By Clare Ogilvie
The greatest stresses burdening us are the ones we generate
internally, in ways we are not even aware of.
That will be just one of the key messages Dr. Gabor Maté will
share during a Nov. 8 evening presentation at Whistler Secondary school.
Maté’s lecture is the first in the new Whistler Social
Sustainability Speaker Series, organized by a number of community leaders and
supported by the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
Maté, a noted physician,
Globe and Mail
columnist and best-selling author, believes such
stresses arise when people lose touch with their innermost needs, their bodies,
and their emotions. Only after understanding the hidden ways in which we drive
ourselves to live up to our own unconscious expectations and to the perceived
expectations of society, can we start to reduce stress, he said.
“The relationship between the emotional stress and physical
health, it is about the mind-body connection in health and disease,” said Maté.
“It is based both on my own observations (and) also on medical
research that shows that mind-body are completely one unit. The nerve system
and the hormonal system and the immune system and the emotional centres in the
brain form one integrated system.
“So all these systems are integrated so that whatever happens
emotionally also has an impact on nerves and immunity and hormones and vice
Maté said one of the first steps for people to take in tackling
the link in their own lives between stress and ailments is to become aware that
there is one. And for many people that will mean working to see what patterns
are attached to the behaviours, which lead to stress and illness.
“It is not a question of blaming the patient as no one does
this deliberately,” said Maté.
“These are behaviour patterns that you pick up in early
childhood based on the parenting environment so that people who had to work or
thought they had to work as children or infants even to get their parent’s
approval or attention, they tend to do this all their lives automatically.
“But that means they are stressed whether they know it or
So fundamentally my message
is when people don’t know how to say no their bodies will say it for them.
“And it also means that when someone is diagnosed with, say,
rheumatoid arthritis, or colitis, or crohn’s disease, well if they start paying
attention to their emotional patterns they will notice that have flare ups when
they get stressed.
“So that means that if they learn how to avoid those stresses
they don’t need to get those flare ups.”
Maté argues that any symptom should be a starting place for a
discussion with yourself about what is really going on in your life. Get
medical help as needed but look beyond that to see if there is a way to change
your behaviour to be more healthy and less stressed.
The new speaker series, which is bringing in Maté, will also
host several other high profile speakers over the coming months, including a
presentation by former politician, ambassador, and the UN Secretary General’s
Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis.
“We hope that people will be able to become better people
through this and at the end of the Social Sustainability Speaker series with
Stephen Lewis coming be able to reach out and give to the world, because we are
very, very fortunate here,” said Cathy Jewett, one of the organizers of the
The series is free for the audience, but donations will be
accepted to help with funding for the speakers.
Free babysitting will also be available for Maté’s presentation
at Whistler Secondary, which will start at 7 p.m. Armchair books will be
selling Maté’s books.
As a physician, researcher and writer Maté has made it his
life's work to improve the physical and psychological health of families.
Whether in the groundbreaking work of
Hold on to Your Kids
, or the common sense wisdom of
Body Says No
, he has always asked new
questions and provided bold new answers for parents and children.
In addition to his work on the child-parent relationship and the stress-disease connection, Maté is also one of the world's leading experts in ADD (attention deficit disorder)— three of his children have the condition. He has treated hundreds of adults and children with ADD, giving countless seminars to parent groups, doctors, teachers, and other professionals. Maté currently works in Vancouver's Downtown East Side.