by Terrence Real ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 1, 1997
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.
Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997
Page Count: 384
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996
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