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Edition 50 - Mind and Body Aren’t Just ‘Connected’, They’re All One Thing!
For my 50th (round of applause) newsletter, I wanted to kick off this weekend’s edition with a book recommendation - Gabor Maté - The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness and Healing in a Toxic Culture. I stumbled across a YouTube video of this guy, talking about how our childhood traumas (starting from the womb), and child-like unwillingness to look internally and address them in adult life, may be causing the majority of illnesses and mental conditions we are seeing at increasingly alarming rates in this supposedly ‘modern’ society (I say that with a bit of sarcasm because my belief is that our collective thinking is still as old and tired as it has ever been). Whether that is anxiety, ADHD, strokes or even cancers.
“What passes for normal in our society is neither healthy, nor natural”
Maté puts forward the idea that many of the things we consider to be ‘natural’ and ‘healthy’ in society are actually neither, and physical conditions can manifest as a result (he also talks in depth about the development of addictions based on unresolved trauma). He explains the difference and nuance between statistical normal and medical normal (eg. if 70% of the population torture their pets, it would be considered ‘normal’ to torture your pet. The same way many of us drink a poison called alcohol, it is considered ‘normal’, but is it healthy? Of course not, it’s worse than heroin. However medically, if your heart rate goes to 240 bpm, your heart is probably about to pop and you will die. These are essential establishments of normal that we actually need to observe and rely upon).
Sadly, what has been normalised in our society is to a) inflict trauma upon others, and b) suffer trauma ourselves and be expected to ignore, not discuss it, and not address it. Just leave it and don’t be an inconvenience to us and yourself. He suggests that the result of not dealing with these traumas breeds the ‘toxic’ culture we live in, where the abused become the abusers, where it’s dog-eat-dog, and only the greediest, most ruthless thrive and survive, where we are free to bully and harass each other with impunity or escape with a slap on the wrist, and dismiss entire groups in society as unworthy of our sympathy or support (financial or emotional).
The more I thought about what he was saying, the more he resonated with me, and I immediately put his book on my Christmas list. I mean, think about it - I don’t know about you but I’m carrying a ton of untouched trauma myself, and I haven’t even suffered what Maté describes as ‘big T’ Trauma (such as physical/sexual abuse, death of a parent/child/sibling etc.). When we fail to heal these internal wounds, they create lasting effects on our behaviour. This is why we can be completely normal, nice, mature adults most of the time, until something triggers us (touches on an unhealed wound), and suddenly we turn into a caged monster, releasing our very worst side, and hate ourselves for it afterwards.
“It is a marker of our culture’s insanity that certain individuals who flee from shame into a shameless narcissism may even achieve great social, economic and political status and success”
Our world is, and always has been, governed by psychopaths, resigned to their trauma. Reluctant to feel anything - and I don’t even need to name names for you to know exactly the type I am talking about. It could be a war and division thirsty leader (pick any), who demonstrates no desire to help their country eliminate a brutal history of crime, poverty, police brutality, racism, abuse of women’s or LBGTQ rights and basically anyone who doesn’t fit the default demographic of that nation (even if in the case of some nations, that land was just taken by force and claimed as theirs).
When I think of these world leaders - many of them remind me of school bullies (although I’m certain most of them were bullied themselves at some point). Outward confidence in excess, capable of charisma and superficial charm, incapable of admitting fault, but it is easy to see on the inside they are cowardly, greedy and self-preserving at the expense of others.
Now you may be thinking - ‘what the hell has this got to do with fitness, health or ‘the art of movement’ GABS’. Well, I am definitely coming at this from a health perspective, and some might more readily say a ‘mental health’ perspective, more specifically. However what I am about to put forward based on the book is that our physical health and mental health are the same thing.
As Gabor Maté explains, much of our psychological baggage is the cause of our physical ailments, and he shares evidence of increased exposure to stress leading to cancers, motor-neuron diseases, links between childhood sexual abuse and heart attacks, and so on.
So rather than talking about the Mind and the Body and discussing how some aspects of our mind affect our body and vice-versa, it is abundantly clear we now need to see it as the MindBody where one is not simply connected to the other, but combines with the other as one thing. The mental state produces real-time, chemical by-products within our body which set the cogs of disease in motion. We need to start seeing ourselves as one organism, where everything is affecting everything. Although much of this science isn’t actually new, Maté proposes that certain pillars of the scientific community (for example Harvard University) have been stubborn to accept it and are perhaps subconsciously (or perhaps not), nudging students away from writing about the idea that you could prevent cancer or a heart attack by dealing with past traumas. He suggests the industry should let go of their insecurities, biases and old practices, and progress as rapidly as possible towards taking this standpoint seriously.
“If we treat trauma as an external event, something that happens to or around us, then it becomes a piece of history we can never dislodge. If, on the other hand, trauma is what took place inside us as a result of what happened, in the sense of wounding or disconnection, then healing and reconnection become tangible possibilities.”
So my recommendation is to go and check out the book! I am still getting stuck into it, but there are also plenty of YouTube interviews with Gabor Maté where you can watch him talk about this idea in great detail. I hope you didn’t find this too much of a radical diversion from what I normally discuss in the newsletter, but I hope you found it interesting. After all, as you either already know, or will soon come to see, everything is connected. If you want to look after your body, look after your mind - they are one organism.
“How are we supposed to share love with someone else, when we can't even love this planet - let alone ourselves?” - ‘Chances’ by Subculture Sage
Movement of the Week: Self-Reflection & Self-Healing (yeah, that’s right, I said it)
Last year I stepped out of my comfort zone and started chatting to a therapist at www.betterhelp.com - I’ve found it really helpful and got a lot of random things off my chest. I’m not an angry footballer anymore which is great, and I’ve stopped getting so offended when I’m wrong. Hopefully it leads to more growth in 2023. Wish this was paid advertising but it’s not! Anyway - Your challenge for the week is to complete a written/text list of all of the little and large traumas in your life, and simply think and reflect for a few moments about each one. Maybe you could ask yourself a question about each. Think about the feelings you associate with each. Simply turn and face them - that’s all. Good luck!
Thank you, Gabriel