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Gabor Mate, physician; works in tough circumstances in Vancouver with people who are dangerously, destructively…substance dependent. Not all young, not all old. In his book ‘In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts’ he has this (Page 340) to say:

‘No organism in nature is separate from the system in which it lives…
the addiction process…is a product of development in a certain context, and it continues to be maintained by factors in the environment.’

On page 345 he asks: ‘How to break the cycle?’

And he answers it by quoting the Buddha:

‘Everything has mind in the lead, has mind in the forefront, is made by the mind.’

Gabor: ‘With our minds we create the worlds we live in.’

In so speaking he raises the ongoing internal/external discussion. We know that there are these things called ‘Social determinants of health’ and that these external factors make a difference to the internal choices we make. And we know too that being in charge of ourselves and BELIEVING that we are in charge of ourselves also makes an enormous difference to our overall wellbeing. So there is something about the balance here…

Gabor writes eloquently and complexly about the interweaving of the physiological, the non-physiological internal world, and the external world which impacts on both of these. And he does not suggest that addiction lies within substances themselves, but in the subtle interplay of these elements.

So! This all takes us exactly where? Well, nowhere simple I imagine. But it might be something like trying to create societies that are as healthy as possible in all the ways that we need to be healthy… while expecting, looking for, promoting and helping develop and become active, the internal personal resources that individuals need to take charge of their lives. Something like helping people believe in their own capacitiy to make choices and creating opportunities where they can genuinely make meaningful choices. Although it does sound a bit corny when you say it like that…

But then, it was just a thought really…

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