Gabor Mate on How We Become Who We Are | Conversations with Tom

Last updated: Jun 1, 2023

The video is a conversation between Tom and Gabor Mate about how our early experiences shape our development and create our view of the world, which in turn governs how we feel about everything.

The video is a conversation between Tom and Gabor Mate, a best-selling author and thinker, about how we become who we are. Mate's work focuses on childhood trauma and addiction, and he believes that our thoughts and beliefs create the world we live in. He explains that our early experiences shape our view of the world and ourselves, which then governs how we are in the world and how we feel about everything. Mate also discusses how the brain's capacity to perceive and process stress gets impaired when exposed to intense or negative emotions, which can have long-lasting effects on a person's perception of the world and safety.

  • The video is a conversation between Tom and Gabor Mate about how our early experiences shape our development and create our view of the world.
  • Gabor Mate is a best-selling author and has a unique understanding of how we're put together.
  • They discuss childhood trauma and addiction.
  • Our thoughts create the reality we see.
  • The shaping window of development begins in the uterus.
  • Early experiences shape our development and create our view of the world.
  • Stress is affected by what happens in the womb.
  • Empathetic support can make a significant difference in how trauma affects individuals.
  • Children who experience trauma may make unconscious assumptions about themselves or the world.

Gabor Mate on How We Become Who We Are | Conversations with Tom - YouTube

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Introduction

  • The video is a conversation between Tom and Gabor Mate about how our early experiences shape our development and create our view of the world.
  • Gabor Mate is a best-selling author and has a unique understanding of how we're put together.
  • They discuss childhood trauma and addiction.
  • They start with a song by Johnny Cash called "Jacob's Ladder."
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Creating Our Own Reality

  • Our thoughts create the reality we see.
  • Our beliefs and thoughts shape the world we live in.
  • Our early experiences create a view of the world that governs how we feel about everything.
  • People forget their early experiences and mistake their view of the world for the world itself.
  • Johnny Cash's song "Jacob's Ladder" is about how it all goes down in your mind.
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The Shaping Window of Development

  • The shaping window of development begins in the uterus.
  • The mother's emotional states significantly influence the child's brain development.
  • Native societies understood that intense emotions or negative emotions could transfer to the child in the womb.
  • Studies show that post-traumatic stress disorder in pregnant women can lead to abnormal stress hormone levels in their offspring.
  • The brain's capacity to perceive and process stress gets impaired, leading to a distorted perception of the world and safety.
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Gabor Mate on How We Become Who We Are | Conversations with Tom - YouTube

The Importance of Early Experiences

  • Early experiences shape our development and create our view of the world.
  • Our view of the world governs how we feel about everything.
  • People often forget their early experiences and mistake their view of the world for the world itself.
  • Understanding our early experiences can help us understand why we feel the way we do and how we can change.
  • Childhood trauma can lead to addiction and other mental health issues.
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Defining Stress

  • Stress is affected by what happens in the womb.
  • There is a difference between stress as a challenge and stress as a threat.
  • The biggest triggers for stress are loss of control, uncertainty, lack of information, and conflict.
  • People are often stressed beyond their capacity to deal with it.
  • Capacity to deal with stress is programmed by early experiences.
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Imprinting and Reversibility

  • Early experiences are imprinted biologically in various ways.
  • Imprinting affects genes, chromosomes, stressor apparatus, cells, and inflammation in the body.
  • The earlier and more frequent the imprinting, the greater the effects.
  • Imprinting is reversible, but the more happened earlier, the more difficult the work becomes.
  • Healing and rewiring oneself is ongoing work that requires consciousness and awareness.
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Personal Experience

  • Gabor Mate's epitaph is "It was a lot more work than I had anticipated."
  • Healing and regulation require ongoing self-care, such as yoga, exercise, and avoiding taking on too much.
  • Severe early traumas can lead to addiction in adulthood.
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Undoing Damage

  • Is there a window of hyper malleability where infants can be reprogrammed?
  • Damage done early in life is difficult to undo, but not impossible.
  • Healing and rewiring oneself requires consciousness and awareness.
  • It is ongoing work that requires self-care and avoiding taking on too much.
  • Undoing damage is possible, but it takes a lot of work.
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Factors that Influence How Trauma Manifests

