Justin Trudeau is no genius, but he seems to limp along despite what some would consider a traumatic childhood. This Barely a Blog exclusive features Stanton Peele, America’s leading, liberal addiction counterculturist, and fellow crusader against the Drug War.
Is Justin Trudeau a Trauma Victim?
By Stanton Peele
Justin Trudeau seems to be a highly successful survivor of what might be considered a traumatic childhood.
I am often cited for my opposition to famed Vancouver addiction doctor Gabor Maté’s trauma theory of addiction—that all addiction can be traced back to childhood trauma, and vice versa. Maté believes such trauma causes permanent brain damage. I find Gabor’s theory reductive, pessimistic, and fatalistic. Most people, after all, outgrow their childhood traumas, as they do their addictions. (I have argued with Gabor about all of this.)
This debate was brought to mind for me by Justin Trudeau’s election as Canada’s prime minister. Mr. Trudeau, after all, didn’t have a happy childhood. We know this because his mother has written about their fractured family life. Margaret Trudeau, herself the daughter of a Vancouver MP, was depicted as a flower-child. She met Pierre Trudeau when she was 18 and he was the Minister of Defense. She married the much older Mr. Trudeau when she was 22 after Pierre became PM.
Her married experience was deeply unhappy. Despite remaining married for 13 years and having three children together, the couple were habitually at odds; they separated after a half-dozen years of marriage and Margret pursued for a time a jet-set lifestyle. Margaret was often at loose ends both during the marriage and afterwards, as she has described in several memoirs, and was hospitalized for “mental illness.”
There are perhaps three theories for Margaret’s psychological problems: that mental disorders have nothing to do with people’s life experience or personality but are simply inbred, that she was always flighty and unstable. Or, finally, that being in a high-profile marriage with a stern, controlling man thirty years her senior was the worst possible situation for someone with Margaret’s disposition. Or maybe it was all three.
“From the day I became Mrs. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a glass panel was gently lowered into place around me, like a patient in a mental hospital who is no longer considered able to make decisions and who cannot be exposed to a harsh light.”
Not very good to hear, or to experience, coming from your mother.
But Justin seems to have weathered this all rather well. In fact, he seems to be the beneficiary of both his parents’ distinctive assets. In the first place, you need to be intelligent and ambitious to become prime minister of a major nation. [Presumably, Stanton, what you say would apply, by logical extension, to George Bush and other dynastic rulers? Justin Trudeau is a rich boy like Jeb Bush, born to privilege, including easy access to the office of PM—ILANA.]
Yet Justin wears these traits well. He doesn’t seem to think of himself as above everyone else (an attitude his father often conveyed). He, as observers have noted, meets and mingles with everybody and considers every citizen and resident of Canada a person on par with himself. This openness and absence of inflated self-importance would seem to come from his mother.
Margaret Trudeau has weathered her own storms, as she wrote in her most recent memoir, published in 2015, The Time of My Life: Choosing a Vibrant, Joyful Future. I know everyone, Canadian or otherwise, has good feelings about this resolution for Mrs. Trudeau. It seems that people are often able to find their own successful level given the opportunity and support to do so.
Meanwhile, Justin’s becoming PM must be quite a source of pride and achievement for her. The two remain extremely close: a picture of an adoring mother and her newly elected son gazing lovingly at one another affirm this impression. (Pierre died ten years ago.)
For his part, Justin does not present himself as an injured victim, the unhappy product of an unhappy marriage. He seems to have born these stresses, thrust on him as a child through absolutely no desire or effort of his own, without resentment. True, he didn’t immediately rise to the top of society, first working as a bouncer, a boxer, a Santa-shopper, and a snowboard instructor before entering politics. [So would you and yours bounce around the world in a zen-like state if you had the family fortune to fall back on—ILANA.]
On the other hand, becoming Canada’s Prime Minister at age 43 (his father was elected at age 48) doesn’t exactly put him in the slow lane, either. Justin has never given the impression that he feels like an abandoned child, or the son of broken marriage or a traumatic childhood. He seems to recognize and appreciate, rather, that he had a privileged upbringing involving parents with disparate, but distinctive, gifts.
It’s all a matter of outlook, isn’t it?
In particular, Justin didn’t become a drug addict. Rather, unlike the scion of another famous political family who opposes pot legalization due to his own drug problems, Patrick Kennedy, Justin favors marijuana legalization. This attitude too seems to have come from his mother. Margaret was once charged with possession of marijuana for having a package of weed delivered to her home. “I took to marijuana like a duck took to water,” she said.
I don’t think she smokes now.
Stanton Peele, Ph.D., J.D., is the author (with Ilse Thompson) of Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict. His Life Process Program is available online. His book Addiction-Proof Your Child is a model for the emerging area of harm reduction in addiction prevention. Stanton has been innovating in the addiction field since writing Love and Addiction with Archie Brodsky, He has been a pioneer in noting addiction across substances and activities, in creating harm reduction therapy, and in the nondisease understanding of addiction, as well as in formulating practical, life-management approaches to treatment and self-help. He has published 12 books, and has won career awards from the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies and Drug Policy Alliance. His website is www.peele.net
UPDATE I: Response to Facebook comments:
We libertarians apply the same set of principles without bias to the political class. Justin Trudeau is manifestly moronic, as is “W” (Jeb is not nearly as dumb as “W” and Justin). All are entitled brats. So what if Justin’s mom and dad fought. Let them all decamp to Africa to experience real suffering. Stanton Peele is, however, hardcore in Diseasing of America: How We Allowed Recovery Zealots and the Treatment Industry to Convince Us We Are Out of Control. A very rigorous book.
UPDATE II: Unable, or unprepared, to courteously address my readers, as to the uneven standards implied in a column submitted by himself to Barely a Blog, Stanton Peele writes:
Liana – Can you remove the piece from your website? It was a bad match, I fear.
The name is ILANA.
And no—not after the time spent inputting, adding links (as you, Stanton, did not provide HTML code) and editing text.
One would think you’d be more appreciative of the feature and the generous mention and promotion of your seminal book, Diseasing.
Author, Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa
Columnist, WND’s longest-standing, paleolibertarian weekly column,
Contributor, The Unz Review, America’s smartest webzine & UK’s Libertarian Alliance,
Fellow, Jerusalem Institute for market Studies (JIMS)
UPDATE III (11/1): Jack Kerwick uses precision-guided words and phrases—a “scandalous degree of unprofessionalism and hyper-emotionality,” “academic conformity,” “abuse of power”—to describe the anti-intellectual atmosphere during his Ph.D “sentence” at Temple University, dominated by left-liberals who won’t brook dissent (like the encounter above).