This is a really good podcast that I think is useful for most of us.

Gabor Maté is a physician who does a great job with communicating the connection between childhood trauma, addictive behaviour and physical illnesses.

It’s definitely worth listening to the whole thing. He is a very kind, emotionally honest, and humorous person, who is pleasant to listen to.

Nevertheless, here is my attempt for a summary and some of my own comments.

Notes from the podcast

  • Addiction is not about the substance it is about the addictive behaviour.
  • We all experience addictive urges and behaviours.
  • Addictive behaviour comes from early trauma.
  • The only difference between an “average” person and a junky is the level of trauma they experienced.
  • The individual’s trauma driven behaviour is interdependent on the society’s behaviour and politics. A society’s choice of traumatised politicians is also an acting out of their own unaddressed issues.
  • Trauma is inherited through generations mainly by how the parent handles their own and their child’s emotions.
  • The myths that are about how everything got better (e.g. by Steven Pinker [1]) are a narrow view of cherry picked measurements. By ignoring the other measurements that got worse, this just maintains the status quo.

In summary

  • We need to do a lot more work on understanding our emotions and the sources of them, particularly the ones related to early attachment*.
  • Individually, in parenting and as a society we should learn to “be” with negative emotions not either:

1. Running away from them

2. Acting out on them

3. Suppressing them

These will all result in unhealthy behaviours and suffering, that runs through generations.

  • We need to implement more compassionate support systems instead of punishment. In jails we find people being punished for suffering from mental health problems, which are a consequence of trauma.
  • In parenting punishment will cause more emotionally unhealthy people. The absence of punishment doesn’t mean not teaching kind and ethical behaviour. Instead of control we can simply intervene and handle the child’s negative emotions, but only if we can be with our owns first.

Some comments of mine

One thing I would add to this is, that I personally wound’t dismiss arguments such as Pinker’s so quickly. We did make a lot of progress in terms of general standards of living, number of wars, social movements etc.

These are achievements we can celebrate without maintaining the status quo, but only if we are willing to examine their negative side effects, consequences too.

For example we have to address the problem of our technologically ever more connected world, which somehow also disrupts close personal relationships and family structures. New technologies such as AI and social media introduce a whole bunch of new problems that can be and are discussed on their own. Not to mention the environmental and social, economical consequences of all our technological developments.

This doesn’t mean that the improvements aren’t real too.

As always, the reality is complex and it takes a never ending discussion and openness to try and not to close ourselves into boxes of thinking.


* A good start can be to fill out a test like this one

I do NLP research, code, sing and sometimes write blog posts.

I do NLP research, code, sing and sometimes write blog posts.