Quick Review: Scattered Minds by Gabor Maté

Today we are taking a closer look at Gabor Maté’s book “Scattered Minds”. This book takes us on a journey through the experience of ADD, delving into the science behind it, and offering potential solutions for improving mental health. It’s a must-read for everyone, especially parents and those working with kids and young adults.

Understanding scattered minds and ADD

Let’s start by understanding what ADD is. It stands for Attention Deficit Disorder and characterized by three major features: poor attention skills, deficient impulse control, and hyperactivity. However, to receive a diagnosis only two of these features need to be present.

The Role of Attunement and Attachment

Experiments with mothers

Gabor Maté sheds light on the crucial role of attunement and attachment in child development. In an experiment mothers where interacting with their infants. With smiles, hand gestures and eye contact. The infants where happy during this phase of the experiment. Then the experimenters played up a video feed of the same mothers face but from a video screen 1 minute later. The result of this experiment was that the infant were as distressed by this as in classic “still face experiment” where mothers, in person, gave no emotional response to their infants call for attention and attunement. 

Moment to moment attunement

A happy and friendly face is not enough. The child needs the signals that the mothers were aligned with them emotionally from moment to moment. The important thing is that the mother is aligned with, responsive to, and participating in the infants mental states from moment to moment. All that was lacking in the instant video replay where the mother didn’t react emotionally to the signal they were sending out. 

Environmental factors and scattered minds

Emotional stress and zoning out of the mother interfere with infants brain development because it tends interfere with attunement contact. As distractions and external stresses increase in society, damage from lack of attunement is bound to see a rise. Attunement is necessary for the normal development of the brains capacity for emotional self regulation and attention.

The multigenerational nature of suffering

A reoccurring theme in Gabor Maté’s books is the generational perpetuation of trauma. As humans we tend to behave and make the same mistakes our parents did. Hence, some attachment disturbances runs in the family and can be a risk factor for ADD and other psychological issues. Lance Morrow, a journalist/writer, powerfully expressed the multigenerational nature of stress in his book “Heart”:

“The generations are boxes within boxes. Inside my mothers violence you find another box which contains my grandfathers violence. And inside that box, I suspect but do not know, you would find another box with some such black secret energy. Stories within stories, receding in time…”

Video Review: Scattered Minds by Gabor Maté

Video Review of Scattered Minds by Gabor Maté

The conclusion of Scattered Minds

Pills are tempting when dealing with ADD (and it can help), but looking at the lifestyle is more important. Much more difficult, AND more essential, is to look at issues of family relationships and psychological security, lifestyle factors, and self esteem. Gabor Maté puts weight on long term solutions instead of short-term treatments of surface symptoms. Healing and becoming a person with a firm sense of self is the end goal and that’s what we need to focus on.

 ⭐️ Takeaway: Being healthy in a sick world

For a person like me, who tend to be quite impatient with children who are hyper, children who don’t listening, or kid who fail to focus on the task at hand, I learned a lot of valuable lessons in this book. Some of them I first heard of in Maté’s book Hold on to Your Kids, but I gained adeeper understanding of in this book. As an adult, I am the emotionally responsible person in interactions with children. I need to be patient. I need to practice what Carl Rogers called Unconditional Positive Regard. I approve of my child without condition, although I may not approve of all the choices my child makes. It’s about giving basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does.

⚖️ Book Verdict: Scattered Minds

Being normal in a sick world?

When Gabor Maté first talks about his own ADD revelation, all the symptoms felt like how i personally experience things — and most people I know for that matter. I’m don’t have ADD. Then the question becomes: if almost everyone struggle with their minds in this way, isn’t ADD behaviors just people being normal in a sick world?

The ADD Label

As I read “Scattered Minds” I imagined removing the word “ADD” from the sentences of the book. The book still made sense;

“Many ADD children think this of that.”
“Many ADD adults feels like they haven’t achieved their potential in life, they have started a lot of project but struggle to finish.”

Even without the “ADD” label the problems this book addresses rings true. Our ability to focus have declined, but we don’t all have ADD. It’s the degree of how much it disturbs our life’s that determines if you are suffering from ADD or not. I think this is the complicated part about ADD. Most people, young and old, have the traits. It’s only the degree that makes it a diagnosis.

Scattered Minds is a book worth reading

This is a great book to read for understanding the complexities of ADD but also to understand the world we live in. Once again I’m impressed with the holistic and compassionate stance that Gabor Maté takes on medicine. We need more of that.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ out of 5 stars

Additional Reading on focus and distractions:

To further explore focus, distraction, and the modern world, I recommend these three books:
Review: “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains”
– A thought-provoking exploration of how the internet has transformed our cognitive processes.
Review: “Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention”
– An investigation into the various factors contributing to our difficulty in maintaining focus in today’s world.
Review: “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”
– A modern classic on productivity and concentration that offers practical strategies for achieving deep, uninterrupted work.

Further Reading from Gabor Maté

More Gabor Maté books to explore after reading Scattered Minds

I have read several books by Gabor Maté and here are my reviews of those books:

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction
Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers
When The Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress

Find more great books to read on my the Great Books List
Video Reviews every week on YouTube and support the BookLab mission on Patreon

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