Fostering Resilience in a Stressed Culture: Many more children than in the past are diagnosed these days with various learning and behaviour difficulties and many have problems learning from negative experiences. Schools are also having to deal with an increasing incidence of bullying which “zero tolerance” policies do not seem to be diminishing. Dr. Maté’s sessions, based on his best-selling books, will include generous time for interactive dialogue with participants and will focus on the causes and underlying dynamics of the challenges faced by today’s children – and therefore, by the adults tasked with nurturing and educating them. It will be shown that the most important feature of any approach to resilience needs to be the attachment relationship between children and the adults responsible for their care. Sometimes we seek to avoid conflict by keeping each other at an emotional arm’s length, creating yet another impediment to genuine connection.
The Hungry Ghost: For twelve years Dr. Maté was the staff physician at a clinic for drug-addicted people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where he worked with patients challenged by hard-core drug addiction, mental illness and HIV, including at Vancouver Supervised Injections Site. In his most-recent bestselling book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, he shows that the in addictions do not represent a discrete set of medical disorders; rather, they merely reflect the extreme end of a continuum of addiction, mostly hidden, that runs throughout our society. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts draws on cutting-edge science to illuminate where and how addictions originate and what they have in common.
Contrary to what is often claimed, the source of addictions is not to be found in genes, but the early childhood environment where the neurology of the brain’s reward pathways develops and the where the emotional patterns that lead to addiction are wired into the unconscious. Stress, both then and later in life, creates the predisposition for addictions, whether to drugs, alcohol, nicotine, or to behavioural addictions such as shopping or sex.
Helping the addicted individual requires that we appreciate the function of the addiction in his or her life. More than a disease, the addiction is a response to a distressing life history and life situation. Once we recognize the roots of addiction and the lack it strives (in vain) to fill, we can develop a compassionate approach toward the addict, one that stands the best chance of restoring him or her to wholeness and health.