The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture Audiobook

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(523986 customer reviews)




Audio Length

18.25 hours

Release Date

September 2022


Unabridged Audiobook


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The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture by Gabor Maté is a groundbreaking book that explores the links between trauma, illness, and our toxic culture. Maté argues that our obsession with normalcy is making us sick, and that we need to embrace a more compassionate and understanding approach to mental and physical health.

Maté begins by defining what he means by “normal.” He argues that normalcy is not a fixed state, but rather a spectrum. There is no one right way to be human, and what is considered “normal” varies from culture to culture and over time.

Maté then goes on to discuss the ways in which our culture is toxic. He argues that our competitive society, our obsession with material wealth, and our lack of community connections are all contributing to the rise of chronic illness and mental health problems.

Maté also discusses the link between trauma and illness. He argues that trauma can have a profound impact on our physical and mental health, even if it occurred many years ago. Trauma can disrupt our stress response system, making us more susceptible to disease. It can also lead to a variety of mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

Maté concludes the book by offering a more compassionate and understanding approach to mental and physical health. He argues that we need to shift our focus from curing diseases to preventing them. This means addressing the root causes of illness, such as trauma, poverty, and social inequality.

The Myth of Normal is an important and timely book that challenges us to rethink our approach to mental and physical health. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the links between trauma, illness, and our toxic culture.

Key takeaways from the book:

  • Normalcy is not a fixed state, but rather a spectrum.
  • Our culture is toxic in many ways, and this is contributing to the rise of chronic illness and mental health problems.
  • Trauma can have a profound impact on our physical and mental health, even if it occurred many years ago.
  • We need to shift our focus from curing diseases to preventing them. This means addressing the root causes of illness, such as trauma, poverty, and social inequality.
523986 reviews

523986 reviews for The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture Audiobook

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  1. Verified owner Bryan

    I haven’t written many reviews this year, but as one of this book’s earlier readers, I feel a duty to write one before it becomes a bestseller. The Myth of Normal is a book that this world needs right now. It’s unlike Dr. Gabor’s other books, where he chose one topic (addiction, ADHD, etc) and ran with it. This time he’s going big. He whistleblows — with compelling research on the mind-body connection — our medical, social, and political systems for their naive disregard for the effects of trauma. And when I say ‘their’, I don’t mean’ their’. I mean you; I mean me; I mean us. These systems aren’t entities separate from ourselves. We’re in them; in fact, we are them.

    The only reason I’m not giving 5 stars is that his strength in breadth creates one of the weaknesses in this amazing book: a lack of depth. After investigating our blindness to trauma in meticulous detail in the first four parts, the fifth part (about solutions to healing) seems to be lacking. But perhaps I’m being a bit unfair to Dr. Gabor. He writes about his healing journey, and it appears he’s done much more healing others than healing himself — so his experience on the topic can only go so far. One may even go so far as to say that his role in this world isn’t to wake up himself but to wake everyone else up.

    After all, The Myth of Normal will likely dent our healing culture. As all large-scale changes go, it’s going to be slow. But this book exists now. It’s talking about our problems, and not in the new-agey wellness way — which I have no problem with, but doesn’t break through to the people who can make a difference (doctors, politicians, etc) — but in a meaningful, research-backed way that even the most skeptical can’t ignore.

  2. Verified owner Marsha

    This is a sobering book about the toxicity of our society and how to make things better. While I enjoy the author’s voice and respect his scholarship, this was too much to be packed in to a single book. In some ways, it overwhelms the reader. If you buy this, approach it a bit at a time. Otherwise it can be like trying to take a sip of water from a fire-hydrant.

  3. Verified owner Loc’d Booktician

    This book did a really good job at depicting how trauma is a wound and injury. Thus we should be curious about the experiences of people versus being prone to following the DSM-5. This book also did a good job on tackling how toxic culture and trauma play a role in our society and made inferences of how our society will change and is changing. ‘

    There is so many notable moments in the book that it made it difficult to just listen to this book on audiobook. I hope to own the physical copy one day so I can highlight, re again and add my thoughts along the way. I did say my thoughts on this book on a recent vlog and have an upcoming vlog with more thoughts of this book.

  4. Verified owner Taka


    I loved Maté’s humane and nuanced approach to trauma, illness, and healing, especially since it dovetails quite nicely with the other approaches I have studied and loved (such as Adlerian psychotherapy, Process Work, Iain McGilchrist’s work on left and right brain hemispheres, etc.).

    Two caveats:
    1) Maté gives the impression, unwittingly or not, that almost all the diseases covered in the book can be traced back to childhood trauma. At several points in the book, he points out the pitfall of easy explanation that genetics offers, but I’d caution the reader of that same pitfall with respect to trauma. As a critic said, if you try to find trauma in your past, you WILL find it. So as enthusiastic and sympathetic as I am to this book’s central themes and ideas, I want to make sure I don’t walk away with the wrongheaded (and egotistical) belief that I can help people heal mental illnesses and diseases by focusing on their childhood trauma. Life—and human beings—is complex, and I’d like to remind myself that, while stress and trauma could be significant contributors to many diseases and mental illnesses, there may be more to us humans than meets the eye.

