An interview with Gabor Maté, best-selling, award winning author and leading expert on addiction and trauma. Gabor talks about the criminal justice system and how the system and the lawyers and judges who work within it ought to become trauma-aware and compassionate.
Gabor offers lawyers and judges an education in trauma and explains how his approach, compassionate inquiry, could be applied in the courtroom.
Season 1, Episode 2
Myrna: I’m Myrna McCallum, Métis-Cree lawyer and passionate promoter of trauma-informed lawyering. Welcome to my new podcast, “The Trauma-Informed Lawyer,” brought to you in partnership with the Canadian Bar Association.
I believe that law schools and bar courses are missing a critical competency requirement in their curriculum: trauma-informed lawyering. Becoming a trauma-informed lawyer will, among other things, challenge you to critically reflect on your personal behaviors, beliefs, and biases; call on you to positively transform the way you approach advocacy; guide your practice to avoid doing further harm to others; and ask that you commit remaining open to learn new and old knowledge you didn't know you needed before beginning your career. Your education starts right here, right now. This podcast comes to you from the traditional, unceded territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh [Squamish], səl̓ilwətaɁɬ [Tsleil-Waututh], and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm [Musqueam] people.
Hello and welcome back. In my last episode, I posed a number of questions to you. What do you wish you would have learned at law school to help you to respond to the fears or traumas of your clients? I would really like to know your answer, at the very least, your thoughts, on the question. You can find me on Twitter @legaltrauma or Instagram under the username @thetraumainformedlawyer and share your answer there.
I have been struggling to find a way to introduce today’s guest in a way that he has not already been introduced by other hosts. Gabor Maté is so many things to so many people. Some of my therapist friends acknowledge him as the best educator on trauma and addictions they have ever learned from. Others recognize Gabor as the best-selling author of several award-winning books, including In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction, When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress, and Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder. He also co-authored a parenting book, which I just ordered for my daughter and son-in-law as they begin their journey to parenting called Hold on to Your Kids.
I came across Gabor’s path a little while back and we talked about the justice system and some of its shortcomings. I am so happy that he took the time out of his writing schedule to talk with me and to share his views on how his compassionate inquiry approach could be used by lawyers in and out of the courtroom.
Last time you and I had a conversation, we talked about an experience that you had in a courtroom. I was wondering if we could talk a little bit about, you know, how you experienced that whole process?
Gabor: Sure. So, the background was that I was contacted by a Vancouver Legal Aid council who was defending a man who, admittedly, had killed somebody. Uh, this man had a history of addiction, uhm, and, uh, of various kinds. And, what the lawyer wanted me to testify on was the defendant’s state of mind, given his addiction history.
Now, my background is that I’ve written . . . I used to work for 12 years in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side working with a highly addicted population. I have extensively researched the addiction literature. I have written a book published internationally on the subject of addiction, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, a bestseller in this country and the U.S. I published abroad, as well. I get invited to speak internationally to counsellors, therapists, physicians, psychiatrists, on issues of psychiatry, but also to legal personnel. So, I have spoken to the Supreme Court judges of the Yukon. I have spoken to the Manitoba Bar Association, I think it’s called. Prior to this trial, I was just in Melbourne, Australia, speaking to the Melbourne, I forget, Judge’s Association, or some high court institution in Melbourne speaking about addiction and its relationship to trauma. Therefore, I didn’t expect—I thought my testimony would be challenged—but I didn’t expect my expertise to be challenged. Now, this is where it gets complicated.
So, I interviewed this patient . . . or, I shouldn’t say patient. He wasn’t a patient, he was a defendant. And, I wasn’t working as a physician anymore, nor was I claiming to act as a physician. I was claiming to act as somebody who knows about addiction. And, now, three psychiatrists had interviewed him, um, three forensic psychiatrists. Two for the defence, one for the prosecution. But, none of them had uncovered is that this was a very traumatized individual. Most of them reported that he had been—he had had a happy childhood. I spoke to him, and his happy childhood included . . . included a father who was an alcoholic, a brother who, when this defendant was age four, threw him to the ground and broke his arm and set fire to his hair, bullying in school, and other things. And, none of this was reported by any of the psychiatrists. Now, the significance is that these experiences, according to modern brain science, actually change the brain. They change the brain in many ways.
