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Dr. Gabor Maté on the the Stress-Disease Connection

Discussion in 'Mindbody Video Library' started by BruceMC, Dec 26, 2012.

  1. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    I thought this series of interviews with Dr. Gabor Maté on the the stress-disease connection applied directly to TMS theory:

    http://www.democracynow.org/2012/12/25/dr_gabor_mat_on_the_stress

    He articulates the critical role of early childhood development and child abuse on the subsequent development of addiction as well as other diseases in adults that relate to the autoimmune system. Heady stuff that seems to correlate directly with what Dr Sarno suggests.
     
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  2. Jilly

    Jilly Well known member

    This is a really good video, how did you find out about Dr. Mate' ?
     
  3. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Heady stuff! Someone in the ed department at UC Berkeley, I think, posted it on SuperTopo, the on-line climbers' blog this morning where I stumbled across it and noticed the rather obvious parallels between Dr. Mate's argument and the mind-body connection. You'll notice how he links early childhood trauma and the development of physical diseases and syndromes later on in life. His analysis of the relationship between Lois Gehrig's perfectionism and his developing ALS later on (yes Gehrig had an alcoholic father) shows how a gene predisposing you for a condition can lie dormant until you put enough pressure on yourself to make it manifest. I think that lies in the field of epigenetics. Interesting how Dr. Mate blames his own attention deficit disorder (ADD) on growing up in Hungary when the Nazis occupied the country in March 1944. That starts to touch on the field of psycho-history. Obviously, Dr Mate has an amazing mind! It might be an idea to look at some of his published titles too, something I haven't done yet.
     
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  4. Dr James Alexander

    Dr James Alexander TMS author and psychologist

    I havent seen the video as yet, but many years ago read an excellent book by Mate titled, 'When the body says no'. I find it entirely compatible with Sarno's approach. In this book he explores the relationship between emotional repression and autoimmunue conditions in particular, as opposed to chronic pain. It is well worth the read, and should be part of the eduction for people who really want to get their heads around psychophysiological disorders.
     
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  5. Jilly

    Jilly Well known member

    Here is another 15 minute video I found from Dr Gabor Mate... I agree with Dr. Alexander that Dr. Mate is very complimentary to Dr. Sarno's work. Great find MorComm, and thanks for sharing it ... I will check into his books and videos.
    Gabor Mate on the hidden cost of stress on peoples' health.


     
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  6. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    In When the Body Says No, Dr Mate
    I believe Dr Sarno, on several occasions, also notes how such autoimmune disorders as rheumatoid arthritis are at least intensified by psychological factors like stress and repressed emotionality. I think that's called "psychological overlay". Sarno cites the example of Norman Cousins who seems to have cured his rheumatoid arthritis with a cheerful attitude, telling jokes and copious doses of Vitamin C (placebo effect?). I do know that my next door neighbor, in his mid-fifties, developed ALS and succumbed to it not long after his mother died. This was likewise at approximately the same time he retired, which no doubt placed him under additional financial pressure. My neighbor's wife also mentioned to me in passing how her husband had "changed emotionally" shortly after his mother's death. In my own case, my lower back pain and sciatica came on six months after my mother died and also exactly when I inherited her house where my parents had had a long standing conflicted relationship that ultimately drove me out of the family nest. We all notice these obvious connections between our emotional lives and physical conditions, but it's very difficult to test these connections scientifically by setting up double blind experiments in a laboratory environment.

    After listening to Dr Mate's analysis, it's easy to see just how ludicrous it is to dose ghetto kids with psychotropic drugs to "cure" attention deficit disorders when the real problem begins in their dysfunctional often violent families and sordid environments. But as Mate notes also, curing these problems in the classroom and on the street would require a complete reversal of public policy that would require huge expenditures of capital. Yet the ultimate costs of ignoring the problem and wall papering it over by administering drugs to young students has equally huge long term costs for society too. Of course, the same thing could be said about our outmoded approaches to chronic pain. This is the thin line where a social psychologist morphs into a social revolutionary, isn't it?
     
