Dr. Amen’s Tips for Building Stronger Relationships in Life

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

In the last episode of “Attachment week”, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discuss the RELATING method, which gives practical tips for improving relationships. These tips are effective whether they are used for relationships with your partner, your children, or even your work associates.


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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warriors Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen.: And I'm Tana Amen. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warriors Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen clinics. Where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging, to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.

Tana Amen.: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit brainmdhealth.com. Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We're finishing attachment where you can ... we thought, what we would do is give you some of our biggest tips on how to improve your relationships. And we have a mnemonic that I really liked called relating because it encompasses some of the big things to improve your relationships. I mean, they're just so important because when your relationships with the right people tend to be happier. They live longer, they're healthier.

And in relating, the R is responsibility, which is ... it's so easy and both Tana and I have been in relationships in the past so were not good. And it's just so easy to make the other person bad and to go, "Well, this relationship is bad because they are evil, or they're bad." And when you blame someone else for the problems in your life, you become a victim, and you can't change anything. So, in my relationship with Tana or Chloe or the people in my family, what is it I can do today to make the relationship-

Tana Amen.: Well and this is really important even in putting the past behind you. So I went through a really hard divorce, and you get really angry at the other person and you're going through ... I mean forgiveness is not always just about the other person. It's really about peace for you. It's about doing it for yourself to let go of the past. But taking responsibility is a big first step with that. So what I found is in order to put that behind me, so I could even have an amazing marriage, so that I could have an amazing relationship going forward, was taking responsibility for my part.

That doesn't mean taking blame. It means taking responsibility for my part, learning what I can from the past so that I don't make the same mistakes going forward. If I take responsibility for all of that, for what I did, from my part of it, for what I could do better. Then my conscience is clean. I've sort of dealt with it, I'm moving on, I've learned something from it, and I don't need to keep repeating the past or take the anger with me into the next thing.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, and you can clearly make things better or you can make things worse and you actually the one that taught me, responsibility doesn't mean blame, it's your ability to respond. In this situation, the E is empathy. It's put yourself in the shoes of the other person, and empathy is a frontal lobe function. So you need your brain to work right in order to do that. But it's just so important to understand, where's the other person coming from, what's the template, big blow up in, what's going on in their life and if you can put yourself in the shoes of the other person-

Tana Amen.: In order to agree with that-

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's so much easier if you just think about the political hatred right now, it's blame, blame, blame, blame. So there's no responsibility and there is no empathy.

Tana Amen.: But yeah, it's not even about necessarily agreeing. It's about trying to understand.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That's right.

Tana Amen.: It's building bridges, not walls.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And then the L in relating, is listening. It's rather than just ... and you see this on political talk shows. People were screaming at each other, talking over each other, nobody's listening to each other, and we teach our patients what we were taught as therapists, which is active listening. That before you give your two cents, repeat back what you hear, really try to understand what you're hearing. And that alone can diffuse arguments if you really understand what the other person is saying.

The A is assertiveness, it's so important. We teach people how to treat us. So if someone runs us over and we just sort of give in to them, we've just taught them that I'm just going to give in-

Tana Amen.: Not so hard one for me.

Dr. Daniel Amen: No, it's not a hard one for you. You're assertive, which means I have to be assertive or you could just run over.

Tana Amen.: See, this is a big misconception. People think that because I'm assertive, like you must be a pushover. It's a lie.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's not true because if I did that way-

Tana Amen.: Why wouldn't I be with?

Dr. Daniel Amen: We would end up in a relationship that not-

Tana Amen.: But the truth is I wouldn't be with you because I wouldn't be able to respect you.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That's nice. Awesome. Right?

Tana Amen.: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So you have to ask for what you need. Be firm and kind, you're not-

Tana Amen.: He's very assertive.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And then time. So relating. So responsibility, empathy, listening, assertiveness. When you say something mean it, stick up with it. But don't let it-

Tana Amen.: Anytime, it has to be time without the mistress. So for people listening has to be time without gadgets, without gadgets-

Dr. Daniel Amen: So, one of the most important thing if you want-

Tana Amen.: So people listening don't know what I'm talking about without the phone, without email, without texting. It's got to be time. Quality time.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Actual physical time.

Tana Amen.: I called the phone the mistress.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And one of the best things I think you've done with Chloe and why you have such good relationship with her is, you and Chloe must have read to each other thousands.

Tana Amen.: Yes. When she was little, I read, read, read, read, read to her. And as she got older, I had her read to me.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right. But it's that physical time-

Tana Amen.: And if I could-

Dr. Daniel Amen: But it's that physical time that is involved with bonding.

Tana Amen.: And if I had a nickel for every minute that I've had to listen to all the Justin Bieber stories like, but all that investment of listening now when I talk, she listens.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And what I tell parents, the most powerful exercise I've ever given parents, is so stinking simple. 20 minutes a day. Spend 20 minutes a day doing something with them, they want to do, we call it special time.

Tana Amen.: And not teaching.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And during that time, no commands, no questions, no directions. It's just time to be together because that is required for bonding. The I, stands for Inquire into the thoughts that make you suffer in a relationship. So we often call them ants, automatic negative thoughts. You want to inquire whether or not they're true, can you absolutely know they're true? So if I get the thought, Tana never listens to me. That's sort of why-

Tana Amen.: I want to give a good example of this. So I was talking to a teenager yesterday and she was like very hurt and disappointed about something that one of her parents had done and she was like, "I can never trust this person. They've done this repeatedly to me. I can never trust this person." And I said, "So is that true?" And she said, "Yes." And I said, "Okay, so let's take that thought and is it absolute true you can never trust this person and you've never been able to trust this person?"