They make the brain more prone to be addictive behaviours for two reasons, two major reasons. One is that they actually have an impact on the brain circuitry itself, so that people with such experiences, to put it very simply, biochemically, their cerebrum is almost crying out for addictive substances to make them feel better, in order to restore some kind of balance. So, we are talking about brain development. And, I am not talking about my theories here, I am talking about what brain science teaches us. This is not even vaguely controversial. It’s not vaguely controversial, but 99.99% of psychiatrists are completely unaware of it because this information is not taught in the medical schools yet. The medical schools are like 40 years behind the science. Now, the second reason that such experiences predispose to addictions is that they are very painful, and all addictions are attempts to escape from pain. This didn’t figure into the documents submitted to the court by the experts. Furthermore, and this did figure, at least in the defence-instigated psychiatric reports, long-term substance use, itself, changes the brain. So, in the first place, children who have traumatic experiences, they are less impulse-controlled, which means that the part of their brain that is supposed to say “no” when a negative or aggressive impulse arises just goes offline. This, again, is not controversial, not scientifically. But, again, most court experts, let alone judges, lawyers, and so on, have no clue that this is the reality. But, you show this in brain scans . . . in fact it has been shown repeatedly in brain scans. So, these childhood experiences themselves undermine the development or the parts of the brain that regulate impulses and they overdevelop the parts of the brain that react out of rage and fear. Furthermore, drug use over the years will further undermine impulse regulation. And, essentially, these people are not working with a fully functional adult brain. So, when it comes to their behaviours, I am not making a legal judgement here, I am saying that biochemically and neurophysiologically, they literally don’t know what they are doing. Especially when under the influence of substances, and, especially, when under the influence of severe emotions such as this man was working under. So, this was the information that I was going to bring to the court, but I never got to doing that.
The prosecution was determined not to let me be called. And, I have to say, they did their job beautifully. I mean, if my job as a prosecutor is to . . . is to exclude, or to strive to exclude, testimony that might undermine my case, if that’s how you see your job as a prosecutor, this person did a brilliant job. If my interest . . . as a . . . as a representative of the court system is to open to the truth, I saw none of that.
What I saw was, uh, let me tell you, this is where my poor lack of impulse control got into it, was a person who, and I am, again, she did it brilliantly, her job was to discredit me. So, she said things about my positions that were totally untrue, but they triggered me and my response was hostility. They said things that I had written or said, that I had never said or written, implied, or even thought. They quoted things that I had said out of context. Essentially, I experienced myself, and I have to tell you, I am being self-critical here, I shouldn’t have experienced myself that way, but I did experience as under personal attack. And, when I experience myself as under personal attack, I get arrogant and I get aggressive, I get impatient, and that is how I showed up in that courtroom. Now, here I was, age 74, I think, a bestselling international author, millions of people watching my YouTube videos. I got all this respect out there in the world. I am well credentialled. My life did not depend on this court trial, just my, perhaps, [laughs] my attachment to my ego, but . . . but certainly not anything that would happen to me. And, yet, I felt like a babbling idiot and, uh, somebody under siege. Now, were I to do it again, I realize what was going on. This was a game. This had nothing to do with justice or truth. This was a game that somebody was trying to win. If I had gone into it like a chess player, prepared to do so. The opponent’s attacks in a chess game are not personal. They are just trying to win the game. If I get emotional about it, I am going to lose the chess game. My job is to stay clear, and calm, and cool, and just on the game. I know exactly how to play that game right now. I’d be so polite, I’d be so cool, I’d be so reasonable, I’d be so respectful. But, you see, it’s a game that nobody had prepared me for. And, what I got out of it was, that if I, with all of my expertise, all my intellectual confidence, all of my advantages in the world, and the minimal threat that I was really under, if I could be so disconcerted and discombobulated, what happens to the average defendant who doesn’t have my advantages, who . . . whose fate is at stake, who is traumatized, who feels isolated, whom even the psychiatrists on his side don’t quite understand, and who is subjected to this kind of, uh, hostile supercilious, disdainful, disrespectful, aggressive questioning? Well, I really got a sense of what it is like, a small taste of it, to be a defendant in a court system which is not designed to elicit truth but to win cases.
And, um, of course, what was salient, and this is what the court system does not understand—I am not telling my personal opinions here, I am giving you the science—the vast majority of people who end up in the court system, whether because of addiction, or crimes related to addiction, or aggression, and so on, they are there because of trauma. This is not controversial scientifically. I could spend five days, twenty-four hours a day, telling you about all of the scientific evidence. I could share with you thousands of research papers on my computer. The average medical student does not hear about trauma in all of their training. They don’t have a single lecture on it, let alone a whole course. They don’t get a single lecture on how the child’s brain development is actually conditioned by the emotional environment. I am talking about the physiology of the human brain.
Myrna: Would it surprise you to know that law students also don’t get any kind of education in trauma.
Gabor: It doesn’t surprise me, because I know it to be a fact, not just here in Canada, but internationally. And, uh, my, um, brushes with the court system, like as a family physician, there are some, um, family court cases that came across my desk. I was appauled by the lack of trauma awareness, by the lack of developmental awareness, about how does a human being actually develop. Not just on the part of the court, but, saliently, on the part of psychologists that prepare reports for the court. It is astounding when you compare the actual scientific body of evidence and research with the gap—it’s called the science policy gap actually—there is a huge gap between the science and policy that shows up in the legal world, in the political world, and, certainly, in the medical world. And, I am telling you—and don’t take my word for it, but, also, don’t reject it out of hand either, check it out—one of the world’s leading psychiatrists, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, author of a major book on trauma. He says that something like 90 percent of the people in jail in the U.S. are there because of childhood trauma. And, people who are traumatized, they don’t behave well, and they are not particularly likeable, necessarily. And that’s—those are all the outcomes of trauma. And, I am telling you, in the courtroom, when I was there, you know what showed up in the courtroom—was my own trauma. My own sense of threat. And that raised my infancy. That is not the court’s fault. That is my own stuff. I have done a lot of work on it. I wish I had gone to the courtroom more prepared to have that show up, and more prepared for my adult brain circuits to stay in charge, but that is not what happened. That is entirely my responsibility. I am not blaming the court for that. But, the court is set up to exacerbate and to exploit that very fact.
Myrna: What would you say is wrong with this system that could benefit from change? Does it need a complete overhaul? Does it need to be placed into a coma and then brought back to life later on?
Gabor: Well, let me address—I will answer that question—but let me address something you’ve said that’s very important first, which is what people don’t realize. This is true in emergency wards, on the part of nurses and doctors, and I used to be the family practice consultant to the psychiatry department of St. Paul’s Hospital, so I dealt with all kinds of people in states of addiction and mental illness, and so on. It is sometimes a very aggressive state, or a very needy state. But, what the doctors and nurses don’t get any training in is what has been called a new branch of science called interpersonal neurobiology. Interpersonal neurobiology simply means that the biology of our brains is actually effected by our relationships. So, my brain doesn’t exist in separation from yours. Our brain is a social organ. If I were to raise my voice, or alter my facial expression right now. If I was to express disdain, or judgement, or—or rejection, your body would change immediately, even though we are talking by Zoom, not even in close proximity physically. Now, what if I had power over you and I expressed those behaviours and those traits on my face, which is the situation of child and parent, by the way, but it is also the situation of an authority figure, and most of the people you are going to deal with. These are people who are immature—immature not as a moral judgement, but lack maturity because the conditions for maturation were not there in their lives. So, then, you show up as the nurse, as the doctor, as the judge, sitting there on your high perch, looking down on somebody, or, the lawyer in your robes, and your language and your articulation, and your “my honoured friend” and your this and that and your trained upper class diction, and you are talking to some lower class individual, perhaps a First Nations person, who, incidentally, although they make up 4% of the Canadian population, they also make up 30% of the jail population for some strange reason, perhaps to do with trauma? And, so, when you speak to them in a certain way, that triggers certain brain circuits. So, when I was in court—again, I am acknowledging this is my responsibility—I should have known better, but it was my defensive circuits that got triggered. And, when people are defensive, they go into one of two major modes. Either aggressive, which is what I did, or freeze, their brain just freezes up and they can’t—their memory escapes them, they can’t speak articulately, or they just become passive. So, this is interpersonal biology. And, you don’t realize the impact that you have on that other person who, essentially, whether you like it or not, is within your power. And, that is how the court system is set up.