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  7. Jilly

    Jilly Well known member

    That did not occur to me, your'e right. It sounds like such a radical idea to those who don't understand it as Dr. Sarno understood. It wasn't that long ago we thought the world was flat. Those who offer an opposing opinion are usually ostracized. In this case the social and economic complications would be monumental to say the least.
     
  8. Dr James Alexander

    Dr James Alexander TMS author and psychologist

    Concerning the ideas of Gabor Mate, here is a section from my book, 'The Hidden Psychology of Pain' (p144).

    In his illuminating book, When the Body Says No, Gabor Maté urges
    people to consider “the power of negative thinking.” Rather than advocating
    that pain sufferers wallow in their misery, Maté is arguing for the healing
    potential of delving into the negative aspects of our lives. Although it has
    become something of a cultural anathema, having the courage to explore
    such negativity as hurt feelings, unhealthy relationships and damaging
    experiences is one of the keys to improving health. Whether we want
    to acknowledge the reality of the negative or not, it remains a reality in
    everyone’s lives. As suggested in this book, if we choose to deny and suppress
    strong negative emotions, there is little chance of them actually going away.
    They tend to just go underground, deep into our unconscious, where they
    will manifest in one way or another. These repressed feelings may seep out in
    inappropriate responses which are out of proportion to a particular situation.
    Or they may manifest in extremely disturbing or violent dreams. They may
    also find expression in various health problems. And if the unconscious
    mind/brain is fearful of them bursting into our conscious awareness, they
    may trigger chronic pain.
    The other option to denial and repression is to allow for the reality
    of negative feelings, experiences, thoughts and perceptions. As stated in
    Chapter 6, studies in neuroscience confirm that allowing space for negativity
    is associated with decreased neural traffic between the pre-frontal cortex
    and the nucleus accumbens, and with less chronic pain. Richard Davidson
    suggests that if we are wanting to create space for a more negative outlook,
    a deliberate focus on negative aspects of life and possibilities is likely to
    result in less activity in the pre-frontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens,
    and weaken the connections between them. Research conducted by Baliki
    and colleagues demonstrates that less neural traffic between these two brain
    areas is associated with less chronic pain.
    Is the suggestion here that we should be deliberately cultivating
    negativity in order to lessen the risk of chronic pain? No. The suggestion
    is that we would be well served by consciously acknowledging the negative
    aspects of our reality (not generating them), rather than attempting to force
    a cultivated positivity. Activities which deliberately cultivate positivity, such
    as writing down your positive traits, regularly expressing gratitude and
    complimenting others, are likely to improve your mood via strengthening
    the neural connections between your pre-frontal cortex and nucleus
    accumbens. And these neural changes are also more likely to make you
    vulnerable to chronic pain (as seen in the TMS-emotional pain see-saw
    diagram in Chapter 6).
    Rather than leaping into defense mechanisms as default positions, we
    are able to explore the negative aspects of our experience further. Creating
    space for the negative raises certain constructive possibilities. We may be
    able to address unsatisfactory relationships; we may be able to confront our
    fears and anxieties; we may be able to look at and heal trauma from our past;
    we may be able to work out how to manage bad situations; we may be able
    to seek and gain emotional support in facing our challenges. All of these
    actions are the opposite to suppressing emotional distress, and relying on
    defense mechanisms such as denial to help us avoid having to do the needed
    psychological work. The very act of acknowledging the negative can be
    healing in itself, even if we choose to do nothing about them. Maté suggests
    that this focus on the negative is powerful, and the many clients who I have
    seen recover from pain when they overcome their denial would support this
    contention. The very act of allowing the negative, of no longer attempting to
    force positivity in the face of bad circumstances or a traumatic past, is likely
    to create the brain changes which Baliki and colleagues have demonstrated
    are related to a decreased risk of chronic pain.
    Where this process of exploring the negative is simply too painful, a
    level of trauma may be evident. The less extreme end of the trauma spectrum
    may be successfully treated with self-help strategies as detailed later in this
    book. However, more severe traumas may very well require professional
    assistance.
    (see my webpage: www.drjamesalexander-psychologist.com for more discussion)
     
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  9. Jilly

    Jilly Well known member

    Loved what you wrote above ... very meaty. I especially like the part about creating space.This entire subject and material is fascinating and I feel very fortunate to find periods of relief from my TMS. I am still very new to the TMS forum but I am so happy to experience periods of pain free existence. I am learning my own personal rhythms and tricks of the subconscious. You said...The very act of acknowledging the negative can be healing in itself, even if we choose to do nothing about them. I especially liked the part about creating space for negative emotions and the impact on the brain actually creating less pain !
     
