Gabor Maté on what becomes of the desolate child

‘Paul Gillespie still can’t get used to the sounds of crying and pain in the graphic videos of children being raped and molested that he has seen all too often on the Web. “It’s beyond horrible to listen to the soundtracks of these movies,” said Canada’s best-known child-porn cop…. But it is the silent images of desolate children that tear the most at his heart. “They’re not screaming, just accepting,” he said of the infants captured in these pictures. “They have dead eyes. You can tell their spirit is broken. That’s their life.” ‘

Dead eyes, broken spirits: in a phrase this compassionate man summed up the fate of the abused child. Yet there is a bitter irony in his words. The lives of abused children do not end when they are rescued – if they are rescued, as most never are. Many become teenagers with spirits not mended and reach adulthood with eyes still dead. Their fate continues to be a concern for the police and the courts, but by then they are no longer heartbreakingly sweet, no longer vulnerable looking. They lurk on the social periphery as hardened men with ravaged faces; as thieves, robbers, shoplifters, as done-up prostitutes selling backseat sex for drugs or petty cash; as streetcorner drug pushers or as small-time entrepreneurs distributing cocaine out of cheap hotel rooms…….

Some of these former children are not pleasant to deal with. Scruffy and dirty, shifty and manipulative, they invite distaste. Fearful and contemptuous of authority at the same time, they evoke hostility. The police often handle them roughly. Cops are not necessarily predisposed to harshness, but a loss of humane interaction inevitably results whenever an entire group of people is de-legitimised while another group is granted virtually unrestrained physical authority over them…..

…..addicts are acutely aware of their lack of power in any conflict with authority, be it legal or medical. “Who would believe me; I’m just a junkie” is the refrain I hear over and over again as patients complain of being beaten in jail or on the darkened streets or of being dismissed rudely by nurses or doctors at an emergency ward. Such experiences, for the addict, add more links to the chain of utter powerlessness that began in childhood.’

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction – Gabor Maté

This excerpt from Gabor Maté’s wonderful book ‘In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts’ is drawn from his years working in Vancouver, with people with heavy drug habits. He observed that within the adult, there tended to be a traumatised child. His view of addiction – be that drugs, alcohol, shopping, or any other attempt to achieve a sense of well-being, however transitory, from an outside source – is that this is born in unresolved childhood trauma, and arises because that child doesn’t acquire the ability to generate and regulate well-being from within. The writer would concur with that view.

This passage touches on another aspect of this, close to the writer’s heart – our cultural tendency to unhelpful binary, so that at some point the traumatised child (‘us’) seamlessly morphs into one of the ‘hardened men with ravaged faces….[or]…done-up prostitutes selling backseat sex for drugs or petty cash’ (‘them’). Victim becomes despised, or perpetrator, or both – scapegoat for a deep sickness within our societies, for which we more accurately hold the responsibility between us all. Gabor, with characteristic humanity, points out the cultural disconnect, and the lost child within.

Here’s the book link:-

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling Exeter since 1994

This entry was posted in 'evil', abuse, blaming, child development, childhood abuse, compassion, compulsive behaviour, conditions of worth, conflict, criminal justice model, cultural questions, dependence, Disconnection, ethics, fear, Gabor Mate, meaning, perception, pornography, power and powerlessness, sadness & pain, scapegoating, self concept, self esteem, shadow, shame, shaming, trauma, trust, violence, vulnerability and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Gabor Maté on what becomes of the desolate child

  1. Pingback: Human | Palace Gate Counselling Service Blog

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