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6 Lessons We Learned From The Myth of Normal

Updated: Feb 9

✎ Written by: Dubravka Rebic ✓ Fact-checked by: Carola Tuerk, Ph.D.

We are experiencing a lot as a collective – climate change, the repercussions of a pandemic, and political turmoil, to name a few. Therefore, it comes as no surprise to know that, despite being the most health-aware society in human history, chronic physical and mental health illnesses and afflictions are at an all-time high. We have been conditioned to view their prevalence as unfortunate occurrences, filled with mystery. But what would happen if we shifted our perspective a little bit?

In The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture, Gabor and Daniel Maté challenge us to ask, "What if we begin to see illness itself not as a cruel twist of fate or some nefarious mystery but rather as an expected and, therefore, normal consequence of abnormal, unnatural circumstances?"

The book questions if the prevalence of diseases is the expression of how we live. It does this by exploring the ways our global culture, including social structures, belief systems, assumptions, and values, might be perpetuating toxic behavior patterns.

According to the book, understanding our individual and collective trauma can help us recognize unhealthy mechanisms that we’ve become accustomed to, help us heal, and create healthier, more compassionate communities.

The six lessons that we learned from The Myth of Normal are:

  1. What trauma is and how it shapes us

  2. How trauma separates us from our bodies

  3. How trauma limits our response flexibility

  4. How trauma distorts our view of the world and our view of the self

  5. How trauma alienates us from the present

  6. What will it take to unmake the myth of normal

1. What Trauma Is and How It Shapes Us

“Trauma is not what happens to you, but what happens inside you.” – Gabor Maté

To explain what trauma is, Gabor and Daniel Maté offer an example of a car accident where someone sustains a concussion: The accident is what happened, and the injury is what lasts.

According to the authors, trauma is a psychological injury, a lasting rupture or split within the self due to difficult or hurtful events. It’s lodged in our nervous system, mind, and body and dictates much of our behavior, shapes our social habits, and alters our way of thinking.