In this short video, aptly timed given it’s Bell’s Let’s Talk Mental Health week, Dr. Gabor Maté explains how mental distress and pathology exists in a continuum and are largely a result of a materialist culture that rigidly “idealize individuality and ignores emotional needs,” prioritizing objects over people and well being.
In other words, we’ve got it all wrong, friends.
We need to turn the ship around.
“One of the talks that I give is entitled The Myth of Normal, which is to say that we think there are people that are “normal” over here and then there are the pathological ones that have depression or anxiety or addiction or schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADD or any other number of conditions.
What I see is a continuum. We are all on a continuum. These traits, to one degree or another, are present in almost everybody. And it’s a mythology to think that there’s the normal and then there’s the abnormal.
According to the research, the best place to be a schizophrenic, in the world, is not North America, with all its pharmacopeia. It’s actually a village in Africa or India, where there’s acceptance, where people make room for your differentness, where connection is not broken but is maintained, where you’re not excluded and ostracized but where you’re welcomed. And where there’s room for you to act out whatever you need to act out, or express what you need to express, and where the whole community might even sing with you or chant with you or hold ceremony with you and maybe find some meaning in your quote-unquote craziness. It’s contextual and its cultural. Disease is not an isolated phenomena of an individual, it’s a culturally constructed paradigm.
A society that cuts us off from our spirituality, that cuts us off from society by idealizing an individualism and by destroying social contexts, which our society does, which ignores our emotional needs is going to be a society that generates pathology.
I think that has to do with the very nature of the economic system, that says that what matters is not who you are but how you are valued by others. And our society values people for material… It’s materialist society which specifically means that we value people not for who they are but for what they produce or what they consume. And the people that neither consume nor produce, they’re ostracized, shunted aside and they’re devalued. Hence the rejection of old people – they no longer produce and they’re not rich enough to consume either. So the very nature of this materialistic society dictates, or generates, and promotes that separation from ourselves.
There is an intelligence. and I’m not speaking of an operative creature up there, out there somewhere doing things and deciding things. But there is an intelligence in nature and creation that if we ignore creates suffering for ourselves and other people. And aligning with that intelligence, aligning with that connection, whether we do so consciously, or because we’re called to do that in ways that manifest connection and compassion and love, that’s the way we’re meant to be, so the recognizing of that and striving for that is what I call spirituality. The paths are many. Some find it through religion. Some find religion is an obstacle to that, in fact often it is, but it may be a conduit to it as well, depending on who and what and where. It’s what people are seeking. Many other paths that are not religious, but fundamentally there is this spiritual part or nature, that if we ignore, we’re actually ignoring an essential part of ourselves.”
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