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I really think that this longevity movement is a sign of deep social anxiety. You get these rich people in California with their cryo technology of freezing the body, hoping that 100 years from now they'll be able to unfrozen and there'll be treatments for the. You know, it bores me. All this stuff about longevity bores me to death. I just don't care. What really matters is what does this moment bring us? Or what can we bring to this moment. Let the future take care of itself.


Hey guys, how you doing? Hope you're having a good week so far. My name is Doctor Rangan Chatterjee and this is my podcast. Feel better live more since his first appearance on this podcast all the way back in 2018, Doctor Gabor mate has become a valued friend as well as a regular guest. I'm proud to say that he recently joined me in London as a guest speaker on the prescribing lifestyle medicine course that I co created with Aan Panja to teach healthcare professionals the principles of lifestyle medicine. We actually recorded this conversation, Gabor's fourth appearance on my show a couple of weeks ago in London the day before that event, and we both agreed afterwards that this is perhaps our favorite conversation to date. For anyone not aware, Gabor is respected the world over as an expert on trauma, stress, addiction and childhood development. He's a physician speaker and international best selling author of some truly game changing books, such as when the body says no and his latest, the myth of Normal, which has just come out in paperback. As this is Gabor's fourth appearance on my podcast, I was keen to explore some newgrounds and different topics in our latest conversation.


Now, back on episode 383 of this podcast, I had a wonderful conversation with Bronnie Ware, author of the book the five Regrets of the dying, and I thought it would be really interesting to examine each of these five regrets through the lens of Gabels thoughts and work. So in this conversation, we chat through all five of these regrets and Gabil provides some thought provoking insights about each of them. He also explains his view as to why we work so hard, often to the detriment of time with family and friends. We talk about how disease can sometimes be a powerful teacher, why it's vital that children grow up being able to express their emotions, how we both wish that more doctors were aware of the connection between our emotions and our health, and we also discuss happiness and whether its truly possible to be happy or seek happiness when there is so much suffering in the world. We also talk about the nature of forgiveness curiosity, compassion, and also regret. Gabel says that living life with no regrets, its about learning and understanding from your perceived mistakes, but not being unkind to who you were in the past.


Like all of my previous episodes with Gabor, this is a powerful conversation full of compassion, knowledge and wisdom. I hope you enjoy listening. Gabor, you turned 80. Yeah, a few months ago.


Two months ago, yeah.


How is that for you?


Well, you know, we had a really nice party and my children came and they wrote us some songs and they performed them, and close friends were there. It was a very warm, we had wonderful palestinian food catered, and it was a really good time. And it felt, it felt like I would arrive somewhere, you know? And nobody ever imagines being 80. I mean, do you imagine ever being 80?


Yeah. It's funny as you ask that question. No, you think about lots of things in life. I do imagine sometimes what it might be like when my wife and I are old and what we might do together. But no, I can't say I've ever imagined actually being 80 years old.


Yeah. And at some point it would have struck me as such an impossibly geriatric number. You know, at this point, it's just a number, you know, and it's. It's almost meaningless. Except it's not completely meaningless, because I know that the time is. One always knows that the time is limited. Intellectually, we understand is that nobody lives forever, and we never know when the Reaper is going to come knocking on your door. But at the same time, once you get to be 80, you realize that whenever it's going to happen, it's going to happen within a fairly short period of time. And when I think of when I retired from active medical practice, it was 13 years ago now. Well, will I still be alive 13 years from now? And it seems like such a short period of time. So when you think, think about it, it's quite dramatic. But on the other hand, from the moment to moment and day to day, it just doesn't make any difference.


Yeah, there's something about the number 80, I think. And of course, we know it's just another day and it's just a number. But does something change when you wake up and your family and your friends celebrate? Hey, Gabo, you're now 80 years old. Does it in some way change the way you see yourself, or I guess, reflect differently on who you are and where you are in your life?


On most days I can say this, and not on every day for sure, but it's a kind of ease has entered my life, even with all that's going on in the world, I'm just sort of more. I don't struggle with the way things are so much. I may like them or not like them. I may react or not respond, but there's not a struggle against just the beingness of things. I'm certainly noticing that. And people, I had a visitor a week ago who I hadn't seen for a few years, and she says, you've changed. And I said, oh, yeah. She says, you become softer, you know, and if that's true, it's good. It's a sign of kind of loosening inside.


You used to work in palliative care.




And I think you're familiar with the book by Bronnie Ware, the palliative care nurse, the five regrets of the dying.




What I thought would be interesting today for our fourth conversation on my podcast together.




Is to maybe go through each of those five regrets, because I'd love to know from your perspective what each of these regrets says about where we are, who we are, what things are important to us. And so the first of those five regrets is, I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.


Yeah. And so let's keep in mind that, like, when I used to work in palliative care, which I did for seven years, and this nurse who wrote the book, she's australian, she wrote the book about twelve years ago. Now, they weren't talking about people dying at old age. They were mostly it's about people dying before their time. And so the regrets that they had as their terminal illness, usually malignancy or perhaps chronic autoimmune disease, brought them to the end of their physical existence. What did they regret? And the top one was, I wish I had the courage to live my own life rather than the one that people expected of me. I would reframe that because there's a deep truth in it. And as you know, and perhaps we've talked about, from my point of view, very often the people that do develop chronic illness are people that have suppressed their own true selves for the sake of being accepted to others. And that self suppression has deep physiological consequences on the immune system, on the nervous system, on the heart, and so on. So that self suppression is also a physiological self annihilation in some ways.


But when she talks about courage, that's a self judgment. They're saying to themselves, I wish I'd had the courage. As if it was a question of cowardice. It isn't it's a question of programming. Like you and I are both parents. We know this. No infant is born suppressing themselves. No infant enters the first day on this earth trying to please anybody. They're just being purely themselves, expressing their joy when it's there, expressing their upset, their distress when that's dominant, but they're purely themselves. So that what she calls courage, or what these people call courage of being myself, is actually a trauma imprint, that for some reason they learned early in life that to be themselves is to court rejection by their environment. So it's not a lack of courage. You can't talk about a one year old lacking courage or a two year old. It's simply an adaptation. Later on they say courage, but really that's a. That courage is the lack of. It is a shorthand for something happened to me that I gave up my true self for the sake of being accepted. And that cost me. First of all, it cost them in terms of physical illness, but also cost them in terms of self respect and dignity.


