Gabor Maté

“We think that there are people who are normal over here, and then there’s the pathological ones who have depression, anxiety, addiction or schizophrenia or Bipolar disorder or ADHD or any number of other conditions.

What I see is a continuum; that we are all on a continuum. These traits to one degree or another are present in almost everybody. And it’s a mythology to think that there’s the normal and then there’s the abnormal. According to the research the best place to be a schizophrenic in the world is not North America with all its pharmacopoeia. It’s actually a village in Africa or India - where there’s acceptance, where people make room for your differentness, where connection is not broken but is maintained, where you’re not excluded and ostracized but where you’re welcomed.

And where there’s room for you to act out whatever you need to act out or to express whatever you need to express - where the whole community would sing with you or chant with you or hold ceremony with you, and maybe find some meaning in your “craziness”.

So, it’s contextual and it’s cultural. So, disease is not an isolated phenomenon of an individual - it’s in fact culturally manufactured or culturally constructed. A society that cuts us off from our spirituality; that cuts us off from society by idealizing individualism, and by destroying social contexts (which is what our society does), ignoring our emotional needs - it’s going to be a society that generates pathology.

And I think that has to do with the very nature of the economic system that says that what matters is not who you are, but how you’re valued by others. It’s a materialistic society, which specifically means that what we value is not who people are, but what they produce and what they consume. And the people that neither consume nor produce are shunned to the side and they’re totally devalued. Hence the rejection of the old and the poor because they no longer pursue to produce and they’re not rich enough to consume a lot either. So the very nature of this materialistic society dictates or generates and promotes the separation from ourselves.

There is an intelligence - I’m not speaking of an operative creature up there or out there somewhere doing things and deciding things. But there is an intelligence in Nature and creation that if we ignore we create suffering for ourselves and other people. And aligning with that intelligence and aligning with that connection is really how we’re meant to be. Whether we do so consciously or whether we do so because we’re called to do that which manifests compassion, connection and love - that’s the way we’re meant to be.

So, recognizing that and striving for that is what I call spirituality. Fundamentally, there’s this spiritual nature that if we ignore it we’re actually ignoring an essential part of ourselves.”


Gabor Maté
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