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

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

4.0 21
by Terrence Real, Real

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A revolutionary and hopeful look at depression as a silent epidemic in men that manifests as workaholism, alcoholism, rage, difficulty with intimacy, and abusive behavior by the cofounder of Harvard’s Gender Research Project.

Twenty years of experience treating men and their families has convinced psychotherapist Terrence Real that depression is a silent


A revolutionary and hopeful look at depression as a silent epidemic in men that manifests as workaholism, alcoholism, rage, difficulty with intimacy, and abusive behavior by the cofounder of Harvard’s Gender Research Project.

Twenty years of experience treating men and their families has convinced psychotherapist Terrence Real that depression is a silent epidemic in men—that men hide their condition from family, friends, and themselves to avoid the stigma of depression’s “un-manliness.” Problems that we think of as typically male—difficulty with intimacy, workaholism, alcoholism, abusive behavior, and rage—are really attempts to escape depression. And these escape attempts only hurt the people men love and pass their condition on to their children.

This groundbreaking book is the “pathway out of darkness” that these men and their families seek. Real reveals how men can unearth their pain, heal themselves, restore relationships, and break the legacy of abuse. He mixes penetrating analysis with compelling tales of his patients and even his own experiences with depression as the son of a violent, depressed father and the father of two young sons.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hidden male depression is the focus of this clear, compelling book by a Massachusetts family psychotherapist who specializes in working with dysfunctional men. Because our culture socializes boys to mask feelings of vulnerability, he says, they bury deep within themselves damaging childhood trauma and its ensuing depressive effects when they become men. This strongly reasoned study starts out with an illustration of the "toxic legacy" that is passed, often for generations, from father to son, with each chapter adding another piece to the complex face. The lucid exposition of ideas is made more vivid through dramatizing. Real uses "composite" cases, so no actual person is depicted except the author himself. One of the most arresting aspects of the book is the autobiographical thread that he weaves throughout. Real's central concern is what he calls covert depression, a pain-filled, inchoate state that may or may not eventually erupt into overt depression. The book is wise beyond its stated scope: in setting up a model for the nature, etiology and treatment of male depression, Real ends up offering-with some gender variants-an almost universal paradigm. BOMC, QPB and One Spirit alternates. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Real, a psychologist with 20 years of experience treating men and their families, begins with a poignant scene of his father starting to open up and share the pain of his life. From there, Real unravels the buried feelings men have and how these feelings can lead to estrangement from self and family. The wounded boy grows to be a wounding man, inflicting on those closest to him the very distresses he refuses to acknowledge in himself. Real discusses the relation of depression to addictive behaviors, not only drug or alcohol abuse but also workaholism, gambling, and other compulsions. The cure is in confronting the addictive defenses and allowing the hidden pain to emerge. Throughout, Real gives examples of men who discover cruel, shocking traumas from childhood and their adult depression by undergoing guided imagery, talking in a group of similarly depressed men, or discussing the trauma in family counseling. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries as well as professional counseling collections.-Susan E. Burdick, MLS, Reading, Pa.
Kirkus Reviews
An absorbing and informative look at the hidden long-term depression that constricts or undermines the relationships of many American men.

Real, a family therapist and teacher at the Cambridge (Mass.) Family Institute, contends that most male depression is undiagnosed because it is veiled by addictive and compulsive behavior using such varied "drugs" as alcohol, work, violence, and sex. Its key symptom is "relational immaturity," an inability or unwillingness to truly confide in and be vulnerable before a partner or child. Real traces this problem in part to the gender-polarized socialization of American children. From an early age, boys are encouraged to seek esteem through "hierarchical competition" while being discouraged from expressing feelings and bonding with others. In addition, boys sometimes "carry" the depression suffered by their fathers and expressed through emotional abuse or neglect. Much of Real's argument has been made by other clinical and popular psychologists, but he states his case particularly vividly, drawing richly on his own family history, his clinical practice, myth and legend, film and fiction. He also offers advice and case studies on how the therapist might resolve depression by helping patients overcome their fear of intimacy and redefine their notion of success. He also recounts active therapeutic interventions to stop the kind of toxic family dynamics that a husband's depression can help generate. On the downside, Real overfocuses on the father-son relationship; there is too little here on how depressed or narcissistic mothers may contribute to long-term male depression, much less on how siblings or societal factors may do so. Stylistically, it is somewhat marred by repetition, and the occasional use of a clumsy phrase ("rageaholism") or hyperbolic generalization, such as a reference to "the state of alienation we call manhood."