It's a major one.


Yeah. Are you living a life at the moment that's true to yourself?


I am now. I sense that I am. I believe that I am. That doesn't mean every second I do, you know, but on the whole, I do, and it feels really good. And I know you and I had dinner last night, and you were telling me that you're finding yourself far more self expressed and comfortable with who you are than you used to. So that's the good news, people, is that this is a process that can continue for a lifetime. But, yeah, I really see that people who suppress themselves really suffer.


So that first regret, I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself. I'm really glad you picked out the word courage, because that word also stands out to me. Yeah, it's very interesting to use that word.


Yeah, well, it's a self judgment, isn't it?


It is. You know, I could have done better. I should have had the courage, is what that kind of says. Yeah, it's interesting. Gabby, you said when you turned 80, or as a consequence of you turning 80, you realize that, well, 13 years ago, you gave it your medical practice. Will you be alive in 13 years? That's very striking.




Are you afraid of death?


In principle, I'm not, you know, but I don't really know until I have to face it. I won't know how afraid I am until it confronts me. You know, at this point, I feel healthy and I get to do what I want to do. And I have vigor, and I have interests and excitement and love and likes and dislikes, and I'm quite alive, you know, what happens when I have to confront the actuality of it. I have no idea how I'm gonna respond, so sometimes I get fear on it. I mean, there's. I don't want to give this up. I don't want to give up this life. But other times I say, well, if I do, I've lived, and it's been good, and there's not much to regret, you know? So, yes and no, but I won't really know until I'm up against it.


You've spoken publicly before about your journeys with plant medicine.




Does that change anything for you? I guess. Or has that changed anything in terms of how you may view what happens at the end of human life? Because many people will say for them, it does change how they perceive themselves, how they perceive death, how they perceive what this experience of life actually really is?


Well, specifically, as you're probably aware, they've done studies on end of life anxiety with psilocybin, so called magic mushrooms. And people report spiritual experiences, and people report a significant abatement of anxiety they had on dying. These are people who were terminally ill, and nothing that the medical profession could offer to reverse the course of their fatal illness, but they had much less anxiety about dying as a result of those spiritual experiences that were induced by taking the mushroom. For me, I've never faced death in that sense. When I think of some of my psychedelic experiences and if, in retrospect, I allow myself to sink into them, I can say in that state, I would not be afraid of death. I'd say that there's a larger reality than the persistence or cessation of this particular lung represents. You know, I would say that if I project myself back into those experiences again, how I will face it when it happens or when it becomes inevitable, I don't know.


Yeah. Society's view or this society's view of people getting older, 80 seems to be the age where we often expect people to be doing less, you know, being less mobile, less vital. Not everyone, of course, but many. You seem to be someone who has this love of life, this vigor, this message you want to share. You seem to be traveling all over the globe at pretty regular intervals. You've come into London for four days. You're going to help me do some teaching with doctors tomorrow, which is incredible, but a lot of 80 year olds are not doing that. And the longevity space within medicine has really exploded over the last few years. People love talking about longevity. I think we're missing something in our discussions about longevity. Well, I think there's a couple of.


Things, but what do you think we're missing?


I think it depends what you mean by longevity, first of all. Right. So, yes, some people want to know, how can I not necessarily live longer, but be independent, mobile, vital, as long as I live? So health span versus lifespan, and I get that. But there's a lot of talk these days about extending lifespan, living to 150 and beyond and all kinds of crazy stuff. Right? And I don't want to be the. I don't want to stand in the way of human progress at all. One of my fears is that in pursuit of living longer, are we missing something about the beauty and the essence of what life really is? Life is finite. The fact that it's finite is what makes it so beautiful. If we could live to 200, would we have even more of these regrets? Because we'd keep taking life for granted.


You know what? You're talking my language. Because to tell the truth, to coin a phrase, all this stuff about longevity bores me to death. I just don't care. What really matters is what does this moment bring us? Or what can we bring to this moment? Let the future take care of itself. Like Jesus says, take no thought for tomorrow. I really think that this longevity movement is a sign of deep social anxiety. Especially you get these rich people in California with their cryo technology of freezing the body, hoping that 100 years from now they'll be able to unfrozen and there'll be treatments for. It bores me. You know, what really matters is, for me, is what makes life meaningful and active and engaged in the present moment. And it's interesting in English, we talk about growing older. Now, that's a very telling phrase, because in significant ways, when we get older, we shrink, you know, like our bodies. Our skin starts to sag. Our muscles are no longer, as, you know, supple and strong as they used to be. So what does it mean to grow older? We could just say, like you said earlier, get older, which is just a chronological progression, or growing older implies that this growth is actually possible.


So in what sense can we actually grow? And I think actually we can actually grow into the present moment and grow in our appreciation for life and what matters and knowing what doesn't matter and growing in wisdom. Indigenous cultures, they don't talk about elderly, they talk about elders. The huge difference, I think there's a natural reverence for age that senior cultures would respect and modern society kind of dismisses, you know. Now, do I wish that my hair was blacker and more curly the way it used to be? Yeah, I do. You know, and it wasn't gray and my hair wasn't thinning at the top. And are you sure? I wish that. But at the same time, I would not want to be as unconscious as I was when my hair was blacker and curlier, you know? Yeah.


This is such an interesting point. I've spoken to several menopause experts on this show over the past few years, and I remember when doing some research on one of the conversations I came across. Research showing that in cultures where women are revered as they get older, their wisdom is respected, they're seen as really important parts of the community. Those cultures report less menopausal symptoms.


Isn't that interesting?


Just so I'm not misinterpreted, I wanna be really clear. I'm not saying that that means that all menopausal symptoms would go away if that was the case. I just find it interesting that when the cultural view of growing old is different, we perceive ourselves as having, I don't know, a different symptom profile, if.


I can put it like that. And the degree of suffering is different so that maybe they have symptoms or maybe they have certain features, but the suffering is not experienced the same way.


Please expand on that because I think some people will go, what do you mean? If you're either getting symptoms or you're not getting symptoms, explain what you mean by perception of the suffering, essentially.


