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I Don't Want to Talk About It:
Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression

by Terrance Real


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Terrance Real, I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression(New York, NY, Fireside Simon & Schuster, 1998). Order on-line




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I Don't Want to Talk About It:
Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression

by Terrance Real
Review
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Partners of depressed men often express fear that naming the manís condition will only make matters worse. It is better just to "get on with it" and "not dwell on the negatives." But when we minimize a manís depression, for fear of shaming him, we collude with the cultural expectations of masculinity in a terrible way. We send a message that the man who is struggling should not expect help. He must be "self-reliant." He must resolve his distress on his own. (p. 38)

In theory an addictive relationship can be established with just about anything, so long as the substance, person or activity relieves the threat of overt depression. To accomplish this, the defense must transform oneís state from shame to grandiosity, from feelings of worth-less-ness to feelings of extraordinary worth and well-being. In common language, this sudden shift in consciousness is called intoxication. (p. 63)

We know that the disruptive boy is no less depressed than the overly compliant little girl. "Acting our" behaviors are often the very symptoms we look for in making a diagnosis of depression in boys. And yet, for reasons that I have never seen explained, as a profession we have decided that when the boy hits the magic age of eighteen he is no longer depressed; he has crossed the Rubicon into the land of the personality disordered. (p. 83)

My work with depressed men has led me to turn the conventional thinking about sons and fathers on its head. Ö it becomes clear that boys donít hunger for fathers who will model the traditional mores of masculinity. They hunger fathers who will rescue them from it. Ö Sons donít want their fatherís "balls"; they want their hearts. And, for many the heart of a father is a difficult item to come by. (p. 159)

In modern culture, heroism has been stripped of virtually all of its spiritual significance. Removed from morality as well as from human community, heroism in our society has become a secular, individual achievement. Most often, it simply means winning big, whether on the baseball diamond or in the stock exchange. In the same way that we used to speak of a manís valor, meaning both his worth and his bravery, we now speak of his value, meaning both his worth and the weight of his assets. (p. 168)

My focus in treating depressed men has been primarily relational. What kind of relationship does a depressed man have with other? I ask, followed by: What kind of relationship does he have with himself? (p. 198)

First, he stopped the addictive defenses that stabilized his depression and held it in place. Second, he learned how to parent himself, nurture, guide, and contain himself, on a daily basis. Finally, he delved deep into his early darkness and released the introjected imagery, feelings, and shame he had taken in. Jeffrey Robinson is a hero. (p. 281)

There is some indication, for example, that human males are, if anything, more emotional than human females. Male babies have been shown consistently to exhibit greater separation distress then they are left by their mothers, to be more excitable, more easily disturbed, and harder to comfort. And the maleís comparative sensitivity may carry through, in some ways, into adulthood. Ö [John] Gottman found that his male sample showed on the whole a greater physiological response to emotional arousal than his female sample, and the men took longer to return to their physiological baseline once aroused. The aversion of many men to strong emotion, Gottman speculates, may not be the result of a diminished capacity to feel, as has been commonly believed, but just the reverse. (p. 309)

Related stories:

The "Way" of Depression by James Dolan

Men and Anger

Men and Grief


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