Egoistic Altruism: What Is The Highest Form Of Love?

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

In the final episode of a 2-week series about the many faces and forms of love, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen are again joined by Natalie Buchoz to talk about “agape,” which, according to the ancient greeks, is the highest form of love. So what is agape? The Amens and Natalie explain what just it is, and the how you can tap into it to transform your life.

Read Full Transcript

Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: 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.
Dr. Daniel Amen: 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
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutri suitables to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We have been talking about the Greek words for love, and trying to increase the love in your life. Brain Warriors it's not hard. People go “Oh, I don't want to be a warrior.” It's like it's a war, so you want to be armed, prepared and aware.
Tana Amen: I have one question, if you don't want to be a warrior, what do you want to be? If you don't want to be kind of a badass, then what do you want to be?
Dr. Daniel Amen: What's the gardener quote?
Tana Amen: Yeah so I love this one quote in martial arts, “I'd rather to be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener in a war.” I just don't understand. I guess my brain can't register. I totally get wanting to be a peaceful warrior, but why do you want to be a victim of what's going on around you? I don't kind of understand it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Let's talk about selfless love. Before we get to that, another review, informative and entertaining by [Raputa1 00:01:51]. “This is great information for anyone who is interested in how the brain works, and how to live a better life. Daniel Amen is a renowned physician and researcher”, thank you, “and together with his wife Tana he delivers an educational and entertaining podcast every day. What could be ponderous and dry information is so creatively and joyfully presented that I look forward to each episode.”
Tana Amen: Oh I love that, that's so cool.
Natalie Buchoz: That's so cool.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Thank you so much.
Tana Amen: I think she's trying to say we're crazy but-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Now where would you get that?
Tana Amen: We're entertaining.
Dr. Daniel Amen: We are entertaining. You entertain me all the time.
Tana Amen: Oh it's me now okay.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Say in all the ways but you are.
Tana Amen: Really? We're talking about love not sex today.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I was thinking about ... why would your mind go there?
Tana Amen: I know you that's why. Look Natalie's blushing, okay, she's like-
Natalie Buchoz: Back to agape.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That's why I'm a child psychiatrist, because I-
Tana Amen: You are an adolescent-
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... act like a child.
Tana Amen: ... 'cause you're very adolescent.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Agape is the highest form of love. It's not about you, it's about generations of you. Why is the world a better place because you breathe?
Tana Amen: Yeah we don't see a lot of this in society right now.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well we don't see it because we don't look for it. I actually so tired of the negative news cycle-
Tana Amen: Yeah that's what I mean.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I actually have an app called the Good News Network. I look at it every day because-
Tana Amen: I often see you giggling, it's so funny.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's fun. Where I bring my attention, will determine how I feel.
Tana Amen: Yeah the news is terrible.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Washington or the shooting or the war or the hurricane, I mean it makes you feel anxious and upset. There's so many good things that are happening moment by moment in the world that if you focus on it and you contribute to it, you're actually helping
Natalie Buchoz: Tana, you actually said something to me a couple years ago, and I have held it dear ever since, every morning when Tana wakes up, she shared this story with me. She'd tell me in the morning is her special time. It used to be her time with Chloe, and I'm sure it still is, but they would have no phones, no distractions, you wouldn't take any calls, you wouldn't put on any morning news, and it was just your time to wake up and have your coffee, your tea, whatever you're drinking together. Ever since then I just thought, “Wow, I don't want to take calls immediately from people in the morning whether that's that first 30 minutes because it really sets the tone for the day.” You might get a call, and you might kind of absorb those emotions that you get on the call, it might be a negative email whatever it is.
Tana Amen: It happens that fast.
Natalie Buchoz: It happens in the blink of an eye, and then all of sudden your day, your foundation for the day is cracking.
Tana Amen: I started that when Chloe was very little because there was just constant drama, family drama. I decided I shut my phone off. I literally told everyone in advance, “Don't call me unless you are bleeding out. I don't want to hear from you until nine o'clock unless you are bleeding out, that's my time. I want to set the day up for Chloe to have a really positive day.” I mean school is hard enough right? I want to set the day to the be really positive. We'd go for a drive, we'd have coffee now. We all have coffee together 'cause she home schools. Still, I follow that rule, do not call me before nine o'clock. I just don't want to hear it.
Natalie Buchoz: I love that, that's so powerful.
Dr. Daniel Amen: According to the research, passion and purpose, so I think of that as agape is associated with less depression, more happiness, more personal growth, better sleep, longevity, increase in mental sharpness, less risk of Alzheimer's disease and slower cognitive decline with age. Hans Selye is a very famous historical figure in stress research. He actually had a term that I loved. It's called egoistic altruism. It's like I give away my love, my treasure, my care because ultimately it decreases my stress. This is going to sound terrible, and some of you aren't going to believe me, but I say it with my patients all the time, everyone's out for themselves. It's just the more sophisticated they are, the harder it is to tell. You just want to make sure your interests ar aligned. We basically adopted our nieces and your sister. When I went to [Alize's 00:06:53] seventh grade her awards ceremony, that was so much joy for me. It was sort of like a hit of cocaine, it just lasted and didn't have any side effects.
