When the Body Says No: Stress is ubiquitous these days — it plays a role in the workplace, in the home, and virtually everywhere that people interact. It can take a heavy toll unless it is recognized and managed effectively and insightfully.
Western medicine, in theory and practice, tends to treat mind and body as separate entities. This separation, which has always gone against ancient human wisdom, has now been demonstrated by modern science to be not only artiﬁcial, but false. The brain and body systems that process emotions are intimately connected with the hormonal apparatus, the nervous system, and in particular the immune system. Emotional stress, especially of the hidden kind that people are not aware of, undermines immunity, disrupts the body’s physiological milieu and can prepare the ground for disease. There is strong evidence to suggest that in nearly all chronic conditions, from cancer, ALS, or multiple sclerosis to autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, inﬂammatory bowel disease or Alzheimer’s, hidden stress is a major predisposing factor. In an important sense, disease in an individual can be seen as the “end point” of a multigenerational emotional process. If properly understood, these conditions can provide important openings for compassion and self-awareness, which in turn are major tools in recovery and healing.
Dr. Maté’s presentation includes research ﬁndings, compelling and poignant anecdotes from his own extensive experience in family practice and palliative care, and illuminating biographies of famous people such as athlete Lance Armstrong, the late comedienne Gilda Radner, or famed baseball legend Lou Gehrig. The presentation is based on When The Body Says No, a best-selling book that has been translated into more than ten languages on ﬁve continents.
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 Injection Site. In his most recent bestselling book In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, he shows that their 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 in the early childhood environment where the neurobiology of the brain’s reward pathways develops and 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.
Overarching: The World Congress on Complex Trauma: Research, Interventions, and Innovations