Fortunately, such lapses are a minor part of what otherwise is an important and rewarding work.

From the Publisher
"Offers not only crucial insights to men suffering from depression but also comfort and guidance to the women who love them." ---John Bradshaw

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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter One: Men's Hidden Depression

When I stand beside troubled fathers and sons I am often flooded with a sense of recognition, All men are sons and, whether they know it or not, most sons are loyal. To me, my father presented a confusing jumble of brutality and pathos. As a boy, I drank into my character a dark, jagged, emptiness that haunted me for close to thirty years. As other fathers have done to their sons, my father-through the look in his eyes, the tone of his voice, the quality Of his touch-passed the depression he did not know he had on to me, just as surely as his father had passed it on to him — a chain of pain, linking parent to child across generations, a toxic legacy.

In hindsight, it is clear to me that, among other reasons, I became a therapist so I could cultivate the skills I needed to heal my own father — to heal him at least sufficiently to get him to talk to me. I needed to know about his life to help understand his brutality and lay my hatred of him to rest. At first I did this unconsciously, not out of any great love for him, but out of an instinct to save myself. I wanted the legacy to stop.

One might think that I would have brought to my work a particular sensitivity to issues of depression in men, but at first I did not. Despite my hard-won personal knowledge, years passed before I found the courage to invite my patients to embark upon the same journey I had taken. I was not prepared, by training or experience, to reach so deep into a man's inner pain — to hold and confront him there. Faced with men's hidden fragility, I had been tacitly schooled, like most therapists-indeed, like most people in our culture — to protect them. I had also been taught that depression was predominantly a woman's disease, that the rate of depression was somewhere between two to four times higher for women than it was for men. When I first began my clinical practice, I had faith in the simplicity of such figures, but twenty years of work with men and their families has lead me to believe that the real story concerning this disorder is far more complex.

There is a terrible collusion in our society, a cultural cover-up about depression in men.

One of the ironies about men's depression is that the very forces that help create it keep us from seeing it. Men are not supposed to be vulnerable. Pain is something we are to rise above. He who has been brought down by it will most likely see himself as shameful, and so, too, may his family and friends, even the mental health profession. Yet I believe it is this secret pain that lies at the heart of many of the difficulties in men's lives. Hidden depression drives several of the problems we think of as typically male: physical illness, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, failures in intimacy, self-sabotage in careers.

We tend not to recognize depression in men because the disorder itself is seen as unmanly. Depression carries, to many, a double stain — the stigma of mental illness and also the stigma of "feminine" emotionality. Those in a relationship with a depressed man are themselves often faced with a painful dilemma. They can either confront his condition — which may further shame him — or else collude with him in minimizing it, a course that offers no hope for relief. Depression in men — a condition experienced as both shamefilled and shameful — goes largely unacknowledged and unrecognized both by the men who suffer and by those who surround them. And yet, the Impact of this hidden condition is enormous.

Copyright © 1997 by Terry Real

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Offers not only crucial insights to men suffering from depression but also comfort and guidance to the women who love them." —-John Bradshaw

Meet the Author

Terrence Real is a psychotherapist in private practice and the bestselling author of How Can I Get Through to You?

Adam Verner has narrated over one hundred books, including the AudioFile Earphones Award winner Pavilion of Women by Pearl S. Buck. Adam works as a full-time voice actor and on stage in Chicago.

