I have no idea why my son’s depression is my fault

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a man in my 70s, and my son in his 30s has been diagnosed with depression. I was shocked to be told that his depression was caused by my verbal violence.

My son is timid and gentle. To raise him as a respectable adult, I sent him to a kendo school and a swimming school when he was a child. I got a home tutor for him, too. Whenever he opposed me, I slapped and punched him. I did all these things just to discipline him so he could have a good future, and I believe it’s thanks to me that he now works for a first-class company. So I think I did nothing wrong. I believe children should obey their parents, and wives should obey their husbands.

The other day, my son said to me: “It’s very hard for me to go to work. I want to take leave from work.” So I said to him: “You’re telling me you have depression? That’s just because you’re a slacker.” Then he said to me: “Don’t persecute me any more. Don’t do it to Mom any more, either.”

I was just trying to give him advice, but I was told it’s verbal violence. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

I don’t think I was wrong in the way I approached my family. So I want to get a specialist’s advice.

D, Tokyo

Dear Mr. D:

You strictly disciplined your son so he could graduate from university and become a respectable adult employed by a first-class company. The way you raised him was probably not wrong regarding his workplace.

However, there is a big question about whether your son chose his path because he wanted it and is happy about his life. Working for a first-class company isn’t the only proof of being a respectable adult. Many people choose various other jobs and are respectably integrated into society.

Forcing your values onto your son and wife is wrong. It means you are denying their lives. Your son and wife aren’t your slaves. They are individual people who are supposed to choose their paths according to their own values. How would you feel if your values weren’t accepted, and you were slapped and punched if you rejected what you’d been told?

You should understand why your son is suffering from depression. Just imagine how much your son and wife have endured from you. Your son needs to rest. I think his suffering can be an opportunity for him to consider the direction of his future.

I also recommend you interact with people who are satisfied with their lives and active in society even though they don’t work for first-class companies. You should also seek opportunities to hear the opinions of people whose values are different from yours.

Junko Umihara, psychiatrist

(from April 14, 2015, issue)Speech

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