In terms of what I would do about the criminal justice system. Well, the first thing I would do, Myrna, I would take the designation, the criminal justice system, very seriously. It is a criminal justice system. And, what I mean by that, and this is not going to endear me to anybody listening here, and I am not—and I’m not impugning individual motivations. I think everybody, or most people, go into law like most people go into medicine. They just want to do good, they want to keep people safe, they want to protect society, they want justice. So, I am not talking about individuals. But, the system, what is criminality when people who deserve better who are hurt? This system does this every day, simply by not understanding human beings. Let alone the so-called corrections system, which doesn’t correct anything, it just makes things worse. And, I could go on about that for days as well. You call it a correctional system, who does it correct? So, how would I reform it? I would, first of all, ground the education of legal personnel in an awareness of human needs, human psychology, human development, and trauma. I am not saying that people should not be held responsible, but responsible is very different from blame. And, I am not saying society does not need to be protected, but protecting society and further traumatizing the so-called criminal are not compatible. So, I would reform the legal system by, first of all, informing the system of human development and human trauma, number one. Number two, I would design—not that I would design them, but I would look to the designing by people who are expert in this—of ways of being in the court room, of communication, of procedures, that actually are human-friendly. And, then, of course, with the correctional system, that really is designed to correct things, not just to isolate them and punish people.
Myrna: Well, I am glad that you brought up that piece about redesigning systems within the courtroom. I was reading a sentencing decision not that long ago by an Ontario Judge, Patrice Band [R v Marratt, 2019 ONCJ 618 (CanLII)]. They were sentencing an individual on a child pornography case. Of course, you know, those kinds of cases are really heavy and can have a psychological impact on people who are not just investigating those matters, but trying them and adjudicating them. So, this judge, he was really urging lawyers to find a better way to bring this kind of evidence into a courtroom to really mitigate against traumatizing other justice participants or legal actors, whether they are court officials or the judge himself, and, essentially, imploring folks. We have to do more research on this, we have to find a better way, we have to maybe change our rules of evidence to recognize the harmful, traumatic, effects graphic evidence can have on us and, and really change and innovate and modernize our systems. And, so, I am curious about what your thoughts are on what is, really, his call for action and transformation within our process, particularly around these types of cases that are—could be—quite graphic, whether child pornography, or murder, or even some domestic violence cases.
Gabor: First of all, I welcome that perspective—that—that—what a good judge seems to be saying is that there has got to be some kind of trauma sensitivity in the courtroom. I would say it needs to go well beyond those very charged and triggering cases. I am saying that everything that comes in front of you, virtually everything that comes in front of you, has some traumatic origin, including, by the way, the traumatic addiction of the trauma in this case. That is a traumatized person. Trauma is the basis of those kinds of addictions. And, again, I am not saying they should not be held responsible, or that—or that children or society doesn’t need to be protected from this terrible addiction and this exploitation of children. It’s horrible. Can we do that protection of society with, still, some empathy for that hurt human being who perpetrated it? Can we hold them to account and, at the same time, recognize their experience. That calls for a kind of deep compassion and deep understanding that people aren’t just trained in. Now, as to the specifics of it, yes, it can be, and we know this, this is now a cliché, although it has hardly penetrated the legal consciousness, sexual assault victims are traumatized over, and over, and over again in the courts. I am telling you something.
