Canadian physician Gabor Maté is a specialist in terminal illnesses, chemical dependents, and HIV positive patients. Dr. Maté is a renowned author of books and columnist known for his knowledge about attention deficit disorder, stress, chronic illness and parental relations. His patients are challenged by life-threatening drug addictions, mental illness, Hepatitis C or HIV, and in many cases all four. But if Dr. Mate's patients are at the end of the spectrum, there are many others among us who are also struggling with addictions. drugs, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, compulsive work habits, sexual seeking or spending: what is amiss with our lives that we seek such destructive ways to comfort ourselves? And why is it so difficult to stop these habits, even as they threaten our health, jeopardize our relationships and corrode our spirits?
Here, Gabor Mate skillfully offers the question of ‘who we are’ as a way of addressing even the most difficult of our human dilemmas…
“Not every story has a happy ending, ... but the discoveries of science, the teachings of the heart, and the revelations of the soul all assure us that no human being is ever beyond redemption. The possibility of renewal exists so long as life exists. How to support that possibility in others and in ourselves is the ultimate question.”
“Passion creates, addiction consumes.”
“Much of what we do arises from automatic programming that bypasses conscious awareness and may even run contrary to our intentions, as Dr. Schwartz points out:
The passive side of mental life, which is generated solely and completely by brain mechanisms, dominates the tone and tenor of our day-to-day, even our second-to-second experience. During the quotidian business of daily life, the brain does indeed operate very much as a machine does.
Decisions that we may believe to be freely made can arise from unconscious emotional drives or subliminal beliefs. They can be dictated by events of which we have no recollection. The stronger a person’s automatic brain mechanisms and the weaker the parts of the brain that can impose conscious control, the less true freedom that person will be able to exercise in her life. In OCD, and in many other conditions, no matter how intelligent and well-meaning the individual, the malfunctioning brain circuitry may override rational judgment and intention. Almost any human being when overwhelmed by stress or powerful emotions, will act or react not from intention but from mechanisms that are set off deep in the brain, rather than being generated in the conscious and volitional segments of the cortex. When acting from a driven or triggered state, we are not free.”
“The greatest damage done by neglect, trauma or emotional loss is not the immediate pain they inflict but the long-term distortions they induce in the way a developing child will continue to interpret the world and her situation in it. All too often these ill-conditioned implicit beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies in our lives. We create meanings from our unconscious interpretation of early events, and then we forge our present experiences from the meaning we’ve created. Unwittingly, we write the story of our future from narratives based on the past...Mindful awareness can bring into consciousness those hidden, past-based perspectives so that they no longer frame our worldview.’Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present…Until you reach that point, you are unconscious.’ …In present awareness we are liberated from the past.”
"When we flee our vulnerability, we lose our full capacity for feeling emotion. We may even become emotional amnesiacs, not remembering ever having felt truly elated or truly sad. A nagging void opens, and we experience it as alienation, as profound as ennui, as the sense of deficient emptiness…”
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