Gabor Maté quotes

Who on Earth is 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 books

Gabor Maté quotes

“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

“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

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

Gabor Maté

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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 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 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

“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