Well, I was talking to somebody else about this today. So as you and I know in western medicine, we kind of medicalize everything. And so we talk about premenstrual syndrome, PM's. It's a syndrome. It's a medical entity. What is it really? Is that under the impact of hormonal changes, women get more sensitized. So they might have more physical pain and more upset. But we could see that as pathological. Or we could actually say that it's a time of truth telling, that the hormones do sensitize them to things that are not functioning in their lives, which the rest of the time they're cultivated to aqueous with and to put up with. But the menstrual ferment in their bodies makes it less tolerable. So instead of seeing that as a pathology, we could see it as a time of insight. And what if they actually listen to their bodies and listen to what their body is saying no to that the rest of the month, they kind of suppress then that could be seen as a time of wisdom rather than a time of suffering. So the physical things are there, but it doesn't have to be experienced as suffering.


It could be experienced as a time of truth telling. And actually, a lot of women have told me that once they become aware of that, their relationship to menstruation is totally different. And I think that's what you're saying about menopause as well.


Yeah. This kind of speaks to the second regret, which is I wish I hadn't worked so hard.




And what I mean by that is I agree that for many women.




And I can think of so many patients like this, hormonal symptoms were actually showing them that the way you're currently living is not in harmony with your body.




Now, of course, sometimes people struggle to make change. It's hard to make change. Maybe their life is mega stressful and at that moment they can't change it for whatever reason. And I totally. I empathize with that. I understand.




But for some people who are able to, it's. And sometimes it's one of the best things that has happened to them.


Yeah. Now this thing of, I wish I hadn't worked so hard. That's an interesting one, because I wish I hadn't worked so hard. And what do I mean by that? Like, speaking for myself, and I don't know if this is true for you, but I became a physician for some really good reasons. One of them was I genuinely wanted to help suffering humanity. And I thought medicine is a perfect pathway through which I could help people. That's genuine and I meant it. I also chose a profession where I was fairly confident of making a decent living so I could support a life for myself and my family. That's legitimate. But those reasons don't make you work too hard. They make you work hard, but they don't make you work too hard. What makes you work too hard, and that's what these people are saying, is you're driven by something that you're not even aware of. And what I wasn't aware of when I went to medical school and when I was a physician for decades is how driven I was to justify my existence in the world and to prove that I was important and worthwhile and so on.


And that had to do with the loss of those, that confidence owing to early childhood trauma. And so it's not a question nobody says, I wish I hadn't worked hard. To achieve something in life, you have to work hard. They're saying, I wish I wouldn't work too hard. And that too part, the to part comes from being driven by unconscious needs to validate your existence. Where, why should any human being have to validate their existence, you know? And so that's what they're saying. And when you're driven to work too hard, you actually ignore what matters. And what matters is what you were telling me last night about how much it matters for you to spend time with your family. So every summer you take a bunch of weeks away from your podcast and you just spend time enjoying your kids and your wife and your family. And I didn't do that. For me, it was very hard to even take holidays. I always felt I had to keep working. If somebody wasn't pregnant, my God, what if I would miss their delivery? Like, the baby couldn't enter the world without me, you know? So that drivenness is what makes people work too hard.


And so not a matter of working hard, it's a matter of working too hard. And where does that come from again? That comes from childhood trauma.


A lot of doctors and I have several friends like this. They don't take their full allowance of annual leave. Sounds like you may have been similar.


I had that tendency, yeah.


Yeah. And often people will say, and I have a friend who says this, yeah, but my patients need me.


No, they don't need them. They need medical help.


Yeah. But I think we have to ask ourselves, and this is very, very common in medicine, actually, I'm sure it's common in other professions as well. It's interesting when you don't take your full allowance of annual leave that your contract entitles you to, it's often paid time off. It's part of your job when you're not taking it. Of course there can be reasons for that. There can be reasonable reasons. There can be work reasons. But if you're not, I think it may be worth reflecting on some of those underlying, you know, those real drivers of that.


Well, occurs to me that what your friend is actually saying is not that my patients need me, but I need my patients to feel okay. And when I'm not working to help them, I don't know who I am and I don't feel comfortable with myself. So I need them now. That means get it to a therapist and deal with it. And not only that, even your capacity to help your patients over time will be eroded by the way you're stressing yourself and you're not taking care of yourself. And physicians are notoriously programmed to ignore themselves and there was a very interesting study that I mentioned in the book, the myth of normal. They looked at the fraying of the chromosomes of people. And, you know, when we were born, we were born with certain structures called telomeres, and telomeres are DNA structures at the end of our chromosomes, and their fraying and their shortening is a mark of aging and of stress. And they looked at the telomeres of medical residents compared to other people their age. They age faster, they fray faster. So physicians are driven to actually not spare themselves and to literally consume themselves in the work.


Then in the long term, that may make you a very popular and very successful doctor, but in the long term, it's going to be at the expense of your marriage and of your children and of your own mental and physical health.


For me, if I look at that situation and I reflect on society and culture, what I see these days is a very. It's a very me focused culture where community has been gradually eroded out.




And therefore, if we think about a human being, a human being needs to feel that they're of value to other people. We need that in our tribes. You know, 50,000 years ago, we would have felt a value because we would have a role, and other people would see that role. They would benefit from it, and we would benefit from the things they were doing. You know, whether it's someone's hunting, someone's gathering, someone's putting the firewall, whatever it might be. In this me focused culture where it's all me, me, and what are my needs, and what do I need to do, and how can I better myself? I feel that we often don't feel of value to others. We don't feel important. And so it makes sense that in that culture, you might overwork, you might keep pushing yourself, because if you're not working and feeling important there, then actually, you may not have that sensation in any other aspects of your life.


Well, if you weren't given the. It's very simple. If in early childhood, you're given the sense that you're valued just because you existed, your parents welcome you and validate you and value you and celebrate you just because you are, then you don't have to keep proving it afterwards. But if you don't get that sense, then you have to be important.




So that sense of needing to be important has to come from missing out on being valued for who you are or being only valued for your achievements. You know, you valued, like, look, my parents blessed their souls, but they valued my intelligence, you know, and so a lot of my Persona was caught up in being smart and proving my value that way. Well, it's good to be intelligent, but your value should. Doesn't depend on or shouldn't depend on anyone. Quality. Whether you're cute or cuddly or handsome or successful or good at sports or smart in school, any of that. Your value is intrinsic. Innate. Inherent because you're a human being in this society, as you say, it tends to value people for what they do. And so that can become very, very addictive. But again, going back to your friend who says, my patients need me, and you think about it, and I'm not accusing them of anything, but they're not realizing just how egotistical that statement is. It's as if it depended on them. Their patients need good medical care, but they don't need him or her or them specifically, which means that they should be able to take care of themselves as long as they make sure that when they're not there, their patients are receiving the care that they need.


