The Roots of Addiction – Gabor Maté

Powerful, moving film with Gabor Maté talking about the origins and nature of compulsive behaviours and substance use. We are going to post some longer films of Gabor Maté’s work – this is another taster, at just over 3 minutes. We hope it will convince you to find time for the upcoming longer posts…..

The whole thing is mesmerizing, and we especially resonate with:-

‘Addictions are not the problem. At least, of course they are a problem, but they are also the attempt to solve a problem, and the problem is unbearable psychic distress or pain. So there’s no understanding of addiction without understanding human pain, and there’s no understanding human pain without understanding human childhood experience.’


‘Whatever you’re addicted to ….are….attempts to escape pain, distress, discomfort with the self. And no infant is uncomfortable with themselves, so the discomfort is a response to the parents’ discomfort and, in the case of the most traumatized population, the parents’ high level of disfunction, which goes back to their own childhoods. So there’s no-one to blame, it’s multi-generational – but that’s how it’s transmitted. It’s not genetic. Alcoholism is not a genetic disease, drug addiction is not a genetic disease. That’s one of those myths that our society likes to hold onto. It runs in families, not because of genes, but because of emotional patterns and behaviours that give rise to that same pain, and that same desire to escape from the pain.’

He also looks briefly about brain chemistry, how childhood experience shapes this, and how difficult childhood experience can impact our ability to create holistic well-being for ourselves from our own inward resources:-

‘…so addictions, whether physical or behavioural, are all about trying to seek something from the outside that you are not able to generate from within, and it all goes back to pain and loss and terror and, in the severe cases, trauma.’

Many of our clients at this service bring addictive or compulsive behaviours of one kind or another. Like Gabor, our experience is that this invariably has roots in past experiences of pain, loss or trauma, so the therapy has its deepest focus around healing that pain, rather than around management of behaviour (although of course there may be elements of both on the therapeutic journey).

With thanks to KidCareCanada for posting this.

We have used some terms/labels in the tags here which we don’t see as person-centred, and are not terms we generally use – but which are intended to make this post more widely accessible through search engines, to those who might find it interesting.

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter



This entry was posted in abuse, child development, childhood abuse, compulsive behaviour, Disconnection, emotions, external locus, family systems, fear, Gabor Mate, generational trauma, genetics, grief, growing up, human condition, internal locus of evaluation, loss, sadness & pain, trauma, violence and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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