In Buddhist philosophy, The Wheel of Life, is a Buddhist representation that encompasses the universe. There are 5-6 realms in this world view. One of these realms is the, Hungry Ghost Realm. This is the realm of addiction where we constantly seek something outside of ourselves to make us feel better or give us relief. When we are in this place, we never get enough to feel that empty void. In this realm we can never satisfy our appetites. We seek to escape and self-soothe with overeating, sex, pornography, shopping, working too much, alcohol or other substances. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t slip into this realm from time to time. But when we get stuck in this place it is a good opportunity for us to explore why and how we got there and to practice self-love and trauma recovery to ease our grasping behaviors.
How do you know if you are in the Realm of The Hungry Ghost? If you struggle with any of these behaviors then you might be:
- Do you grasp anything that might relieve a longing such as: wealth, opportunity, comfort, sex, adoration, respect, relationships, education, entertainment or perfectionism?
- Does the world look bleak and barren to you?
- Do you feel like you have a bottomless pit inside of you and that you can’t fill it up no matter how hard you try?
- Do you catch a glimpse of something that might make you “feel better”, but it never does for long?
- Does it feel like if you stop a behavior or activity then you will be consumed by your longing or intense need?
- Do you turn back to the drug, the person, the experience that gave you a “rush” of satisfaction or excitement once upon a time. And even though you know it isn’t working, you do it anyway?
- Do you use black and white thinking such as; “People never really love me”, “Things never turn out for me” or “I am never good enough”?
Why are you in the Realm of The Hungry Ghost?
I don’t know very many people who haven’t found themselves struggling with grasping and cravings of some sort. But when we get stuck in this place and when it takes us away from our ability to be present with ourselves and with others in a deep loving way then we must explore how we got here. Many people who find themselves living in the Hungry Ghost Realm have early experiences in their life where their needs haven’t been met by parents or caregivers. Children can experience a lack of consistent emotional connection or even not having the “good enough parent”. Other needs not met that can create the Hungry Ghost Realm is by not having your basic needs met as a child or teenager. These basic needs consist of: food, shelter, clothes, medical care etc. When we don’t have our emotional or physical needs met as children it can cause us to live in a place of “not enough”. We may feel that we are not enough and we may believe that what we have is “not enough”.
How do you heal and transform from this realm?
- Take a short pause and think about the ways we normally get “hooked”.
- Becoming more conscious of our feelings and behaviors can help us to change our behaviors.
- Try and contact the place of shame and pain inside and try to be with it in a kind and compassionate way.
- Try and get in touch with the part of yourself, “The Hungry Ghost” part that feels like the “Hole in your soul’.
- Can you sense what that part of you needs the most?
- Provide a gesture of kindness and tenderness towards that part of yourself. You can even gently place your hand on your heart as you try and get in touch with that part of yourself.
- Begin with small acts of generosity towards yourself and others.
- Practice letting go.
- Practice substituting old behaviors with new healthy and helpful behaviors.
- Create new neuropathways with new behaviors and mindsets. Where the mind goes…energy flows.
- Seek trauma recovery therapy to address deep hurt and wounds which contribute to shame and unworthiness. EMDR therapy and Neurofeedback are powerful tools to help heal and regulate “The Hungry Ghost” inside.
Whatever we practice regularly in our lives begins to strengthen. The Hungry Ghost part of ourselves begins to lose its power, to heal and transform. Some people benefit by trauma recovery treatment including EMDR therapy to address childhood trauma including (disrupted attachment with parents or caretakers, abuse by parents or caretakers, repeated trauma as a child including; neglect, physical or sexual abuse) and shame. Neurofeedback treatment can help calm to anxious brain which helps to regulate addictive behaviors.