Playback speed
Share post
Share post at current time

An Open Letter to Gabor Maté

On the Matter of ADD

It’s true that some Sensitives are so fragile that their alienation, their lack of acceptance and understanding by the rest of the world does create illness, but it is an illness of separation, rejection and fear. 

We might call them ADD, OCD, ODD or Aspergers, any one of the many, many names and aspects of those who so desire love and truth, they are called to straddle the world as precious immigrants in a strange and reeling land which, with their help, is preparing to be reborn.

Dear Dr. Maté

I have a clear memory of the first time I saw your face, and heard your voice. I immediately felt the depth of authenticity in your nature, and I was so excited when I discovered your work regarding addiction. What a rare understanding and compassion you have for these souls, the ones I call the Sensitives. I felt so comforted that a heart like yours was willing to be present in the midst of such great suffering as could be found on the streets of Vancouver, amongst the rejected and the alone. 

You also chose to work with the dying. I imagine you to be the perfect listener, in the way only those who themselves know deep suffering can be. And in your listening you heard the dying say to you that their illness was the most important thing that had happened to them. And you took from this the understanding, not only how we can taste life fully when we are willing to face death, but also that our illnesses and ailments are a reflection of so much more than our physiology. This to me is the great gift you bring to the world. 

And I am so grateful for your willingness to suggest to the stubborn ones in the medical community that an understanding of trauma is missing from their perception of the root cause of illness. How revolutionary would it be if this idea could possibly be embraced by the practitioners of scalpels and pills. 

Allopathic medicine says, bring me an uncomfortable symptom and let’s use drugs to make it go away. The psychology of trauma says, the body has a message for us and if we will only listen, the source of the pain may be revealed and assisted in its healing. Spirit says, yes the body has pain, yes the body is giving us a message regarding our trauma, AND that message is purposeful, beyond measure. 

Gabor, you are not one to blame, nor do you ever suggest it. But if our world view remains contained within a paradigm of childhood trauma as the cause of suffering, that suffering remains random. We can choose to heal and forgive, but even so this does not necessarily address our inherent existential powerlessness if there is no meaning to be found in our pain.

To stop at attributing our wounds to the ignorance or incompetence of a parent, to give such power to those who conceived us, our perpetrators, our colonizers, our oppressors misses the point. The karmic nature of this dualistic world requires oppositional energies to be present for our liberation, for the remembering of our true selves. Absolutely we must grieve, we must express and release our rage, without projection and to the degree that our memories speak to us, but we serve no one by perpetuating the idea that if only someone had treated us well, we would achieve a state of freedom from pain. 

Believe me I understand the temptation here. I have lived it. I know it. But I have come to see that pain is our teacher and surrender is our curriculum. And when the lesson is learned, the teacher can go home. Better to give thanks to our messengers of suffering, so they can most efficiently be on their way. 

And then when we are no longer on the defensive, no longer struggling with self-blame, we may become open to the idea that at another time and place, perhaps our roles were reversed. Perhaps we have lived all manner of human experiences, and ultimately we are no better and no worse than the one who has hurt us. 

Remember there is no shadow without light, and no light without shadow. Every one of us has held the capacity to be hurtful, even deeply hurtful at some point upon our karmic journey. On the psychological level we know that every bully was once a victim, they too were once that helpless and traumatized child. We can never make decisions for other souls, but when we, within our personal being, choose karmic freedom and refuse to be victimized, the day may come when no more bullies will be created because their purpose will be complete. 

Gabor, you with those great big puppy dog eyes, you speak bravely and openly about your own experiences with trauma, compulsivity, and your own diagnosis of ADD. I too was given a diagnosis of ADD many years ago. I believe what the physician said at the time was that I scored “off the charts for adult ADD” and if I did not agree to medication I would never succeed at anything and my life would be ruined. I would not say that my life has been easy, but I am grateful for who I am, as I am, without pharmaceutical intervention. 

But what of this state of being, which you and I share that we oddly call an attention deficit, to describe individuals who are capable of profound focus when their spirits and hearts are engaged. With your compassionate nature and awareness of the impact of childhood trauma, you ask us to consider if ADD might also be linked to factors such as instability in childhood or inadequate attachment to a parent. I expect you have received some pushback to this idea, including from those who propose a genetic link. 

Dear Gabor, I have no doubt that your experiences with plant medicine have led you through multidimensional windows. Beyond flesh and bone we are so much more than we seem. So given that these physical selves, including our brains, are but a material construct, what if our wounds also span dimensions? 

What if our trauma is not limited to one childhood experience only but rather expresses through complex threads of patterning, woven into a dynamic of wounding and healing that stretches across lifetime upon lifetime, and as such becomes an initiation, a catalyst for the expansion of awareness, compassion and service which we have incarnated to undertake, guided by the challenges and suffering within our lives. 

