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In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen share some of the biggest lessons learned from Tana’s new book “The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child.” Tana discusses such topics as suffering silently with an eating disorder, grocery shopping with a gangbanger, and how growing up with constant trauma in her life changed her perceptions of other people, and why she needed to overcome those biases.
For more information on Tana’s new book, “The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child”, visit https://www.thomasnelson.com/9781400220762/the-relentless-courage-of-a-scared-child/
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. We are still here talking about my journey in my memoir, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child, and we’re talking about the lessons, the lessons that I learned along the way that I wanted to share with people and just the process, which wasn’t an easy one to write, but just I’m enjoying so much now.
And we left off at The Salvation Army, where this woman raises her hand and said, “How would you know about my life?” I’m like-
Yeah, they were pretty shocked.
“… Oh, you know way more about their lives.”
Yeah, they were pretty shocked their lives.
And you talked about the scared child. In fact, I wanted to call the book One Less Scared Child because I love this story so much. And I love the title. The title is actually better, Relentless Courage, because you’ll see through the book the different challenges a scared child had to face. But one of the first lessons, I think, is when you argue with God.
You lost. Or-
So if you win an argument with God, you lose. If you lose an argument with God, you win. And so that was one of the lessons. And I think what really came to me, because I ended up really bonding with these people. And I mean, I knew that I had grown when I went grocery shopping with a gang banger and just loved it and just came to really appreciate him and what he was going through. And if you know my story, that was hard for me. At one point, I wouldn’t have be able to do that just because of my self-protection.
When you started, you wouldn’t have been able to do that.
No, my self-protective facade and mechanisms would have just kept me from doing that. But I learned that it’s easy to call people bad. It’s harder to ask why.
And when you grow up in trauma, and so now we should tell them a little bit about the trauma, you become judgmental because you’ve been hurt. You have been scared.
So I had this weird teeter-totter of how I handled it. It was like on one side, I had this facade. Nobody was going to see through it. As long as I look put together, as long as the makeup’s on, the hair is done, as long as I am successful in my career, nobody is going to notice. But on the other side, I put out this very tough … So when you mentioned ADD, I’m like, “ADD is nonsense.” Or if you said you were traumatized or you said something about me being molested, I’m like, “I wasn’t molested.” I couldn’t acknowledge the past trauma.
I was very tough on the outside. The problem is I was actually suffering still on the inside, even as an adult, and couldn’t tell anyone. And I was suffering silently with an eating disorder just off and on for years. And I would manage it in all sorts of weird ways, and I would white knuckle it, and I would use exercise. But I never really got to the core issue and couldn’t tell anyone.
And so let’s just tell them a little bit about what you told that audience about, the scared child, so people really understand why the book is called The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child.
Actually, my first memory that I remember clearly was almost drowning when I was two. And then my dog saved me, which is why there’s a dog on the cover. I just was in love with my German Shepherd. He saved my life. And then my next memory was the day that my uncle was murdered. And I remember my mother and my grandmother falling to the floor screaming. And when I tried to like run over and like, “Mommy, mommy, I love you,” I got pushed away. Of course, I couldn’t realize they were trying to protect me, but I was shoved aside. And so I figured out then that hiding was safer. Just not being seen, fly under the radar, don’t speak up. If you go hide in your room, build a little pillow fort, no one will see me.
She still builds the pillow fort. Every night, she builds the pillow fort.
Yeah, I still sleep with six pillows.
Like, “Where are you?”
And so I think I sort of lost my voice at that time. I became very timid for a long time. It took me a long time to find my voice again. And our house was always like, when is the next thing around the corner going to jump out at you? It was never just a peaceful place. There was always yelling, screaming. My dad left when I was two months old. My uncle, who was a heroin addict, lived with us. He’s not the one that was murdered, by the way.
That was because of him.
Yeah, because of his connections and yeah. And so we had strangers living in our house. My mom wanted to rescue people, that just all of a sudden, there’d be people at our house. And it was just a little crazy. My mom was a 16-year-old runaway who never finished high school, but she’s tough. And she was determined we were going to survive. And then some of my trauma was self-induced later on. I mean, let’s be honest.
Let’s stay, because one of the things that happened when you were four years old. So your uncle was murdered in a drug deal gone wrong, very upsetting for you, your mother and your grandmother. And then all of a sudden you’re having stomach issues.
Yeah. I’m four years old, and I’m in the hospital having upper and lower GIs. I don’t know. And I was always sick.
I remember one of our early dates, you told me about your uncle, and then you told me about the stomach issues.
You’re like, “Don’t you think they’re connected?” And I’m like, “No, that’s ridiculous. That’s psychobabble.”
