"The Myth of Normal" by Gabor Maté

Review by Borodutch

Unlike the previous book I've read by Gabor, this is the more polarized version of his vision. Even though "The Myth of Normal" is like 95% cool, the rest 5% is the polarization of Maté in full strength. Unfortunately, this happens when people get older, more dug into their existing opinions, and stop reasoning about topics that are too emotional.

One should never put anecdotal evidence above scientific research unless this is done to stimulate further study. One or a few examples rarely invalidate papers that they contradict. For instance, two of the author's claims are not based on science at all:

  1. The notion of traumatic events in childhood affecting people's adult life
  2. The idea that babies crying themselves to sleep is traumatic

I can see where Gabor comes from here; he's been working with traumatized people all his life, so it's easy to see trauma everywhere. However, I wouldn't bet that everybody has experienced trauma in childhood. Unfortunately, instead of addressing that traumatic events in the past are an abnormality, the author claims that most people were traumatized and that people who claim they weren't didn't remember the truth. This is quite clearly gaslighting 101.

Unfortunately, the whole of the USA population was gaslit into thinking they were abused in childhood. "You were abused! And you were abused! What's that there? Oh, of course, child abuse!" This is the result of the Freudian psychology uptick during the 20th century. Fortunately, no, child abuse is abnormal and not statistically relevant. Ironically, the author of "The Myth of Normal" advocates for the wrong normality.

Most books by MDs have anecdotal experience superiority over scientific data. Even though it's sad, this is the case, and we must live with it. Something weird happens in doctors' minds that leads to all these biases. Maybe they are traumatized by the events they experience in their daily practice, leading to biochemical changes in their brains. I'm no doctor, so I can only speculate.

However, don't let the polarizing 5% of the book spoil the rest. Don't make the fallacy fallacy. Overall, the main idea and examples in the book are very telling. The author advocates that the "normal" person presented in media is not average. For instance, it is not normal for humans to get hypertension in old age — primarily due to diet and lack of exercise. What is considered "normal" today should be considered "sick."

Another great point that Gabor brings up is the lack of enthusiasm of doctors to investigate potential novel remedies for diseases. For instance, if there is anecdotal evidence of someone getting rid of fatal cancer due to changes in their approach, it should be studied. Regardless of diet, exercise, psychological work, or herbal supplements, doctors should never "brush off" anything as a fluke regarding severe diseases.

It is normal to die of cancer succumbing to the disease now. But we should fight it instead — and we are losing the battle due to some doctors' lack of initiative and snugness. We should reconsider what's "normal" to start improving people's life quality and length. We have enough resources to do so, but it won't be easy. Regardless of the approaches we take, we must fight.

If a herb can rid one of cancer, this herb is not stupid. Instead, it should be investigated, and the mechanisms behind it should be understood.