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e v e r y d a y    i s s u e s    f o r    e v e r y d a y    p e o p l e


 

    The stigma of male depression masks its devastating reach: More than twenty million men will become depressed in their lifetime. And its crippling effects will touch their families, their work, and their relationships with God.

  Dr. Archibald Hart, a Professor of Psychology, lecturer and prolific author, knows this from personal experience. Through his own struggles with depression he has felt the sting of bias, stigma, and denial. And through his decades of clinical research and practice, he has found hope and healing for other men who suffer. Below are some of the thoughts from Dr. Hart’s book, Unmasking Male Depression:

_____________________________________________________

  Depression is a healing emotion if we cooperate with it. Men are more typically oriented toward “problem-solving.” A friend of mine and I were chatting recently about a problem he was having. I tried to get him to explore how the problem originated and reflect on where it was going to end – typical stuff of psychotherapy. He cut me short with, “That’s all fine and good. If we had time, I’m sure I could benefit from such exploration – but just tell me what I need to do and I’ll do it!” Like it or lump it, that’s just how men are.

One night a wife found her husband standing over their new baby’s crib. Silently, she watched him. As he stood looking at his sleeping, newborn infant, she saw on his face a mixture of emotions: disbelief, doubt, delight, amazement, enchantment, skepticism.

 

Touched by this unusual display and the deep emotions it aroused, she wondered what he was feeling. With glistening eyes she slipped her arm around her husband.

 

“A penny for your thoughts,” she whispered.

 

“It’s amazing!” he exclaimed. “I just can’t see how anybody can make a crib for $49.99.”

  It is because there are both truths a lies in this story that we find it humorous. The truth is that most men find talking about deep, personal, “mushy feelings embarrassing. The lie is that men don’t feel deep, gut-wrenching feelings. Believe me, we do! Our problem is not that we don’t feel, but that we have not been taught how to recognize and verbalize these feelings without sacrificing our masculinity. And who gets to say how we should verbalize our feelings anyway? One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to expect men to express their feelings the same way women do.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Men who try to be emotionally healthy struggle with the tension of receiving and accepting painful feelings, while trying to remain in control and retaining traditional masculine strength and resiliency, while becoming more honest in recognizing their feelings and vulnerability. It is not fair to ask men to surrender their masculinity in favor of sensitivity. Rather, they need to be shown how to integrate sensitivity into their masculinity. Expressing one’s feelings and becoming more open is difficult.

  There are several myths about feelings that we need to debunk if we are going help men develop a healthier openness to their feelings. Myths are destructive because, if we believe them, they shape our behavior. Here are a few that we need to get rid of if we are going to conquer depression in a positive way:


   Myth 1: Feelings are primitive aspects of our being.
No, they are not primitive. They are complex and essential to being human. They express the highest ideals of our complex brains.

   Myth 2: Feelings are always sporadic and irrational. No, they are not always irrational. Our emotions are perfectly rational and the natural consequence of what we are thinking and experiencing. Perhaps it is our thinking that is irrational when our feelings seem out of control.

   Myth 3: You have no control over your emotions. Not true. This is called the “myth of passivity,” and our whole emotional language is full of it: we “fall” in love, we are “driven” by anger, we are “carried away” with fear, and so on. All imply that we are controlled by our emotions, not that we control them. We are battling powerful and uncontrollable forces within us. While we cannot directly turn on or off any emotions, we can control the road that leads to an emotion. What we feel is the product mainly of how we think and interpret the world around us.

   Myth 4: Our feelings don’t really serve a purpose, so you might as well just ignore them. Not true. Every emotion has a cause and a purpose. Joy is caused by certain cheerful life events, and its purpose is simply to make us happy – a state that health scientists are saying is essential to a healthy immune system. Anger is caused by something or someone violating our needs, and its purpose is to mobilize us to protect ourselves and those we love. Guilt is caused by a violation of our internal value system, and its purpose is to drive us to make amends. As you can see, our emotions generally have a clear, rational cause – and a God-given purpose.
 

  Let me outline some strategies for increasing your emotional intelligence – your ability to recognize and accept your emotions.

