High school reunion — joy or dread?

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    High school reunions are popular in the summer. They are an occasion for joy — and perhaps dread.In their weekly conversation, WHYY’s behavioral health reporter Maiken Scott and psychologist Dan Gottlieb discussed the complicated emotions that tend to accompany these reunions.

    “We grew up together, these are formative years,” said Gottlieb in explaining why people seem to get a bit jittery about these reunions. “There is a lot of shame and fear about fitting in during the high school years, and these reunions are a regressive experience,” he added.

    Gottlieb, who recently attended his 50th high school reunion, says our critical inner judge becomes activated as we prepare to revisit old friends and memories.

    So, how do you enjoy the experience? “It’s not about you, or how you look, it’s about enjoying relationships,” he says.

    Gottlieb said that when he went to his 20th reunion, none of his classmates had seen him in a wheelchair. “I was so overwhelmed with fear and shame — I cried before I left,” he recalls. As the years have progressed, that sentiment has faded, and now he focuses on reconnecting with friends.

    “If you go there wanting to be seen a certain way, you’re not going to have fun,” he said. “If you go wanting to connect with ‘the kids,’ you will have a great time.”

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