Column: Awareness First


I cracked a filling. At first, I thought it was a chunk of actual tooth and my childhood nightmare of teeth crumbling out of my mouth was coming true.

Maybe the dental hygienist was right, four years ago, when she suggested I might be a clencher. The jaw is incredibly powerful, she told me, as she scaled and chatted and intimated, in her kind and clinical way, that I might have stress-management issues.

The jaw is capable of exerting up to 200 pounds of pressure on the molars. That’s a lot of pressure, she warned, and it can lead to serious trouble – headaches that don’t go away, teeth cracking, broken fillings.

“Just bring your awareness to it,” she told me, “now that we’ve talked about it. See if you notice anything.”

Don’t panic. Keep breathing. Make no sudden moves. But bring your awareness to bear.

I’m workshopping this as a new life mantra – cracked filling, notwithstanding. When an expert uses that kind of language, instead of the high-pressure, act now shock tactics that are being deployed everywhere else one looks, I give that message more consideration, probably because the constant manipulation of my internal panic buttons by media and advertisers and government has numbed me out.


Dr Gabor Maté, co-author of Hold On To Your Kids, spoke about this in his presentation in Whistler last week.

Judging from the sold out crowd, and the number of people talking about “attachment” this week, Maté’s message resonated deeply. But instead of freaking people out, he says the first step is: awareness.

“Rather than offer a host of solutions,” says Tanya Richman, a child and youth therapist, in her blog post about the talk, “Dr Maté said that we need to begin to be aware that this is a problem. There is no point in seeking solutions without an acknowledgement that this is a problem.”


It makes me think of the way First Nations women across Canada have evolved the #AmINext campaign, a call to the Harper Government to a order Royal Commission into missing and murdered aboriginal women. Lil’wat Chief Lucinda Phillips invited Lil’wat women to join the movement, and post selfies on social media saying #I’mNotNext.

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Whether posting your picture on Facebook solves the problem of violence against First Nations women, or successfully pressures the government, or not, each one of those faces tumbling through my social feed, is a proud and powerful reminder, as Maté said, that we need to begin to be aware that this is a problem.

It’s only then that we can turn things around.