Men: Are You a Relational Hero?

Real

“Each man is a bridge, spanning in his lifetime all of the images and traditions about masculinity inherited from past generations and bestowing–or inflicting–his own retelling of the tale on those who ensue. Unresolved depression often passes from father to son, despite the father’s best intentions, like a toxic, unacknowledged patrimony. Conversely, when a man transforms the internalized discourse of violence, he does more than relieve his own depression. He breaks the chain, interrupting the path of depression’s transmission to the next generation. Recovery transforms legacies.

When a depressed man has trouble remembering why he should follow ‘the dark path,’ take up the arduous work of recovery, I ask him about his relationship with his father. And then I ask about his own kids.

‘Do the work,’ I will often say to such a man. ‘Face this pain, now, or pass it on to your children, just as it was passed on to you.’

Virtually every depressed man I have worked with knows what I am speaking about. Many of the men I treat would never tough out the process of therapy for their own sake. But men have been trained to be good soldiers, and many are willing to experience the pain they have spent lives running from for the sake of their children. I call these men relational heroes. Like the great adventurers of old, they are willing to descent to the depths and encounter their monsters. They want to be better fathers than they had. They want the legacy of physical or psychological violence to stop.” (Terence Real, I Don’t Want to Talk About It, pp. 229-230).

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