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March 16, 2023 25 mins

In this bonus episode, Dani speaks with renowned physician and author Dr. Gabor Maté about his new book,The Myth of Normal, and the ways in which we can begin to heal from our wounds and traumas.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Family Secrets is a production of iHeartRadio. Now. If you
look at the word healing and it's word origins, it
comes from an Anglo Saxon word for wholeness. So yeah,
literally is the process of ephole, which begs the question
I mean whole hole in the first place? Well, yes,
the nessence you are, but as a result of trauma,

you get cut off from parts of yourself. That's Doctor
gobor Mate, physician, renowned speaker, and best selling author of
five books, including most recently The Myth of Normal. Doctor
Matte is a leading expert in the field of trauma, addiction,
and childhood development. I'm Danny Shapiro and this is a

special bonus episode of Family Secrets. The secrets that are
kept from us, secrets we keep from others, and the
secrets we keep from ourselves. Early in your book, you
recount a moment from a commencement speech by David Foster Wallace,
the parable of two young fish who encounter an elder

fish on their aquatic paths, and the elder says to
the younger fish, morning, boys, how's the water? And the
elder fish says, what the hell is water? What does
this story mean to you? Well, it means the exactly
what David Foster follows what was intendedive to me, which
is sometimes there's things that we were most used to
and really swimming, and we don't recognize if we used

as Summing's normal, we are not even related to it.
We just carry on our merry way without actually being
aware of the mel You that we're in, of the
impact of the Melians. So those they know the everyday thinks,
he says, have the greatest consequences for our lives. He

himself is a tragic example because, as you may know,
he committed suicide. You know, it was this incredible talent,
but I don't think either was able to fully metabolize
your suffering until all he could do was to escape
from it. Yeah, that reminds me. Elsewhere in your book,
you describe Elizabeth Wurtzel, who wrote fairly late in her

All Too Brief Life, she wrote about having discovered that
her father who raised her wasn't her biological father, and
she writes about her depression. And there's something that you
write about this kind of suffering that can go along
with a glittering career, and yet underneath that there is

this trauma that is either not understood or certainly not healed. Yeah, well,
there are all too many people out there with glittering
careers who have suffered tremendously, and many of them in
the entertainment world. And we know these figures who are

at the very top of their profession and adulated by millions.
And look at the riches that Elvis accrued and that
were stolen from the actually by his manager. And he
was a suffering person. He had a twin brother who
died at birth, and lots of other trauma, and much
of his corriginal came from his suffering. Also as incredible talent,

Marilyn Monroe the same thing. Lots of examples of this
Aretha Franklin as another one, you know, incredible iconic singer.
She sings the song always BCP about respect, and in
her life she was never respected. She was traumatized as
a child, abused as an adult, and didn't have the
self respect to set boundaries for herself because of her

childhood trauma. These people are suffered to trauma their childhood,
and that trauma shows up even in their successes. That's
part of the toxicity of our culture. It's sometimes reward
people's desperate hoping mechanisms. That's really fascinating. Do you think
that there's some correlation between talent or perhaps ambition or

what makes somebody strive for that kind of worldly success,
whether it's in art or it's in politics, and you
know the initial wound or is that coincidence or do
we only know these stories because these people are famous.
To give my own personal example, before I wrote books
and worked in trauma of a family physician and very successful.

I had endless demand for my services and I never
said no, I was a pure workaholic, and that work
hasn't really hurt my family whood, my kids have hurt
my wife that calls and was rewarded by the world.
Everybody said, what a great doctor is always available. And
of course the more I made myself available day or night,

the more gratitude came my way, and the more money
I made, so the world rewarded my Workhals and Bobbo
was driving. It was a desperation to prove my value
as a un being, because as an infant that value
was not affirmed given the historical circumstances under which I
was born and the suffering of my mother and my

family and so on. I had no sense of birth
that was the independent of what I do know. Now
you can go to the autabagasies of a lot of
famous people, including any number of US presidents, and see
the same dynamic. And you know what, anybody's well versed
in trauma, you can see the trauma in the demeanor.
I mean, look at so many politicians anywhere in the world.

