The Heart Too Long Suppressed

As I work my way through the thirty-plus books of one of my favorite thinkers, Thomas Szasz, I occasionally come across a book that he recommends. Szasz wrote the forward to the book, The Heart Too Long Suppressed, praising the memoir. The last memoir I read on his recommendation was the memoir A Life Inside, which was worth reading.

The Heart Too Long Suppressed is the memoir of the author, actress, and professor of literature Carol Hebald. Hebald had a traumatic childhood. She was abused by her parents and siblings. She was locked in a closet daily for hours on end by her nanny/housekeeper. As a child, she desired to be loved by someone as all children do. She found she could find the feeling of love through promiscuity at a young age.

By the time Hebald was a teenager, she began seeing a psychiatrist who only made her dismal situation worse. What did her promiscuity and desperate longings get her? A diagnosis of schizophrenia that would haunt her for many years, “treatment” with electroshock, and loads of mind-numbing drugs.

Hebald’s memoir is a story about listening to one’s own inner voice rather than that of others, even if those other voices are from those who claim to come in help. Hebald’s life takes a turn for the better when she finds the confidence to follow her own path. She ditches the chemical straightjacket of psychiatric drugs and the advice of psychotherapists. With renewed creativity, she begins writing, eventually taking on the role of a professor of literature.

It’s a painful story, but one of hope for those who’ve failed to listen to their own voice. As Szasz says in the introduction:

Hebald’s moving account dramatically illustrates the dangers of letting the voice of authority outshout your Inner Voice: she effectively demonstrates that the sole recovery from the maladies a person so acquires is to regain the voice he or she has not so much lost as renounced. Near the end of her story, Hebald confronts her psychiatrist with her perception of him. His response: “Lower your voice!”…We are fated to attend to, assimilate, and make use of the voices of others―and yet maintain a voice of our own. It is no small task.

Thomas Szasz

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