You may want to look inside yourself first. “Stress, for many of us, does not just come from the outside. It’s also how we handle it: What expectations do we lay on ourselves?“ says Dr. Gabor Mate, best selling author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts. Read on to get a glimpse on the nature of addiction, and practical steps you can take to live a more balanced and happy life.
Having survived the Nazi holocaust, how do you think that experience has shaped your work in working with people struggling with addiction?
I learned early in my life that people suffer unfairly and are traumatized. All my addicted clients in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver were abused, neglected and traumatized repeatedly in their childhoods. Their addictions are their attempt to soothe the pain.
In Buddhism, beings are “ghosts” only in the sense of not being fully alive; not fully capable of living and appreciating what the moment has to offer. When do you think the addiction can turn into medicine for the person where they feel at peace with themselves?
In most of us human beings, there is a place of hurt, an emptiness–we turn into hungry ghosts when we try to soothe that pain or fill the emptiness from the outside, whether with drugs or with behaviors such as work, sexual acting out, eating or gambling. When we sedate our feelings that way, we are no longer present in our own lives.
We haunt our lives without fully experiencing ourselves.
Your work focuses alot on how the mind can affect the overall health of the body. For people who work in very stressful jobs, what practical things can they do to live a more balanced life?
Stress, for many of us, does not just come from the outside. It’s also how we handle it: What expectations do we lay on ourselves? Are we able to say “no”? Do we always have to be perfect? Are we afraid of disappointing others? Do we respect and honor our own needs?
As I show in my book, When The Body Says No, the greatest stresses are generated when we take on the expectations of others, don’t look after our own needs and always try to please the world. Those dynamics suppress our immune system. Having said that, some people are inevitably stuck in stressful jobs and the best they can do is to find rest, nutrition, recreation and some mindful peace whenever and wherever they can. The culture we live in stresses people in many ways and one must strive to protect oneself.