Gabor Maté Quotes

Why should I know Gabor Maté?

Dr. Gabor Maté is a Hungarian-born Canadian physician with a background in family practice and a special interest in childhood development and trauma, and in their potential lifelong impacts on physical and mental health.

Gabor Maté wrote the books 'Scattered Minds: A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder.', 'When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress' and 'In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction'.

Born January 06, 1944

Books by Gabor Maté


Best 61 Quotes by Gabor Maté

“A hurt is at the center of all addictive behaviors.. The wound may not be as deep and the ache not as excruciating, and it may even be entirely hidden—but it’s there. As we’ll see, the effects of early stress or adverse experiences directly shape both the psychology and the neurobiology of addiction in the brain.”

Gabor Maté

“A long-term substance abuser, a few months before his death, penned this poem:

Went downtown, Hastings and Main,
looking for relief from the pain.
All I did was find a ticket on a one-way train.
Give me peace before I die.
The track is laid out so well;
we all live our private hell;
just more tickets on the hell-bound train.”

Gabor Maté

“A therapist once said to me, “If you face the choice between feeling guilt and resentment, choose the guilt every time.” It is wisdom I have passed on to many others since. If a refusal saddles you with guilt, while consent leaves resentment in its wake, opt for the guilt. Resentment is soul suicide. Negative thinking allows us to gaze unflinchingly on our own behalf at what does not work.”

Gabor Maté
When the Body Says No

“Addiction is not a choice that anybody makes; it’s not a moral failure. What it actually is: it’s a response to human suffering.”

Gabor Maté

“Addiction is not a choice that anybody makes; it’s not a moral failure; it’s not an ethical lapse; it’s not a weakness of character; it’s not a failure of will, which is how our society depicts addiction. Nor is it an inherited brain disease, which is how our medical tendency is to see it. What it actually is: it’s a response to human suffering, and all these people that I worked with had been serially traumatized as children. All the women had been sexually abused. All the men had been traumatized, some of them sexually, physically, emotionally neglected. And not only is that my perspective, it’s also what the scientific and research literature show. So addiction then, rather than being a disease as such or a human choice, it’s an attempt to escape suffering temporarily.”

Gabor Maté

“Adults envy the openhearted and open-minded explorations of children; seeing their joy and curiosity, we pine for our own lost capacity for wide-eyed wonder. Boredom, rooted in a fundamental discomfort with the self, is one of the least tolerable mental states.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“An addiction is any behavior, substance related or not, that an individual pursues because they find pleasure, relief, or they crave it temporarily, so they pursue the pleasure and relief despite negative consequences. And they don’t give it up, in the face of negative consequences. I said any behavior. So that could be sex, gambling, eating, shopping, work, relationships, or substances.”

Gabor Maté

“At the core of every addiction is an emptiness based in abject fear. The addict dreads and abhors the present moment; she bends feverishly only toward the next time, the moment when her brain, infused with her drug of choice, will briefly experience itself as liberated from the burden of the past and the fear of the future—the two elements that make the present intolerable.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“Autonomy is impossible as long as one is driven by anything.”

Gabor Maté

“A therapist once said to me, “If you face the choice between feeling guilt and resentment, choose the guilt every time.” It is wisdom I have passed on to many others since. If a refusal saddles you with guilt, while consent leaves resentment in its wake, opt for the guilt. Resentment is soul suicide. Negative thinking allows us to gaze unflinchingly on our own behalf at what does not work.

We have seen in study after study that compulsive positive thinkers are more likely to develop disease and less likely to survive. Genuine positive thinking — or, more deeply, positive being — empowers us to know that we have nothing to fear from truth.”

Gabor Maté
When the Body Says No

“Being cut off from our own natural self-compassion is one of the greatest impairments we can suffer. Along with our ability to feel our own pain go our best hopes for healing, dignity and love. What seems nonadapative and self-harming in the present was, at some point in our lives, an adaptation to help us endure what we then had to go through. If people are addicted to self-soothing behaviours, it's only because in their formative years they did not receive the soothing they needed. Such understanding helps delete toxic self-judgment on the past and supports responsibility for the now. Hence the need for compassionate self-inquiry.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“Boredom, rooted in a fundamental discomfort with the self, is one of the least tolerable mental states.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“Children are a great incentive and impetus for parents to learn about themselves, about each other and about life itself. Unfortunately, much of the learning may occur at their expense.”

Gabor Maté

“Collect them before you direct them.”

Gabor Maté

“Couples choose each other with an unerring instinct for finding the very person who will exactly match their own level of unconscious anxieties and mirror their own dysfunctions, and who will trigger for them all their unresolved emotional pain.”

