When we look at the act of forgiveness, it’s easy to see it as a way to strengthen relationships and to help others feel better about their wrongdoings. Yet we often lose sight of the fact that forgiving others actually helps ourselves in many ways, both psychologically and emotionally. In this episode of the podcast, Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen go over the REACH model of forgiveness, as well as provide an explanation of what the act of forgiving does to the brain.
For more information on Tana’s new book, “The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child”, visit relentless courage.com
For info on Tana Amen’s upcoming free live virtual event, visit tanaamen.com/event
Daniel Amen, MD: Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen, BSN …: 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.
Daniel Amen, MD: 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.
Tana Amen, BSN …: The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainmd.com.
Welcome back. Thank you for staying with us through these six weeks. I’ve had so much fun just sort of telling you about my journey. It’s been vulnerable, but it’s also been wonderful. I appreciate you sticking with us. We are talking about lessons and really hoping to turn it back to you and see how it applies to your life. We want to hear from you and yeah, we’re going to talk about lessons in this episode, but who’s our winner before we get started?
Daniel Amen, MD: Well, eljemo. Helpful and thought provoking. As a school counselor, I work with a lot of children and families and your podcast makes it possible for me to provide them with fresh ideas and approaches to the brain health challenges they face. It aligns with my whole person integrative philosophy and helps me stay current on the go. I really appreciate the work you do. Thank you.
Tana Amen, BSN …: That’s awesome.
Daniel Amen, MD: Another big lesson. We talked about empathy in the last podcast. I suppose, maybe forgiveness is a good.
Tana Amen, BSN …: It’s a big one.
Daniel Amen, MD: Lesson, especially your dad’s chapter.
Tana Amen, BSN …: Yes. Forgiveness is interesting and I’ve been doing some of that on social media lately. And the stories people have been telling me, the vulnerability they’ve been showing has been astounding. And yeah, I get it. Nobody gets it more than I do. That there are lots of reasons why people feel like they just can’t forgive. But I think the thing that helped me most when I finally did the work, was realizing that it was hurting him less than it was hurting me when I wasn’t forgiving him. My bitterness was hurting me way more than it was hurting him. He was struggling with his own demons, but I had spent decades not talking to him, so it wasn’t hurting him, it was hurting me and it was affecting many of my relationships.
When I could finally get to the place of saying, “If I’m not willing to do it for him, can I just set it aside for now and do it for me?” And do it for my family and do it for my job and do it for you because it affected my relationships with men. And when I finally realized that, it’s like, this isn’t about him as much as it is about my relationships with other people, my relationship with myself, healing, and doing what God asks me to do and it transformed everything. And then I was actually able to see the pain he was in.
Daniel Amen, MD: Well, we’ve talked on this podcast before about forgiveness and have had some really powerful guests. And we talk about the REACH method of forgiveness. And so when you think about your dad, the R in reach is recall what happened. And you talk about that in the book that he wasn’t available to you. And when he was available to you, he preached at you and shamed you and “should”ed you.
Tana Amen, BSN …: While he was not being authentic. And his behavior was not authentic.
Daniel Amen, MD: He was not authentic and ended up stealing from the church and having affairs.
Tana Amen, BSN …: Doing drugs.
Daniel Amen, MD: And then being a motivational speaker, teaching people how to live their lives when his life was a mess. And you couldn’t stand the inauthenticity.
Tana Amen, BSN …: Well, authenticity is one of my top values and so I certainly have not lived my life perfectly, but when I do something outside of my values, it pains me and I didn’t see that with him.
Daniel Amen, MD: That’s recalling what happened. The E is empathy. Why was he the way he was? His mother was severely depressed.
Tana Amen, BSN …: Stepfather was abusive.
Daniel Amen, MD: Stepfather was abusive. He was disconnected from his biological father. The early drug abuse clearly was an issue. You can begin to understand why his personality is flawed.
Tana Amen, BSN …: And I love that because it really did help me, but there came a point where I did finally let go and go, whatever the reason is, it’s just going to have to be okay. For my sake, it’s going to have to be okay.