    2) For all the awareness of metaphor he displays in pointing out the unhealthy war metaphor people use to talk about their diseases (esp. cancer), he succumbs to one himself in describing our early coping strategies: the machine metaphor. As detailed in Iain McGilchrist’s The Matter With Things, it is the dominant metaphor—and hidden assumption—in the biological sciences, including medicine. And so Maté uses phrases like “coping mechanism,” “programmed,” and other machine and computer-science-related terms to talk about not just the biological processes (which is understandable) but also what the unconscious does in our early years. Coping mechanisms like certain personality traits, emotional repression, and low self-esteem are described as automatic, machine-like, and so forth (thus, presumably, absolving us of any responsibility for them). My criticism is inspired by Alfred Adler’s idea of holism that holds we are more than our conscious awareness, that it makes sense, pragmatically speaking, to think of our consciousness and unconscious working together to reach a common goal. So instead of describing the coping strategies we had to adopt in early childhood as automatic and mechanistic, Adler would see them as the result of our (unconscious) decisions. Perhaps I’m being unduly nitpicky and making a fuss over a fine point that’s ultimately irrelevant, but it matters to me that at least I’m aware of how an author I admire views the world, because as he says on page 31, “Our beliefs are not only self-fulfilling; they are world-building.”

    That said, the book is phenomenal and highly recommended if you’re curious and/or serious about healing.

  5. Verified owner alisa

    really really astute, kind, and fairly thorough description of the illnesses of our current condition. in the end, i think maybe partly a fault of my own (but also reflected in the authors’ own admittance of being more comfortable describing problem than ascribing solution), i found it hard to apply the pathways to wholeness sections to situations in which the root problems were ongoing, which was disappointing given how the first four parts of the book affirm the ongoingness of all the issues. regardless i would wholeheartedly recommend this to everyone.

  6. Verified owner Shiloah

    Excellent! So much of this aligns with what I’ve been aware of through my work (energy therapy).

    This book was filled with ah-hahs and excellent quotes. Here are some of meaningful ones.

    Healing is self-retrieval. “When we heal, we are engaged in recovering our lost parts of self, not trying to change or “better” them. As the depth psychologist and wilderness guide Bill Plotkint told me, the core question is “not so much looking at what’s wrong, but where is the person’s wholeness not fully realized or lived out?’” -Gabor Mate, The Myth of Normal

    “The lack of authenticity makes itself known through tension or anxiety, irritability or regret, depression or fatigue. When any of these disturbances surface, we can inquire of ourselves.
    Is there an inner guidance I am defying, resisting, ignoring or avoiding? Are there truths I’m withholding from expression or even contemplation, out of fear of losing security or belonging?
    In a recent encounter with others, is there some way I abandoned myself, my needs, my values? What fears, rationalizations, orle miliar narratives kept me from being myself? Do I even know what my own values are?”

    “Being deprived of agency is a source of stress. Such deprivation could arise from social or political conditions: poverty, injustice, marginalization, or the seeming collapse of the world around us. In the case of illness, it’s often due to internal constraints.”

    “As with authenticity, capitalism sells a bogus version of agency through personal-power mantras like “Be all you can be” and “Have it your way.” Personal choice becomes a brand, with no attention paid to the contexts in which those choices are made. Often the freedom being advertised is the dubious freedom to choose between this or that identity-burnishing product or service that will not, cannot, satisfy us. Nor does agency mean some sort of false omnipotence or ultimate dominion over all
    happenings and circumstances. Life is so much bigger than us, and we do not forward our own healing by pretending to be in control where we’re not.
    Agency does mean having some choice around who and how we “be” in life, what parts of ourselves we identify with and act from. This often starts with renegotiating our relationship with the personality traits we have so long taken to be identical with who we really are, the ones that first arose in us to keep us safe but now keep us boxed in. There is no freedom in having to be
    “good” or the most talented or accomplished, or in the need to please or entertain or be “interesting.” Nor can we wield agency when we react with automatic opposition to other people’s demands: knee-jerk reactivity leaves no room for “response ability” _or what in our first chapter we called response flexibility, a capacity trauma greatly impairs.
    Agency is neither attitude nor affect, neither blind acceptance nor a rejection of authority. It is a self-bestowal of the right to evaluate things freely and fully, and to choose based on authentic gut feelings, deferring to neither the world’s expectations nor the dictates of ingrained personal conditioning.”

    “A 2010 study in the European Journal of Pain concluded that “anger and a general tendency to inhibit anger predicts heightened pain in the everyday life of female patients with fibromyalgia. Psychological intervention could focus on healthy anger expression to try to mitigate the symptoms of fibromyalgia.”
    The question for most of us is not whether to be angry but how to relate in a wholesome way to the feelings that naturally ebb and flow with life’s tide, anger included.”

