In this video, Dr. Gabor Maté gives a beautiful speech on human nature and the implications culture has on our ability to maintain it. In this segment of the speech, he discusses four different categories of self-alienation, and provides a sentiment of hope to stay in touch with our true nature as we move forward through the challenging times of modern culture.
Dr. Gabor Mate starts his talk by referring to Carl Marx from the 19th Century and he talked about alienation. Alienation is separation. Being a stranger to. You are an alien to something. Marx spoke about four alienations that happen in our culture.
- Number one is the alienation of nature. Our consumer and economic-growth system are based on the extraction of the natural resources and it further alienates us from nature.
- Second is alienation from other people. As years go by, people have less contact, less intimacy, less trust, less of a sense of relationship. And that leads to increased capacity for illness (physical and mental).
- Third alienation is being alienated from our work. Lots of people no longer do work that has any meaning to them. Since human beings are productive creatures, we are also very creative. When we do work that is not creative and does not reflect who we are, that imposes depression, anxiety, sense of meaninglessness. And when we have a sense of meaninglessness, we want to substitute that meaning that we have lost by all kinds of other activities. And then people hang up on how they look, how other people feel about them, what they possess, what successes they will achieve, in other words, all the false substitutes which can not possibly compensate for the lack of genuine meaning. Dr. Mate continues by stating that what this society does is sells a lot of products that substitute for that loss of meaning and in fact much of the economy is based on that loss of meaning in our culture.
- Finally, and most importantly, people have become alienated from themselves.
“How many of you had the experience where you had a powerful gut feeling about something, but you didn’t pay attention to it and you were sorry afterwards? At some point in your childhood you got separated from yourself. There is no infant born without their gut feeling. Infants are totally connected with their gut feelings. Have you ever met a 2-year-old who didn’t know how to express their gut feeling? That means that in this culture, something very powerful happens to alienate to your true self. Cause the world couldn’t stand to who you really were. And your parents were too stressed themselves to honor and recognize who you really were. Then we become alienated from ourselves, we shut down our gut feelings and our gut feelings are not luxuries. They tell us what is right and what is wrong. They tell us what is dangerous and what is safe. And they tell us what is true and what is false. So, when we are alienated from our gut feelings we no longer have a sense of reality or a sense of truth” – ends Dr. Mate.
Empathy, connection, love and compassion – our true nature
Dr. Mate ends his speech where he shares the good news. “The good news is that human beings can regain their connection to themselves. Just like we can regain our sense of connection to our nature. And empathy which is genuine human quality is in us. We are actually wired for empathy. Even rats are wired for empathy. When you stress rats in the laboratory by shocking their feet with electricity, they are more stressed when they watch other rats being shocked, than when they are shocked themselves. Their stress levels are higher. That’s also our nature as human beings. Contrary to the myths in our culture that we are a separate individual, aggressive, competitive creatures, we are actually wired for empathy, wired for connection, love, and compassion. So, really to move forward, all we have to do (not an easy task, but is certainly available to us) is to get back to our true nature.” – ends Dr. Mate.
Being civically engaged
Being civically engaged is also very much connected to regaining the connection with ourselves. Continuously learning and discovering yourself is a responsibility (and a gift) that all trainers have. Knowing your values and principles, what you stand for, listening to your gut feelings and understanding what is the truth, is deeply connected to being civically engaged in the society. It means also challenging the status quo and advocating for regaining connections to nature, work, other people and ourselves, as Dr. Gabor Mate clearly explains in his talk.
Why did I choose this tool?
I find this video very relevant for us as trainers to reflect on current culture and how it alienates people from nature, from work, from other people and from ourselves. The role of trainers in awakening and re-connecting is crucial and I hope you will share this video and have discussions around it with many learners.
Suggested Reflection Questions
What practices can you do in order to reconnect with yourself? What practices can you offer to the learners to do the same?
You can show this video with a group of learners and reflect about the statements made. There are 4 underlying discussions that you can have:
3. Connection with others;
4. Connection with yourself;.
Reflect, write down thoughts, and share with the others.
“We may not be responsible for the world that created our minds, but we can take responsibility for the mind with which we create our world” – Gabor Mate