The Myth Of Normal

by Gabor Maté with Daniel Maté

Publishers Weekly Physician Maté (In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts) delivers a sweeping analysis of the relationship between illness, trauma, and capitalism. “Our social and economic culture generates chronic stressors that undermine well-being,” contends Maté, suggesting that medical treatment should better attend to the mind-body connection and the impact of one’s environment on one’s health. Though Maté tells of surviving hunger and disease as an infant in Hungary during WWII, he mostly focuses on the traumas of day-to-day life, including how pregnant mothers’ stress about employment or healthcare may lead to behavioral problems in their children, and how the effects of racism and poverty lead to lower life expectancies. The author details the role that emotions might play in somatic illness, citing studies that found, among patients admitted for biopsy, those with suppressed anger were more likely to have malignant tumors. Maté brings compassion to his examination of societal failures and elucidates how addiction is often an attempt to quell the pain of having been abused. Maté marshals an impressive amount of research to outline an original and persuasive vision of health focused on environmental influences and the interplay between the mind and body, though the extensive studies mentioned sometimes verge on redundancy. Nevertheless, this bold reappraisal has the power to change how readers think about health. (Sept.)

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