    “Healing has no choice but to ripple out when we are real with ourselves and with others.”
    -Helen Knott, In My Own Moccasins

    “The presence of a negative belief says nothing about you as a person; it is not a moral failure or a character weakness, just the effect of circumstances over which you had no control. What you do have now is some say over how you respond to the negative belief. The quality of your present-moment experience is far more tied to that choice of responses than to anything fixed or preordained by the past.”

  7. Verified owner Jill Bowman

    Though I don’t agree with everything Maté says (and whether this is from a disagreement or a lack of knowledge about a particular topic only time will tell) it certainly gave me plenty to think about – and past traumas that have already revealed themselves to me. It doesn’t need to be abuse to effect you very strongly.
    I think it would make an interesting book club book, especially with people who know each other quite well. I’m going to amend this to ‘any group’. I was just reminded that sometimes it’s easier to open up to someone who doesn’t know you – or your family and friends.

  8. Verified owner Chey

    4.5 rounded down. I really enjoyed this and filled in some of the gaps for me regarding the physical and mental harms due to our hell-ish society. I particularly admired his own vulnerability and honesty about his own journey and traumas, the chapters on addiction (kudos to his experience in the DTES), child birth/parenting, and psychedelics. However, I think the aim of this book may have been too lofty for only one book, and it felt a bit clunky and rushed at certain points. That said, I recommend this for everyone as it’s revealing about the origins of our own (very normal!) neuroses and traumas, and provides some good pointers for what to do about them.

  9. Verified owner Kyle Erickson

    This is Mate’s best book yet! I think having his son as a co-author really helped, because I thought the writing was more evocative and clear than his other books. Myth of Normal goes way further into many subjects that Mate has talked about before, as well as some new topics. There are chapters on pregnancy and prenatal development, politics, race, class, and gender; social media, depression – and a bunch of other salient topics that are all intertwined in how people interact with the world and deal with trauma/are traumatized. This will definitely be a book I re-read and I will recommend it widely!

  10. Verified owner Rachel

    For what this book is and is intended to be, I think it’s *chef’s kiss* excellent. It’s true that for me, as someone who’s been researching and thinking about this stuff for years, a lot of this was really old news and not revolutionary at all (and as my former supervisor succinctly put it: a lot of repackaged basic arguments about medicalization). That aside, though, this is an amazing compendium of evidence and resources that I want everyone to read, and I purchased a copy once I’d already started reading the copy I had from the library mostly to be able to recommend and lend it out. Also, as an excellent compendium of resources, texts, and evidence, I wanted this on hand for my own reference too. As a work of public intellectualism meant to be accessible and personally meaningful and relevant to many, I think this is total A+ work and I am a big fan.

    Another critical point to make is that a lot of Gabor Maté’s evidence is anecdotal, but first of all, he has an extremely rich anecdotal based from decades and decades of clinical practice. And second of all, these anecdotes are always paired with solid evidence from solid research, so they feel humanizing and effective rather than being presented as primary, only, or bad evidence. It serves an affective function that definitely works – and I don’t find it problematic, but I was aware of its functioning on me as a reader.

    It’s interesting that many other reviews seem to take issue with how little space Gabor Maté devoted to the healing/things to change portion of the book. I thought this part of it was short but super punchy, and most importantly, that everything that preceded was important and crucial for even the final points to land properly. I also don’t think what he’s doing here is trying to only provide a healing map, and I think the implications — and tons of other resources that do point to that — are super clear in this text, so I disagree that this portion should’ve been heavier or longer or more of a focus. In terms of what literature already exists out there, we have so much self-help type literature that helps and directs people with healing. But something like this for popular consumption, which actually begins to deconstruct the concept of normality and its roots and implications, as well as these conceptual questions around mental illness and wellness, is novel, needed, and important, at least from my vantage point.

    Those critiques also don’t land with me because I feel that the whole book is extremely hopeful and rooted in very realistic, grounded optimism for each of our abilities to heal and be whole human beings. As a reader working on that, I found it very comforting and heartening, and didn’t at all get the sense that there should’ve been more of a focus on healing – it’s right there as a central theme threaded throughout the entire book!

    Anyway, this is what I wish I could say to everyone about mental health and illness in book format, so I loved this book and found it personally hopeful and transformative as a read too. So glad this text exists out in the world.

  11. Verified owner Leifer

    Myth of Normal is likely Mate’s swan song, in which he connects his developing ideas from throughout his lifetime. This will be the epoch he leaves behind. Incredible, thoughtful, heartbreaking, and mesmerizing, still written in his distinctive speaking voice. Would recommend wholeheartedly to anyone who has struggled in their own body, felt discouraged by our overwhelming tide of culture, or simply wants to find their way back home to themselves

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