I will give you an example, the Jian Ghomeshi case, very famous. Now, there is one little fact that never entered the court’s consciousness. The prosecution, who was trying to convict Ghomeshi, didn’t know it. These women in the courtroom had instable memories. They said he was wearing one kind of shirt one day, and, the next time, they were saying that he was wearing a different kind of shirt. Furthermore, they remained in contact with him sometimes even after those assaults, alleged assaults. Therefore, there is something wrong with their testimony. No. That is the nature of traumatic memory. Anybody trained in traumatic memory can tell you what that’s about. Furthermore, I will tell you something else, your perpetrator always knows who to choose. Jian Ghomeshi had contacted tons of women. He didn’t hit on hundreds of them, and he didn’t hit hundreds of them. He knew, the perpetrator knows with laser-like certainty who is vulnerable and who isn’t. And so that they tend to choose unwittingly, and automatically, and, kind of, intuitively. Why is that? That has to do with their own traumatic self. But, they can recognize the lack of def—the lack of defence and the boundarylessness, and the vulnerability of the potential victim. So, these are precisely the people who you can abuse and they’ll come back to you afterwards. And, so, for the courts to use that to dismiss the validity of these women’s complaints, stands truth on its head. And, nobody in that courtroom knew that, and so this man, who had the funds to engage a highly aggressive legal mind, could destroy the veracity—or the [inaudible]—of these—of these—of these, um, alleged victims and traumatize them further in the process. Now, it doesn’t take much. I am just telling you how it is.
Myrna: As I have learned about trauma, particularly in my work, I’ve come to learn that, when someone can’t think in a—like—an organized and chronological manner, when people stutter and really grasp to try to remember evidence, particularly when they’re on the stand, in retrospect, as I’ve learned about trauma, I now know that is likely an indicator of trauma.
Gabor: Let me tell you something, if you took that person, at the moment on the stand, and they’re stuttering, and they’re misremembering, and their confusing, and you did a brain scan, you know what you would see? Because it’s being done. The front part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex—where inside judgement, impulse regulation, body self-regulation, are governed—is offline. And, what you see is activation of the brain’s fear centres, an overwhelming of the brain’s memory centres with cortisol, which impairs memory. You would see, in other words, a dysfunctional brain because what you have done is . . . the very accusatory tone, and the whole cold, rigid, hierarchical set up of the courtroom, puts them right back into their childhood trauma. And, under stress, those prefrontal cortex circuits go offline, so that’s what you would see.
Myrna: Interesting, and I think that’s something what we, as lawyers, need to investigate more to understand. That an individual could experience shaking, this is now a trigger of something else.
Gabor: Yeah, well, that’s a typical sign of trauma. I mean—that’s—if you look at the specific definition of PTSD, which is post-traumatic stress disorder, which is only a narrow range of the trauma response, but, precisely what it is, I hear a car backfiring on the street out there and I leap under the table because I think I am in battle again and people are shooting at me. The operative word, is “triggered.” When I teach people therapy, and all this, I use that word. It is a great word. If you look at the metaphor trigger, if you look at a weapon, how big a part of the weapon is the actual trigger? [It’s a] tiny, little thing. What really matters is that there is ammunition there, there is an explosive there, and there is a whole machinery for delivery of that ammunition. And, we could focus on the trigger, or we could see what’s the explosive and what’s the ammunition. And, that’s conditioned by that person’s life. So, the overreaction, you know, when there was the reaction, the reaction seems to be out of proportion to the present stimulus, is always a sign of trauma. And, what’s happened is the brain circuit is loaded with that explosive charge of pain and rage and fear, are not being activated. And, that is what the triggering actually means.
Myrna: So, maybe when lawyers see that kind of reaction, that should be a flag to them.