So it's not about us. And I used to think it was always about me. If I'm not there for the delivery of this particular woman's baby. Oh, my God. You know, like, as if it all depended on me.


It's probably a control issue there as well, isn't that? I know how I would do it.




I need to be there because I know how I would manage this birth and that sort of stuff. Which is an inability to let go. Exactly. Someone else can probably do this as well.


Yeah. Or if they can do it as well, so be it, you know?


Yeah. As I was walking to the studio this morning, thinking about our conversation, the word impressive kept coming up for me. And I've been reflecting on the word impressive because, again, I think culturally, we think it's a good thing to impress others. Okay. That bit of work you did is impressive, but actually, if you really unpick impressive, or certainly if I do it, it implies to me, and maybe this is my own bias, because this is what I have done for much of my life, I've changed who I am in order to impress to others.




I didn't feel I impressed others by being myself.




I impressed them by changing.




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Impressive, first of all, has to do with what it has to do with our impact on other people, how others see us. So if I can just be myself and express my own truth and not drive myself into activities that are not good for me and people are impressed, well, that's great. But if my intention is to impress other people, if I need for me to make a certain impression in somebody else's mind, then where am I living? That I'm living in their minds rather than in myself. So the question is, where do I want to live? Here or in your mind? You know, and our society is so addicted to people being impressive in the minds of others. That means that we live in the minds of others no more than we live in ourselves. So if you can be yourself, and if I find that impressive, that's great. But you're not doing it to impress me. You're just doing it because that's you're expressing who you are. If I'm impressed, great. If I'm not impressed, that doesn't take anything away from you. But to the degree that we depend on impressing others, we're robbing ourselves.


So that's how I see that word.


The third regret that Bronny wrote about was, I wish I had the courage to express my feelings, my emotions.




Which is, I guess, not dissimilar to the first one about living a life that's true to yourself.


No. And it again is the word courage that shows up, and these people are judging themselves. A more interesting way to put it is why is it that I didn't express my feelings? You know? Now, here's the thing again. In my writing, in the myth of normal, I quote this great neuroscientist who died in his mid seventies of cancer a few years ago. Those of us who knew him still mourn him. His name was Doctor Yak Pankse. P a n K s e p p. He was from the baltic states. Whether he was estonian, I think he was, but maybe latvian, you know, and he was an effective neuroscientist. So he studied the neurobiology of emotions and wrote a book called the archeology of the mind. It's one of the seminal books of modern science. And he pointed out that we share certain emotional circuits with other animals, so we have circuitry, and he capitalized these circuits, these systems, so the care, the care system. And there's a system for anger, system for fear, for lust, for playfulness, for joy, in other words, for seeking, which is curiosity, grief. And we share these brain circuits with other mammals.


In other words, these emotions are not luxuries. They are emotionally, I should say, they are evolutionarily determined aspects of who we are. So if you take the care system, it's essential, because without care, the mammalian infant doesn't survive. There's got to be something in the parent's brain that drives that parent to take care of the infant, and something that's in the infant's brain that impels them to connect with the parent in order to be taken care of. That's just evolutionary biology. So we have all these emotional systems. Anger is one of them. As I mentioned, fear, grief for others and children, one of the emotional needs of children. When I studied and interviewed experts on child development, one of the things I learned and write about is that one of the needs of children for healthy brain development is the freedom to experience and express all the emotions that come up for them. That's just necessary for health. Now, what happens in this society where a lot of parents get the message that certain emotions on the part of their kids are not acceptable? So, you know, a kid might experience a loss, like a dog might die or grandpa might die, and the child is upset, and the parent can't handle the child's grief, so snap out of it.


It's just a dog. Or, yeah, get over it. People die, you know, or a child experiences anger because you didn't give them a cookie before dinner, you know, and a two year old throws a tantrum, and you can't handle it. I think you and I have talked about this before. Then the child gets the message that in order to be acceptable to the parent, they have to suppress their emotions. So when these people talk about that and that suppression of emotion, as I've often made the case with you and in my books, actually undermine health and our physiology and our immune system. So when these people, in their dying weeks, regret not having had the courage to express their emotions, what they're really talking about is that long time before, when they were children, they were forced to suppress their emotions for the sake of being accepted. And now they regret it because they sensed that they were forced to abandon themselves. And so, again, I would remove the word courage and ask, instead of judging them for lacking courage, I would say, what happened to them? Because, again, no infant lacks the capacity to express their emotions.


So if they lose it, it's because they learned that they had to.


In terms of something practical around this point, Gabor, if there's any parents listening and their kids, let's say, sometimes get angry or have a tantrum, whatever it might be.




Of course, there is a certain conditioning in our modern, certainly in western society about what one should do about that. Given your view in terms of what is important for a child and what you've just said, what would you encourage a parent to do when their child is. I was going to use the word playing up, but that's a ridiculous term because playing up is a societal constructs. A child is just expressing emotions. We're calling it playing up because we don't like, you know, what it's doing or what the people next door are thinking or whatever it might be. Right.


The north american drum is acting out.


Acting out, yeah.


Do they use that phrase here?


Yeah, they do. They use this phrase here.




So going back to that, the parent who may be struggling but wants to be a better parent wants to go. Actually, you know what, Gabor? I really want to make sure that I allow my child to express their emotions. Do you have any advice for me? What would you say to them?


No, I do. Well, so, you know, there's, we can talk about three modes of parenting. One is the permissive parenting, where you allow any behavior and you don't interfere. You know, it's not. That's the worst thing you can do.


Kids needs to, but that is allowing them to express themselves.