  • Keep a journal. Regularly write down what you are thinking and feeling is probably as good as several hours of psychotherapy. The very act of “externalizing” your reflections on your feelings builds your ability to recognize them in the heat of the moment.
  • Increase your emotional vocabulary. It’s not surprising that many men have difficulty with their feelings, not because they don’t have the vocabulary to express them. Whenever confused about your feelings, note the words that capture what you are feeling. Here are some examples that take us beyond the main words (happy, sad, mad and glad) may give a more accurate label on painful feelings: abandoned, depleted, argumentative, exposed, furious, inadequate, petrified, annoyed, bothered, stunned, resentful, used, weary, ambivalent, etc.
  • Reflect on your feelings periodically. Sometimes we are, as men, just too busy to bother with what we feel. Build into your daily routine some time for emotional reflection, and I don’t mean reflection on painful emotions. We should also reflect upon times of joy, contentment, interests, etc. In Philippians 4:8 Paul tells us to do this: “Whatsoever is true,…noble,…right,…pure,…lovely,…admirable…think about such things.”
  • Spend more time with friends who are emotionally smart. We all know people who are emotionally in touch with themselves. Hang out with them. Learn from them. This is how we mentor spirituality and help one another become spiritually mature. It should also include helping each other become emotionally mature.
  • Build a support group where you can be totally honest and transparent. If there is one place you can learn how to increase your emotional intelligence, it is with a group of like-minded men who know and understand each other. Again and again, I have heard a man who has been through horrendous depression say, “It was my support group that helped me survive.”
     

 

  Article and side bars used by author’s written permission.
  From the book: Unmasking Male Depression, © Copyright 2001, Archibald Hart (author),
  Word Publishing – The Hart Institute

____________________________________________________________

Common “Masks” for Male Depression

  • Anger, rage and pent-up resentment
  • Workaholism
  • Avoidance of family intimacy
  • Failure to achieve intimacy in marriage
  • Family abusiveness
  • Pouting, brooding and silence
  • Sexual compulsions (a form of self-medication)
  • Extramarital affairs (as a way for relieving the pain of depression)
  • Physical illness, including the early development of heart disease
  • Sabotaging one’s career
  • Frequent job changes
  • Feeling victimized by others
  • Discharging stress through negative and resistant actions
  • Reacting rather than acts toward life’s circumstances
  • Alcoholism or drug addiction
  • Cybersex (Internet pornography)




Male-Specific Depression Inventory

   This inventory is specifically designed to determine if a male is depressed. It also helps to determine the seriousness of the depression. Like all inventories, it is not foolproof. If you believe that you might be depressed, seek professional help. Don’t rely only on this inventory to determine if you are depressed. Rate each of the questions that follow by circling the number that applies.

0. Rarely or none of the time
1. A little of the time (i.e. once every few months or so)
2.  Occasionally (i.e. once a month)
3. A moderate amount of time (i.e., once every one or two weeks)
4. A lot of the time (i.e. on and off every few days)
5. Nearly all of the time

At the end of this inventory, total your score on a separate piece of paper
by adding all of the numbers you have circled on each question below.

QUESTIONS

RATING

      I am bothered by things that never used to bother me.

0   1   2   3   4   5

      My sleep is restless.

0   1   2   3   4   5
      I can get angry even if I don’t show it.           0   1   2   3   4   5
      I have trouble keeping my mind on what I am doing.  0   1   2   3   4   5
      I seem to be unhappy.    0   1   2   3   4   5
      I feel like my life has been a failure.  0   1   2   3   4   5
      I need “things” to help me feel better. 0   1   2   3   4   5
      I am less social than I used to be.       0   1   2   3   4   5
      I get irritable very easily.  0   1   2   3   4   5
      I feel that everything I do takes a lot of effort. 0   1   2   3   4   5
      I become engrossed in my work.     0   1   2   3   4   5
      I just sit around and do nothing.   0   1   2   3   4   5
      I withdraw and find something exciting or thrilling to do. 0   1   2   3   4   5
      I feel that nothing really matters.   0   1   2   3   4   5
      I sulk, pout, or am moody to the point I can’t help it.  0   1   2   3   4   5
      I do not enjoy life.    0   1   2   3   4   5
      I need sex to cheer me up.  0   1   2   3   4   5
      I have trouble getting started in the morning.  0   1   2   3   4   5
      I allow things to distract me from what I should be doing.  0   1   2   3   4   5
      I have anger outbursts I can’t control.   0   1   2   3   4   5

                                                                     
                                                                                                       TOTAL SCORE: ________

Interpretation -- Your score will be somewhere between 0 and 100.

If your total score is:
   0 - 19             You are probably in the nondepressed range
   20 - 34          You may be subject to periodic, mild depression. Keep an eye on it.
   35 - 49          You may just be n the moderately depressed range. Consider getting a professional consultation.
   50 - 69          You are moderately depressed, probably in the clinical range. Definitely get a professional evaluation.
   70 +          Your depression is severe, and you should seek a professional consultation right away. 

 

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