They hate giving up power because they don't think very
much of themselves deep down, unconsciously. There's a part in
your book that I found extremely difficult to read. It's
in this chapter called a sturdy or a fragile foundation,
And I really wanted to unpack this with you because
you quote Raffi, So Raffie says, we discover who we

are from the inside. What's forming is no less than
how it feels to be human. And then later in
that same chapter you quote a book called the Secret
History of the Unborn Child. This whole idea of long
term influence, this was something I mean, I literally was
writing exclamation points in the margins. But long term influence

of the intrauterine period on emotional health and in my
own history, and the reason that I started this podcast.
I discovered in midlife that the dad who raised me
had not been my biological father, That my parents had
experienced infertility as a couple in the nineteen sixties, that

they had used was a sperm donor, that they had
been told to never tell a soul, to certainly never
tell the child, right. I mean, I have a really
successful and wonderful life, But in terms of early childhood intrauterine,
my mother, I am convinced now must have been absolutely

petrified the entire time she was pregnant. Fortunately, on the
biology side, my biological father, who I was able to
find and identify, has a constitution that is very, very stable,
and I actually think that that had a lot to
do and also with the way that I was surrounded
by various adults who loved me and helped me. But

I'm saying all this because what does it mean. We
can't change where we started. We can't change the stories
that were told that form our identity from the time
that we're sentient beings. And there's so much that we
can do, but there are things that we can't do.
And your book is full of both. It's full of

you know, the bad news and the good news, and
there's so much about healing in there, but there's also
the ways in which we can never alter or if
we were formed in this way very early on, with
a kind of lack of maternal connection with fear, even

in the uterus, what do we do with that in
our lives. There was a quote that so speaks to
your situation, and she writes a certain kind of silence
that which comes from holding back to truth is in
itself abusive to a child. The soul has a natural
movement towards knowledge, so that not to know can lead

to despair. In the posity of explanation for a mood,
a look, a gesture, the child takes on the blame
and cares, thus a guilt for circumstances beyond childish influence.
And that would have hurt you because the chot can
sense that there's something wrong, there's something not being said,

but it's so confusing, and all the chot can do
is to develop a sense of lack of safety and
self blame, and that's what happens. One of the things
that I came to realize is that whole idea of
the kind of trauma big t trauma you know as
you write about in the myth of normal in which

the person is trapped and powerless and there's nothing to
be done as opposed to actually being able to make
meaning out of it, do something with it, and that
changes the game. That's right, So to forget your question
about what to do about it all. Here's the good
news about trauma. Trauma is not what happened to you.

Trauma is what happened inside you as a result of
what happened to you. Your trauma wasn't that they would
have the truth from you. The trauma is the emotional
psychological wound being green in your body and your nervous system.
In terms of what to do about it, if the
trauma was what happened to you, which is the circumstances
are on your gestation and birth and child, trauma is

what happened to me as a Jewish infant under the
Nazis in hungry. If that was the trauma, there's nothing
you can do, nothing I can do because it happened,
it will never not at But if the trauma is
what we made it mean about ourselves, which is that
I didn't have value as it in being. But that's
summer you were, you were faulty or not worthy or

whatever you made it mean, that can be healed at
any time. You can help heal what we made the
past mean. And that's the actual journey. And so this
is why I called the Buddha as well. He says that,
you know, he points out that with our minds to
create the world, Like, if my mind tells me that
I'm not worthy, then I'm living in life. I'm living

in a world where I was at the pool. My
worthiness and how do people feel about me is hugely important.
If I live in a world where I know that
I'm worth a lot because I exist, it doesn't matter
so much for any big things and what success you achieve,
but what success I don't achieve, you know. So the
Buddha said, every the minds, you get the world. What
Buddha didn't say is that before with our minds you

create the world, the world creates our minds, so that
the mind and the brain which we interpret and interface
of the world is created by our early circumstances, under
conditions we had no control about whatsoever. And the whole
idea of hearing them resigns in gaining agency. We were

helpless in our origin story, but we're not helpless in
the present moment. So whatever I believe or you believed
as a result of all that, they can drop those beliefs,
and we can drop the physical patelilogical reactions that those beliefs.
That's a liberation that we're in a present form. We'll

be right back. Do you think that the dropping of
those beliefs is something that we can do and then

be done with or is life a little bit more
like a game of shoots and ladders where you know,
you write in the myth of normal about the real
meaning of triggers, not the way that it's often used
in the culture today. And this may be a rhetorical question,
but is there a kind of place that you get
to where it's like, no, you're good, You're done, and

