Monday, November 14, 2011

I Don't Want To Talk About It

Some may wonder why I would be interested in a book about male depression. 

Simply put, depression impacts everyone.  The argument Terence Real makes in this book is that covert depression affects men, and wreaks havoc on their families.  This is different from the traditional model of depression - where a person is not able to sleep, eat, work or function normally.  Real's theory is that anger, workaholism and abuse of substances like alcohol in some men is generally related to depression.  That sometimes depression in men doesn't fit the traditional "bell jar" model, but it can be just as damaging to everyone. 

For some, anger is expressed towards oneself (depression has often been described as internalized anger).  The author gives examples from his own practice and therapy groups (anonymous of course). Traditionally, the only acceptable emotion for men has been anger. 

Real talks about how many parts of American culture are designed to cut men off from their feelings, from appearing weak or feminine.  He mentions the passive trauma that many boys (but in my opinion, many children) face.  That this "passive trauma" can long term be just as damaging and can sew the seeds of adult depression. Real gives examples of his father's explosive anger and physical abuse, teachers watching as a boy is bullied each day for being "fat", kids who ignore a coach who punches a student. 

Boys are often told to "be a man" - but what does that mean, really?
It is weighted and treacherous subject matter.

I have long thought strict gender roles hurt everyone - men and women.  In this book, Real suggest that the socialization of men can be just as damaging as it can be to women.  That men often need to gain access to their feelings, being more relational to develop better relationships - with themselves, their spouses and children. 

He is suggesting that by addressing the covert depression in men - the whole person can be healed. That parts of the cycle of violence can be broken*.  That often, men will not seek therapy or help for themselves, but to not be the same person as their father was.  It's not that

I mentioned "pansy crap" earlier.  This was mentioned in a comment at MSP a few months ago; I can't find it at the moment. 

There is a ton of anger, suspicion and fear towards men talking about their feelings.  It's almost explosive - talk about a problem-with-no-name in American culture.  Comments like "pansy crap" are meant to dismiss men, their perceptions and feelings.  (The ultimate insult for a man is still to be like a woman).  And while men may deny their anger and fear - their families and children can suffer. 

Until the base assumptions are addresses, and men and women are allowed to explore their full potential and authenticity - we will make no progress as a culture.

*One case study in the book talked about his wife's feelings first, her disappointments, fears, etc.  The notion of carried feeling - children trying to make their parent's mistakes right - struck a little close to home for me.  What am I trying to do because it's right for me? What am I trying to do to heal, fix of change my parents....yikes.

1 comment:

Freckle Face Girl said...

Definitely fascinating. I believe this had a lot to do with my father's issues. He blocked most emotions, except anger & laughter, with the best of them. I also think it is a very British (possibly other Europeans too) tradition. Crazy cycle.