Gabor Maté
Scattered

“Even our 24/7 self-exposure to noise, e-mails, cell phones, TV, Internet chats, media outlets, music downloads, videogames, and nonstop internal and external chatter cannot succeed in drowning out the fearful voices within.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“Human biology and human neurobiology are interpersonal. The brain is a social organ, and it’s affected by the environment, and particularly it’s affected by the psycho-emotional environment.”

Gabor Maté

“I believe that ADD can be better understood if we examine people’s lives, not only bits of DNA.”

Gabor Maté

“I needed to write, to express myself through written language not only so that others might hear me but so that I could hear myself.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“I think normalcy is a myth. The idea that some people have pathology and the rest of us are normal is crude. There’s nothing about any mentally ill person—and it doesn’t matter what their diagnosis is—that I couldn’t recognize in myself. The reality is that, in every case, mental illness is an outcome of traumatic events. And by trauma I don’t mean dramatic events. There’s a difference.”

Gabor Maté

“If our environment cannot support our gut feelings and our emotions, then the child, in order to 'belong' and 'fit in' will automatically, unwittingly and unconsciously, suppress their emotions and their connections to themselves, for the sake of staying connected to the nurturing environment, without which the child cannot survive. A lot of children are in this dilemma – Can I feel and express what I feel or do I have to suppress that in order to be acceptable, to be a good kid, to be a nice kid?”

Gabor Maté

“In the real world there is no nature vs. nurture argument, only an infinitely complex and moment-by-moment interaction between genetic and environmental effects.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“It is impossible to understand addiction without asking what relief the addict finds, or hopes to find, in the drug or the addictive behaviour.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“It’s not an automatic outcome of living in the world that we should become disconnected. It’s a product of a certain way of life and a certain way of parenting and certain childhood experiences, where it becomes too painful to stay connected so disconnection becomes a defense.”

Gabor Maté

“Knowing oneself comes from attending with compassionate curiosity to what is happening within.”

Gabor Maté

“Love felt by the parent does not automatically translate into love experienced by the child.”

Gabor Maté

“Many of us resemble the drug addict in our ineffectual efforts to fill in the spiritual black hole, the void at the center, where we have lost touch with our souls, our spirit—with those sources of meaning and value that are not contingent or fleeting. Our consumerist, acquisition-, action-, and image-mad culture only serves to deepen the hole, leaving us emptier than before. The constant, intrusive, and meaningless mind-whirl that characterizes the way so many of us experience our silent moments is, itself, a form of addiction—and it serves the same purpose.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“Medical students and psychiatrists, for example, never learn that stuff. Most physicians don’t even hear the word “trauma” in their education and they have no understanding of it. Every time they see somebody with an autoimmune disease or mental illness, they’re looking at somebody who’s traumatized, but they don’t realize that. So therefore we deal with only with the physical manifestations, but not the actual causes.”

Gabor Maté

“Medical thinking usually sees stress as highly disturbing but isolated events such as, for example, sudden unemployment, a marriage breakup, or the death of a loved one. These major events are potent sources of stress for many, but there are chronic daily stresses in people's lives that are more insidious and more harmful in their long-term biological consequences. Internally generated stresses take their toll without in any way seeming out of the ordinary.”

Gabor Maté

“No society can understand itself without looking at its shadow side.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to painful experience. A hurt is at the centre of all addictive behaviours. It is present in the gambler, the Internet addict, the compulsive shopper and the workaholic. The wound may not be as deep and the ache not as excruciating, and it may even be entirely hidden—but it’s there. As we’ll see, the effects of early stress or adverse experiences directly shape both the psychology and the neurobiology of addiction in the brain.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“Not every story has a happy ending but the discoveries of science, the teachings of the heart, and the revelations of the soul all assure us that no human being is ever beyond redemption. The possibility of renewal exists so long as life exists. How to support that possibility in others and in ourselves is the ultimate question.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“Not why the addiction but why the pain.”

Gabor Maté

“Our birthright as human beings is to be happy, and the addict just wants to be a human being.”

Gabor Maté

“Our true nature is to be connected. In fact, if that wasn’t our true nature, there would be no human beings. The human species – or any species — could not evolve without being grounded in their bodies. You couldn’t have a bunch of intellectuals walking around out there in the wild, wondering in an abstract sense about the meaning of life, when there’s a saber-toothed tiger lurking behind the next bush.”

Gabor Maté

“Passion creates, addiction consumes.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“Shame is the deepest of the “negative emotions,” a feeling we will do almost anything to avoid. Unfortunately, our abiding fear of shame impairs our ability to see reality.”