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  10. Dr James Alexander

    Dr James Alexander TMS author and psychologist

    thanks Jilly. It does seem to me that 'happy-ism' is a key culprit in all this, ie,. the cultural agenda to remain constantly happy and positive. I like being positive and optimistic as much as the next person, but there is a difference between deliberately trying to cultivate this, and just enjoying it when its there. I've never been to America, but due to TV and movies, i feel like America has been 'here' my entire life- as such, i have some thoughts on American culture which may or may not be helpful or valid. I think the right to happiness is part of your constitution- is that correct? Whether it is or not, it does seem to be a cultural expectation that everyone 'should' feel happy. The same operates in Australia to a certain extent. We are the descendents of pioneers and seekers of opportunity and freedom. Our ancestors crossed the planet in leaky boats to arrive somewhere else, where they hoped to have more opportunities and ultimately, more happiness. No wonder it has become almost a cultural obligation to be happy! We are 'letting the team down' if we arent constantly happy. Part of it is also the reassurance that a migrant culture needed to keep providing itself with after having turned their lives upside down- "we did the right thing! (didnt we?)". I spent a year living in my ancestral home-land, Scotland. There, i found that people were quite OK about being miserable when that was upon them- there was cultural room made for it. If it was bleak weather, cold/wet/windy for months on end, they were ok about being sad sacks about it. I think that in Australia (and in America?) in the same circumstances, we would be more likely to to try jolly ourselves out of that state- we find it insufferable, whereas in Scotland, i think they just saw it as a part of life which would come and go (often with the seasons). I know that the chronic pain rate in Europe is around 1 in 6 people; in America it is around 1/3 people (in Australia, it is around 1/5 people)- dont know what it is in Scotland, but i suspect the same as the European average. I suspect that Brits and Europeans feel no compulsion to be positive and happy. Whereas, in America, i suspect people do feel this compulsion. In Australia, because the first white settlement was primarily of convicts, i think we are more ok with being a bit pissed off with life and things in general- there has always been cultural room for this; we have always had permission as a culture to carry a grudge (eg. against authority) and to feel a bit ripped off. How much do these historical cultural factors play a role? I wouldnt want to overstate it, but i suspect that they still have some relevance. Just like individuals and families have their own 'story', so do countries. And i think these cultural stories are important.
    The significance of happy-ism was brought home to me recently with a client and his young American wife. They met over the next around 4-5 years ago; she came out here and found that he has no job, and spent most of his time playing computer games. She encouraged him to leave his computer and get a life, which he did; they marrried; relocated to Sydney where he got a lousy job which didnt work out; in desperation he accepted a job 4,000km away in Western Australia; they relocated, only to find it was also a lousy no-where job which lasted only a few weeks; they returned to the east coast of Oz and put all their belongings in storage in Brisbance; Qld was hit by monster floods and all of her belongings (including all of childhood momentos from her home) were lost. I've been working with him for non TMS reasons, but i wanted to meet her as i was really concerned about what this terrible journey had been like for her. She hasnt been back to America or seen her family throughout all this, and is not even eligible to work until next year, when she can start earning and then saving money for a visit back home. When we did meet, she maintained a very smiley face and made light of all that she'd been through; and repeated the copers favourite line, 'what doesnt kill you makes you stronger'. I dont wish to denigrate coping- it is essential. Had this young woman given in to her distress, she may have completely collapsed- and found herself on the other side of the planet in a complete mess. But it occurred to me that she was perhaps a classic example of (what i suspect may be) an American cultural tendency towards happy-ism. It works to a certain extent, but it comes at a cost (which is cutting off significant aspects of who we are and how we feel). I wonder if she may be a prime candidate for TMS at some time in her life? In my book, i discuss findings from different research teams which have both stumbled upon the same neural activity- one, looking at the brain behaviour relating to maintaining a positive mood and outlook (associated with happy-ism); and the other group, finding that the same brain behaviour is involved in chronic pain. People might want to dispute the TMS model, but its a bit harder to argue with the neuroscience which is providing a lot of support.
     