that history no longer has the power to haunt. I'll
let you know when I get though. I sometimes talk
about my epitask. I've created my own it's going to
be carved on my great STONI what's gonna say. It'll
say it was a lot more work than I had anticipated,
you know, and that work goes down forever. It's not
that I can't get a triggered now, and we can

talk about the meaning of trigger, but when I do
get upset. Let's take a very personal example of the occasion.
I talked about this with my explanation. So let's say
one night in a long distance panse twenty years ago,
I want to sleep with her and she says no,
and my response typically would be occurred into a fetal
ball and be in despair and being a rageful state,

and my body would really be like this, sir, It
would really be tense and constricted. You know, wow, what's
that about. It's not the response of a mature adults
who says, oh, too bad, I'm onder what's going on
for you, or maybe you're too tired, or I'm disappointed.
Let's talk about it tomorrow. You know that'd be immature.

My response to go until field ball is literally the
response of an infant. I'm being rejected by mother, which
was my experience. Not that she rejected me, but she
gave me to a stranger and I didn't see her
for six weeks to save my life. But I experienced
it as a rejection and that response is still ingrained
in my body now. These days should have happen, it

doesn't trigger the same reaction because I dealt with it.
At most, I might feel a disappointment. You know, I
wanted something I don't get it. Well, that's disappointed, you know. Well,
you know what, I'm overstating my healing here. I can
still feel some tension around it. So if you look
at what a trigger is, a trigger is a metaphor

drawn from weaponry. No, in a weapon, how big a
part of the weapon is the trigger. It's a tiny
little thing. The only reason the trigger works is because
there's a whole weapon there with ammunition and explosive charge. Now,
if you say something that triggers me, I could say,

what was the explosive material inside need that got set
off here? And that's by far the more interesting question.
So triggers, I think are really useful. If you get triggered, boy,
you've got a lot of beautiful material to learn from
about yourself if you ask the right questions. The anger,
if I cost your boundaries or hurt you some way,

or let you down in stificant ways, you should be
angered with me, you know, and you should say you
don't do this to me. I will not interact with you.
That's healthy anger, that's not being triggered. That's a healthy
response to a present boundary violation. Do you means that
we lose consciousness of what's driving us and we put

all the blame externally and even you not even know
where that were triggered. A body literally changes, and I've
been in that state plenty of time, and whenever that
happens to a person, rest assured that it's something about
the past, not in the present. This is a present

somehow resemble the past, and that's what the little trigger
is well. And you also you also write quite a
bit in the Myths of Normal about blame and one
of the things in this lexicon of triggering, if you're
triggering me, then I blame you instead of what is
it in me that has just gotten set off by

this little trigger? That is this seismic thing that's happening
in my body or in my psyche exactly. Yeah, from
that point of view, my marriage has been my biggest
institution of learning, because that's why we have learned about
myself to I mean, I've done a lot of learning,
you know, in all kinds of platforms or venues, but
the biggest transformation is always in relationship that you really

have to do. If you want to, you've got to
deal with your own stuff. Either that or you expect
the other person to suppress themselves to suit you. And
when that happens, more stuffering happens. Well. That leads me
to something that I found to be this really provocative,
interesting idea, This idea that you put so succinctly and

beautifully about attachment in family and the ways that we
are our laboratories in a way, like a family is
its own kind of laboratory for all of it, for growth,
for triggers, for whatever it is we do to each other,
and for each other. Also being stunted. Both can happen
even to the same person. So the thing that you
write about that I found really fascinating is the idea

that we want to feel attached. It's essential that we
feel attached to the people that we love and the
people who are closest to us. And at the same time,
it's possible when that goes awry that when we are
our author centic selves, we are putting that attachment at risk. Somehow,

it took me a lifetime and perhaps even the death
of my mother to fully inhabit my authentic self because
it was going to deeply threaten whatever that attachment was
that I needed so badly. That at tension between attachment
and authenticity is a major seeming in a lot of
people's lives. There's no bargain between parents and child. Ideally speaking,

here's what I have to do that my mother loved
me or my father accept me. You know, there's no bargain.
There's only a one way responsibility. That responsibility is I'm
going to accept you as you are, no matter who
you or who you are, because you are, and there'll
be no conditions on that acceptance. Don't have to be pitty, smart, compliant,