Yeah, but there's a difference. They might express themselves by hitting their sibling, for example, and you don't allow that. Kids need to feel that somebody's in charge. Parenting is not a democracy, it's a hierarchy. In a hierarchy, there's a dominant force. The parent dominates the child, not to exploit or to suppress, but to nurture and to support. So that you live in Manchester, and I don't know how cold it gets in Manchester, but if you have a one year old child, they don't get to vote on whether they get to crawl outside in the wintertime in Manchester naked. The parent says, no, you don't go outside naked. You have to put clothes on. That's just how it is. It's a hierarchy. It's not a democracy. The one year old doesn't get a vote on being, going into the slush in the snow in the middle of December or whenever. That's permissive parenting. That's not very good. Then there's repressive parenting, which some experts that we've talked about advocate. That's authoritarian parenting. In between them is the golden mean. So there's permissive parenting here, authoritarian parenting here. Then there's authoritative parenting in the middle authoritative parenting is, I'm in charge.


I know it's good for you. I'm the authority, so I know what to do with you. So if a child is upset, you say, oh, you're upset. You know, you're angry with mommy. Mommy wouldn't let you have a cookie before dinner. Yeah. You're really upset about that. Yeah. Well, come here. I know how you feel. In other words, you validate the emotion. You don't punish the child for it, and you hold the child because the child needs to learn that they can go through these difficult emotions and get through them and still be loved. And still be loved.




Now that doesn't mean you let them pull the cat's tail or to break the, break the glass, you know, smash the fridge furniture or hit their sibling. But it doesn't mean you validate the emotions and you hold them and then they learn. Ah. And actually, and when they, and it's also age specific, like, there's no point saying to an angry one and a half year old, let's find, let's express it through words. They don't have the words, but to five year old, you can say, can we find some words for your anger? In other words, you can teach them to express their emotions in ways that are socially appropriate. So at any age, you have to be age appropriate. But fundamentally, you validate the emotions and you hold the child and you make them feel that you can have these emotions. I don't want you behaving that way, but you can have the emotion and I'm not going to reject you for it. It's not that hard. And people do it intuitively sometimes.


Yeah. And the impact of parenting like that will be felt for the rest of that child's life.


Well, absolutely.


And that's the key, isn't it? You look around society, it's very, very hard to not make the case that we have to set up society so that those early years are where the kids get good nutrition, they have calm environments, they have present parents. You know, I'm always shocked at the amount of leave that people in America get or mothers get in jobs in America. I think one of my friends, partners in America, got two weeks off. Which two weeks off after giving birth.


Well, when I researched the myth of normal, I found that 25% of women in the states go back to work within two weeks of giving birth, which 25% of women. Needless to say, this is both economically and racially determined, but it means that it's a massive abandonment of the child because from the point of the development of enzymes in the child, the child's physiological unfoldment, psychological security. They need the mother for many, many, many months. And you try and take an infant away from an orangutan at two weeks and see what happens, you know, and in fact, they've done some very cruel studies with monkeys that shows the impact of maternal deprivation at those early ages, you know, studies that are terrible to read about. And they prove what they prove, that love and contact and connection is important, something we should have known all along. But the point is that statistic that 25% of women have to go back to work within two weeks of work, within two weeks of giving birth. It's a massive abandonment of children, the impact of which will show up in their mental and physical health decades on. And then they wonder why there's so many problems.


Tomorrow is the yearly prescribing lifestyle medicine course that I've been running with a colleague, Doctor Ayan Panja, since 2018. And of course, you're going to be the guest speaker tomorrow. And I'm really excited that we're going to be able to communicate with doctors and share your work and how they can bring your work into their practice. It's really, really exciting. One of the things I'm hoping you're going to be able to share with the audience tomorrow is what I think is the biggest hole in medical school training. If you'd asked me five years ago, I may have said, oh, nutrition and sleep, and we need to teach doctors about the importance of this stuff, and we do. But if attitude is one thing that I think is the biggest hole in medical training today, for me, it's that doctors, a lot of doctors leave medical school without an understanding that our emotions.


Oh, I see what you're saying.


That the way we think, holding on to anger, resentment, not being able to forgive and move on, I really don't feel within medicine, there's an understanding that this can contribute to ill health.


Yeah. It's such a gap, and I think both you and I have had to discover it, not as a consequence, but despite our medical education.




And when you're in practice, and you. I mean, as a family physician, we do have an advantage over specialist colleagues in that we know people before they get sick, so we get to see who gets sick. And I couldn't help but notice that people's emotional lives are so intertwined with their physiological health. And as you suggest, nobody in medical school told me that it's a huge gap. It also has to do with how we relate to ourselves, by the way, because the way doctors are trained is very often very stressful and very, almost traumatic in significant ways. So that in. That's why I mentioned the word self care, because in being trained to stoically ignore ourselves, we also are dismissing the importance of emotions in our clients. So that. I wish there was more emphasis in medical school on dealing with our own stuff.


Yeah, for sure.


In conjunction with that, therefore, the awareness of the importance of people's emotional lives. And what's really interesting here is that some of the great pioneers of medicine have known this all along, and they've said it hundreds of years ago. Well, Jean Martin Charcot, who first described multiple sclerosis, said that this is related to stress and grief, and it is statistically and according to studies since then. But he just saw it. He didn't. You know, and there's a great british surgeon, James Paget, you know, Padgett's disease, and he operated on women with breast cancer. And he said that breast cancer is indubitably related to emotional factors, that it's so evident that it's hard to ignore. And so these great pioneers said this, and their teachings have been completely ignored.


Yeah. Let's be really clear. This is such a delicate area for people, because many people perceive that as fault and as blame. I know you don't mean it like that. I don't mean it like that when I talk about it either. But often it's like, what are you saying? That I did this to myself? Right. You must have had that before. People must have said that.


Yeah, yeah.


Just. Just clarify that for them, please.


Well, really, we've been talking about it, that the suppression of emotion, nobody's born with it. And it's not a lack of courage or wisdom, it's a program, the response to childhood experience. So people have got the message before they had any choice in the matter that if they are truly themselves, if they express who they are, their emotions, just like we've been talking about, they won't be accepted. So that's a programming that people, or ingrained in, in early childhood. How is that their fault? It's just the way they adapted to the environment, necessarily. As a matter of fact, it was an inevitable and unavoidable adaptation, because the alternative of being rejected by their families or their milieu was not acceptable to a small child. So therefore, nobody does this to themselves in any conscious or deliberate sense. What I can tell you is that when people are diagnosed and they become aware of these dynamics, they find that liberating so in the myth of normal, I quote the american singer Cheryl Crow, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. And she said that before the diagnosis, I was always pleasing others and not expressing myself. And there was always a voice in my head that I'm wrong and I have to adjust myself to other people's expectations.