You have said that Sensitives used to be our Shamans, and now they are shamed. It is so. I see this every day, in loved ones and clients, in individuals who have found themselves living on the street or on a hospital psychiatric ward. Such brilliance in these hearts, despite how often their light is dismissed and ignored. 

And what is a Shaman, if not an individual who sees through the veil, who accesses both knowledge and intuitive awareness beyond what the ordinary, rational mind may allow.

For those who take comfort being rooted in the material and the rational, this idea may seem too esoteric for comfort, but if an individual has ever felt the glimmer of an ecstatic experience, be it through dreams, lovemaking, meditation, plant medicine or a deep passage through grief, rage or despair; if you have ever felt a knowing that took you beyond the body, even for a moment.. then you have tasted it. You know. You know it’s there, and you know it’s purposeful. It’s the bird's eye view. When we go high enough, pull far enough back from our narrow human vision, we see so much more, and what we see changes everything.

Rather than confine our study of trauma to a behavioural or neuroscientific framework based upon the belief in only one persona, from womb to grave, we are asked to consider that the soul travels a journey of many experiences which align with one another across lifetimes in the most beautiful of interwoven patterns. Just as the structure of the spiral is found throughout our world, from galaxies to sea shells, to the very structure of our DNA, so then surely it makes sense that the geometric elements of our human lives are equally purposeful, beautiful and aligned.

What if all life is human theatre and all relationships are mutual dances, and the one who brings us pain does not do so simply out of their inadequacy and our misfortune but rather their soul works with ours in collaboration, saying, as a member of your soul family, I will play this role for you precisely because I love you. I want for you your expansion, more than your comfort, your conscious growth, more than your ease. 

And so dear Gabor, imagine this: you as that infant, born to your mother in the midst of such a profoundly deep expression of global shadow, within the karmic expression of our species as a whole. But instead of that singular moment of finding yourself taken from her arms being defined as the root of your trauma, what if we consider the possibility of a karmic layering which reaches much deeper into your spiritual ancestry, a hero's journey of the consciousness, in order to set yourself, your soul family, your people free. What if the crying of all the Jewish infants which you describe was not simply a response within this one window, but rather a collective knowing of other souls just like you, beyond space and time. 

This way of seeing requires us to release ourselves from the triangulation of victim, persecutor and saviour, as well as the very idea of blame as a helpful perspective, for neither is there any sense of helplessness or powerlessness found here. Understanding that each one of us is on a journey of returning to unity, to the oneness we left behind upon incarnation, rather than interpreting suffering as the unfortunate effect of a random cause, what if instead the experience of suffering was the means itself, the very catalyst to our karmic freedom?   

For example, I have been told through guidance that it was my soul choice, my dharma to learn the true meaning of compassion. I desired this, and thus I stepped into the experiences necessary to open my heart. I agreed to this prior to my original incarnation because I could not truly understand what I had not lived. And so I chose to live suffering. And now I can begin to see my purpose.

If we are ultimately One then every character in our play is a part of us and what delight is found in that singular, simple thought. Gabor, imagine if all the physicians in the world not only came to understand trauma but also a deeper truth that the body remembers wounds that have been lived before and thus the soul travels with a predisposition to repeat these wounds in subsequent lives, as a part of the teaching, as a part of the awakening. This is why we call them patterns… they repeat. And this in turn grants consciousness the power to heal, for in our discovery of the purposeful nature of their role in our lives, we hold the key to our own healing and transformation, and that is when miracles happen, without a scalpel and without a pill.  

This is the new medicine, as it is the ancient medicine. This is the new way of being, toward which we all walk together in these times, witnessing the deconstruction of the old to make way for something radical and true. And in this new way of seeing, we find a great honouring, of all the suffering that has gone before, of the children which you feel so deeply in your heart Gabor (and we know why that might be), of the many peoples throughout history who have known such loss, the Jewish people, the indigenous, the enslaved, the Sensitives, of which you are one. 

I once came across a book which I have since lost, given away I expect. I’ve searched but cannot seem to find another copy. The title as I recall was something like ADD Revisited, and the author had travelled around the world enquiring within various traditions what it meant to be ADD. He found himself in a first class train car in India, riding with several professional men, a physician, a businessman, an attorney etc. And so he asked them. 

They were unaware of the meaning of the term - this was many years ago when it was less popularized - and so he told them of the typical Western list of “symptoms” which define someone considered to be suffering from this condition. In a moment they were all nodding their heads and saying, oh yes, we are very familiar with this kind of individual. Those who may seem to experience inconsistency in their lives; in work, relationships, homes, often moving in many directions. These are very old souls, they said, wise ones who have courageously incarnated to experience so much in one lifetime, because they are committed to ending their karmic cycling. We respect such people, and admire their soul courage. 

Now that is a different view.