So a lot of what’s going on with you physically may have historical connections, and knowing about them and then reprocessing them from an adult perspective can just be so helpful.
Well, and now that I’ve really done a lot of work, and a lot of people think that I do my work and write my books to help others, which I’m glad I turned that pain to purpose, but I went on that journey to heal myself, to save myself. Because now I actually realize I was always sick as a kid. I was always on antibiotics, always going to the hospital, high fevers. I had mono. I had my tonsils out. I mean, it was just one thing after another.
So your immune system-
And I think it was the stress.
… was trashed. And some of your best friends were the tiger, the leprechaun and the captain.
Oh yeah. My mom was just doing the best she could. She didn’t know. So she was just, whatever food she could put on the table is what she was putting on the table, and she’s off and running to work.
Well, I think those of us that also grew up in the ’50s and ’60s, like I did, our parents had no clue. And so Frosted Flakes and Aunt Jemima pancake syrup was-
But when that’s your breakfast and your dinner and you’re having school lunch.
I mean, it’s a bad thing for anybody, right, to get loaded with that much sugar. But we’re already listening to chronic stress, intense trauma, antibiotics, which also damage your microbiome, right? For those of you who are brain warriors, I hope you’re listening to the story through the Brain Warrior’s Way. It’s no wonder that when you’re 23, you get diagnosed with cancer. So it’s not a big surprise when you understand the history. So as we go over the next six weeks and we talk through the book, we’ll also give a commentary on how it fits with The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast. And we’re up to four years old.
Right, and we haven’t even gotten into teenage years yet.
We will. Stay with us. There’s a lot coming. And I remember because when we first met, I just adored you, right? I mean, you’re beautiful, you’re smart. And I’m listening to the history, and I’m like, “EMDR, I’m going to give you 10 sessions.”
Oh, yeah. Only a psychiatrist would give, as a first gift-
She almost canceled her first session.
Oh yeah, because I didn’t want to see a psychiatrist. I didn’t want to be psychoanalyzed. But my first-
She desperately needed it, by the way. I mean, this is obvious here.
My first gift was 10 sessions of EMDR. I was like, “Okay.” And I literally, I walked into the office, and I’m like, “I am not going to bang my head up against a wall for three years and tell you how screwed up my mother is. So this needs to work fast.”
Which is why I knew. Because she’s a neurosurgical ICU nurse. It’s like, “Come on, let’s get this done.” And it was transformative.
It was life-changing, yeah.
Right? And in the book, there are lots of lessons, but recognizing, remembering, and then processing. So that’s the beautiful thing about EMDR, which is different than most therapies. You just don’t go and talk about how stressful your childhood is. You process it. And then you see, “Well, what are the good things that happened because of that?” And a lot of Tana’s strength is really built on the trauma that she has experienced. And again, I’m just so proud of you.
Thank you. And you can pre-order the book at relentlesscourage.com. It’s pretty much sold wherever books are sold. But for pre-ordering relentless courage.com or Amazon.
And there are all sorts of gifts.
Oh, yeah, over $400 worth of gifts. And one of them, one of my favorite, is the course we created. So it’s just an amazing course. It’s not long, it’s not burdensome, but it’s very impactful. So we have a video course that we created for you.
And there’s worksheets and-
Yeah, journaling. There’s a digital journal and all sorts of fun stuff.
And come to the event and send the link tanamen.com/event to all the people you know that have struggled with trauma. And guess what? During the pandemic, it’s all of us.
Yeah. I didn’t plan for this book to be released at this time, or I didn’t know that there was going to be a pandemic. I finished my first draft right when the pandemic hit, right when quarantine hit. And I was like, “Whoa, I mean, timing.” I don’t believe in coincidence. So it was a little weird. Yeah.
My goodness. All right. Leave us a comment, question or review at brainwarriorswaypodcast.com. What did you learn? And I think one of the big lessons you talked about just now is it’s easy to call people bad. It’s harder to ask why.
Yeah, when I started-
That would be a great lesson to write down, post on any of your social media sites. If you’ve got another lesson, please do that.
When I heard some of the stories, when I really got to know some of the people at The Salvation Army, and I heard their stories, what they went through as kids, I’m like, “Wow.” I mean, it really changes how you see people, and I began to see people who suffered rather than addicts. I began to see people who were just struggling to get by.
And we’re doing way too much labeling in our society now. You’re a Republican, you’re a Democrat, you’re liberal, you’re conservative, you’re this ethnic group or not. And we need to stop that because all of our genes are 99.97% similar. Stay with us.
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Dr. Daniel Amen:
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