Gabor Maté
When the Body Says No

“Since we live in a society that largely denies human developmental needs—doesn’t even understand them, let alone provide for them—you’re going to have a lot of people affected in adverse ways. Most of the population, in fact. And so then to separate out those who meet the particular criteria for a particular diagnosis from the rest of us is utterly unscientific and unhelpful.”

Gabor Maté

“Strong convictions do not necessarily signal a powerful sense of self: very often quite the opposite. Intensely held beliefs may be no more than a person’s unconscious effort to build a sense of self to fill what, underneath, is experienced as a vacuum.”

Gabor Maté
When the Body Says No

“The attempt to escape from pain, is what creates more pain.”

Gabor Maté

“The difference between passion and addiction is that between a divine spark and a flame that incinerates.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“The DSM defines attention deficit disorder by its external features, not by its emotional meaning in the lives of individual human beings.”

Gabor Maté

“The essence of capitalism is to separate the mind from the body. And, basically, people are all considered material goods. People matter only insofar as they produce, consume, or own matter. If you don’t produce, consume, or own matter, then you don’t matter in this society.”

Gabor Maté

“The essence of trauma is disconnection from ourselves. Trauma is not terrible things that happen from the other side—those are traumatic. But the trauma is that very separation from the body and emotions.”

Gabor Maté

“The greatest damage done by neglect, trauma or emotional loss is not the immediate pain they inflict but the long-term distortions they induce in the way a developing child will continue to interpret the world and her situation in it. All too often these ill-conditioned implicit beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies in our lives. We create meanings from our unconscious interpretation of early events, and then we forge our present experiences from the meaning we’ve created. Unwittingly, we write the story of our future from narratives based on the past...Mindful awareness can bring into consciousness those hidden, past-based perspectives so that they no longer frame our worldview.’Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present…Until you reach that point, you are unconscious.’ …In present awareness we are liberated from the past.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“The research literature has identified three factors that universally lead to stress: uncertainty, the lack of information and the loss of control.”

Gabor Maté
When the Body Says No

“The very same brain centers that interpret and feel physical pain also become activated during experiences of emotional rejection. In brain scans, they light up in response to social ostracism, just as they would when triggered by physically harmful stimuli. When people speak of feeling hurt or of having emotional pain, they are not being abstract or poetic, but scientifically quite precise.”

Gabor Maté

“We have to realize that, whatever’s going on, it can’t be some genetic 'problem' because genes don’t change in a population over 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, or even 300 years. So, whatever is going on, it is not genetically determined. It may be biological, but it’s not genetic, because we can’t reduce biology down to genetics.”

Gabor Maté

“We may not be responsible for the world that created our minds, but we can take responsibility for the mind with which we create our world.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“We readily feel for the suffering child, but cannot see the child in the adult who, his soul fragmented and isolated, hustles for survival a few blocks away from where we shop or work.”

Gabor Maté

“We see that substance addictions are only one specific form of blind attachment to harmful ways of being, yet we condemn the addict's stubborn refusal to give up something deleterious to his life or to the life of others. Why do we despise, ostracize and punish the drug addict, when as a social collective, we share the same blindness and engage in the same rationalizations?”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“We think that children act, whereas what they mostly do is react. Parents who realize this acquire a powerful tool. By noticing their own responses to the child, rather than fixating on the child’s responses to them, they free up tremendous energy for growth.”

Gabor Maté
Scattered

“What we call the personality is often a jumble of genuine traits and adopted coping styles that do not reflect our true self at all but the loss of it.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“Whatever the hopes, wishes or intentions of the parent, the child does not experience the parent directly: the child experiences the parenting.”

Gabor Maté

“When I am sharply judgmental of any other person, it's because I sense or see reflected in them some aspect of myself that I don't want to acknowledge.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

“When we flee our vulnerability, we lose our full capacity for feeling emotion.”

Gabor Maté

“Whether these features become talents or problems depends, in short, on how the child’s nature is nurtured.”

Gabor Maté

“While nervous tension may be a component of stress, one can be stressed without feeling tension.”

Gabor Maté

“With rising inequality and all the other problems there are right now, people are having to question how they live their lives. People are beginning to realise they paid a huge price internally for all those suppressed emotions.”

Gabor Maté

“You need to look at what is it about our society that generates what we call abnormality?”

Gabor Maté

“Your worst enemy cannot hurt you as much as your own thoughts, when you haven’t mastered them,” said the Buddha. “But once mastered, no one can help you as much—not even your father and your mother.”

Gabor Maté
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts