up and fitting-in at all costs feeds an ever-increasing number of physical and mental health issues that many men are suffering from today. This pressure to ‘toughen-up’ or ‘harden-up’ dominates. It’s around from the cradle to the grave as an unspoken ‘normal’ pattern of behaviour in life.
What has been made normal can emerge when boys get together in groups when pack energy can dominate their way of thinking and behaviour. These behaviour changes don’t come out of nowhere, they don’t just happen, they are built up and developed through a very tangibly felt pressure. The physical response in pack energy is that it literally takes over the body. It’s then that we may find our sons doing things which shock us [link why do I feel scared of my child?], things which we would never have imagined them considering on their own, let alone acting out with others. Individual standards in other settings are given up to be a part of the pack.
Pack energy has been described as “becoming like foot soldiers, obedient to the group, leaving the sensible brain at home”
Ultimately the pack knows that the separate individual wants to fit in and that is how it dominates. Those deep in pack energy don’t question. Packs can turn on authority, on anyone who looks vulnerable or anyone they feel offends them. Packs can target anyone outside the group, and they can also turn inwards on themselves. There is a radar for anyone the pack perceives to be the weakest link, anyone who questions or complains, is the one most likely to be targeted. Under no circumstances is it safe to be that; like the boy who spoke up above, members know what is needed to present within the group. Being part of the pack can feel like an imperative for their safety - making it less of a choice and more of a need for survival.
Research suggests that when boys form into packs, 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 and become disconnected from non-pack life. Most often, the individual's character disappears and the boys themselves cannot recognise their own behaviour. They cannot stop themselves doing the hurt and damage, such is the force that is carrying them and driving them on to heinous acts.
On their own and on a one-to-one basis, most genuinely don’t want to hurt anyone, but in the pack energy, it just doesn’t register that there is anything wrong with what they are doing or saying.
Having an understanding of why pack energy dominates is a first step.
Having an understanding of what has shaped us to make the choices we do is a crucial consideration.
Can we have a day-to-day life where there is less focus on fitting in and more focus on being fit to be in the world?