Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 196 – Dr. Gabor Maté

For episode 196 of the Metta Hour, Sharon speaks special guest, Dr. Gabor Maté. 

Gabor is highly sought after for his expertise working with addiction, stress, and childhood development. He has written several bestselling books, including the award-winning In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, When the Body Says No, and Scattered, and co-authored the book Hold On to Your Kids. His works have been published internationally in nearly thirty languages. Gabor’s new book, The Myth of Normal, has just been released in September of 2022.

sharon salzberg

In this episode, Sharon and Gabor discuss:

How Gabor defines the term “normal” • Human’s incredible and sometimes dangerous adaptability • The percentages of folks on medication • How our culture engenders illness • The evolutionary nature • The essence of interconnection across culture, science & spirituality • Thích Nhất Hạnh’s inter-being teaching • The concept of the “identified person” • Addiction as the canary in the mine • Traumatic events versus the dramatic wounds we sustain as a result • The complex factors that motivate caregivers • Why caregivers tend toward trauma • Compassion Fatigue is a lack of self-compassion • Negative self-talk as an impact of trauma • The difference between responsibility and blame • The role of community in healing • Authenticity versus attachment • Childhood development • Is it ever too late to heal? • Gabor’s practice of Compassionate Inquiry • The evolution of addiction treatments • How our culture profits off of addiction

The conversation closes with a twelve-minute guided inquiry exercise by Gabor. To learn more about Gabor’s work, you can visit his website at or find his latest book, The Myth of Normal, available in hardcover, audio and ebook formats.

The Myth of Normal

Sharon welcomes Gabor and they begin by discussing his new book, The Myth of Normal. They talk about what the term normal really means, how we’re alienated from our essential emotional nature, the rise of chronic illnesses and addiction in our society, and the importance of interconnection. Gabor brings up the concept of the “identified patient” and talks about addiction as the canary in the mine. 

“Either we assume that there’s some kind of a mysterious pandemic of pathology for which we don’t know the cause, or we say, well, what is it in the conditions of life in this culture that is driving this level of pathology? And I’m saying that it’s the very nature of this culture to engender illness because it’s so far removed from our evolutionary needs as human beings.” – Dr. Gabor Maté

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Vicarious Trauma and Compassion Fatigue (20:30)

Sharon and Gabor discuss trauma. Gabor explains that trauma is not about what happens to people, but inside of people. Sharon brings up her work with caregivers and how easy it is to burn out from vicarious trauma, but Gabor says there’s nothing vicarious about that trauma. They talk about the myth of compassion fatigue, the need for self-compassion, and the tension between authenticity and attachment. 

“People also find, to their great surprise, that the more authentic they become, the more they attract other people who are willing to celebrate their authenticity. But, in the beginning, it can be a tough choice.” – Dr. Gabor Maté

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Compassion in Healing (38:15)

Sharon and Gabor discuss healthy child development and if it’s ever too late in life to heal from our emotional wounds. Gabor talks about the role of compassion in healing and breaks down different levels of compassion. They touch on the evolution of addiction treatments and how our culture profits off of addiction. Gabor closes the show with a powerful reflection on learning when to say no in life.

“Now what your body carries may be painful sometimes, but if I’m committed to the compassionate truth, I will not protect you from feeling the pain that’s already in you. I will not impose pain on you, I will not create situations deliberately so that you’ll feel pain, but when that pain shows up, I’m going to help you see that that’s the truth of your existence as you’ve been living it until now. Not vindictively, but so that you can do something about it.” – Dr. Gabor Maté

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