Daniel Amen, MD: Well and that’s the A, which is altruistically. For no good reason, except you give the gift of forgiveness, which you did.
Tana Amen, BSN …: I did. But I’m not going to say it was totally unselfish.
Daniel Amen, MD: Because you didn’t have to.
Tana Amen, BSN …: It was fairly selfish initially. I grew into the unselfish part. That took time, but it did happen.
Daniel Amen, MD: But you forgave him and he ended up dying in your arms.
Tana Amen, BSN …: With me praying for him. And it was, I know it sounds crazy to have a death day be a beautiful day. It was a beautiful day. He completely released all of his shame and pain and just guilt over the past. And we were able to have this really strong bonding moment. We prayed together and he died in my arms and you were holding his hand. It was just a beautiful moment.
Daniel Amen, MD: And the C is, you commit to it. You tell someone, you told him. In fact, you told him, “I forgive you. Why can you not forgive yourself?”
Tana Amen, BSN …: Right. And I repeated something I had been told, “Who are you to choose to hold onto something god has chosen to forgive?” That’s pretty arrogant. I was like, “Whoa, that’s heavy.”
Daniel Amen, MD: And the H is, you hold onto it. And in that way, you can bless the other person. Recall what happened, empathize with why you think the other person did what they did, altruistically that the A, give the gift of forgiveness. C is commit to it. Tell someone about it. And H is, hold on to it. Where are you holding a grudge? Where are you holding onto hurts? And who do you need to forgive? And maybe it’s yourself. Maybe it’s someone else. But I love what you say is when you hold onto hurt, you’re actually poisoning yourself.
Tana Amen, BSN …: When you don’t forgive someone, I heard this and I just held on to it. If you refuse to forgive someone and hating someone else it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I don’t know who first said that, but it’s very brilliant, very wise.
Daniel Amen, MD: There are a lot of characters in the book that needed some forgiveness.
Tana Amen, BSN …: Including me. Some of my trauma was self induced and it had an effect on other people.
Daniel Amen, MD: But even though it was self induced as you write the story, you begin to forgive the little girl.
Tana Amen, BSN …: Oh yeah. And that was sort of the point was there’s this evolution and actually in writing it I dug deeper. I had done a lot of this work already, but when you write your story, there’s something powerful that happens. And you begin to realize so many things about yourself and as I’m writing it, I’m like, wow. There’s so many things I had held onto for so long. The shame, the self loathing of certain decisions you make in your life that I know so many of you carry with you. People tell you, “Oh, just be lovable.” But what if you don’t feel lovable? What if you don’t like yourself? That’s hard work. That takes a lot of introspection and hard work to be able to overcome that. And that takes forgiving yourself. But when you do that, as I wrote my story, I began to sort of see what led me down that path to begin with. And so then from there, I was able to understand myself better and let that go. I hope that works for you too.
Daniel Amen, MD: We would dearly love to hear from you. Who do you need to forgive? Put the REACH method into your life and let us know how it works. And it may not always work perfectly the first time. Sometimes it takes a bit of work to do, but we would love to hear from you.
Tana Amen, BSN …: Yeah. It’s think of it like working out. It’s like working a muscle. You can’t do it once and think it’s just going to happen. It requires consistent effort over time.
Daniel Amen, MD: I love that. It’s so true. What did you learn today? Write it down. Take a picture of it. Post it on any of your social media sites, #brainwarriorswaypodcast. We’re so grateful when you do this. The podcast has just been growing each week, which makes us so happy. Leave us a comment, question or review, a story on firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll enter you into a drawing to win The End of Mental Illness or Tana’s book. Either the cookbook or her new book when it comes out, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child. You can also go to tanaamen.com/event and sign up for our free event, December 12th, [9:30] AM Pacific time. And if you do, we’ll enter you into a drawing to win a free scan and evaluation at Amen Clinics. Literally it’s like so many thousands of other people can change your life. Stay with us.
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