Saturday, April 6, 2013

What I Learned at an Adolescent Male Brain Workshop...

This week, I attended a workshop on what science is figuring out about the adolescent male brain.  It was a good place to get some affirmation about what I have experienced in working with young men, and also to think about my male brain...

I took a lot of notes.  They are kind of a jumble, but then, that is the brain at work:

Inter generational wounds
  We carry what our fathers couldn't resolve in their lives

Coping mechanisms
    Self medication
    Violence to others
    Violence to self

  •   Treatment takes away a coping mechanism and leaves one more vulnerable

  What feelings do I have?
  What did I learn?
  What did I learn about me?

    (We all need to process)

  • What you don't know about what is inside you is toxic

There is no such thing as an unmotivated thing
  We use an idea, or a tactic to survive, as a screen

  Speech is not initially connected to emotion.   For men, talking about feelings releases cortisol, the highest stress hormone. For females, a bonding chemical is released.  Female: speech and emotion centers are connected at puberty. Men, never.  

Men have to find a label, a second language, to talk about emotion and feeling.  

   For men, writing thus helps to safely express feelings.  A bit detached, safely.

Women: speech centers are wired to sexual arousal.  Men: no.   So, women connect their speech centers in their brain to both emotion and sexual arousal.  They are well connected, but men are not.  Thus, it is hard for men to talk about their emotions and sex.

     Don't have these disconnectors

So, men are really good at disconnecting!

   40% of men have genetic emotional disconnect chemical
   This contributes to short term relationships.

  • Our culture has no rite of passage into manhood.   Yet, our young men want and need the following elements:

   Male box
    You live here
     The 4 walls-glued together by shame
  •         Feelings and needs
             Don't have them yourself, so there is no me
              Cut off self and others
  •         Competition
           Everyone, all the time
           No room for you
  •         Responsibility
            Shame if you don't
  •         Sex and relationship
           I am not important

      Inside: a process, a highway
         Loneliness to isolation to pain to rage
             Rage is not necessarily violence to self or others
                 It is a fire, pressure needing to be released

      Common response to rage
  •         Self medication
  •           Violence

We need to de-shame the release of rage

Young men are looking for a place in society, and to be themselves.  Aren’t we all?  What does our culture provide for them to get to that place?  When young men act out, when they are violent, and self medicate, what are they really telling us?  And, how do we respond?

Elements of male  life and “treatment”
  •   Tribe
  •   Elders mentors
  •   Sacred text - the rules for being a good man
  •   Ritual/initiation
  •   Play
  Treatment needs male focused curriculum
  Staff training and selection

(Youth gangs provide these basic needs)

Male Treatment Processes

  • Kinesthetic (movement) learning
  • Para pathetic counseling (motion, spacial) counseling (not traditional venue)
  • Action love (non verbal)
  • Competition and challenge
  • Writing to reflect and process
  • De shame, respect, pride
  • Aggression nurturance
  • Confrontation (stand my ground, earning respect) 
Our educational system has been designed to provide factory workers for the Industrial Age (assembly line work, structured, orderly, hierarchical labor).  Yet, the system pays little attention to all learning styles, to the developmental stages of the male brain, and how we learn and communicate.  

We don’t honor young men, and we don’t apply what we know about ourselves and our brains in fashioning a society that is embracing and welcoming.  

I came away with some answers, and with some more questions, and a lot more to think about.  

The journey continues...

Neal Lemery, April 6, 2013

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