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  11. Jilly

    Jilly Well known member

    I think I can see where the urge to repress feelings to maintain the "happi-ism" does exist. I feel it's is core to many TMS suffers, we can be so out of touch with what we really feel putting on that happy face, all is good, we can handle it all. It is a very American phenomena as you mentioned and I see people maintaining the "status quo" to avoid conflict and keep the happy face on. Another very American way to avoid feeling is to consume, foods, drinks, drugs, shopping, sex...etc. The US economy is designed to benefit the married couple so it makes sense to hold it all together no matter what...although those trends are changing. There are many single women having children raising a whole generation of TMS prone youths. It falls in line with - don't think, don't feel, don't talk about it, be strong = repress...we want to look like we have it all together, don't let the team down.

    I see TMS in my 18 year old daughter with knee pain and jaw pain due to old injuries. We are in the process of moving to another state and she is graduating early from high school to start a radiography program. She is upset about leaving her friends and boyfriend and she expressed this to me. I told her its ok to cry, its ok to be sad, its ok to feel. I stayed with her through her and just listened and comforted. I had no solutions and offered no solutions, but I rode the waves of sadness with her. It is, what it is. I told her life happens through her, not to her and she understood completely. She is not good at wearing the mask of happiness when things are not happy. My husband once said to me, "You're so easy to read, I can tell when you're not happy. You're not good at hiding your true feelings." I asked him, "Why would I want to hide my true feelings?" .... he had no response.
     
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  12. Dr James Alexander

    Dr James Alexander TMS author and psychologist

    good for you Jilly. You helped your duaghter in the best way possible. I suspect the tendency to repress is more a male characteristic than female, so women can be great educators in the skills for life for their kids (and husbands!)
     
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  13. Jilly

    Jilly Well known member

    Dr. Alexander, sometime, it would be great if you could come to the live Wiki Chat on Saturday 3-4 p.m. EST. Not sure how that works into the time zone for Oz.
     
  14. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    I have noticed Jilly and Dr Alexander that the collapse of the Dot Com bubble and the subsequent Great Recession have challenged many Americans, particularly in the high tech Bay Area, where people feel they always need to be "making it" and consuming more and more. Hard for them to reconcile losing their job and their house with the dominant optimistic myth of perpetual progress, especially after consuming all their equity trying to continue their consumerist habits. The result? The Bay Area is filled with many very angry people who can't reconcile their current economic woes with the way it's supposed to be according to the dominant American myth of endless progress and opportunity. After ten years of hard times, though, many are becoming more realistic, in particular the young (who have the highest unemployment rates) about what they can achieve in the present set of economic circumstances. But you do notice that they're a lot less POed than the middle aged population. Consciousness and Capital? You betcha!
     
  15. Dr James Alexander

    Dr James Alexander TMS author and psychologist

    MorComm- do you think this is a contributing factor to 1/3 Americans suffering from a form of chronic pain? I suspect it could be, but am just theorising from the other side of the world.
    Jilly- i'm new to this forum, and didnt know about the live Wiki chat. I think 3-4.00pm your time on a Sat makes it reasonably early morning here on a Sunday. That could be ok with me (my partying days are well and truly over!). However, i can be unreliable on a Sat or Sun morning as if there is swell happening, i tend to leave pretty early to catch a wave. But i will certainly keep it in mind. Sounds good. James.
     