to sweet, healthful, obedient, anything. You just accepted for who
you are because you are. No bargain and without that
attachment relationship will being taken care of. We just can't survive.
No mammalian infant can survive. So attachment is like wired
into our biology. That soul is authenticity wired into abology,

the capacity to know what we feel and to be
able to act on it. I mean, as we evolved,
these creatures are in nature, how long would be have
survived if we weren't in touch with our good feelings?
You know? And so that's another need a lot of people.
If you really might be accepted, you have to hold
up your end of a bargain. Then the child will

suppress the authenticity of their genuine series who their view
you are for the sake of being accepted, and that
tragic tension between authenticity and attention, and it's wired in
and they will let spend the rest of our lives
living out of it. So then in our future relationships
we hide our deepest desires and our deepest fears and

who media are really think and on a job there
not express ourselves, and to our friends will not be there,
not be authentic, and to our partners who are afraid
of being authentic for being rejected, because that was your
experience as a child, that when you're authentic, you will
not give an acceptance, but your poor parents couldn't give
it to you because they themselves never had it. You know,

part of what you're saying, I feel thrumbs beneath so
many of the stories that my guest share with me
on this podcast, because when you're talking about secrecy, you're
automatically and instantly talking about a lack of authenticity. If
you're keeping a secret, it's very often or almost always,

out of shame or out of the fear that it
will destroy an attachment that feels important. And you know,
I think one of the things that happens in the
stories that my guests share, it's me because if they've
come on this podcast, it means very often they've already
dealt with a lot of this, And it really has
to do with, well, what is the liberation that is

available when a secret is finally voiced, spoken, metabolized, understood. Yeah,
so I think you had the same experience that I
had as a writer. Like you begin to write a
book because you think you want to tell people something,
and then you actually find out that you were writing
about what you have to learn yourself so that you
write the book. And I just thought I wanted to

tell the world stuff. But in the posts of writing,
the stuff emerged about me that I had to learn,
or about the ideas that it was expanding on. It
took them much deeper than I would have had I
not written about them. And so in that sense, I
think what you and I have in common is that
any secrets we have don't stay secrets well, and that

discovery is always at the heart of what makes what
makes a book a good book is what's alive on
the page. Is you actually feel the writer discovering something exactly? Yeah,
I guess I want to ask you a little bit
more about healing and the ways in which we can
understand our wounds intellectually. What can you say about this

ongoing process of moving through life and actually the difference
between the gaping wound, the scar tissue that you write about,
and perhaps the true healing. It's a process that occurs
over time. Now, if you look at the word healing,
and it's the word origins, it comes from an Anglo
Saxon word for wholeness. So yeah, literally is the process

of beginning being whole now, which begs the question, what
I mean whole? Are going whole in the first place? Well, yes,
in essence you are. But as a result of trauma,
you get cut off from parts of yourself. So the
essence of trauma is actually a disconnection from ourselves, which
also means that the healing means connecting with ourselves. But

hearing is the process of connecting with all answerts of ourselves,
which takes compassionate dance of judgment, and it stakes curiosity.
If I'm triggered, I could not judge myself and say,
what an idiot you did it again? Or I could say, huh,
what in me was set off by that trigger That

hasn't looked at yet. So the therapeutic approach I've developed,
it's called compassionate inquiry, and we've had about three thousand
students nor in eighty countries in the last three years
studying it. So it's a process. It has many different dimensions.
I don't claim that either my book or my method
is the answer. There's no doubt answer. There is all

kinds of healing adalgies, but in general I would say
that healim ofdalogies that don't allow you to get to
know your trauma and to befriended and to learn from
it don't work. So whatever healing needs, it needs becoming whole,
and that means confunding, defending, dealing with all the wounds
that we carried, and doing so in a compassionate man.

Family Secrets is a production of iHeartRadio. Molly Zakour is
the story editor and Dylan Fagan is the executive producer.
If you have a family secret you'd like to share,
Please leave us a voicemail and your story could appear
on an upcoming episode. Our number is one eight eight
eight Secret zero. That's the number zero. You can also

find me on Instagram at Danny Ryder and if you'd
like to know more about the story that inspired this podcast,
check out my memoir Inheritance. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio,

visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen
to your favorite shows.

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