Don’t Accept Suffering as Normal

Dr. Gabor Maté

How to get to the root of trauma and illness to find healing—even within a toxic culture.

Photo by Matej Stransky

In this Episode of The Human Upgrade™...

… you’ll learn to define what’s really “normal” when it comes to your health. You’ll explore how today’s culture stresses the body, burdens the immune system, and undermines emotional balance. And why Western medicine often fails to treat the whole person.

This conversation covers an investigation into the causes of illness, a critique of how our society breeds disease, and offers a pathway to health and healing. One of the surprising things you’ll learn has to do with authenticity.

“The loss of authenticity is one of the major impacts of trauma,” says renowned Canadian speaker and bestselling author, Dr. Gabor Maté. “It’s also a major cause of physical and mental illness.”

Dr. Maté is highly sought after for his expertise on topics like addiction, stress, trauma, and childhood development. He spent two decades in family practice and palliative care. He also worked for over a decade in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side (Canada) with patients challenged by drug addiction and mental illness.

“And what I found out when I was dealing with addictions, chronic physical illness, chronic mental illness, the origins always traced back to childhood trauma,” Dr. Maté says. “And once I realized that, I also realized that my medical education, while it’s brilliant in the technical and biological sense, left out the human, social and psychological and the emotional element. And so, then I began to talk to my patients about this stuff, and they began to teach me about their lives.”

“In the long term I am optimistic. I believe in the human beings. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, there's also great evidence, too, on behalf of the goodness of human beings in this world.”

Dr. Gabor Maté

In his newest book, “The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, & Healing in a Toxic Culture,” he pushes back on the prevailing understanding of “normal” because it neglects the roles that trauma and stress—and the pressures of modern-day living—exert on our bodies and our minds at the expense of good health.

“If you’re suffering, don’t accept it as normal, but ask what’s going on here?” Dr. Maté says. “Let the suffering instruct you that there’s something going on; that what you think is normal is actually not healthy or natural for you.”

More about Dr. Gabor Maté: For his groundbreaking medical work and writing he received the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian distinction, and the Civic Merit Award from his hometown, Vancouver, British Columbia. He co-developed a therapeutic approach called Compassionate Inquiry that’s now studied by therapists, physicians, counselors, and others internationally. His books examine addiction, trauma and childhood attachment:

  • “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction”
  • “When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress”
  • “Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It”
  • “Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers”  

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  • Few adults connect things like birth and early childhood with what they see, what they perceive, what they do as adults. How did you stumble onto that connection and make it the focus of your work? – 2:25
  • The average medical student still doesn’t hear anything about trauma, not about psychological trauma and its impact on the body. – 10:10
  • I didn’t just write the book to give the bad news to people, I wrote the book so that people can recognize what isn’t working so we can do something about it. – 12:18
  • Frustration is the engine of aggression.” We have to understand if this is happening chronically, what is this child frustrated about? – 19:35
  • How do we go about breaking the behavior patterns that got instilled in us from our parents doing their best? – 23:13
  • One of the toxicities of this culture is that we stress pregnant women, ignoring all the science that shows that stress on the pregnant moment already affects the brain development of the child and the physiology of the child – 29:43
  • How can a culture be toxic?” How do you even define what a culture is in order to say it’s toxic?  – 33:43
  • If you look at advertising, it’s designed to lie to you and kids grow to manipulate you. The lie is that you need this product in order to be happy. – 38:44
  • Loneliness is as much of a risk factor of disease as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, physiologically. – 42:37

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