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

When we have been prevented from learning how to say no, our bodies may end up saying it for us.

While it is common knowledge that stress is affecting one’s health, Dr Gabor Mate takes it a step further and analyses the impact of stress on body by looking into a patient’s childhood, relationship with partners, work and life in general.

The book is bold in its suggestion that body is over mind, considering that a person cannot accumulate stress and tension without effect. Dr Mate goes as far as saying that there is a “cancer” profile, where physicians can increase the chances of confirming cancer by looking at a patient’s personality. The ones who always try to help others, cannot say no to demands and are always smiling, those people simply bottle up negative emotions that would surface as an autoimmune disease.

An interest concept put forward by the author is the difference between rage and anger. He promotes the idea that it is ok to be angry and let tension exit the body. An angry person relaxes its body, takes a long breath and lets tension out. This comes in contrast with rage, which is uncontrolled violence (physical, verbal, behavioural). A person in a rage has all muscles contracted, does not breath correctly and accumulates tension.

The cost of hidden stress

The book is full of various medical cases and draws heavily on medical research, making it a somewhat dry reading. Nevertheless, this does not draw from the appeal of understand how our choices are affecting us.

It finishes with Seven A’s of Healing: principles of healing and the prevention of illness from hidden stress:

    • Acceptance – accepting us how we are
    • Awareness – of our bodies and what they are telling us
    • Anger – in Dr. Mate’s view, anger has cognitive value and works as a way to release tension and negative emotions
    • Autonomy – independent thoughts and actions
    • Attachment – being connected with others is healing
    • Assertion – speak up for ourselves
    • Affirmation – affirming our creating selves, and also our connection to something bigger.

    The book is really wonderful and warmly recommend to read, whenever we feel that life takes over us.

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