  • Trauma can manifest in multiple ways, including addiction, mental illnesses, and physical illnesses.
  • Empathetic and supportive people in one's life can make a difference in how trauma affects them.
  • Social class can also play a role, as those who can afford therapy have an advantage.
  • People under economic pressure or facing political conflict may struggle to consider transformation.
  • Highly sensitive individuals may be at a disadvantage, but their sensitivity can also lead to insight and creativity.
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The Importance of Empathetic Support

  • Empathetic support can make a significant difference in how trauma affects individuals.
  • People who have experienced addiction often credit someone who talked to them like a human being and accepted them without judgment as a turning point.
  • Empathetic support can help individuals stop judging themselves and develop self-awareness.
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The Impact of Trauma on Children

  • Children who experience trauma may assume that there is something wrong with the world or with them.
  • Assuming that there is something wrong with them is often safer for the child than assuming that there is something wrong with the world.
  • Living in a world where parents are dysfunctional and perhaps hateful towards the child is dangerous, so the child must make the opposite assumption to endure it.
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The Unconscious Assumptions of Trauma

  • Children who experience trauma may make unconscious assumptions about themselves or the world.
  • Assuming that there is something wrong with them is often safer for the child than assuming that there is something wrong with the world.
  • Empathetic support can help individuals challenge these assumptions and develop self-awareness.
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Our Nature Requires Nurture

  • Our nature requires nurture, so it's not a question of nature versus nurture.
  • Our minds are co-created, and we use our sense of self and what's reflected back to us to figure out who we are.
  • Something negative reflected back will shape our sense of self negatively, and something positive reflected back will shape our sense of self positively.
  • It's risky to become totally self-sufficient and withdraw from needing reflection back from others.
  • Loving relationships are important, and we need to be connected to humanity.
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Walling Off in Two Ways

  • Walling off can be done in two ways.
  • The Buddha went through rigorous self-denying practices, but the truth didn't come to him until he sat under a tree by himself and meditated.
  • After his enlightenment experience, he decided to go back and teach other people because he wanted to be connected to humanity.
  • Life is suffering, but the real teaching is that life doesn't need to be suffering.
  • Reality is much greater, deeper, and more sacred than our minds will ever tell us.
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Life is More Profound Than Your Mind

  • Life is more profound than our minds.
  • Elements that make life profound include beauty, love, and more.
  • It's important to disidentify from our minds to understand the depth of reality.
  • Our minds limit our understanding of reality, and we need to go beyond them to truly understand life.
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Enlightenment Experience

  • The Buddha's enlightenment experience is difficult to articulate.
  • Life is suffering, but it doesn't need to be.
  • Disidentifying from our minds allows us to understand the depth of reality.
  • Reality is much greater, deeper, and more sacred than our minds will ever tell us.
  • Beauty, love, and other elements make life profound.
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The Nature of Spiritual Teachings

  • Spiritual teachings go beyond the mind's comprehension.
  • There is an essence and truth that we must have access to through pure experience.
  • Great poets like Rumi and Hafiz write about this pure experience.
  • However, not everyone has had this pure experience.
  • Essence manifests in different ways, such as love, courage, clarity, compassion, justice, strength, and will.
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The Experience of Love

  • Gabor Mate had an experience with ayahuasca where he felt a rush of pure love.
  • Real spiritual teachers would say that this experience was not just a feeling, but a state of being.
  • Love is just one manifestation of this state of being.
  • Feelings are activities of our nervous systems, but this state of being is deeper than the nervous system.
  • There is more to this experience than just mental or emotional resonance.
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The Pain of Isolation

  • Isolation can be a way of committing oneself to enlightenment or a defensive mechanism.
  • Isolation can protect one from certain kinds of hurt, but it is also a state of pain.
  • Isolation can come from different sources and have different effects.
  • Expectations for the world are innate in every creature, just like lungs are an expectation for oxygen.
  • Our expectations for the world shape our development and view of the world.
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Nature vs. Nurture

  • Our expectations for the world are innate, but they are also shaped by our experiences.
  • Early experiences can have a profound impact on our development and view of the world.
  • Our experiences can create patterns of behavior and thought that persist into adulthood.
  • These patterns can be both positive and negative.
  • Understanding the impact of our experiences can help us heal and grow.
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Our Natural Expectations