I'm paraphrasing her, but she's. But she said, I've learned differently now, and now I'm really paying attention to myself. So again, this idea of disease as teacher, now, Sheryl Crow wasn't born like that, and she didn't choose to be that way. That was her response to her upbringing. So nobody's being faulted here. But we are saying, people, if you allow that disease to wake you up and to teach you something, you might have a whole lot better life than you could have imagined.


Yeah, I think this is really, really interesting. We can first of all, make the case to people that emotions matter. The ability to express your emotions is important. If you repress them, it may well have some quite severe physical consequences. So let's say that a doctor accepts that and goes, okay, so what do I do with that?


Well, what do doctors do with it? Well, here's the thing. It depends how you're oriented. Like, I'm kind of psychologically oriented. I've always been. I've always been interested in it. So for me, it was a natural movement from strictly focusing on the physical symptoms to dealing with the whole person. Another physician may recognize the value of this, but not have the orientation to deal with it. But at least they can say to their clients, listen, there's a lot of information. So when you come in with your rheumatoid arthritis or your multiple sclerosis or your chronic eczema or chronic migraines or irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease or whatever you happen to present with. There's a lot of information now, a lot of scientific information, information that shows the connection between actually the unity of mind and body and the inextricable relationship between the immune system and emotions and so on. I'm not myself trained in that. I'm going to deal with the physical aspects of the illness. I'm going to prescribe for you the anti inflammatories or the immune suppressants or the steroids or whatever you happen to need to mitigate the symptoms. But can I send you to somebody so you can talk about this stuff?


Would that interest you? You know, so you can do that? So we're not necessarily talking about every doctor having to become an expert on this, but at least they should be aware of it so they can steer people to a broader approach to their illness. Number one. Number two, there's certain simple things any doctor can ask. Like one of my books. When the body says no, that's the title. And in the myth of normal, there's a chapter called before the body says no. You can ask your client, it's a very simple question, where in your life where you're not saying no, where there's a no that wants to be said, but you're not saying it for the sake of pleasing others. Can you just consider that one? Because that simple issue of not saying no can play havoc with your health. Because if you're not saying no when you're wanting to say no, you're actually suppressing yourself and then you're taking on more stress and more burden. So those simple questions any doctor can ask. So it's not as complicated as all that. Yeah, but the point is, the first step is just to be aware of the connection that you mentioned between emotions and physiology.


Then if the physician wants to take on a deeper study of it, they can. If they don't, at least they can guide people to explore that connection somewhere else.


Yeah, I completely agree. Thank you.




Fourth regret. I wish I stayed in touch with my friends.


Yeah, well, what we're talking there is, and it goes back to the others about working too hard, you know, for example, what are they discussing? There is the need for attachment, for connection, for belonging. What these people are saying is I was too driven by whatever factors impelled me to ignore my personal relationships and to put my attention on things that ultimately don't matter, my acquisition, my attainment, my achievement, rather than the heart to heart human contact with people that matter to me. And again, people are driven to be that way. And when they look back on their life, they regret it, because nobody has often been said, nobody ever on their deathbed regrets not going to the office often enough. But they do regret the heart connection that they sacrificed.


Have you stayed in touch with your friends?


Well, you know, that's where you could say that I haven't. I mean, I have more, much more recently. It matters to me much more now. But over the years, I put work and my busyness and my writing ahead of all that.


Is it at all balanced out by the fact that your work and your writings have influenced the lives of millions of people? I guess what I'm trying to get at is on a personal level, you may have sacrificed your friendships. But perhaps the world has benefited from doctor mate doing that. Is that fair to say?


It's fair to say, and to some extent I accept that, that I've made certain decisions and those decisions have benefited many. And it means that there's certain things I've missed out on, but not completely. And I'm much more prone now to seek out those friendships and to strengthen them and to celebrate them and to value them. And I have some really good friends, you know, and the people that really care about me and I care about them, and we're there for each other no matter what. That matters to me much more than it used to. And to put it to the real test, if I were to choose to live my life over again, I wouldn't live it in this way. I would say, yeah, I have some insights, I have some capacity to articulate some truths that are really important, and I'm not going to let that dominate how I live my life. And I think it would have been possible for me to express that voice and to put those teachings out into the world that I get the feeling, feedback that it does help a lot of people. But I could have done that without the drivenness, without the sacrificing of the heart and connection that sometimes that entails, you know, again, if I could live it, do it over again, I would do it differently.


And I don't think in the end that would have detracted from my message. And if it did, I would accept that.


Yeah. The fifth one is, I wish I'd let myself be happier.




What does that say?


Well, that always reminds me of. Because I mentioned Doctor Panksep and his concept of the brain circuits. One of them is for play and joyfulness and. Do you know Winnie the Pooh?






Not personally.


The book, and it's always one of my favorite books, and I've talked about this before. The end of that book would bring tears to my eyes for years, because how it ends is Christopher Robin, by the way, that's the whole other thing. The relationship between AA Milne and his son Christopher was a very fraught and difficult one.




And Christopher actually resented the books because he felt that his father was buying these toys to write about rather than for his own benefit.




They had a very different. There's a photograph of the two of them, and the kid is looking so alienated. He had a tough life, but that's a whole other story. But the book, in the book, Christopher Robin, the little boy, nice to go to school, and he has to learn about history and factors and mathematics and so on. And he's telling his friends, the toy animals, that he won't be able to play with them so much anymore. And in the end, Christopher and Muni, the bear of little brain, who's the smartest of the whole lot, and they walk off together, and the book ends with the statement something like, and whatever they do or wherever they go in the enchanted forest, the little boy and his bear will always be playing together. And that phrase would bring tears to my eyes for years, because play is so important, and joy is so important, and that's what these people are talking about, and they didn't allow themselves to experience it. They sacrificed the play and the joy for all these other things, you know? And so the good thing is, you know, I mean, my marriage, the best thing, and, you know, the best thing in my marriage is the way we play together.


The first time I dated my wife, Ray, I knocked on the parents door and I said, can Ray come out and play? And we've been doing it ever since. And so I believe what's being described in that last regret is people sacrifice their playfulness, their joyfulness, for the sake of being accepted and being successful and all that. It's a huge one. Play is built into our brains. Kids play spontaneously, infants play. And in that sense, we can all be Winnie the pooh. And Christopher, we can always keep playing in the enchanted Forest. And that's just essential, I think, in.


