The Creativity Cure

A do-it-yourself prescription for happiness

Hidden Pain, Secret Shame

Having it all doesn't help with psychological stress

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People who appear to have seamless lives, affluence, or success can suffer from depression, anxiety, fear, exploitation, betrayal, job stress, loss, a troubled child, a broken family or a broken heart. The person who “has everything,” may, in spite of a surfeit of fine possessions or a record of wins, have psychic burdens. In fact, some high achievers are driven by a history of abandonment or by feeling bereft.


More than a few people have told me that in their private lives they are having a “nervous breakdown,” while publically they flourish. They feel ashamed if they can’t maintain poise and self-control in all private moments. It is human to break or to feel that you just can’t take another hit. It is okay to lose it once in a while.

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Sharing vulnerabilities, mess-ups, weak moments and despair with a trusted listener helps, especially if one feels pressured to keep up a certain image. People can get past hellish happenings, cease downward spirals and emerge from an abyss if they feel understood. Being understood is empowering. It’s right up there with being loved or respected.


A client was struggling with her teenage daughter. Tearfully, she confided in another friend. Had she too had suffered at the hands of her daughter? This friend said, “No, no, not at all. She’s great, never give me any problem.” This compounded my friend’s feeling of “defectiveness,” inferiority and shame. When she spoke to another friend who shared her own exasperations as a parent, she felt much better.



Carrie Barron, M.D., is a psychiatrist and co-author of The Creativity Cure: A Do-It Yourself Prescription for Happiness, which she wrote with her husband, Alton Barron.


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