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Dr. Gabor Maté

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

    Let me just start by stating that I am ridiculously intrigued by the Doctor I am writing about today. I’m not only in recovery from alcohol, sexual trauma, and bulimia but I’m married to a recovering addict and have worked in the psychiatric, substance abuse, and behavioral health fields for years. I also worked a couple of years for an Internist that I hold in high regard and who is the best Doctor I’ve ever met. Oddly enough, I have never once heard the name of Dr. Gabor Maté. I am assuming this is because the medical field didn’t want us to hear about the extensive research, experience, ideas, and knowledge that Dr. Maté can provide to us as a society, As a nurse, and as someone who used to have great respect for the medical field as a whole, I have unfortunately lost that over the years. My faith holds slightly in the few good and passionate doctors and nurses that I know have a love for their job and good intentions, unfortunately, they can’t individually change a nationally flawed system. We can blame it on Covid all day, and say healthcare professionals are simply just tired, which is true. That’s a fact I’m not denying as I worked as a nurse through Covid myself and cared for my mother who almost died from the first round. However, let’s not dismiss the fact that the medical field and pharmaceutical companies are not driven by forming a healthy society, but driven by money. I’d go as far as to say that the “higher-ups” want to keep us ill. When I tell you I could not stop researching Dr. Maté, it’s true!  I honestly had to force myself to take a break to write this blog. He has authored multiple books that I intend on reading such as The Myth of Normal, The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Scattered Minds, and Hold On To Your Kids, just to name a few. 

Dr. Gabor Maté was born in Hungary in 1944. The trauma started for Dr. Maté from an early age. In fact, according to Maté, childhood trauma can initiate in the womb if the child is being carried by a highly stressed mother. His grandparents were killed in Auschwitz and his father was forced into brutal labor by the Nazis. Although Maté’s mother took action that she felt was appropriate by placing Maté in the care of a stranger for 5 weeks at the age of 1 for his protection, Maté claims that once they were reunited, Maté was so distraught by the presumed abandonment that it caused rage, resentment, and despair that manifested as he grew into adulthood. This is not to say that parents intentionally cause trauma in their child’s life, but that does not dismiss the fact that their decisions can be the root of their child’s future mental and physical health difficulties. Dr. Maté decided to use his life struggles to help and educate others. His specialties are based on both physical and mental health; specifically addiction, ADHD, autoimmune disease, cancer, and a plethora of other conditions. 

If I were to cover all of Dr. Gabor Maté specialties, I would have a book written myself, so for the sake of a blog that won’t take days to read, I am going to focus on his insight on trauma and addiction. Although we know that people can have a genetic predisposition to addiction, Maté mainly focuses on the trauma his patients have suffered. Dr. Maté believes that unless you address the root of the trauma, the tree can not flourish, at least not in the long term. It is scientifically proven that trauma highly affects decision-making, coping skills, social skills, and your inability to thrive in life to your fullest potential. This is why Dr. Maté found himself working for 12 years as a staff physician at Portland Hotel, which is a residence and resource center in downtown Vancouver. His patients mainly had co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders paired with chronic health issues. These kinds of harm reduction clinics are few and far between, especially in the United States. I take it personally and find it infuriating that we prioritize politics, celebrities, social media, money, popularity, and other fruitless things; yet we pay zero attention to the reckless, unwell, and disastrous state of mind in the majority of people. Look at suicide rates, overdose rates, heart disease rates, diabetic rates, and obesity rates, and then try to tell me with a straight face that we are doing a good job. We’re setting our kids up for failure and yet we do nothing. This is also why I post so openly on my Facebook page about my past and present issues hoping it reaches those who are struggling. We are truly killing ourselves because we are not listening to our gut, but blindly following what society says is good for us. Dr. Maté says, “We create expectations for people that they should not be authentic to themselves, but rather, that they should fit into society. To suppress their own needs for the sake of being accepted. To be attractive rather than valuing themselves for who they are. To conform rather than to know what their own minds are. And for women particularly, to suppress their emotions for the sake of meeting the emotional needs of their environment. That people should take on jobs that have no meaning or purpose for them. Their only recourse to make a living, though, is to accept employment that is soul-destroying for them, in many ways. To accept cultural icons that are completely manufactured personalities- that are manufactured in terms of their looks and in terms of their personas- and yet are our heroes. Totally inauthentic ways of being modeled for us. I’m supposed to care about which celebrity sleeps with who, as if it really matters. And the papers are full of this kind of information. But the things that really matter, we don’t talk about.” So, let's freaking talk about it people! How many more have to suffer? How many more people do we have to lose to start taking a stance? I heard a sermon years back by a man that I truly like as an individual and find great knowledge in the spiritual things that he posts as I no longer have the pleasure of hearing him personally preach, but I remember most when he talked about how ONE person matters. I’ve carried that with me. If I can help one person a day then I’m making a difference. Imagine if we all tried to help just one person a day without any selfish intent or expectation to get anything in return. 

Although Dr. Maté has authored many books, I’d like to focus on his book Realm of Hungry Ghosts. In summary, the book looks at cultural, social, economic, and political factors that impact human health. Maté’s work is purposely based on mental health conditions and the connection between physical stress, emotional stress, illness, and the traumatic basis of addiction. We need help figuring out a way to navigate this corrupt world, which is, “highly stressful to the individual organism emotionally, and those emotions translate into physiology, as they can’t help but do because the body and mind are inseparable.” Maté also covers something that may tick some parents off, but he’s no stranger to stating the truth even at the cost of opposition. I share this quality with him and maybe that’s why I’m not a lot of people's favorite person. To paraphrase Maté, he makes a solid point that in households where parents are needy and self-serving, immersed in addiction, and emotionally troubled, the child who is exposed to this learns to cope by repressing emotions in effort not to bother the parents. I’ve seen this to be true in someone I am very close to, and it’s taken years for him to recognize this and face it, but thankfully due to his faith in God, deep reflection, and support from loved ones, he is grown and better for it. Did you know, though, that repression not only causes mental health and substance abuse issues but also plays a huge role in autoimmune disease? This is not speculation, it is scientifically proven.

So what can we do individually to help ourselves, which will in turn help society as a whole? First, find your higher power. My higher power is God, and he has given me the strength to sustain myself during the hardest of situations. Secondly, start doing some moral inventory, and look at yourself in depth. Once you can do that you can slowly start making changes that will inevitably lead to a healthy lifestyle. Third, seek help if you need it! I’ve had to ask for help multiple times due to trauma that dictated who I was as a person. There is no shame in asking for help. We need wise counsel from time to time. It’s important to realize that we were never created to live isolated and without community. Fourth, help others find their way once you’ve made it out of the trenches. Our hardships are in vain and useless if we keep our testimonies to ourselves, and don’t reach out a hand to those hurting around us. Next, give your attention to things that are life long and not temporary. Money, position, possessions, looks, and popularity are fleeting. Your spiritual, physical, and mental health are what will ultimately influence those around you, specifically your children. Lastly, do yourself a favor and research Dr. Maté further. I only covered a fraction of his knowledge and I think we all would greatly benefit from his teachings. With that, I hope you found something beneficial in this blog and wish you a beautiful week ahead. 

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