A Deep Dive into Self-Inquiry: Gabor Mate’s Transformative Journaling Exercise


In the hustle and bustle of modern life, introspection can often take a back seat. Yet, taking time to understand oneself is crucial for personal growth, mental health, and spiritual development. Gabor Mate's enlightening book, The Myth of Normal, presents a powerful self-inquiry exercise that pushes individuals to challenge their core beliefs and examine the stories they tell themselves. Let’s dive into the benefits of this exercise and how you can incorporate it into your journaling routine.

Benefits of the Self-Inquiry Exercise:

Enhanced Self-Awareness: This exercise helps illuminate the parts of ourselves that we often push into the shadows, fostering a deeper understanding of our true desires and fears.
Improved Emotional Well-being: By confronting what we habitually suppress, we allow ourselves to process and eventually release suppressed emotions, leading to increased emotional balance.
Empowered Decision Making: Recognizing our limiting beliefs and where they stem from can lead to more authentic, empowered choices in our daily lives.
Incorporating the Exercise into Your Journaling Routine:

Step 1: Finding Authenticity in Our Responses:

Question #1: In my life’s important areas, what am I not saying no to?

Significance: Recognize areas where actions misalign with feelings.
Example: Perhaps you continuously accept additional work tasks even when you're overwhelmed, fearing that saying no might make you appear less committed.

Step 2: Recognizing the Consequences of Suppression:

Question #2: How does my inability to say no impact my life?

Significance: Address repercussions in the physical, emotional, and interpersonal domains.
Example: Due to not saying no to excessive tasks, you might suffer from sleep deprivation, heightened anxiety, or strains in personal relationships as you have less time for loved ones.

Step 3: Attuning Ourselves to Bodily Signals:

Question #3: What bodily signals have I been overlooking?

Significance: Body clues reveal emotional and psychological states.
Example: The tension headaches you've been experiencing might be your body's way of communicating the stress and burnout from overworking.

Step 4: Unraveling the Narratives:

Question #4: What is the hidden story behind my inability to say no?

Significance: Identify the tales justifying our actions.
Example: Reflect on a time last year when you felt swamped with tasks. Yet, when presented with an additional project, you didn't hesitate to take it on. Upon deeper introspection, you recognize this isn't an isolated incident but a recurring pattern. Perhaps you've long associated your worth with how much you can handle or achieve. Old journal entries or mental notes might reveal sentiments like, "Today was productive; I felt valuable." This could be a clue that your challenges with setting boundaries stem from such beliefs.

Step 5: Tracing Back to the Origins:

Question #5: Where did I learn these stories?

Significance: Reflect on the past to identify the source of limiting beliefs.
Example: Delving into your memories, you might recall the feedback you received during your formative years. Maybe you were showered with praise after intense study sessions or big achievements, with comments such as, "Look at you! Always working so hard, you're destined for success." Meanwhile, days dedicated to relaxation or personal hobbies might've been met with indifference or subtle critiques. Recognizing these patterns, it's possible that your equation of worth with relentless work has roots in such early experiences.

Step 6: Embracing Our True Desires:

Question #6: Where have I ignored or denied the “yes” that wanted to be said?

Significance: Recognize suppressed joys or desires.
Example: You might recall the art class you wanted to take last year, but you declined because it clashed with your extra work hours. That was a ‘yes’ you stifled, putting work over personal passion.


Gabor Mate’s self-inquiry exercise offers a profound means to introspection, challenging us to confront our limiting beliefs and realign with our authentic selves. Incorporating this exercise into your journaling routine can catalyze significant personal transformation. So, the next time you sit down with your journal, consider embarking on this deep dive into self-discovery. The truths you uncover might just reshape your narrative.

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