Dr. Gabor Mate on The Tim Ferriss Show

Episode 3: Podcast Summary

Episode 3 to kickoff 2023. If you're reading this, I genuinely hope you have a year full of fulfillment. May your relationships, activities, work, and conversations fill up your cup. Cheers to whatever this year may bring.

For being only ~1.5 hours, this podcast packs a punch. It’s changed the way I relate to my emotions, to my "Child Self", and to other people.

Three ideas that have influenced my beliefs and personal operating system:

  • Dr. Mate makes the point that rather than trying to suppress a "negative" emotion, like anger, we should try to metabolize that emotion

    • Each emotion I experience serves a purpose. However, in each new moment, it's incumbent upon me to evaluate whether this emotion is still serving me in the way I want

      • If it is, then I can carry on in this state of mind

      • If it's not, then I can thank it for the role it played for me in the past and move on

      • The first step is naming the emotion I'm feeling in the moment

  • Dr. Mate and Tim's discussion on the impact of childhood trauma sparked the idea that we’re all just kids masquerading as "grown-up" adults

    • Our behavior today is simply a symptom of our past experiences and environment

      • Positive traits and negative tendencies likely stem from a transformational event or repeat experience in the past

    • It’s become a common phrase in my life to say, "Little Trent is running the show right now. He feels insecure / uncertain / nervous / angry."

      • It's amazing the self-understanding that’s engendered by simply calling attention to who's at the mic in any given situation

  • This also inspired the idea that I am never in a position to judge another person

    • Disclaimer 1: this is wayyyyyy easier said than done. Still working on it (and probably always will be), so feel free to help keep me accountable

    • The logic is as follows:

      • Assume that our childhood experiences are major drivers of our behavior & decisions today

      • Thus, in order to judge another in this moment, I would need to have full understanding of their past experiences, especially their childhood experiences, since those experiences are major drivers of their behavior & decisions today

      • Yet, in order to fully understand their past experiences, I would have had to have lived their life in its entirety

      • Therefore, since I’ve never lived another person's life in its entirety, I’m never in a position to cast judgment on them

    • Here are the benefits I've observed when starting to put this into practice:

      • Retire from my post as Judge, freeing up my scarce energy and attention for other endeavors

        • I've relinquished my self-inflicted sense of responsibility to exercise judgment in all situations and of all people

        • This provides a newfound reserve of mental processing power that I can dedicate to responding to a situation, rather than simply judging it

      • Let go of anxiety about how others are judging me

        • Without full understanding of my past experiences, they'll never fully get it anyway

      • More measured emotional reaction to confrontation or disagreement

        • Realization that confrontation is often attributed to misunderstanding of past experiences or misalignment on what is "right" in a given situation

          • What is "right" is informed by each participants' past experiences, so, before proceeding, we probably need to align on the definition of what is "right"

    • Disclaimer 2: I feel inclined to repeat the fact that this is all very much a practice for me. I am a white belt, a rookie, a Tenderfoot, a mere guppy in this domain. Please don't take this as evangelization of my mastery. I'm simply sharing a new practice against which I'm putting energy.

Summary Notes

  • Healthy Anger vs Rage

    • Anger does serve a purpose. It's a defense mechanism. It commands attention and protects us

      • Anger served you in the past when confronting some trauma you experienced. Thus, it’s completely normal that it would be your response in certain situations

    • To experience anger in a healthy way, one must metabolize anger. Not suppress it. Experience the anger. Fully experience it.

      • To experience anger means to observe it without judgment. Understand its source. Identify why it came up in this situation. Decide whether you want to continue to experience anger in the next moment. When observed in this way, eventually the anger will dissipate. Then you can move on and leave the emotion in the past. Thank it for playing its role in the moment, then give yourself the permission to move on.

      • We are often taught to suppress our anger. We are taught that "anger is bad." Anger becomes "bad" only when we don't have the means to control it or face it. To refuse to control it, means that anger converts into rage. To refuse to face it, means that we suppress it. We push it down deep into ourselves. When that happens, when we haven't processed it, it will rear its head again, but likely in a different form. It could be depression, it could be aversion, it could be fear. Whatever it is, it is still controlling us in some way.

  • Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

    • It's “radical acceptance” not “radical tolerance”

      • It doesn’t mean that we have to tolerate every situation. We accept what the current situation is. Fully accept it. Once we have done so, then we can move to make changes

    • “RAIN” for difficult emotions

      • Recognize

      • Allow

      • Investigate

      • Nurture

    • All suffering can be boiled down to the question - “what are you unwilling to feel?”

  • Attachment vs Authenticity

    • We feign for attachment at the risk of not expressing our authentic selves

    • When faced with the decision of attachment vs authenticity, if we choose attachment too many times, then we lose sight of who we are

    • Too often we don't express how we feel in the moment for fear that we will "disrupt the peace". But there's a way to do this that doesn't threaten the other person. That isn't an attack. First, we must understand our emotion. That's the process of self-regulation. Then we just communicate what we observe and how what we observed made us feel. Then extend the same right to the other person. Understand that what we observed might not be the same situation that the other person observed. Interpretations of situations often differ

  • Self-regulation

    • Seeing the emotions. Experiencing the emotions. Being able to explain why they’re there. What is their source?

      • Observing all of this then deciding whether you want to continue to feel them or not. Letting the emotion pass once it is no longer serving you

    • Children learn to self-regulate by watching their parents do it

  • Myth of normal

    • Our society projects a myth of what's "normal" on to each of us. But what our society considers "normal" is entirely abnormal to our Nature as humans. And the "abnormalities" that arise in us are actually quite normal & expected when viewed in the lens of our human Nature

    • Krishnamurti: "it’s no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society"

  • Focusing on behavior rather than the source of the behavior

    • The worst tactic as a parent is to focus on the surface-level behavior rather than the underlying emotion or trauma

    • "Acting up" is using behavior to act out something that words can’t express, it's like a child playing a game of charades

    • Legal system is an example of only judging the behavior not the source. The system is completely uninterested in understanding the source of offender's actions

    • There is no “wrong” behavior. The behavior is the result of our experience and environment. Yes, an acorn's Nature and potential is to become an oak tree, but I wouldn't expect it to become an oak tree when it’s sitting on my desk

    • The child mind impacted by trauma tells us not to trust our authenticity. Because trusting our authenticity in the past is what got us into trouble.

  • Practice of finding alignment

    • Without thinking whatsoever, think of the first thing that comes to mind if someone were to ask you this question:

    • "What’s calling you?"

    • [After answering the first question] "What’s stopping you?"

  • Trust the process. Take the next step

    • Tim’s answer to "what's stopping you?" is finding something that can be all-consuming for him. Something that requires his full attention

    • What’s the worst case scenario? You take the next step and then decide where to go from there. Do you have to figure it out all in advance or can you just take the next step? Can you just trust the process?

      • Writing a novel is like driving across the country in the dark with only headlights to guide you. You can get there. You can ultimately arrive, but you can only see 100ft ahead of you at any point in time

Join the conversation

or to participate.