That final regret, is the word happier.




What does happiness mean to you.


Really? It means the capacity to play and to be in the present moment. And, you know, the kids, when kids play, they don't worry about appropriately, they don't worry about the war, wherever, or climate change. They're just playing in the moment. They're fully present to themselves in imaginative, almost hypnotically imaginative states. So happiness just means being in the present and being allowed to be, no matter what, to have the capacity to play.


A lot of people today, Gabor, and I think you have struggled with this as well. From what I know, feel with so much heartache and suffering in the world, they feel that they have no right to be happy. What's your take on that?


Well, first of all, Bob Dylan said somewhere that it's difficult to be completely happy when other people are suffering. It's true. So this is a time of terrible suffering. You know how I feel about Gaza and the terrible things that are happening there. How can I be completely happy? I can't be completely happy. I can't because I can't not think about that, the horror of it, but at the same time. And this is why people might start get weirded out, but I'm talking about a psychedelic experience. This is three or four years ago, I worked with psychedelics both as a healer but also as a subject. And I was having a mushroom experience. And the same thing would happen with ayahuasca once. And I've always been one that felt that how could I be happy when Auschwitz is possible, when Auschwitz happened, when my grandparents perished there, how can I be happy? What do I do? I have to be happy if that can happen in the world. And that did happen in the world, and both the plans showed me at some point that happened. And yes, you can be happy that the one doesn't detract from the other, that the capacity to be empathetic and to recognize the grief and to hold the grief does not obviate the capacity to be happy.


And one is not disloyal to the suffering in the world by allowing myself to be happy. So there's no necessary contradiction. And I've seen people on death row who, if they win their appeal, the best thing they can hope for is life in jail, life in prison without parole, but they're happy. And how do they become happy? Meditation. Working through their traumas, having remorse for what they did, connecting with other people and just connecting with the present moment. And I'm thinking, my God, if people in that situation can be genuinely happy, which I've seen, I've had contact with people, then who am I to say that I can't be happy?




So ultimately there's no contradiction.




Now, in this society, there's way too much emphasis on, you know, don't worry, be happy. Let's ignore all the bad stuff that's going on. Let's just concentrate on how we can make ourselves pleased or pleasured or whatever. I'm not talking about that. No, I'm talking about being able to hold both at the same time.


Yeah, you have to. And this is something I feel I've really grown into over the last years, that I actually can be very happy and content.




Whilst there is heartache in the world, it doesn't mean I don't care. I actually deeply care, but I realized that it's a real skill, it's an evolution of the self to be able to hold those two. I really do think that. I think it's growth.


That's right.


I very much love the phrase that's attributed to Gandhi. Be the change you want to see in the world.




I try my best to live my life by that. And why that's relevant to this part of the conversation is I said this once at a live event. I said, listen, if you watch the news, and this is a few years ago, allow the heartache that's going on in name the country to affect you, so much so that you develop apathy, you can't interact with your husband, with your children. You just drink more and more alcohol in the evening to numb your pain. What does that do? You're no good to the people who are suffering. You're no good to those people around you, and that then ripples to everyone around you. Whereas if you can learn to be content where you're at, if you then do want to go and help in whatever way, you're much more able to volunteer, send money, whatever it might be. So I think this is a really important point for people, especially the way things are in the world at the moment. A lot of people feel I've got no right to be happy.


Yeah, well, I no longer believe. I used to believe that. And somebody once said to be said to me, don't be so loyal to your suffering. And that's a lesson I've had to learn fairly late in life. As I quote, in the myth of normal, my friend Bessel van DER Kolk, the trauma psychiatrist, looked at me once, this is about 1012 years ago. We were having lunch, and he said, Gabor, you don't have to drag Auschwitz around everywhere you go. And what he meant by that is that you don't have to let that affect your present moment, that you can be aware of it, hold a memory of it, but not let it determine your internal states, you know? And it's true. And I understood intellectually at that time what he meant, but it was only later that I was actually able to emotionally let go.


Let's just talk about forgiveness then, because a lot of the time, people say, you know, I just can't forgive. What happened to me was wrong.




Now, I accept what happened to someone can be wrong, but it doesn't necessarily follow that you can't forgive. What's your take on forgiveness?


Well, you and I, last night, we were talking about a woman that we both met and admired tremendously. Edith Egger.




And Edith, as I told you, was 16 years old when I was one year old. She lived in a town in what is now southern Slovakia. Then was northern Hungary, called Kasia or Kosciitza, and her family were taken to Auschwitz and my grandparents would have been either on the same shipment to Auschwitz or within the next day or so. And her parents perished, and she survived with her sister. And she's become a psychotherapist. She's written a couple of wonderful books that I know you've met her and interviewed her. And in one of her books, she describes going to the Berghof in Bavarian Alps, where Hitler used to have his lair. And she went there to forgive Hitler. And it doesn't mean that it was okay what he did. She did that to liberate herself. She said, I don't want to keep him in his prison in my heart for the rest of my life. I've worked too hard to attain happiness and joy to let this tension and this constriction control me. So the forgiveness wasn't making okay or. Or pardoning Hitler for his. For all the evil that he perpetrated in the world, but is her letting go of the emotions around it and of the tension and the tightness around it?


So forgiveness is not for the other person. It's for yourself. Now, when I work with forgiveness, I don't advise people to forgive. As a matter of fact, I do the opposite. I say to people, before you forgive, allow yourself to feel the full anger that's in you. Let yourself fully experience the anger that's there, because once you do, it'll dissipate, you'll let go of it. So don't do it in order to forgive. Do in order to liberate yourself. Now, let's say I was abused as a child, but let's say I find myself a fully liberated, present, oriented, in contact with myself, human being. Then what does that mean? It means nothing was taken away from me. It means that whatever happened caused me a lot of pain over the years, but it didn't limit my capacity. I wasn't robbed of anything. So what's there to forgive? So, and you can also ask yourself or anybody, when you haven't forgiven what's in your heart, what's in your body. Do you like that state that you're in, the tension? Do you like that? Is that how you want to be? Do you think that's really helping you?


