From disease to addiction, parenting to attention deficit disorder, Canadian physician and bestselling author Gabor Maté’s work focuses on the centrality of early childhood experiences to the development of the brain, and how those experiences can impact everything from behavioral patterns to physical and mental illness. While the relationship between emotional stress and disease, and mental and physical health more broadly, is often considered controversial within medical orthodoxy, Dr. Maté argues too many doctors seem to have forgotten what was once a commonplace assumption, that emotions are deeply implicated in both the development of illness, addictions and disorders, and in their healing.
And Dr. Maté starts out with these simple observations:
…unfortunately, my profession, the medical profession, puts all the emphasis on genetics rather than on the environment, which, of course, is a simple explanation. It also takes everybody off the hook…
…if people’s behaviors and dysfunctions are regulated, controlled and determined by genes, we don’t have to look at child welfare policies, we don’t have to look at the kind of support that we give to pregnant women, we don’t have to look at the kind of non-support that we give to families, so that, you know, most children in North America now have to be away from their parents from an early age on because of economic considerations. And especially in the States, because of the welfare laws, women are forced to go find low-paying jobs far away from home, often single women, and not see their kids for most of the day. Under those conditions, kids’ brains don’t develop the way they need to.
he has these insights in part because he himself, then his children, were diagnosed with ADD:
What never made sense to me right from the beginning, though, is the idea of ADD as a genetic disease. And not even after a couple of my kids were diagnosed with it, I still didn’t buy the idea that it’s genetic, because it isn’t. Again, it has to do with, in my case, very stressed circumstances as an infant, which I talked about on a previous program. In the case of my children, it’s because their father was a workaholic doctor who wasn’t emotionally available to them. And under those circumstances, children are stressed. I mean, if children are stressed when their brains are developing, one way to deal with the stress is to tune out. (read the whole article)
So nice to see that some people are willing to not only look fearlessly at our culture and society, but also how that culture and society has shaped them. This is where the future lies. In taking individual responsibility for the mess that the whole entire human species finds itself in.
UPDATE: check out the two posts Rossa at Holistic Recovery from Schizophrenia did in response to this one: Interview with Dr. Gabor Maté and Russell Brand testifies to Parliament about addiction (I watched the interview with Russell Brand a while back…it’s very good. He’s quite brilliant and lovely to listen to)
These look interesting too: