We all go through trauma in our lives. Whether that is addiction, disease, childhood trauma, alienation or even stresses in the household, the wounds that we carry with us can resonate with us for our entire lives, if we let it. This trauma can be passed along to our children and manifest in our bodies as physical illness, leading to chronic pain and other degenerative diseases that were entirely preventable if we showed ourselves kindness. The good thing is, is that you can overcome this trauma and heal, and that is the core of the fundamental teachings of the award-winning author, Dr Gabor Maté.
Early Life in Hungary And Immigration To Canada
To understand how Gabor Maté became a world-renowned physician, psychologist and author, we must look at what influenced him to do so. Originally from Hungary, his family fled the war-torn nation, as his family experienced devasting trauma from World War II. During the war, his maternal grandparents were killed in Auschwitz and his own father had to endure forced labor by the National Socialist German Workers Party. They immigrated to Canada in 1956 when Dr Maté was just twelve years old.
The Influence of Vancouver
When Dr Gabor Maté established his own family practice after graduating medical school, he found himself setting up a family practice in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada: the Downtown Eastside (DTES) of Vancouver. The social-economic climate of this area greatly influenced and impacted much of Dr. Gabor Maté’s work, where high levels of drug use, homelessness, poverty, crime, mental illness, and sex work, were common amongst its residents. There, Dr Gabor Maté ran a medical practice for over 20 years, where he consistently worked with patients suffering from mental health issues and substance abuse concerns, eventually leading him to write about his experiences with trauma and the connection between the mind, body and soul.
The Gabor Maté Approach
The road to healing trauma is long and can seem like it’s an up-hill battle, but it is entirely possible. By combining scientific research, case studies, and personal experience, Dr. Gabor Maté believes that we have the innate power to heal ourselves from trauma, if we know where to look and what to listen to. Once we have healed ourselves, we become whole, and can then work to help to heal others. That is the true cycle of healing.
Dr. Gabor Maté’s approach to addiction focuses on the trauma his patients have suffered and uses it as a part of their recovery process. In simplest terms, trauma is a lasting, emotional response that is sustained from a distressing event and carried throughout one’s life. Trauma does not refer to what has happened to you, but rather what happens inside your mind as a result. How you internalize those events and the way that they manifest physically, will depend on if you work through your trauma, or let it rule you.
To begin the process of healing, you must understand where the trauma begins. Of course, some of these trauma memories may not be easily accessible to individuals and are repressed for survival reasons. We don’t want to engage with feelings or thoughts that make us uncomfortable. However, Dr. Maté disagrees with this idea stating that all you need to do is ask the right questions to get to the root cause of your trauma.
Substance Abuse and It’s Connection To Trauma
Dr. Maté believes that addiction is any behaviour or substance that a person relies on to relieve short-term pain, which will unfortunately lead to negative long-term consequences. Like trauma, this pain needs to be addressed, otherwise the individual will crave further release and be susceptible to relapse.
Gabor’s approach to addiction, called the “Compassionate Inquiry” involves both the individual and therapist to peel back the individual’s consciousness, mental climate, hidden assumptions, and implicit memories to reveal the unconscious dynamics that run their lives. The purpose of this is to get to the core of the individual to see what they are telling themselves unconsciously and how this unconscious self-talk is dictating the way they live their lives. This approach is studied by many therapists, physicians, and counselors internationally.
The Written Works of Dr. Maté
Dr. Maté dedicates his time educating people on topics relating to mental health and psychology through his writings. In addition to being a regular columnist for Vancouver Sun and The Globe and Mail, and his works highlight the role of psychological trauma and stress in addiction, and the importance of relationships and social attachment for learning and health.
- Scattered Minds: A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder – This book provides a new perspective on ADD based on Dr. Maté’s personal experience with the disorder.
- When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress – This book discusses the effect that stress has on the mind and the body, and how one’s emotional makeup can impact and individual’s susceptibility to diseases.
- Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers (Co-authored with Dr. Gordon Neufeld) – This book examines the breakdown of parental influence in recent years as children look to their peers for direction.
- In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction – This book details Dr. Maté’s experiences working in DTES and his observations on addiction while working with Canada’s most vulnerable.
- The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness and Healing in a Toxic Culture – This book dissects the irony in Western healthcare systems that pride themselves in its effectiveness is seeing an alarming increase in chronic illness, prescription drug use, high blood pressure, and mental illness.
- Hello Again: A Fresh Start for Parents and Their Adult Children (to be released in 2023 with Daniel Maté) – This book, co-written with his son, is written to guide parents and adult children to navigate their respective paths into adulthood.
Dr. Maté is a passionate activist, using his influence and credentials to bring awareness and end the stigmatization of mental health, psychology, and drug use. In 2008, he defended physicians working at Insite, a legal and supervised safe injection site after being attacked as unethical by the Canadian Minister of Heath at the time. By standing up for the physicians working at the site, Dr. Maté prevented the further stigmatization of drug use in Canada. In 2010, Maté became interested in plant medicine for the potential of treating addictions. Using this knowledge, he partnered with a traditional Peruvian shamanic healer to organize multi-day retreats for addiction treatments.
Learning From Dr. Maté
As individuals, we have our own personal issues and problems that plague us. But with the power of healing and strength in numbers, there is a possibility to overcome our hardships if we learn to ask the right questions and welcome the healing process. That is the hope that keeps us moving forward.
In the words of Dr. Maté, “Hope is about wishing for something to happen in the future. It is absconding from the present. Noam Chomsky was asked once if he was an optimist or a pessimist and he said, ‘Strategically, I’m an optimist, and tactically, I’m a pessimist.’ Like him, in the long term, I see the possibilities of human beings. In the short term, I see all kinds of problems. I see the possibility of healing and transformation both on the social and the personal level, but I see that possibility in the present.”
Be kind to yourself and others, and seek out help when you need it. Don’t feel shame or embarrassment, be compassionate to yourself on your journey and live with integrity. Everyone has their own trauma and issues, and it’s a good thing that there are people like Dr Mate who work hard and share their knowledge with us all, to help us become better people and to find joy and peace in our lives.
Meet Paul Wagner
Paul Wagner is an Intuitive Life & Business Coach, clairvoyant reader, and a five-time EMMY Award-winning writer. He created “THE PERSONALITY CARDS,” a powerful Oracle-Tarot deck that’s helpful in life, love, and relationships. Paul studied with Lakota elders in the Pecos Wilderness, who nurtured his empathic abilities and taught him the sacred rituals. He has lived at ashrams with enlightened masters, including Amma, the Hugging Saint, for whom he’s delivered keynotes at Her worldwide events.
Paul tours the world lecturing on spiritual liberation. He lovingly offers intuitive readings, inspirational coaching, and illuminating courses to help others with self-discovery, decision-making, healing, and forgiveness. Book a session with Paul: HERE