So I don't go out of my way to teach. Now, I know that in a lot of spiritual practices there are forgiveness practices, and I own buddhist practice and a lot of spiritual practices. There are forgiveness meditations and prayers. My mind doesn't go there, but my mind does say I also have to experience all the rage, all the hatred, all the anger that's in you and be with it and see what happens to it and what happens to it. Once you pay attention to it, it actually dissipates. And so when Edith goes to the berghof to forgive Hitler, she's just saying, I don't want to hold on to this stuff anymore. It's not okay what you did, but I don't want to hold on to this stuff anymore.


Yeah, it's fascinating. I think curiosity is often a very helpful pathway to forgiveness, because if you get curious about that other person as to why did they act that way, I'm not talking about Hitler here. I'm talking about anyone.


But even with Hitler.


Yeah. What were the conditions in that person's life that led to that? If I was that person, I'd be behaving in exactly the same way because I would have had their parents and their childhood experiences and their bullying, et cetera, et cetera. Once you look at the world through that lens, your initial approach becomes compassion. Forgiveness comes as a side effect of getting curious.


That's totally right. And there's an expression that you may be familiar with. It goes to understand is to forgive. And it begins with curiosity. And I think that curiosity is the essential quality that actually leads to compassion in the end. Now, compassion doesn't mean tolerance of bad behavior. It doesn't mean validating or justifying crimes against nature or crimes against other human beings. But it takes away that quality of tension where you make yourself superior to reality and you put yourself in a position to judge reality. You know, I'm above it and I'm in a position to judge. That's not a comfortable. I mean, actually it is comfortable for a lot of people to be there, but it's a way of not dealing with their own stuff. So I do think that curiosity is the key.


Just to wrap this conversation up, Gabor, we've been talking a lot about these regrets, the regrets of the dying.




And the final question I want to put to you is about the word regret. I have been playing with the idea over the last twelve months or so that regret is actually a form of perfectionism. So I actually now very much subscribe to the philosophy of no regrets, but not in the kind of derogatory way I'm going to live my life my way. It doesn't matter who comes to my way. No. With this really compassionate understanding that I've always done the best that I can based upon where I was in life at that time. So even the things that I look back on and go, actually, you know what? If I was in that situation again today, I would act differently. I don't see them as regrets. I see them as situations that happen that have taught me something which is allowing me to be a better version of myself today.




So in my life today, there is no room for regret anymore. And I guess I would love to know right at the end here. What's your perspective on the word regret?


I think chronic regret is debilitating. It's a lack of self forgiveness. It's also kind of egotism of that somehow I'm not important. It's quite something to recognize. I do recognize that some of the way I parented my kids, the way I showed up, I've often talked about this in your program too. Wasn't the best for them, but it was the best I could do at the time. So it's not the question of justifying anything, but it's also not dwelling on the past. Regret is to dwell on the past. And what's the point? It's quite something to recognize that I did things that had I known differently, I would not have done the same way. That's just learning. Regret is an emotional state that values the past more than the present, and it accuses yourself of doing things for which you had no consciousness to do otherwise. So that's where I stand with you. Go ahead.


Well, you know what a big fan I am of your work. It's just incredible to see the impact you're having on so many people around the world. I'm very lucky to consider you a friend these days. Likewise, it's been great to get to know you over the last few years. For someone who has heard us speak today and something connected with them, something you said spoke to them and they thought, wow, yeah, you know what? I'm carrying around old stuff with me today. I don't express my emotions. I'm not living a life that is true to me. What are some of your final words for them?


Well, it's the word that you used, curiosity. So not why am I living this way, but, hmm, why am I living this way? You know, what happened to me? What am I carrying here? So the key phrase is precisely the one that you introduced the necessity to be curious in a compassionate way so you don't do an interrogation of yourself like you're prosecuting, detective. Why did you or why did you not, but compassionately, why did you not? Why did you? And if you ask these questions compassionately and with curiosity, the answers will emerge, as will the capacity for you to make different choices as you move forward. So where there wasn't choice before because you were compelled or. Or driven, now you can have some freedom if you're willing to be curious. So curiosity is the word.


Yeah, but all your books are fantastic. If someone is at the start of their gabor mate journey, which book would you direct them towards?


Well, you know, that depends on what they're dealing with. I mean, if they're interested in addiction specifically, they should read my book on addiction or parenting. They should read hold on to your kids. But if they want to get the overall picture, the package, you know, it's certainly the most recent. The myth of normal, in which I combine pretty much everything I knew at the time that I wrote it, and it was only published a year and a half ago. It's been published now in 40 countries and 38 languages. It's been a best seller in a number of countries. That's the one I would start with. But if you're interested in specific topics, then seek out the like, ADHd. You should read scattered. I would advise you to read scattered minds, you know, so it just depends what you're dealing with. But if you want an overall immersion in what I have to say, it's the myth of normal. That's what I would say.


The myth of normal. Over 1 million copies sold. It says on this one. It's been a smash hit around the world. It's a great book. Gabor, thanks for coming back on the show.


Thank you. I hope to do it again.


Really hope you enjoyed that conversation. Do think about one thing that you can take away and apply into your own life, and also have a think about one thing from this conversation that you can teach to somebody else. Remember, when you teach someone, it not only helps them, it also helps you learn and retain the information. Now, before you go, just wanted to let you know about Friday five. It's my free weekly email containing five simple ideas to improve your health and happiness. In that email, I share exclusive insights that I do not share anywhere else, including health advice, how to manage your time better, interesting articles or videos that I've been consuming, quotes that have caused me to stop and reflect. And I have to say, in a world of endless emails, it really is delightful that many of you tell me it is one of the only weekly emails that you actively look forward to receiving. So if that sounds like something you would like to receive each and every Friday, you can sign up for Friday five if you are new to my podcast, you may be interested to know that I have written five books that have been bestsellers all over the world covering all kinds of different topics, happiness, food, stress, sleep, behavior change and movement, weight loss and so much more.


So please do take a moment to check them out. They are all available as paperbacks, ebooks and as audiobooks which I am narrating. If you enjoyed todays episode, it is always appreciated if you can take a moment to share the podcast with your friends and family or leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Thank you so much for listening. Have a wonderful week. And please note that if you want to listen to this show without any adverts at all, that option is now available for a small monthly fee on Apple and on Android. All you have to do is click the link in the episode notes in your podcast app and always remember you are the architect of your own health. Making lifestyle change is always worth it because when you feel better you live more.