(Mainichi Japan) May 12, 2010
Masked social withdrawal linked to Japanese culture
At the Sayama Psychological Institute in Saitama Prefecture stands a collection of sketches.
The first drawing is too hard to make out. It almost looks like an expressionless "umi-bozu," a type of sea monster.
The second shows something like a person's face behind a stream of diagonal lines.
The third can actually be made out. It is the picture of a woman's head, as seen from behind.
(There is a vivid mole on back of the neck. -by srachai)
These pictures, sketched by reclusive patients at the institute, are of their "mother's face."
One wonders if their mothers ever looked at them when they were young.
The institute accommodates a number of patients between their 20s and 50s who have withdrawn from society.
Rather than focusing on cases in which people have shut themselves inside their rooms, facility therapist Yuichi Hattori, 60, has turned his attention toward "underlying social withdrawal" among people who normally appear cheerful.
They come from good families, have good academic backgrounds, and are amiable, but they cannot build relationships with other people.
They are concerned about the masks behind which they are hiding.
When the patients are asked during therapy to draw a picture of their mother on an A4-sized sheet of paper, none of them can draw the face -- this was the case in the dozen or so examples that I was shown.
Reclusive patients at the institute commonly come from homes that are concerned about social appearances.
They are well-off, but the father is absent.
The mother cannot express her feelings.
Children who are brought up in such an environment have no chance of having contact with other people.
They try to please their mother at home, and when they go out into society, they try to suit those around them.
But they don't know how to go about love.
They think that marriage is impossible and that babies are creepy.
"This is not just the case at our institute," Hattori says. "Social withdrawal is a pathology that has affixed itself to Japanese culture."
Such a culture values the home and groups over the individual, and approves of a dual nature of an outward and inner self. 個人よりも家や集団を優先し、本音と建前の二面性を容認する。
Rather then considering the question of good and evil, homes and society place importance on harmony.
"The people who have wiped out their own existence can't find themselves.
They look like good people but they can't make decisions, and are swayed by the opinions of those around them," Hattori says.
A therapist who has turned his face toward the cries of people's hearts from beneath their masks has unexpectedly traced the problem to Japanese culture.
When considering Japan's declining birth rate, the situation is foreboding.
(By Takahiro Takino, City News Department, Mainichi Shimbun)
毎日新聞 2010年5月12日 0時11分