I recently read In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Hungarian-born Canadian physician Dr. Gabor Maté. It’s an unflinching look at the addiction epidemic from someone who’s been on the front lines of Vancouver’s skid row. The patient case studies highlight the traumatic back stories of many sufferers and the frustrations and limitations of conventional approaches to treatment.
More than anything, Dr. Maté demonstrates compassion for his clients and puts his own personal struggles on the spectrum of addictive behavior. It’s a refreshing look at this widely misunderstood problem. He calls addiction an “adaptive response” that allows one to numb the pain in order to avoid difficult feelings: “Ask not why the addiction but why the pain.”
My bet is that every one of us has experienced times when we’ve avoided pain with unhealthy behaviors that, taken too far, might become addictions—whether it’s that extra drink or excessive time spent working.
Want more of Dr. Maté? Watch this interview with Tim Ferriss.
YOUR TURN: What are your “adaptive responses” to pain? What help do you need to acknowledge and heal your own pain?