Journey into Compassionate Inquiry
A few years ago, at the age of 40, I realised that my heart felt empty. From outside, it appeared as though I had become the woman my younger self wanted to be: independent; strong; doing a fulfilling and useful job; owning a dream practice I had built myself in the heart of Sydney, which had become my home. Inside, however, I was struggling with what I now realise were many addictions, which brought me crippling shame. Whilst I was becoming a person who the world needed and admired, it seemed that I had somehow abandoned and lost my own heart.
It didn’t make any sense.
Why was I so unhappy?
What else was I supposed to do to be happy?
One important realisation that came to me was that I needed help. With all my Chinese medicine training and expertise, with all my cleverness, I knew that I was totally lost as to where to turn to for guidance and support.
I remember one night while on a beautiful retreat, I was struggling with thoughts of unease, I googled “what is addiction”.
Dr. Gabor Maté’s name appeared.
Gabor defines addiction as follows: any behaviour that a person finds temporary pleasure or relief in and therefore craves, suffers negative consequences from, and has trouble giving up. He claims that the question to ask first is not why the addiction but why the pain.
Here’s the Ted Talk of Gabor titled “Power of addiction and the addiction of power”.
Until then such a perspective had never occurred to me. He showed me that my addictive behaviour was my attempt to soothe myself, a mechanism I had picked up along the way because I never learned how to regulate my emotions.
The deep resonance I found with Gabor’s work led me to undertake a year-long course in his psychotherapy approach, called Compassionate Inquiry. The work that I did on that course, where we learned to inquire – with true compassion – “Why the pain?” has truly changed my life, and trust me, there was an awful lot of resistance from the judgemental part of myself to giving compassion to myself which needed to be overcome.
Today, I’m writing to you to share the journey I made into the methods developed and taught by Gabor Maté, who many, myself included, believe to be one of the most important teachers of our time.
Dr Maté has published many books on topics that include: ADHD; childhood trauma; addiction; the connection between stress and illness; and, perhaps most importantly, healing. Recently, he has published a book titled “The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness and Healing in a Toxic Culture”, currently a New York Times bestseller. During his tour to promote this book he is giving many interesting interviews and talks around the world, one of the best of which is his interview with Rich Roll:
Gabor once claimed “I became needed because I was not wanted” – a pattern which is far more common than you might think. His teachings resonate deeply with me and I am reminded of their value everyday as I work with my patients using Compassionate Inquiry.
The only way we can begin to heal ourselves is by learning to be compassionate to ourselves. Thank-you to all of you who allow me to hold space for you so that you can begin to heal.