"I just will not, never." I mean, so it cracks the thought. Right? And then I said, "So how do you feel when you have that thought?" She was angry, hurt, disappointed. "Like I can never trust this person. Like, I feel helpless." and I said, "So how would you be without the thought?" And she said, "I'd be happy, I'd be peaceful." And I said, "So what happens if we turn the thought around to its opposite?" She goes, "You mean like I can trust this person?" I go, "Yeah, let's start there. You can trust this person." She goes, "Well, what if that's not true?" I go, "Well, let's just start there." And she goes, "Well.

I go, "Let's not start with big stuff. Let's start with tiny things. Give me three tiny examples of when you have been able to trust this person." And all of a sudden, she was coming up with stuff that was like big stuff. And I'm like, "Wait." So I let her go and after she came up with about the fourth or fifth really big thing actually it was pretty ... they were intense things because they came from a place of when she had been hurt.

But all of a sudden I stopped right there ... oh by the way, those aren't little things. But the point being, it cracked. The thought of I can't trust her. And so, then we were able to work on it and go, "So you can't always trust her in these situations?" And she was able to pinpoint it to. "I can't always trust her in this situation."

Dr. Daniel Amen: Huge.

Tana Amen.: Huge.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Huge. Because if you believe every stupid thought you have, it can devastate your life.

Tana Amen.: But the other thing that came out of that was-

Dr. Daniel Amen: And your relationship.

Tana Amen.: The other thing that came out of that was, "She loves me fiercely." That was pretty big.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That her mother loves her fiercely, which is true. The N in relating his notice what you like more than what you don't like. I heard this terrible statistic. The teenagers here on average, seven negative things about themselves compared to one positive thing about-

Tana Amen.: I don't understand that. I don't.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And what goes into your brain, often is what comes out of your mouth.

Tana Amen.: And I don't understand that. I don't understand why parents do that.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Because that's what happened to them. Parents do typically what's been done for them.

Tana Amen.: Then fix it.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And so those of you that have been listening long enough know I collect penguins< and I collect penguins to remind myself to notice what I like about people a lot more than what I don't like because ... and I wrote a book about this, the most important thing in life, I learned from a penguin. Which is when my son was seven, and he was hard for me. We went to Sea Life park in Hawaii and I watched this penguin do amazing things and I went up to the trainer afterwards and I said, "How did you get fat Freddy," the name of the penguin, "To do all these really cool things?" And she said, "Unlike parents, whenever he does anything like what I want them to do, I notice him, I give him a hug and a fish," and the light went on in my head that even though my son didn't like fish, I wasn't really noticing him when he was doing things right. I was just noticing when he did things wrong. Tana Amen.: And I love you all, that's why we do this. And I'm not a psychiatrist. I don't care what you have to do to fix it. You're broken past, whatever it is, don't do this to your kids, like figure out what it is that you need to fix within yourself, but this is just destructive and it's harmful and it's mean. So fix it. Dr. Daniel Amen: So notice what you like more than what you don't. And the G stands for grace and forgiveness. Holding on to hurts only poisons you. Our friend Byron Katie said, forgiveness is just another word for freedom. Tana Amen.: I love that line. Dr. Daniel Amen: And in my new book, Feel Better Fast where I talk about all this stuff. I talk about the rich model of forgiveness, developed by Dr. Everett Worthington, who after he developed this model of forgiveness and he's teaching it, all over the world. His mother is actually brutally murdered and he used this to actually help him deal with his own grief. So what is the rich model of forgiveness? I mean, think of a time when you're holding on to something you don't need to. So I want you to think about that now as I go through the model. So think about something that happened recently and ... so we called the event. What happened? That's the R in rage. Recall the event, E is empathize with the other person, really beginning to see what's happening from their brain, from their point of view. Altruistically, that's the A, give the gift of forgiveness. C is commit to it. Tell someone about it. And H is hold onto it. So the important things or recall it, see it from their point of view, that's the empathy, what's going on in their head, commit to, altruistically give them the gift of forgiveness. I mean something, you can clearly hold onto it or you can give forgiveness, commit to it, and then hold onto it. Tana Amen.: Or there's this other thing you could do. You could marry a psychiatrist who keeps bringing the stuff ... I'm convinced, I know that I cannot hold onto all this stuff in the past that I used to hold onto, because God just keeps putting it back in my life, putting it back. It's like, he's not going to let me like off the hook ever, ever and the way that he does it is, because he made me marry you, who keeps bringing it back into my life. So, I'm never getting off the hook. Like never. So I know better than to hold onto this stuff or to like hold onto hatred because I just like smack dab slapped in the face every time I do it. So there you go. Dr. Daniel Amen: Relating, responsibility, empathy, listening, assertiveness, time, inquiring. Notice what you like more than what you don't like and grace. Thanks for listening- Tana Amen.: Thank You. Dr. Daniel Amen: To The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. Thank you for listening to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. Go to iTunes and leave a review and you'll automatically be entered into a drawing to get a free signed copy of The Brain Warrior's Way and The Brain Warrior's Way cookbook. We give away every month.