Gabor Maté

“Cancer and the autoimmune diseases of various sorts are, by and large, diseases of civilization. While industrialized society organized along the capitalist model has solved many problems for many of its members — such as housing, food supply and sanitation — it has also created numerous new pressures even for those who do not need to struggle for the basics of existence. We have come to take these stresses for granted as inevitable consequences of human life, as if human life existed in an abstract form separable from the human beings who live it.

When we look at people who only recently have come to experience urban civilization, we can see more clearly that the benefits of “progress” exact hidden costs in terms of physiological balance, to say nothing of emotional and spiritual satisfaction. Hans Selye wrote, “Apparently in a Zulu population, the stress of urbanization increased the incidence of hypertension, predisposing people to heart accidents. In Bedouins and other nomadic Arabs, ulcerative colitis has been noted after settlement in Kuwait City, presumably as a consequence of urbanization.”

The main effect of recent trends on the family under the prevailing socioeconomic system, accelerated by the current drive to “globalization,” has been to undermine the family structure and to tear asunder the connections that used to provide human beings with a sense of meaning and belonging. Children spend less time around nurturing adults than ever before during the course of human evolution. The nexus previously based in extended family, village, community and neighbourhood has been replaced by institutions such as daycare and school, where children are more oriented to their peers than to reliable parents or parent substitutes.

Even the nuclear family, supposedly the basic unit of the social structure, is under intolerable pressure. In many families now, both parents are having to work to assure the basic necessities one salary could secure a few decades ago. “[The] separation of infants from their mothers and all other types of relocation which leave few possibilities for interpersonal contact are very common forms of sensory deprivation; they may become major factors in disease,” wrote the prescient Hans Selye.”


Gabor Maté, When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress
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When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress by Gabor Maté
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