Gabor: Only 100% of the time. And this happens in personal life all the time. I mean, in personal relationship, you know, your spouse says something and all of a sudden you are going, guess what is showing up, your childhood is showing up. But, of course, in the court system, this has life-altering implication when this is misunderstood and mishandled, as it is all the time.
And, yet, something else here, it just occurs to me, and, again, I don’t know how anybody listening will receive this. Judges and lawyers are not themselves free from their own triggers. I will tell you a story, some years ago, when I was working on the Downtown Eastside and I was working at the supervised injection site, and the federal government, at the time, as you know, wanted to shut it down. It was the only such facility in Canada, in North America, at the time. And the case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the judges unanimously decided this was an essential medical service, that the government had no right to shut down, although they gave their government lots of latitude not to allow the opening of new ones. I was invited to be part of a panel at UBC medical school in which I participated, the lawyer for the supervised injection site participated, as did the lawyer for the government. And, we all gave our points of view, and I asked this man, who represented the government, I said, look, here’s the reality, documentably, if my side wins the case, lives are going to be saved. Documentably, and you know the studies, if your side wins the case, people are going to die. How do you feel about that? What do you do with that? He said, well, my job is not to decide the law. My job is to, um, to make sure that the law is applied as it’s intended. Now, that, to me, is a person who is separate from his own heart, and his own compassion because, from a point of view of human compassion, how can you even consider saying that? That, I don’t care if people die as a result of what I do? Now, I am not judging the man. What I am actually saying is that something happened to him to create that separation wherein his compassionate heart, that probably shows up in other aspects of his life, or is he able to separate it? And people even celebrate that separation in the court system. Well, I am suggesting that people look at their own stuff.
Myrna: Which, I think, for some lawyers and judges is probably the most terrifying advice that you can give. I have seen it, like, judges and lawyers perpetuating a lot of trauma in the courtroom and in an interview room, before you even get into the courtroom.
Gabor: And they are doing it unwittingly, and they are doing it with the best of intentions, but they are doing it out of a disconnect. That disconnect is a sign of trauma and, believe me, a lot of America works that way as well. So, I mean, essentially, it is a self-perpetuating system.
Myrna: Absolutely. I have been reading a little bit about what you call compassionate inquiry. Do you think that has a space, or a place, in our justice system, that same approach?
Gabor: Well, you see, the—the most prominent dynamic in the court system is inquiry, isn’t it? Let’s find out what happened, let’s find out who did it. When I say “who did it,” I don’t just mean what person did it or who that person was when they did it, let’s find out why it happened. Now, we can engage in that inquiry with hostility, or indifference, or compassion, for everybody. Because, every court case represents a human tragedy, not just for the victims, but for the perpetrators. I am not saying the two should be equated, but there are human beings on both sides. So, um, you know what, I am telling you something, if I could spend a day with 20 or 300 lawyers teaching them compassionate inquiry, it would transform their practice. I—I know, this is where my arrogance comes in, but I’m—this is not arrogance, it’s confidence because I know that people want to do good, and that is why they are there. Nobody goes into the law . . . I mean some people, you—you know—you can go into business law or corporate law because you want to make money and it is a legitimate way to make money and—and—and, you know, you become good at something, and there is all kinds of positives about it, but, where really, the justice of someone is of secondary consideration, it is really about what is legal, what is not, what is permissible, what is not. But, my guess is that a lot of people go into law, as I said earlier, because they really want to serve justice and—and—and—and, whether they’re on the prosecutorial side or on the defence side, or in the judicial chair, the justice that they want . . . well how can you have justice without compassion? I see anything that is more compassionate or more informed as a step forward. It’s like the drug courts. I think the mandate is too narrow. I think that the whole system should be characterized but hat approach. But, short of that, it’s a step forward, it’s a step in the right direction.