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I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I cannot recommend this book to enough folks. Every person I know who has read it, has said it speaks volumes for today's critical state of male-female relationships. If you are a male who just can't quite figure out why you're not happy -- with anything: work, mate, kid, etc. This book is an eye-opener. If you are a female who's wondering why your mate is pulling away, is distant, or seems to be in a shell, read this book. Specifically, it discusses topics like men's propensity for 'grandiosity.' Which could be another term for toughness or harshness when faced with emotional hurt or fear. It also discusses in detail the need for men to 'come in from the cold,' i.e., to become emotionally connected with their feelings both past and present. There is so much to this book that my piddly review cannot possibly touch on. Essentially, men and women are NOT all that different -- we both just want to love and be loved. While you're at it, pick up Real's second book with even more focus on relationships: 'How Can I Get Through to You?' I can almost guarantee, once you finish the first, you'll be racing to get the second one. Both these books are a huge step toward helping save your relationship.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book appears from the cover to be a book on how men and families can deal with male depression. In reality, it contains many anecdotes from the author's violent past and his struggle with drug addiction and his own depression. Real portrays in this book that all depression is linked to some sort of addiction and that medications are essentially useless in the long-term. This book does not give much advice as to dealing with depression, so if that is what you are looking for, it won't be of much help. However, if you are looking for an interesting viewpoint that society is causing much of male depression and the addictions that seem to affect men more than women, this may be a book you would like to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a very good book- it's well-written, thorough, and engaging. I'd say there is a secret legacy of male depression in American society, but hopefully this condition is improving as less stigma is associated with depression. The book helped me to understand the context of my own battle with depression, giving me new perspective.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought that I was the only one growing up with the daily ragaholic father. I have been able to deal with the worthlessness I felt now that I have been given my life back. A must read for all men who want to stop the cycle and prevent themselves from passing the venom on to their children.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found that Terrence Real's book works on at least four levels. 1. The book is definitely aimed squarely and effectively at men who may be struggling with some form of depression. Real elaborates on the various forms of depression in the book. 2. The author skillfully weaves information directed at partners and family members of men who are depressed. 3. The sample dialogues and underlying theoretical information can be used by mental health professionals. 4. The author weaves his own, very personal struggle with depression and its legacy throughout the book. It is this personal revelation which resonates throughout the book and lends credibility to the rest of the book. This is not some academician sharing theoretical insight. This guy has been there and you can tell. Highly recommeded.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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E_NY More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was very revealing about the signs of overt/covert depression and how men typically deal with such issues. It was well written and lots of stories but it was a bit depressing reading about depression (haha, imagine that) as if to say it was almost hopeless for these men unless they were in the consult of Terrence Real (because as he says "conventional therapy fails". Since (as he says) the majority of people reading this book will be women, I had wished there was more of a "If you find this, here's what you can do..." type of instructions but maybe that was not the intent of the book. Perhaps the book was only intended to identify the "symptoms" only? It really did open my eyes to the male mentality and society reasons behind how men are raised and the sad consequences to that. Although he did not say it directly in the book, it seem insinuated that it does not seem to be getting any better for men anytime soon which was pretty depressing in the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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JayHay More than 1 year ago
Terrence takes a very methodical and practical approach to the issues of the male role in modern American society. As one who can identify with the members of his sessions, I can personally attest to the difficulties which plague many people, especially men, from admitting that they have a mental problem. Our roles as the providers and suppliers of the nuclear family conflict with our desires to feel what human beings were allowed to feel: sadness, humility, love, companionship. The problem with the situation is that the nuclear family exists no longer; our society is plagued by dysfunction and abnormalities. We must stop thinking and living in a world that does not exist, a world in which the male and the female are incapable of thinking and feeling the same things. Males must learn to feel as females have learned; we must embrace the concept of the heart which we've lost. Terrence, I think does an adequate and admirable job of bringing these ideas to the forefront of my thought.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
5kidsnow More than 1 year ago
As a mother of 4 boys and daughter of someone I felt suffered from depression, this was SO enlightening for me to read! It clarified for me male depression and the way it can be handed down from one generation to another. An EXCELLENT read! Thank you Terrence for your work and for sharing your time/talent with those who are seeking answers about male depression.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was very helpful in explaining how covert and overt depression affect the lives of so many men and those who love them. It outlines the root causes of depression and what is necessary to break its hold. Most compelling for me was the information about how, if left untreated, depression will manifest itself in the lives of a person's children, sooner or later, in one way or another. Real's description of it reminds me of a psychological form of the Biblical generational curse. He gives men a tremendous amount of credit for doing the healing work necessary to improve their children's chances of avoiding such a struggle.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book that we really need in Australia, Thankyou Terry for the clarity that you have given to me and my friends about our fathers,it really validates everything for me. What we can not talk about can not be healed and what we can not talk about gets acted out or acted in, this book gives freedom, freedom to now talk about the secrets of depression and the shame that the family feels when you can not fix it ..great book
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book sheds light on an lot of male pain and ensuiing behaviour of selfmedication through various kinds of addictive or selfaggrandising behaviour. It dispels the notion that it is this pain that should be the target of initial therapy however. Without treating the additive behavior which is created to keep the pain at bay, no real progress can be made. Waht makes the book so touching and not patronising as many books on depression can be, is the fact that the author generously shares with us his own pain and journey to recovery. This along with the touching case studies makes for a moving book which will impart a lot of insight.