September 07, 2002

Depression: the word of the day

Marek isn't the only one feeling it. George isn't the only one writing about it. You guys know who you are. Read this 1998 interview with Dr. Terry Real who tackles the whys and wherefores of male depression in a way that's incredibly new, refreshing, and I think accurate. Dr. Real's book, I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming The Secret Legacy of Male Depression, is worth reading, for both men and women.

Some of what he says in the interview I've pulled out and posted here:

"Here's what it boils down to. As a culture, it's like we've taken a piece of paper and drawn a line down the center, saying that everything on this side of the line is feminine and everything on the other side is masculine, and woe unto that little boy or little girl who dares to cross that line. Women have been complaining for the last generation about the forces that have brought to bear on women to stay on their side of the line and the consequences of that. My work is about the reciprocal story for the boy. The half of the humanity that girls have been pressured out of has to do with power. The part that boys have been pressured out of has to do with connection."

"Let me say something about the idea of depression as an auto-aggressive disease. I wish I could take credit for it, but Sigmund Freud is the one. He didn't use that phrase, but he talked about depression as aggression turned against one's self. The thing that's important about that is understanding that the root of male depression is violence. And the core of gender socialization for little boys is violence. The way that we "turn boys into men" in this culture is through severance. We turn boys away from their mothers, from their hearts, from other people. The cost of this is disconnection, a disconnection I call the normal traumatization of boys. What happens is that men have overt depression take this violence and turn it in on themselves. Men who have covert depression don't want to bear this violence. I don't blame them. They either try to run from it through intoxication or burying themselves, or they inflict it on other people."

"Once you start to hit the geyser of those raw feelings, it's very tempting to act out. I've been there. You're in a rage, you're hurt. You don't want to feel the pain. Somebody walks into our face and crosses you, and you're not a very pleasant person to be around. The other thing is that a person can be in touch their wounds until they're blue in the face. I know a lot of guys who are working their wounds, but they're still creeps to be around. In the work that I do, I talk about two inner children. I learned this from Pia Mellody. There's the wounded child, who was young, who was on the receiving end of the abuse. But there's also the adaptive child, which is the part of you that took on the mores, the privileges, the false empowerment and the point of view of the perpetrator."

"The very phrase 'be a man' means 'disconnect.' Disconnect from your own feelings and play through the pain. The thing that people are tumbling onto is that the other word for these transactions is violence, trauma. Men walk around with these deep, deep wounds, coupled with an entitlement to mishandle these wounds by irresponsible addictive or violent measures. When you have a hurt little boy walking around in a big, grown man's body, with centuries of male prerogative, that's a pretty volatile combination."

There's lots more. And it's worth reading.

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