The influence of other people plays a massive role in how we feel from day to day, moment to moment. It’s vital that we train our brains to remain objective in how we process the way in which other people behave toward us. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen discuss the ways that our brains will respond to both praise and criticism, and how we can use others’ influence to motivate and inspire us, rather than bring us down.
For more info on Dr. Daniel Amen’s new book, “Your Brain is Always Listening”, visit https://yourbrainisalwayslistening.com/
Daniel Amen, MD:
Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
And I’m Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit AmenClinics.com.
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Welcome back, everyone. We’re talking about the they/them and other dragons, which is basically the influence of other people alive and dead on your brain. And on your mind, your brain is always listening. And these dragons, through the most emotionally charged of all the dragons, which is why they can make you more upset than any of the other ones.
Well, and they can also-
Especially when the relationship goes sour.
Well, they can also hold you back or they can motivate you to behave a certain way.
Your brain is always listening to the criticisms and encouragements of past sweethearts, the words and deeds of your current spouse. And if you’re not in a relationship, what you imagine that other person is likely to say or act toward you, your brain is always listening. I mean, you’re wired for love because that’s how the species continues.
So I would love to know, tell me one of [inaudible [00:02:13] things from the past that someone has told you that stuck for a long time, one of your past relationships, that sort of affected you in a negative way or motivated you in a… positive or negative.
Well, I remember my first wife, if she was upset at 11 o’clock at night, she’d want to talk about it until three in the morning. And when I’m like, “I have to work tomorrow, you don’t care about me.” And so, it was clearly a manipulation to control me. But it happened way more than once.
And so, am I not a caring person or what? And if you don’t draw boundaries, it can really wear you out. Being in a difficult relationship is chronically stressful. And if you don’t learn to either, okay, let’s get this help or move on, it can really damage you both physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually.
Absolutely. So I have one that also was a manipulative thing. It was a very unhealthy relationship, which says more about me at the time and how I picked than… I actually write about it in my book, because it’s really important to take stock and take responsibility. But I was dating someone very unhealthy, very emotionally abusive and said when I was going back to school, and I had a lot of dreams and I knew I was really smart, was trying to keep me from doing that. And said, “The only way you’re getting through school is on your back.”
And that was so painful but it motivated me. It motivated me to do really well in school to prove this person wrong. But the problem was I then saw myself as stupid if I got anything less than an A in everything. So you have to be really careful with those, but I also want to point out the flip side of that, because now being with someone where the relationship is amazing, where it’s really healthy, that also is always in my ear.
So when I’m stressed out about something, I think things are going crazy and it’s not going to be okay, I always have in my head, you’re like, “Eh, it’s fine. It’s all going to be fine. It’s all going to be okay. And you’ve got this.” It’s just, that’s always in my head. So even when I feel like the whole world is crumbling around me, I always in the back of my head, it’s like, “What would you say?” I know what you would say. And then somehow, that settles me down. So you’ve got both. You know what I mean? You have to be able to…
Well, I feel like we are so blessed because of how good we get along almost all the time. And I know half the people who get married get divorced, and the other half who stay together are unhappy. Because relationships are hard, that they take a lot of work and some of it’s luck. Some of it is there’s a good fit. And some of it, it’s not a good fit. But if for religious reasons, I think that’s why I stayed for 20 years or the kids, that’s another reason why I stayed, that you feel trapped, that it’s chronically stressful, chronically painful.
And if you say at some point, “This doesn’t fit,” you are not a bad person. Sometimes, it doesn’t fit and the chronic stress hurts people more than the pain of separation. But when people separate, that’s when they get crazy.
Right? I mean, that’s when you read about murder-suicide and all of that. Because attachment is a basic human need. And when the attachment frays or it breaks, often people-
The pain, yeah.
… feel very unbalanced, sometimes for years.
Yeah. So it seems to me like a really good exercise would be to pay attention and write down things that… when you find those thoughts coming up, it’s like, where’s that coming from? Is that coming from one of those voices from the past? One of those dragons from the past, from a relationship like the one I had? It’s really important, but also pay attention when you have the good ones. You constantly tell me I’m one of the most competent people you know, one of the smartest people you know. So don’t just write down the bad ones, write down the good ones so you can pay attention. Okay?
Well, in criticizing your spouse, you’re really criticizing yourself, because you picked him or her. And I think what works for us is we don’t do that. And we notice what we like-
Well, and we are not afraid to apologize.
… more than what we don’t like.
And we’re not afraid to say, “I don’t like when you do that.”
You have to be able to say that safely.
So there’s clarity, assertiveness. In my books, I write about relating. I’m 100% responsible for how we turn out, right?
At least for my actions. It’s easy to blame someone else. It’s much harder to go, “What can I do to make this better?” That we’re good with empathy, and seeing things from each other’s point of view, we’ve been good at listening. Assertiveness, we’re both assertive people. We have time. I think in the pandemic, we had more time. We don’t believe every stupid thing we think, that’s the I, we inquire. We notice what we like, and we’re good with grace and forgiveness.
And there’s only a fight if you pick up the sword. So people get defensive, and then that’s where the fight starts. So the first act of war is defense, right? If you say, “This hurts my feelings, I don’t like it when you do that.” There’s only a fight if I get defensive and I try to defend it, but-
And you go, “You do too.”
Or it’s like-
That is a common response.
Yeah, but honestly, if you can just step back for a second and go, and we all do it sometimes, but if you can step back for a second and go, “Oh, I’m sorry.” And you start off like that, like what about that bothers you? It’s a whole different conversation.
Yeah. And I’m actually pretty conscious of I don’t like something, I’ll notice when you do the opposite. Because that way, you just know what I like. And you do, you’re really good at noticing it. So what can you do better to tame the former, current, and prospective lover dragons? Such an interesting… Now they get triggered when you feel unloved.
And that’s when they’re breathing fire on you. What can you leave behind? You don’t need the former, the people who you end up breaking up with, you don’t need their voice in your head. Because it really can mess a lot of people up. So what did you learn about relationships? I’d love if you post relating, responsibility, empathy, listening, assertiveness, time, I as inquire into the negative thoughts you have and has noticed what you like more than what you don’t. G is grace and forgiveness. John Gottman has great books on relationships.
He talks about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, that if you’re defensive, just like you said, if you’re critical, if you stonewall, if you’re condescending, those things predict the end of your relationship. And so as opposed to defensiveness, be open. Condescending is just cruel. Kindness is important. Criticism, not helpful. Notice what you like more than what you don’t, and stonewalling is you just stopped communicating. That’s death for a relationship.
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