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  16. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yes, Dr Alexander. Definitely. When I got a so-called "herniated disk" in 2002 a few months after my mother died, it also came on at the same time that I lost a lucrative technical writing contract due to the fact that my employers had been funding their business on the rolling wave of telecommunications and data communications stocks on the NASDAQ. Suddenly they wanted me to come in house and work for them, for way less. The company was also downsizing and renting out the additional space to another tenant. A-ha! Well, I opted for a conservative course of physical therapy at a place near my house. Every single patient there with back problems or CTS or what we would call "chronic pain" had also suffered severely reduced incomes following the collapse of the Dot Com bubble. I never thought about that until you mentioned it, but they all seemed to be unable to reconcile their current economic woes with the dominant American myth of continuous improvement and progress they had been raised on for years and years during the booming 80s and 90s. In addition to economic problems, every single one of them had suffered some traumatic event in their lives involving a death in the family or divorce. Now that I reflect on it, those traumatic events must have served as psychological triggers initiating their TMS episodes, which occurred against a pervasive social backdrop of reduced economic activity. So economic stress and personal trauma both work together collectively to create an ideal breeding ground in America for the emergence of TMS in the general population? Sounds like it. The myth of continuous progress dies hard when the cash flow goes down.

    Another personal experience I had around 2000 when I was in the Professional Services Division of Fujitsu Ltd., working directly for the CFO, was noticing that all the women in accounting were developing CTS and walking around the subsidiary where our group was embedded with splints and braces on their hands. Armed with my new TMS awareness, today I realize the accountants were the first ones to become aware of declining cash flow that was leading toward massive layoffs in 2001. They we're just depressed in their heads, but in their bodies as well.

    I can think of tons of more examples of this same phenomenon now that you've brought it up. For instance, I knew a graphics artist in the Silicon Valley, an independent contractor who used to crank and crank out illustrations. Well, he was also a surfer and a tri-athlete who trained and trained too, but he never had back pain or CTS until he got married to a beautiful airline stewardess, bought a house, and had two kids. He still cranked and cranked on his PC into the late hours, only now he started developing lower lumbar problems and CTS after his wife got laid off at United and he lost his family's medical benefits. Then, he had two back surgeries in a row and was basically a cripple for six months after each one. Obviously, as a young bachelor without responsibilities, cranking at the PC turning out graphics into the wee hours and training all day didn't "hurt" his back. It was a wife, two kids and house payments added on to the responsibilities that "hurt" his back and wrist. He's Australian, incidentally, and his father is a doctor down in Sydney. So, he's very conscientious and a very hard worker to boot coming from a professional family. The big change must have come when he migrated to the US and assimilated the optimistic, progressive American migrant mindset where everyone is supposed to be "making it" in the brave new world.

    This means to me that in any TMS diagnosis you don't just have to factor in psychological factors but broader social stresses associated with a particular culture and its positivist assumptions. I think that sitting in therapy with all those defeated people probably perpetuated my TMS symptoms as much as the trauma associated with the death of my mother, programmed my condition if you will. Of course, it's a lot easier to be affected by the negative mind sets of those around you at the time your self image has been called into doubt by a traumatic family tragedy or disastrous financial event. It would have been better, as Dr Sarno concludes, if I'd never gone to physical therapy in the first place and subjected myself to so many negative influences in my personal environment.
     
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  17. Jilly

    Jilly Well known member

    Sounds great ... hope to see you there when your'e available, enjoy the sun and surf ;)
     
  18. tarala

    tarala Well known member

    Dr James Alexander said:
    I just added Australia's times to the wiki. The Drop in Chat times for different time zones can be found on the main page, on the right.

    It's always been a bit early for me, Queensland is one of those weird places without daylight savings times (something to do with their cows). But you have inspired me to turn up. See you all next week for sure!
     
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  19. tarala

    tarala Well known member

    No, not all Australia, just Queensland. Anyway, I'm from California originally!

    I will look out for the post, that's a very good idea, thanks for letting us know. Happy New Year to you too.
     
  20. Stella

    Stella Well known member

    i thought the Gabor Mate video on the hidden costs of stress was awesome. i sent it to about 20 people most supporting his perspective and wondering why the medical community is not on board. It was very interesting to see him make the connection between cancer, emotions and stress.
     
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