The August edition of “The Sun” magazine has a long and extremely stimulating interview with Gabor Maté. The whole interview is available in the print edition of “The Sun”. Selections can be viewed at http://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/440/what_ails_us
I found Gabor Maté’s reflections on parenting particularly thoughtful and interesting. Some selections follow.
(nb: I am on holiday. So this is not a post. These are merely a few quotes I wanted to share with a number of people and this is a handy way to make these thoughts available.)
Frisch: Why shouldn’t we make an effort to stay calm? Doesn’t anger hurt relationships?
Maté: To say that we shouldn’t have anger is like saying that we shouldn’t have rain: we may not like getting wet, but without it there’s no irrigation. Healthy anger is a necessary response to a boundary invasion. It’s our way of saying: You’re in my space. Get out. You see this behavior in animals, too. It’s not a question of should or shouldn’t; it’s a part of our makeup. The role of emotion is to keep out that which is dangerous or unhealthy and allow in that which is helpful and healing. So we have anger and revulsion, and we have love and attraction.
Now, rage is always unhealthy. Rage is anger that is disproportionate to the situation. It usually arises from past experiences, not present boundary issues, and it keeps going on and on. It’s not discharged once you’ve protected your boundaries. It’s the result of frustration that’s built up for many years, like a pressure cooker that explodes.
Anger that is repressed can also turn inward. People who repress their anger can actually suppress their immune system, making it turn against itself. When that happens, you’re going to get autoimmune disease. Anger and the immune system have the same purpose: to protect boundaries. The immune system does its job of attacking foreign particles, and anger does its job of keeping out human invasions.
When you suppress your response to a boundary invasion, you’re going to become stressed. If I started rifling through your purse, for instance, and you didn’t object but instead repressed your anger, you’d feel very stressed, because you’d be worried I’d take your money. It takes tremendous energy to suppress emotions. The act itself is stress producing. Self-suppression is not innate. It’s a learned coping style. When you’re a child and your parents can’t handle your feelings, you learn to suppress them to maintain your relationship with your parents. But what was a coping response in the child becomes a source of illness in the adult.