As a man who has experienced same-sex attraction for most of his life, who also holds Masters Degree in Counseling, I found Douglas Carpenter‘s book, Childhood Trauma and the Non-Alpha male to be extremely enlightening, helpful and useful on many levels.
At first glance, the book is definitely reads much more like clinical text and offers copious research citations and references. There was so much good information that it was hard to absorb it all in one sitting and I will probably need to go back at least to a couple of chapters and reread them. However, as the book goes on, Carpenter sprinkles everyday wisdom and applications to the psychological principles he describes.
The basic premise of the book is that there is a set of rules about masculinity and how men can express their masculinity through socially acceptable norms in their given culture. For those men and boys who do not necessarily conform to the societal standards for whatever reason, the experience of trying to fit into the masculine world can be one of great trauma and can result in various maladaptive mindsets and behaviors.
Carpenter's book explores some of the roots of these traumas and offers ways that men can better explore their own selves to become the man they want to be.
Given the book's clinical orientation, Carpenter livens up his research and documentation for the lay reader by interspersing moving and relevant case studies throughout. He presents a variety of men who were damaged by the unrealistic expectations of others regarding true masculinity and what that meant for them.
Some of the stories are painful to read and some are tragic. Using these case studies as his basis, Carpenter does a great job of highlighting the fact that the psychology of men is woefully understudied in today’s professional world and advocating that more work needs to be done in this area.
Although I read this book through the lens of healing same-sex attraction, there is truly something for every man to learn. While the author does explore the possible origins of same-sex attraction, he does not overly dwell on the topic.
Instead, he weaves a tapestry of masculinity which explores many different ways that boys become men and how that process can, and often does, go off the proverbial rails.
However, readers who are focused on same-sex attraction, will find the chapters 13-15 to be most enlightening and helpful. Carpenter leaves the reader with much food for further thought and plenty of resources to explore should they wish to.
Again, to complement the clinical focus, Carpenter does a great job offering self-reflection questions at the end of each chapter which provide great tools for self-therapy and journaling no matter what a particular man has experienced or with what issues he grapples.
In short, this is a book for any man who wants to understand himself and his development a little bit better. It is also a great resource for anyone involved in ministry or helping men through healing and dealing with sexual trauma, identity development or gender role confusion.
I have already recommended the book to a few men who also reported back to me that they also found the book to be rich and helpful. If you can’t already tell, I enthusiastically endorse it without reservation.