I was listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast for the last couple of days where Tim interviews Dr. Gabor Mate. It was fascinating.
He was a family doctor, then a palliative doctor, and now does work with addictions.
When he was a month old, the Nazis invaded Dr. Gabor’s homeland of Hungary. The obvious stress that his mother was under affected him in ways that he didn’t realize until his 40’s. (Hopefully I’m telling his story correctly).
He discussed the origins of things like ADHD and addictions in a way that was new to me. He doesn’t think the cause is genetics as much as traumas.
He also talks about the sensitive child. This child feels things at a greater level than ordinary children. Not because there is something wrong with the child (I always thought there was something wrong with me because I was SO sensitive, empathic, and upset when others were upset), but just because that’s how they are.
He talked about how attaching and authenticity are vital to a young child. If there is no adult (preferably) a mother, for the child to attach to, and be loved by, it can cause a trauma. The child will not know how to love or be loved. (Again I am paraphrasing and don’t know if I’m doing a good job of it).
And, if a child is told not to be a certain way (angry, sad, upset, loud, etc.) and the adult withholds their love as a result of the child being that way, the child learns to not be “authentic” in their emotions. They learn to be however they need to be so they don’t lose their parent’s love. They learn not to trust their own instincts in favor of the learned or “lovable” way.
When a substance or person can have them feel loved as they are, this can feel like a drug-like sensation. They can become addicted to the feeling because it’s the only way they feel complete or whole, even if this person or substance is not good for them. They need it to feel ok. Without it, they revert back to not really living.
I don’t know if this is making sense, but if caused me a great deal of relief. When I was told not to be upset as a child, I learned to be “good” or “fine.” I didn’t tell anyone if I was upset because I shouldn’t have been. I didn’t tell anyone if I was hurt because I shouldn’t have been – I was just too sensitive and needed to get over it.
I didn’t think anyone could love me if I was my real self. It was wrong to be upset or hurt and I was ashamed if I was. I would hide until the upset passed and I was happy again.
Dr. Mate explained what happened in a way I could understand from an attaching/authentic explanation. It wasn’t a Nazi warcamp trauma like his, but it was a major incident for me.
In the last few months I have embraced my sensitivity, knowing that a plus of that is my ability to love deeply and have compassion and empathy. I can now see that as a gift instead of a curse. I have also started speaking up when I am upset, hurt or confused by another’s actions. Surprisingly, it has resulted in an amazing amount of freedom and joy – I attribute that to saying what can’t be said once again.
Dr. Mate’s 90 plus minute podcast helped me to understand why I held onto some of the wrong men, or did some of the things I did. I couldn’t understand it before. Now it makes sense to me.
I thank Tim Ferriss and Dr. Gabor for this fascinating discussion. The podcast is the 298th episode of the Tim Ferriss show in case you would like to listen to it. It talks about psychodelic treatments as well as Dr. Gabor’s story about how he ended up treating and studying addictions. Tim is led through an exercise – Dr. Mate deconstructs an episode when Tim got angry in a way that you learn what causes anger. Again, it was eye opening.
I don’t know if I am doing justice to this podcast, but I wanted to share about it in case it would be interesting and educational for someone else.