I've written In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts because I see addiction as one of the most misunderstood phenomena in our society. People ― including many people who should know better, such as doctors and policy makers ― believe it to be a matter of individual choice or, at best, a medical disease. It is both simpler and more complex than that.And, there is this which I snagged from William Harryman's Integral Options Cafe blog, in a post titled "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction - by Gabor Maté." One of the questions from a Wisdom Quarterly: American Buddhist Journal interview:
Addiction, or the capacity to become addicted, is very close to the core of the human experience. That is why almost anything can become addictive, from seemingly healthy activities such as eating or exercising to abusing drugs intended for healing. The issue is not the external target but our internal relationship to it. Addictions, for the most part, develop in a compulsive attempt to ease one’s pain or distress in the world. Given the amount of pain and dissatisfaction that human life engenders, many of us are driven to find solace in external things. The more we suffer, and the earlier in life we suffer, the more we are prone to become addicted.
Q. What does the book title In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts mean?
DR. GABOR MATÈ: It's a Buddhist phrase. In Buddhist Psychology, there are a number of realms that human beings cycle through. All of us. One is the Human Realm, which is our ordinary selves. The Hell Realm is that of unbearable rage, fear, terror, you know, these emotions that are difficult to handle. The Animal Realm is our instincts and our [hate] and our passions.
The addicts are in that realm all the time. Most of us are in that realm some of the time. And my point really is, is that there's no clear distinction between the identified addict and the rest of us. There's just a continuum on which we all may be found. They're on it because they suffered more than most of us.