When you texted me her straight A's yesterday, I love that right? Doing the right thing can bring joy if your brain works.
Tana Amen: Touching on what you just talked about with the altruism, it's the same reason that forgiveness has been shown to work, to decrease your stress. When you forgive someone, it decreases your own stress hormones, which increases healing and decreases depression and anxiety. That's why we often say “If you won't forgive someone for them, if that's too hard for you, will you do it for yourself?” It's like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die if you don't forgive.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That would be more self love.
Tana Amen: It is self love, but it's also other love. In giving that away, you're also loving yourself. It's also this, I love the term you used, egoistic altruism, 'cause it's both. Initially, you do it for yourself, but then you realize as you let go-
Natalie Buchoz: How many other people it's helping.
Tana Amen: ... how many other people it's helping, which then in turn helps you more.
Dr. Daniel Amen: One thing that would be useful for you to do at home or wherever you are is to come up with a purpose statement for your life. Businesses have mission statements. Unfortunately, families often don't.
Tana Amen: I like that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Ours at Amen Clinics is our why, our passion, our purpose is to help people achieve brain healthy lives in every way possible no matter what their age or problem. What is your mission statement? What is it that you really want? You have to tell your frontal lobes that, and then you say, “Is my behavior getting me what I want?” Most people, it's not totally self centered, at least if they're happy people. The ones where it's totally self centered, “I want to win a Grammy. I want to get an Oscar. I want to have a billion dollars in the bank”, that's really all about them. They're not going to be nearly as happy as if it's they and other centric.
Tana Amen: We don't want to detract from the fact that people have experienced trauma, they have experienced pain. One of the things that I love that we did in Brain Warrior's Way, which was my favorite book that we wrote was we had people, we did exercises in there to turn your pain into purpose. There's not only no other, there's no better way for you to heal, you've certainly done that. I mean Natalie is in a wheelchair, and you would never know it, 'cause that chair doesn't define you. I forget it all the time, it's so funny. I don't mean to be insulting to you, I just forget that you're ... about the chair. When you take your pain and you turn it into purpose, not only does it heal you, but now you're helping to heal other people through the pain you've experienced, and you've managed to become your purpose.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Then it takes meaning.
Tana Amen: It takes meaning.
Dr. Daniel Amen: When we talked to Sandra a couple of weeks ago-
Tana Amen: About grief.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... about grief.
Tana Amen: Right, when she lost her daughter so.
Dr. Daniel Amen: What is meaningful in your life that you can share with others. Victor Frankl is just-
Tana Amen: One of my favorite books.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... is just one of my heroes. He was a psychiatrist. He actually had a visa to the United States from Austria in 1937, 38, but he decided to stay for his parents. He was a Jewish psychiatrist who ended up in a concentration camp, and ended writing this very historic book, “Man's Search For Meaning.” He basically says, “If it's meaningful, I'll do it. If it's not meaningful, I don't have time for it.” He said, “You can create meaning in three ways, purposeful work or being productive, loving the people who are central in your life, and courage in the face of difficulty”, which totally defines you right? You actually have all three of them.
Tana Amen: All of them yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You have purposeful work, 'cause we work together. You have a love who is central in your life plus you love your family, and you clearly have courage in the face of difficulty.
Natalie Buchoz: Absolutely.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's not “Woe is me”. It's “How can I be my best and give that?”
Tana Amen: My favorite picture is of you walking.
Natalie Buchoz: Oh yeah, I sent a couple weeks ago I went to my grandma's house. One of the things that was really hard when I was going through my accident when I broke my neck, I didn't want any photos taken of me because I was in so much pain, and I just didn't want it. My grandma she snuck some in. I'm actually really grateful, that she did that because she created scrapbooks each year. Each scrapbook has photos from some of my hardest times. From that to today, it's so nice to be able to look back. I took my boyfriend and we actually went through them. She was like, “Oh my God.”
Tana Amen: Your journey was-
Natalie Buchoz: First of all, I can't even fathom it. Second of all, “Look how far you've come.” A lot of people tell you, “Oh don't look back, you're not going that way.” Sometimes it's very important to look back to see how far you've come.
Tana Amen: I think that's so brilliant. You sent me two photos, I guess you were going through those scrapbooks. One of them which is when you were leaving the hospital and you just looked like this precious little nugget. You looked so young.
Natalie Buchoz: Braces and all.
Tana Amen: You couldn't move. Your arms were down-
Natalie Buchoz: I couldn't move anything.
Tana Amen: ... couldn't feel, couldn't move.
Natalie Buchoz: The next one was of you walking, and I'm like, “Whoa.” That was just so powerful. You were standing so tall and so strong, and I'm like, “What the heck?” Something you were told you would never do. You were also told you would never go to college 'cause you couldn't live alone, you would never drive, and you do all those things.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's so easy to say it's not fair, but then-
Tana Amen: Life is not fair.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... when you compare it against so many things, there is not fairness, right?
Tana Amen: No one said life was going to be fair. I don't know who told people that.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You taught me this which I dearly love, that responsibility doesn't mean that you're at fault. What it means is your ability to respond.
Tana Amen: Take 100% so that you have more control over the outcome.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Stay with us.
Tana Amen: If you're enjoying The Brain Warrior's Way podcast, please don't forget to subscribe, so you'll always know when there's a new episode. While you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating, as that helps others find the podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.