The Myth of Normal Book Summary - The Myth of Normal Book explained in key points
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The Myth of Normal summary

Gabor Maté with Daniel Maté

Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture

4.6 (1044 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

The Myth of Normal by Gabor Maté with Daniel Maté shows how social realities shape our understanding of normality and how toxic stress and trauma fuel addiction and disease. The authors offer compassionate solutions and a way toward healing.

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    The Myth of Normal
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    The clash between attachment and authenticity leads to a fractured self.

    At 27, Mee Ok Icaro developed a rare and painful autoimmune disorder called scleroderma, where the connective tissue throughout the body hardens. It left Mee Ok bedridden and unable to move. She felt so much pain and despair that she wanted to end her life.

    Mee Ok’s condition vexed doctors, so she began looking to her childhood for answers.

    Born in Korea to a single mother, she was given up for adoption at six months. She was then taken in by an evangelical couple in the US, who raised her in a strict environment. For years, she suffered sexual abuse by her adoptive father – memories of which she’d repressed.

    As Mee Ok began to confront her past, she realized how much emotional pain she had been stuffing down. To cope, she had learned to channel her energy into being hyperfunctional and indispensable at work, often carrying the pressures of everyone around her.

    While Mee Ok’s disease is rare, her story is sadly not. Like the ALS patients at the Cleveland Clinic, these traits of self-sacrifice, suppressing negative emotions (especially anger), and high concern for social acceptance are common in patients with autoimmune diseases.

    So what’s going on here? For Dr. Maté, it exemplifies what happens when two fundamental human needs – attachment and authenticity – are put in conflict. Attachment is your core need for emotional proximity and love. But you also need to be the author of your life, guided by a deep knowledge of your authentic self.

    In Mee Ok’s case, the trauma of separation and sexual abuse was so painful and alarming that she had to disconnect entirely from her memories and her emotional self. At some point, she learned that working hard and being useful was a safe way to gain acceptance.

    This is the split self: there are the parts of you that you believe are acceptable, and there are others you reject. When Mee Ok learned to reconnect with those once rejected parts, she began to heal. Today, she is off all medications and can walk, travel, and even hike again.

    Next, we’ll explore how this split self sets the conditions for disease.

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    What is The Myth of Normal about?

    The Myth of Normal (2022) unpacks why chronic disease and mental illness are on the rise. Western medicine focuses on individual pathologies, but what if the key actually lies in our culture? Things we consider normal – like stress, adversity, and trauma – are often toxic and breed disease. The pathway back to health rests in identifying and addressing these underlying conditions.

    The Myth of Normal Review

    The Myth of Normal (2022) is a thought-provoking exploration of the societal constructs around normalcy and their impact on our mental health. Here's why you should definitely read this book:

    • Through compelling case studies and research, it challenges conventional notions of normal, encouraging us to embrace our unique selves without judgment.
    • With its insightful analysis of how societal pressures shape our behavior and beliefs, the book offers a fresh perspective on mental health and personal growth.
    • By highlighting the need for compassion and understanding, the book's message is both timely and important, reminding us of the power we have to cultivate acceptance and well-being.

    Who should read The Myth of Normal?

    • Health professionals who want the bigger picture
    • Lovers of a good social critique
    • Anyone working through health challenges

    About the Author

    Dr. Gabor Maté is a Canadian physician with over four decades of clinical experience, who is known for his work treating addiction in the Downtown Eastside neighborhood of Vancouver. He has written four best-selling books, including In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and Hold On to Your Kids.

    Daniel Maté is an award-winning lyricist and composer based in Brooklyn, who has written several stage plays and musicals. This is his third book collaboration with his father, Gabor.

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    The Myth of Normal FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Myth of Normal?

    Embrace your uniqueness and challenge society's definition of normal in The Myth of Normal.

    How long does it take to read The Myth of Normal?

    The reading time for The Myth of Normal varies depending on the reader, but the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Myth of Normal a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Myth of Normal is a worthwhile read that challenges conventional thinking and encourages self-acceptance.

    Who is the author of The Myth of Normal?

    The author of The Myth of Normal is Gabor Maté with Daniel Maté.

    What to read after The Myth of Normal?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Myth of Normal, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • When the Body Says No by Gabor Maté
    • In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Maté
    • Scattered Minds by Gabor Maté
    • The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
    • Boost! by Michael Bar-Eli
    • Hold on to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld & Gabor Maté
    • It Didn't Start With You by Mark Wolynn
    • Time Smart by Ashley Whillans
    • Chatter by Ethan Kross
    • The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama