Saturday, July 15, 2023

The Myth of Normal

Dr. Gabor Mate has a long history of exploring humans and the body mind connection.  What passes for normal in our society is neither healthy nor natural.  Most of us recognize that the world is very scary and the author traces much of the explanation to a lack of understanding of the body mind connection in our societies.

A key factor in his analysis is that addiction originates in childhood trauma and is usually multi-generational.  Addiction often refers to drug addiction, but can be any substance or activity.  Rather than focus on the addiction we should focus on what drove an individual to seek it or what reality to escape from.  He suggests that it will take some generations to overcome the stresses on poorly treated groups such as blacks and indigenous.

Mate does not dismiss genetic factors, but feels that other factors determine what is activated.  Throughout the book he tells of traumatic experiences that predisposes an individual to gain a wide variety of illnesses, mental and physical.  He feels medicine has neglected the mind/body connection.  

In addition to our personal family connections all of us contend with a toxic culture.  A big part of it is physical such as air and water quality, but also economic pressures, social environment and politics.  He mentions four politicians and feels Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump all had trauma in their childhood.  He quotes Tony Blair who once said "Many public health problems are not strictly speaking public health problems at all.  They are questions of lifestyle:  obesity, smoking, alcohol abuse, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases...they are the result of millions of decisions at millions of points in time"  This overlooks studies connecting trauma to these conditions.  A low social economic status steers many to bad decisions.  Political decisions certainly impact public health.  Capitalism tied to politics has increased its toxicity. 

The toxic culture starts before we are born.   Nutrition and the breathed air  prepare the mother.  Once pregnant those elements go directly to the fetus.  Stress felt by the mother also affects the fetus.  The author contends that the birthing process in the United States is not as healthy as in other parts of the world.  Once born the infant is subject to the stress of the modern world. 

There is a clash between the author's concerns about child rearing that he contends requires attachment and the right to be oneself with more strict advice from the likes of Jordan Peterson.  Certainly a youngster needs to deal with the "cruel" world.

The psychiatrist, Bessell van der Kolk quotes Socrates, "An unexamined life is not worth living".  As long as one doesn't examine oneself, one is completely subject to whatever one is wired to do, but once you become aware that you have choices, you can exercise those choices. 

There is a lot of meat to backup the author's thoughts.  He uses his experiences with his patients and with people you might be familiar with to make his point.  This is heavy reading.  His arguments are persuasive and should you heed his advice you will likely be happier and healthier.

No comments:

Post a Comment