Pollack, William S(helley)

views updated

POLLACK, William S(helley)


ADDRESSES: Home—115 Mill St., Belmont, MA 02478. E-mail—[email protected]; www.williampollack.com.

CAREER: Author and psychologist. Harvard Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, Boston, MA, assistant clinical professor of psychology; McLean Hospital, Center for Men, Belmont, MA, director.


(With R. William Betcher) In a Time of Fallen Heroes: The Re-creation of Masculinity, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1993.

(Editor with Ronald F. Levant, and contributor) A New Psychology of Men, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood, Random House (New York, NY), 1998.

(Editor, with Ronald F. Levant) New Psychotherapy for Men, J. Wiley (New York, NY), 1998.

(With Todd Shuster) Real Boys' Voices, Random House (New York, NY), 2000.

(With Kathleen Cushman) Real Boys Workbook: The Definitive Guide to Understanding and Interacting with Boys of All Ages, Villard (New York, NY), 2001.

SIDELIGHTS: Psychologist William S. Pollack is director of the Center for Men at McLean Hospital and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School. He writes about the role of men in post-feminist America and argues that the cultural view of boys as stoic, testosterone-driven tough guys forces them to stifle their natural feelings of confusion, sadness, and fear and damages their emotional health. Drawing on his clinical findings, as well as on an ongoing Harvard research project, Pollack asserts that boys and men are being given harmful messages from society about the meaning of masculinity, and then become depressed, suicidal, or violent as a result of the power of their repressed emotions. In his books, Pollack describes the problems of today's boys and men, offers practical advice for recovering from society's damaging messages, and submits first-person narratives, journals, poems, and essays from boys and young men who have found Pollack's insights helpful.

In the 1993 book In a Time of Fallen Heroes: The Recreation of Masculinity, Pollack and coauthor R. William Betcher say that men should reclaim their masculinity; they use quotes from the Bible and classical myths and legends to illustrate a new persona of masculinity. The authors examine issues in a man's life such as sex, play, fathering, and authority in an attempt to encourage men to reassess their definition of masculinity. H. Robert Malinowsky in Library Journal stated that the book's central idea asserts the need for men "to redefine their masculine role in order to make their lives better." A Publishers Weekly critic praised the book for being "forcefully argued but never dogmatic."

Pollack and coeditor Ronald F. Levant further examine the dilemma of modern men in the book A New Psychology of Men. In a review in The Journal of the American Medical Association, David D. Gilmore and James H. Kocsis called this book "a multiauthored synopsis of the current state of profeminist academic men's studies, primarily from a psychological perspective." They described the chapter contributed by Pollack as "an effort to update psychoanalytic theories of human development taking feminist and new male psychology into account. It is among the more in-depth and balanced in the book."

In his book titled Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood, Pollack investigates the way boys are raised and offers practical solutions to counter the damage that is sometimes done in childhood. Pollack feels the trouble stems from the complicated relationships boys have with their mothers. Pollack believes that mothers are wrongly encouraged to push their sons away from them too early. Society reinforces the belief that boys should not cling to their mothers but separate willingly. Pollack states that this belief system starts when boys enter kindergarten and soon learn that crying, sadness, and separation anxiety label them as sissies. Pollack feels that boys lose their emotive abilities when shamed into denying their sense of loss. As a result they suffer a loss of creativity and an inability to express emotions other than anger, and they are handicapped by a code of conduct that Pollack terms "gender-straightjacketing." His advice to stay connected and engage in action-oriented activity to open lines of communication has been well received. Peggy Kaye of the New York Times Book Review remarked, "Pollack's tone is calm and considered. . . . Throughout Real Boys, Pollack gives parents suggestions for helping their sons, and his counsel is almost always sound." Shari Roan, writing in the Los Angeles Times, concluded that Pollack "bases his theories on decades of clinical work with boys and helps parents understand how they can break the masculine molds that stereotype boys and thwart their growth. Highly recommended for anyone raising a son."