Dr. Mate there are so many implications of granting this way of seeing. If we move beyond ADD as a disease, toward a paradigm of Transpersonal Sensitivity, a complex and tender form of embodiment, we realize that which was once thought to be genetic does not simply live in our cells but in our soul. We travel and grow together with our soul family, exploring our common challenges, reaping rewards through the radiant healing which floods across generations, dimensions and time. 

And it only makes sense that these sensitive souls, such as you and I, Gabor, may experience focus very differently. Because of our sensitivity, we live at times subject to massive sensory stimulation, every moment of both waking and sleep, a bit like rolling around inside a kaleidoscope that is being constantly turned. But at other times, when our hearts and our beings are connected to the centre of an experience, we hyperfocus in absolute commitment; nothing else is important, everything else falls away because we have found what is an alignment, what is in flow.. and what else matters anyway? 

If we can stand far enough back from the need to label and control; to fix, to attempt to neutralize the vast spectrum of human experience into one acceptable homogeneous code of behaviour; if we are willing to reconsider our entire educational system and our unconscious assumptions about how and what children learn; if we say no, the heart does matter; no, the knowledge of suffering and its meaning matters; then why not go all the way and say that there is nothing, no experience we could possibly have, outside of the purpose which lives within all Creation. This is what I think of as Trust, in the most expansive use of the word.

And please understand, this complete acceptance of which I speak lives hand in hand with a heart overflowing with respect and care for the human spirit. What some endure in this world is beyond description. The seeming cruelty of life can sink into our bones and we may lose hope that there could be an answer, an explanation. A refusal to hold faith, to cling to the analytical mind and distrust the sacred is one way we try to keep ourselves safe. It takes great courage to surrender to this possibility. 

Some souls will tread lightly upon this earth, with one foot ready to return to the Heavens at any moment. They will not walk the same path as others and they may not find ease the same way, and yet they will carry gifts beyond the understanding of most, and our role is not to silence, drug, or deny them, but rather to learn from them and with them, and invite our ways of being to adapt and meet them where they are. Instead of telling them they are round pegs attempting to fit into a square hole, what if we were to redesign the game, cause them a little less stress and watch them blossom instead of suffer.

It saddens me deeply to know the extent of amphetamine use today, the primary drug prescribed to treat ADD. Yes, amphetamine is called speed when it’s sold on the streets, and this is the very drug given in dramatically increasing numbers to young children around the globe. Approximately 1.5 million Canadians are diagnosed with ADD, and on top of this there is the significant trend for college students to use Adderall as a “study drug”, borrowing pills from their ADD friends or buying it off the streets. It would seem everyone wants to fix what is not broken in these young people, rather than look to the degradation of our food sources, the insidious loss of childhood to technology, and the deep problems within a rather hopelessly insensitive educational system. 

It does not have to be so.

Give them rein, let them be messy, let them dance, build and invent, let them design, draw, sing and scream, and smash the habits and expectations of centuries because that's what these souls came here to do. And more and more of them are arriving all the time, and if we were willing, we could consider that to be just the most wonderful thing. 

It’s true that some Sensitives are so fragile that their alienation, their lack of acceptance and understanding by the rest of the world does create illness, but it is an illness of separation, rejection and fear. 

We might call them ADD, OCD, ODD or Asperger’s, any one of the many, many names and aspects of those who so desire love and truth, they are called to straddle the world as precious immigrants in a strange and reeling land which, with their help, is preparing to be reborn. 

Gabor, I close with these words, for if the spirit of ADD could speak, could share with us her thoughts, I would love to hear what she might say ..


The ant so very clearly
is able to focus
upon the task at hand
for the ant sees only
the grain of sand
not the sky
not the mountains and rivers
not the eyes of the creatures 
so far beyond

But the angel
the angel sees and feels
every longing
every shiver
from the stars spilled across the heavens
to the beasts
and feathered ones
even the ants themselves
in all their busy-ness

Her angel eyes travel
from the infant
to the mother and back again
to the old ones
and the new
from songs and embraces
to rages and ravages 
the angel sees
and hears
and feels it all

So do you wonder
that she wanders?
Do you ask her
to pay attention
to complete her tasks
finish her page 
of homework and make sure
to get the answers right
that is
the way the ants would answer
if they were asked?

Do you remind her 
to hurry up
because the mountains 
are done and ready to go
the rivers have already begun
and the forests are waiting
the trees tapping their toes 
in impatience..

save your breath
for not one of these
and no creature within these waters
or upon these branches
knows Time

They know only this moment
and how to heed
the deep stirring instincts of life
when they come
the call
to sleep
to rise
to feed
to flow
to love

Speak not to an angel
about clocks on a wall
about where 
she gives her attention
or how to be still
when a new light calls her heart
but rather
let the world
come to her

Let the nature of slowness 
lead all of us
to return to the days of wholeness 
as once again
the rhythms 
of the Great Mother may rock us
until we forget
how much we once wanted 
to put a free spirit
into a cage
because we didn’t know
we just didn’t know

what an angel

much love,

Love Letters
Love Letters