When I first picked up “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts – Close Encounters with Addiction” I felt a little intimidated by the book’s size and heavy topic.
MD, Gabor Mate’s newest book published by North Atlantic Books was so highly recommended that I knew the content in its 450 plus pages provided new insights into addiction beyond what I could possibly imagine.
I first opened to the book’s forward written by Peter Levine, author of Waking the Tiger and Healing Trauma.
Costs Associated with Addiction
Just reading Levine’s recount of the costs of addiction to our society on so many levels offered stunning facts.
Levine went on to share that federal laws are changing to require insurers to cover both the mental and physical ailments associated with addiction equally.
This is a vast shift of the collective awareness from the “War on Drugs” mentality seeing addicts as deviant citizens who should be locked neatly away.
Questions About Addiction
In the book’s Preface Mate states of his hopefulness as the cracks are opening to let in more light and openness by the public, which he feels will gradually translate into more effective help for those who are plighted with addiction.
This raised the important question: “What is effective treatment and how can it best be administered?” This seems like a million dollar question.
On page two Mate brings to the forefront additional questions that the book supplies many answers to:
- What are the causes of addictions?
- What is the nature of the addiction-prone personality?
- What happens physiologically in the brains of addicted people?
- How much choice does an addict really have?
- Why is the “War on Drugs” a failure and what might be a humane evidence-based approach to the treatment of server drug addictions?
- What are some of the paths for redeeming addicted minds not dependent on powerful substances—that is, how do we approach the hailing of the many behavior addictions fostered by our culture?
I soon realized the personal stories, cause of addiction facts, and insights of addiction physiology covered In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts would engage any reader in a helpful and hopeful personal, healing journey.
I knew reader’s would not be disappointed and would finish the book more informed, enlightened, and with a fuller heart. They would also have a powerful resource on hand to share with others. We all know people who have or are suffering for one reason or another: friends, family, or acquaintances dealing with compulsive behaviors, self-sabotaging actions, or the inability to practice self-love.
Old Concepts About Addiction
The book quickly points out how ill equipped our society has been at understanding and truly helping those who are dealing with their ghosts.
The old concepts and approaches are not getting to the core issues affecting so many people suffering from some type of compulsive behavior.
The book offers an experience that everyone should have. The wisdom, compassion, and knowledge are quite profound. This isn’t a book just for therapists, counselors, or mental health workers, but a book for everyone who knows someone.
More About Gabor Mate, MD
Gabor Mate, MD, a staff physician at the Portland hotel, a residence and harm reduction facility in Vancouver, Canada, has over twenty years of first-hand knowledge on addiction behaviors, which highly qualifies him to compile such a powerful and comprehensive study of addiction.
His previous books have all been best sellers in Canada and range in topics from ADD, stress illnesses, and mind/body unity. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts has been nominated for the Hubert Evans Nonfiction Prize.
The Subtle and Hidden Addictions
Don’t dismiss In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts as a textbook for therapists.
You will soon realize the book’s impressive content offers grand insight for those haunted by the more hidden types of addiction including compulsive behaviors. For example those centered on:
- Excessive Spending
- Prescription Drugs
- Internet Addiction
- TV Addiction
- Money and Wealth
Dr. Gabor Mate examines the roots of addictive behavior and why people begin habits that are so very self-destructive. The causes and insights into our human cravings are well explored.
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts is presented in three parts. Each section is synergistic to our understanding.
Part One: Touching Human Stories
I found myself page-turning, eager to sense how each individual’s life events lead them down the path of addiction. I appreciated the dignity in the story telling as I felt like a fly on the wall observing their interactions.
Each story brought me closer to the human side of Dr. Mate while learning more about our culture’s views of addiction. I couldn’t help but feel a great deal of compassion for both the author and the patients with so much force seemingly against them.
The stories can’t help but drive a person to want to break any stereotypical views that hold addicts as bad people who should be locked up, or broken people that can’t get help because they don’t know how to help themselves.
Part Two: Causes of Addiction
This section is a huge eye opener.
The clinical experiences combined with scientific understanding of brain development, neurophysiology, and psychology provide evidence that addiction is not about the availability of addictive things or substances, or the genetic theory.
We learn how the stage is set at a very early age for the predisposition of addictive behaviors. Infants who lack emotional nurturing can find their endorphin receptors compromised. The altering effects of the infant’s brain development can trigger the attraction to various addictive substances.
This is why “just saying no” to addictive actions and substances becomes practically impossible without the help of those trained to understand how to work with the deep rooted effects of brain physiology.
About now most people will get how important this book is for every person, therapist, and healer. The information provides empowerment to the so-called “enabler” and also enlightenment for those experiencing any type of self-sabotaging addictive behavior.
Just imagine a path of understanding to assist in filling the void within ourselves that invokes emotional imbalance while also understanding how our brain physiology can lead us astray.
Part Three: The Dark Side of Drug Reform
Here the reader is guided to really stop and take a look at how society as a whole handles addiction in all the wrong ways.
Lack of compassion and understanding have set up how addicts have been and still are being treated. Judgment, disassociation, and locking them away have been seen as the answer to addressing their diseased state.
Would we lock up a person who has heart disease or cancer just because they are susceptible and have a weakened system?
It really hits home how important it is to view each soul as a teacher and why compassion is so very important. The act of judging another is exposed for what it is, the lack of our capacity to love, love unconditionally.
Hope, Wisdom, and Courage
Each story in this book can offer compassionate self-reflection that can be life changing for the reader. Hope is gained that the minds of society are opening to transform the whole way our culture “handles” addiction.
It may take just a little courage to set ego fears aside before opening the book. But with that said, I highly recommend “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts” to anyone interested in deepening his or her understanding of all types of addictive behavior.
With Dr. Gabor Mate’s help the foundation is being made to reexamine how to treat addiction from a new premise that engages and honors the heart and soul of humanity. The book ends with a new take on the 12-step program that can heal dysfunctional religious maps that translates to any belief system.
To view the book visit Amazon In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts
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Watch an interview with Dr. Gabor Mate