Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Gabor Mate on The Biology of Loss

I listened to Gabor Mate talk about The Biology of Loss: Recognizing the Consequences of Impaired Attachments and Fostering Resilience. Mate is the author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Scattered Minds and When the Body Says No.

Here is some of what I learned:

Gabor Mate

  • Children are being diagnosed and medicated for mental health disorders at an alarming rate.
  • We have a massive social experiment where we are using anti-psychotic medications to control their behaviour.
  • We are now treating the side effects and unintended consequences of all this diagnosis and medicating of children.
  • The medications we are using are changing the biology of children's brains.
  • When we say this person is behaving this way because they have depression, ADHD or OCD. These are not explanations -- these are merely descriptions of their behaviours. A diagnosis is a description, not an explanation.
  • We too often see misbehaviours as the problem. Misbehaviour is the symptom of a larger problem. Treating the misbehaviour ignores the larger problem. Using punishments to force behaviour to change makes the problem worse.
  • Punishing children for misbehaviour by isolating them and rupturing relationships is like taking books away from children who can't read.
  • There is nothing wrong with acting out. When we act out it is a signal that we lack the skills to communicate our needs and problems. Think of the crying baby who is hungry or has a dirty diaper. Misbehaviour, acting out and temper tantrums are a primitive way of communicating that there is a problem.
  • We can't separate biology and physiology. We can't separate nature and nurture.
  • Stress is learned and passed on from one generation to the next.
  • Seeing people with only a medical lens holds up back from seeing whole people. It is a mistake to separate the mind from the body and physical health from social experiences.
  • We treat so many physical illnesses with cortisol which treats stress but then we never inquire into the effects of stress that contributed to our physical illness.
  • Isolation kills.
  • Cancer is not the disease of an individual. It is a disease of the individual's environment.
  • It is a mistake to see ADHD, depression and other mental health issues as genetic. Because these diagnosis are increasing, but our genes are not changing, tells us that it can't be genetic.
  • Our attention has to be selective. We must ignore other things to pay attention to something.
  • If stress is too much, tuning out becomes a coping strategy. 
  • Adaptations that a child resort to in order to survive stress and trauma will cause long-term problems as they grow and develop. Necessary short-term solutions cause long-term problems. A child who tunes out to save themselves from stress, trauma and danger has a hard time turning back in when in a safe environment.
  • Addicts' brains lack the dopamine and chemistry that they can get from substance abuse. What happened in their life that affected their brain chemistry?
  • The prevention of ADHD, depression, OCD and others should happen at the first pre-natal visit. The stress of pregnant mothers are already affecting their baby's brains.
  • We need a preventative healthcare system that understands that we need to raise children's brains that don't need drugs from birth.
  • Emotionally and physically available parents who are not stressed that spend quality time with children are the best way to prevent addiction.
  • The hunter/gather tribe is one of the best environments to raise children because they have more than one set of adults to raise them. It takes a village to raise a child.
  • Parents can be stupid, so children need more than one set of adults to turn to.
  • Allowing young children to cry it out we are building their brains to not trust and defensive. Crying children learn that you don't care. They learn that the world doesn't care.
  • Infants cry because they have no other way to connect with people other than to be hold. Attachment is literal and requires physical touch.
  • When we use our love or absence of love as reward and punishment we teach children that they must please people at any cost to be loved.
  • If you have a 2 year old that isn't frustrated or mad at you, you're not parenting them.
  • When we convince children that angry little girls don't get love, they will learn to depress their feelings -- and then we diagnose them with depression. 
  • We need to move from punitive to supportive.
  • The greatest loss in life is not that there is no love or support -- the greatest loss is that we lose our sense of self. The good news is that reconnection with our true self is always possible. And the best way to help people find themselves is to provide them with unconditional acceptance and connection.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this list Joe. I strongly believe in attachment parenting. my 7 & 12 year old children are loving, caring kids and I believe this is because they have felt safe and loved since birth. I was a bit surprised to read that stress is learned and passed on, but after consideration I think that the way we deal with stress is definitely passed on to our kids.


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