World renowned physician Gabor Maté offers a perspective on drug addiction and a culture that has created the need to escape.
The perspective on addiction presented by Gabor Maté is recognizant of a simpler, more intuitive understanding of the condition. The specialist in neurology and psychology gave a talk in Vancouver, B.C. as part of the program Beyond Addiction: The Yogic Path to Recovery. While his outlook is timeless, it is especially relevant today as we fight for the lives of family and friends who have fallen victim to the most severe wave of drug addiction in the history of the United States.
In this context, it is important to narrow in on pitfalls of modern society that have created a population trying to soothe emotional pain, and searching for relief from a bleak consumer-driven culture based on superficial, temporary relief. Big pharma racks in billions of dollars annually by offering solutions that may get us through another day, but ultimately prohibit personal growth: anti-depressants and Xanax being the most prevalent. This article does not deny the severity of mental conditions and addiction but strives to communicate that many current forms of treatment fail to promote sustainable, individual change.
Daily, we experience a new form of extremity: the media is teeming with news of tragedy and deception at every level. And while this type of information may initially elicit reactions of shock or indignation, we largely have come to ignore and repress the emotional burden imposed by the haunting knowledge of overwhelming, unstoppable crimes against humanity. For example, our president is a sexual predator, and scientific research is funded by industries who knowingly poison us. Some might argue that anxiety, depression, and addiction is a quite reasonable response.
Maté insists, the wanting is structural, and it takes vigilance not to be an addict in this society; if you are not grounded, present and positively self-regarding, this is not a failure— this is the culture we live in. Furthermore, “the suffering [addiction] imposes, is an attempt to wake us up, and if we wake up, we’ll have a reason to be grateful”. The egoic, small mind that craves validation and comfort, ends up creating a barrier between ourselves and others, nature, our real personal and global truths.
We all experience addiction on different levels. Maté categorizes four tell-tale symptoms of addiction: craving and wanting, temporary release, and the inability to stop despite negative consequences. But we can change our perception of these things, the things that drive us to madness, stop us from reaching our potential and keep us in limiting, small-minded patterns of thought. According to Maté, the key is to see these problems as solutions, a positive experience that pushed us to become a version of ourselves that we could never have achieved otherwise.
Maté’s philosophy is centered around empowering and supporting people. It is crucial that we do not identify ourselves with the addiction, the trauma or loss. About these hardships, he says,
“But for those experiences, they were too stubborn to learn. They were just going to stumble along life, living an alienated existence, and they were never going to wake up to who they really were”.
When we overcome these inherent challenges, such as addiction, we see our amazing capacity as humans, and we are able to help others and make an impact on a grand scheme.