  • Our nervous systems have natural expectations for love, nurturing, being held, valued, and enjoyed.
  • Infants are born with these expectations.
  • Whether we develop well or not depends on how fully these expectations are met.
  • Survival and fully being alive are not the same thing.
  • Human beings are good at adapting to a range of environments, but that doesn't mean we thrive in all of them.
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Distorted Development

  • Our built-in natural expectations can become distorted if they are not met by the rearing environment in early years.
  • Disease, physical and mental afflictions, and addictions can arise from adapting to unnatural circumstances where our natural built-in expectations were thwarted.
  • Our culture is surviving but not thriving because our expectations are not being met.
  • Artificial expectations like wealth or respect are not the same as natural expectations.
  • Less met expectations lead to more distorted development.
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The Physics of Being Human

  • Our brains have needs and compulsions, like the need for love, validation, and enjoyment.
  • Our brains come expecting these things, like lungs come expecting air.
  • Children are narcissistic because their brains are all about them in their development.
  • Parents' happiness does not necessarily mean a child is good, but it can establish confidence and a sense of worth.
  • Our society is broken, and there is something uniquely disruptive about the era we're living through.
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The Myth of Normal

  • Gabor Mate's upcoming book is called "The Myth of Normal."
  • Our society is broken, and there is something uniquely disruptive about the era we're living through.
  • There are pathological paths through society, but there are also beautiful and profound paths.
  • Our culture is not meeting our natural expectations, leading to distorted development.
  • Our society is not normal, and we need to recognize that to make positive changes.
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How modern society dysregulates us

  • Modern society dysregulates us by breaking the way we have structured society.
  • This dysregulation affects the immune system and other aspects of our lives.
  • Parents are unable to give children the conditions of unconditional positive regard.
  • Children are under stress due to economic stress, relationship issues, unresolved childhood trauma, isolation, depression, or anxiety in their parents' lives.
  • Infants and young children pick up on their parents' stress and make it about themselves.
  • Children tune out as a way of escaping from the unbearable stress that their parents are under.
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The negative voice in our heads

  • The negative voice in our heads is not a given, but it happens in this society.
  • There are societies where this negative voice would not be present or at least not ever present.
  • The negative voice has been there since the beginning of civilization, but not necessarily in our aboriginal state that's hunter-gatherer.
  • Children are not valued and enjoyed for just who they are, and they have to live up to expectations to meet the approval and welcoming of their parents.
  • Parents install a little voice in their heads that'll keep them in line, which is a natural adaptation to an unnatural situation in this society.
  • The negative voice is a product of life experience.
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Scattered minds and coping mechanisms

  • Scattered minds have to do with ADHD and the dispersal of attention.
  • The tuning out of scattered minds is a coping mechanism.
  • Infants are under stress because their parents are stressed, and this stress gets programmed into their brain as an adaptation.
  • Parents who are under economic stress, relationship issues, unresolved childhood trauma, isolation, depression, or anxiety in their lives affect their children.
  • Children make it about themselves, and some of them will tune out to deal with that.
  • The tuning out becomes programmed into their brain because that's when the brain develops under the impact of the environment.
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Unconditional positive regard

  • Unconditional positive regard is a regard that has no conditions of worth attached to it.
  • It is very difficult for parents to deliver even with the best of good will.
  • Parents never had it themselves, and there's so much stress.
  • Children need unconditional positive regard to develop properly.
  • Parents need to accept their children just for who they are the way they are.
  • Children need to be valued and enjoyed for just who they are.
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Early Adaptations and Their Impact

  • Early adaptations have a function but become a source of disorder when wired in.
  • These adaptations are only meant to be temporary.
  • Illness in society is often caused by these adaptations becoming wired in.
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The Importance of the First Three Years

  • The first three years are the most important developmental period.
  • Having everything for the first three years can create inner resilience.
  • A total dysregulation in the first three years is hard to overcome.
  • Just giving kids three good years can save society from disease, dysfunction, crime, addiction, and political conflict.
  • The Child Honoring Project promotes honoring children and supporting parents.
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