Look, as I mentioned, I worked in the Downtown Eastside for 12 years there. All of my patients have been through the court system. In 12 years in the Downtown Eastside, I did not meet a single woman who had not been sexually abused as a child. All of the men had been neglected, abused, tormented, significantly. And these are the people that the court systems further torment and don’t understand at all. So any—any—any step forward in that direction and, by the way, this is a whole other conversation, not just addiction, but most mental illness, is also rooted in trauma, and that is a whole other longer conversation. So, anything that is going to bring that kind of awareness, even a step forward, I would be very happy about. But, really, it needs to penetrate the whole court system.
Myrna: Thank you for that. So, I’d like to know, what, in your opinion, is something you would want to tell any lawyers and judges, or law students, or—or legal academics, who need to know, but that they don’t know, about trauma?
Gabor: So trauma, the—the—the—the Greek origin of the word trauma is that it is specifically a wound. So, traumatized people are wounded people. And, these wounds show up—show up in how their brains are formed, how their brains function, in their psychology, and in their behaviour. And, uh, when you have a wound, if you touch that wound that is unhealed, if you touch that wound, it hurts a lot. That is what happens to a lot of people. You touch them in a sore spot, you are going to get some overwhelming reaction. You say, “Ah, I just touched you, what are you so upset about?” So, we talked about that before. Or, what happens, when there is a wound there, there is scar tissue and scar tissue is hard and thick, and so there’s no nerve endings, so you don’t feel stuff through it, so you can be unfeeling in your responses. It is rigid. You don’t have the flexibility to respond as you would ordinarily, so you lose response flexibility.
But, you know what, what I would say about it, in a larger sense, don’t look for me to answer this question in—in—in—in—in a couple of minutes. If you become aware of the issue, for god’s sake educate yourself. You wanna know—you wanna know about addiction, about addicted people, read my book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts read Bruce Alexander’s book, a wonderful Vancouver psychologist, The Globalization of Addiction, he talks about the larger social forces that drive addictions. Read the book by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, world trauma expert, psychiatrist from Boston, The Body Keeps the Score. Read the work of Dr. Peter Levine, trauma expert, Waking the Tiger or In an Unspoken Voice, or, he’s written a book on traumatic memory (Trauma and Memory), that should be a textbook in our law schools, by the way. Read the work of the Canadian psychiatrist and researcher [Dr.] Ruth Lanius on trauma. There’s just a world and a wealth of literature out there. Watch YouTube. If you don’t have time to read, watch my lectures on YouTube. Many of them have been posted. Doesn’t cost you a penny. Watch Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s interviews, watch Peter Levine’s interviews. Go to Netflix. There is a film right now called Cracked Up, which is about the Saturday Night Comedian—Saturday Night Live Comedian Darrell Hammond, and his addiction history, and his trauma history. I mean, it’s just, resources. So, uh, what do you do? Open your mind to the possibility that there is something here that you don’t know that you should know. And, in general, I’ve found, in my life, it is what we don’t know that we don’t know that gets us into trouble. So, if you realize that you don’t know it, that’s already a step forward.
Myrna: Thank you very much.
Gabor: My pleasure, thank you.
Myrna: That was my interview with Gabor Maté, folks. I hope you enjoyed it. I know that I really enjoyed talking to him and, honestly, I could have went on and on and on because I am an avid learner in this area and I know that, no matter how much I read, or watch, or listen, there will always be more to learn to improve the way I approach lawyering.
If you want to learn a little more about trauma-informed practice, or trauma awareness, Gabor gave us a really beautiful reading list. And, he also noted that he has got YouTube videos on line and that there is a Netflix show currently streaming. So, there’s no shortage of places to get informed. Become trauma-aware. Become compassionate. How do we begin to practice compassionate inquiry? Begin by becoming compassionate with the way you talk to yourself. I also learn that from my conversation with Gabor. I hope you really enjoyed the show. I hope you will come back for more. Next week, I will be talking to you about what you need to know to become a trauma-informed lawyer. We will talk about some key practices found in trauma-informed lawyer, including empathetic engagement, active listening, asserting boundaries, and responding to the uncomfortable emotions of others. Until next time.