Some reviewers recognized the increasing number of books about the psychology of boys and men as a welcome antidote or complement to the wealth of books on the development of girls and women that has been published since the 1970s. Of the books written about boys, Pollack's Real Boys and Real Boys' Voices are considered to be among the most measured, sensible, and grounded in good science. Richard A. Hawley, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, wrote, "Real Boys is a thoughtful step in clearing the ideological air. Perhaps with an equally acute and generous Real Girls, we might set about addressing the needs of children from an appropriately respectful and loving perspective."

In Real Boys' Voices, Pollack reiterates the core insights of Real Boys, emphasizing that a failure to recognize and responsibly handle the emotional upheavals of growing up a boy in modern America has led to a wealth of social problems, including a rise in diagnoses of attention deficit disorder and an increase in violent outbreaks in schools, such as the incident at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. A chapter is devoted to survivors of the Columbine incident, many of whom expressed sympathy for the repressed rage felt by the young killers who acted out so violently. Pollack also concludes with advice for parents and teachers on creating an environment in which boys feel safe to express all of their feelings. "This insightful and powerful work should be required reading for anyone who works with or lives with boys," contended Susanne Bardelson in School Library Journal. Likewise, Sandra Isaacson, writing in Library Journal, remarked that for parents, teachers, and grandparents, Real Boys' Voices "is essential reading." And in Booklist Vanessa Bush dubbed this "an important, comprehensive report 'from the trenches' on the emotional state of American boys."



American Journal of Psychiatry, November, 1999, Samuel Slipp, review of New Psychotherapy for Men, p. 1830.

Booklist, May 1, 1993, p. 1549; May 15, 1998, p. 1562; May 15, 2000, Vanessa Bush, review of Real Boys' Voices, p. 1698.

Christian Science Monitor, August 1, 2000, "Boy Talk in Full Throttle," p. 13.

Early Childhood Education Journal, fall, 1999, review of Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood, p. 41.

Equity and Excellence in Education, April, 2000, David Sadker, "A Reader's Guide to the Boy Book Bonanza," p. 102.

Journal of the American Medical Association, March 27, 1996, David D. Gilmore and James H. Kocsis, review of A New Psychology of Men, p. 952.

Library Journal, June 1, 1993, H. Robert Malinowsky, review of In a Time of Fallen Heroes: The Recreation of Masculinity, pp. 160, 168; June 5, 2000, Sandra Isaacson, review of Real Boys' Voices, p. 102.

Los Angeles Times, February 1, 1999, Shari Roan, review of Real Boys, p. 1.

Ms., October, 1999, review of Real Boys, p. 91.

New England Journal of Medicine, January 7, 1999, Richard A. Hawley, review of Real Boys.

New Yorker, May 17, 1999, review of Real Boys, p. 18; July 10, 2000, Nicholas Lemann, review of Real Boys' Voices, p. 79.

New York Times Book Review, September 13, 1998, Peggy Kaye, review of Real Boys, p. 28; June 25, 2000, Robert Coles, review of Real Boys' Voices, p. 20.

Publishers Weekly, May 17, 1993, review of In a Time of Fallen Heroes, pp. 56-57; June 8, 1998, p. 56; June 5, 2000, review of Real Boys' Voices, p. 81.

Readings: A Journal of Reviews and Commentary in Mental Health, March, 1999, review of New Psychotherapy for Men, p. 23.

Ruminator Review, fall, 2001, Brigitte Frase, "Boys versus Girls?," pp. 16-17.

School Library Journal, October, 2000, Susanne Bardelson, review of Real Boys' Voices, p. 197.

SciTech Book News, March, 1999, review of New Psychotherapy for Men, p. 94.

Time, July 20, 1998, pp. 46-47.

Virginia Quarterly Review, winter, 1999, review of Real Boys, p.27.

Washington Post, November 27, 2000, Kay S. Hymowitz, "Of Growing Concern," p. C03.


ABC News,http://abcnews.go.com/ (November 17, 2001), "Mom-Only Parenting: A Chat with Dr. William Pollack, Author of Real Boys."

Dr. William Pollack Web Site,http://www.williampollack.com (December 18, 2001).*