About 'Hungry Ghosts'

The title for this blog, and for the accompanying book-in-progress, came after a conference session I attended during which Dr. Gabor Maté discussed his book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction and the relationship between mental health, brain injury, and addiction.

Dr. Maté describes the world that addict inhabit in this comapssionate way:
The mandala, the Buddhist Wheel of Life, revolves through six realms. Each realm is populated by characters representing aspects of human ­existence–­our various ways of being. In the Beast Realm we are driven by basic survival instincts and appetites such as physical hunger and sexuality, what Freud called the id. The denizens of the Hell Realm are trapped in states of unbearable rage and anxiety. In the God Realm we transcend our troubles and our egos through sensual, aesthetic or religious experience, but only temporarily and in ignorance of spiritual truth. Even this enviable state is tinged with loss and ­suffering.
The inhabitants of the Hungry Ghost Realm are depicted as creatures with scrawny necks, small mouths, emaciated limbs and large, bloated, empty bellies. This is the domain of addiction, where we constantly seek something outside ourselves to curb an insatiable yearning for relief or fulfillment. The aching emptiness is perpetual because the substances, objects or pursuits we hope will soothe it are not what we really need. We don’t know what we need, and so long as we stay in the hungry ghost mode, we’ll never know. We haunt our lives without being fully ­present.
That timely session, coming at a time of distinct family crisis, gave me hope for the possibility of My Son's true recovery, and clarity about my role in how we got to this point and how I can support his recovery. As I read and learn I will continue to share that learning here.

I strongly recommend In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts to anyone who has any interest in the phenomenon of addiction and self-medication that is so rampant in many forms in our society. Although the book is about much more than addiction - much of it is about our shared experience as humans, and how disconnected we are from that.

Please visit Dr. Maté's website for more information http://drgabormate.com/writings/books/in-the-realm-of-hungry-ghosts/

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