I’ve got a new therapist. And she’s remarkably adept at carving right to the point. My ex-girlfriend recommended her to me. She told me that she’d turn me inside out and force me to reexamine just who I thought I was. It didn’t take long for her insights to be realized.
Last week, in our second session, she recommended a book. “I don’t want to talk about it” by Terrence Real. It’s about depression in men. How it comes about, how it manifests and the devastating effects it has on our relationships.
Now, I never thought of myself as having any sort of depression. Pretty vehemently denied it in fact. But I’ve been listening to this audiobook for the last several days and checking the boxes that apply to me. I am, quite frankly, stunned at how I missed so many obvious clues. Emotionless? Check. Numbing, addictive behavior (sex, alcohol, work)? Check. Angry, fear of abandonment? Check. One after another, I hit all the symptoms.
So, what to do about it? Well, we’ll get there in time. The real point is that this particular ex-girlfriend saw it all, way before I ever admitted it (my wife mentioned it too, once). But I actually listened to the girlfriend. Still, I didn’t believe it, but I was willing to see this therapist because, despite everything else, I’m head over heels in love with her. But I still couldn’t manage to hold on to her. I just kept pushing her away.
The thing is, all this realization on her part opened me up. She made me see that I was living half a life. No visible emotions? What am I, a robot? I’ve been living nearly all my life like this. Yea, I had a great marriage. But that’s only because my wife had the patience of a saint. I loved her. But I wasn’t very good at showing it. Maybe she just didn’t need much reminding. That doesn’t make for a very satisfying relationship though. There should be passion in an intimate relationship. Maybe she didn’t need much. Or maybe, she was okay just knowing I was a decent man who treated her with respect and did, in fact, love her. Unfortunately, she died before I could figure all this out.
And I was never really happy. Satisfied? Mostly. But I always felt there should be more. I just didn’t know how to find it. Because I’ve been depressed, pretty much my entire life. We’re not supposed to live like this. Life is supposed to be a grand adventure. Thrills and challenges. Love, joy, connection. These are our birthrights as human beings. Unfortunately, Western culture has intentionally suppressed most of our emotions. It’s placed duty and honor above all other aspects as the defining qualities of the “perfect” man. And we’ve bought into it, hook, line and sinker. Provide for your family and you have achieved the goal of manliness.
It’s all a crock of shit. Studies have shown that in the absence of the stigma of showing emotion, men have a remarkable ability to show compassion and empathy. We are, in fact, as capable of being emotionally involved in our relationships as women. It’s the cultural influences that we grow up with that drive us away from that aspect of our psyche. And turn us into less than the whole humans we are born to be.
So what do we need to do? I think it begins with a seismic shift in our culture. Stop raising our boys to be winners. Instead raise them to be involved, interested and committed members of the community. Teach them to care about others. Inculcate in them the values of connection and compassion. In short, give them the tools, while they’re still young, to be whole and to not deny any aspect of their humanness. In this way, we move all of humanity forward.
Thank you for reading.