The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast is going through a rebrand to give you a fresh new look and content.
There will be no new episodes this summer, but we will return in Fall 2021. Stay tuned!
In this special extended edition of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen are joined by Dr. Jeff Zeig, author, teacher, and founder of the Milton H. Erickson Foundation. Jeff shares stories of his time with the late, famed psychiatrist Victor Frankl, and how those experiences led to a better understanding of creating meaning and purpose in one’s life.
Daniel Amen: Welcome, everybody. Tana and I are just so excited to have our friend, Dr. Jeff Zeig, who is the founder and director of the Milton H. Erickson Foundation, having studied with Dr. Erickson, who's actually one of my heroes, in learning hypnosis 35 years ago. Jeff also started the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference, which is literally, in my mind, the best psychotherapy conference in the world. It's actually my most favorite conference to attend, to speak at, and in December of this year, he will have a 10,000 therapists in Anaheim.
Tana Amen: That's amazing.
Daniel Amen: Lord knows Anaheim needs it, but ... Mickey Mouse on the couch. I have six sessions I'm going to teach, so I'm very excited about that. As I'm working on a new book, called "All Success Starts Here Between Your Ears", and as I'm working on the passion, purpose, love, meaning chapter, I had to write about Viktor Frankl, and what I realize is that Jeff actually had a very close connection to Dr. Frankl, and distributed his English work in the United States, and-
Tana Amen: That's amazing. That's really cool.
Daniel Amen: ... and so what we're going to do this hour is we're going to introduce Jeff to all of the Brain Warriors that follow us, but we're going to talk about meaning and purpose from what Jeff knows of Viktor Frankl's perspective, so welcome, we're so-
Tana Amen: So excited to have you.
Daniel Amen: ... excited to have you with us.
Tana Amen: We're in harmony.
Jeff Zeig: Well, it's a blessing for me. I'm really glad to contribute to any project that you and Tana are doing. I'm great fans, and I'm certainly one of your Brain Warriors.
Daniel Amen: Well, thank you.
Tana Amen: So wonderful.
Daniel Amen: Tell us how you met Dr. Frankl.
Jeff Zeig: Sure. It was 1990, and Viktor Frankl was speaking at my conference, the Evolution of Psychotherapy, in December of that year, so I was teaching in Vienna in the summer, and I asked if I could visit with him, and he said no. He had sciatica, he had medical problems, and he wasn't really entertaining people, but he said, "Call me when you get to Vienna." I walked out of customs, there's a payphone, payphone is still there, and I called and he said, "Come over immediately." I store my luggage. I go to the Marianne in Gasse, where his home and office was, and I'm greeted by this diminutive Austrian man with an incredible presence, an aura that just perfumes the atmosphere, of being in the moment, present. We exchange some books, I ask him to autograph a book for me, I give him a book that I brought for him, and he shows me around his office. Now, his office wall has 29 honorary doctoral degrees.
Tana Amen: Wow.
Jeff Zeig: I don't know that Kissinger, or anybody, has 29 honorary degrees, in addition to his medical degree, and his PhD in philosophy. In the middle of this is a ratty certificate, when he was in his late 60s, for soloing a Cessna in San Diego. Now, I'm a pilot, I'm a glider pilot, so I say, "Professor, what is this certificate doing among all of those incredible honors?" Frankl, who was a person who, wisdom just came out of his pores, and he said to me that when he was a young man he was a mountain climber, he really enjoyed climbing mountains, and there were three trails outside of Vienna that were named after him because he was the first person to explore them. He developed an aversion to flying, so he decided that he and Mrs. Frankl would pilot an aircraft. He said to me in beautiful poetic German, my German is terrible, but I'll do my best that I can relate it and translate it, he said to me, "[German 00:04:23]." The rough translation of that beautifully poetic German phrase is "There are some things about myself I don't have to tolerate."
Tana Amen: I love that.
Jeff Zeig: I cannot even tell you how many times I have said to myself, from 1990 to today, 2017, when I started to err in some direction, I say to myself, "[German 00:04:51]," "There are some things about myself I don't have to tolerate."
Tana Amen: I love that. That's amazing. Dan, just to throw this in there, Daniel gives me a hard time for doing some of the things I do, which seem a little crazy to some people, and he thinks that I do some of the prepping and preparing for disasters and things out of fear, and the truth is, like I do survival training with my daughter, we're going to go out in the middle of nowhere and have nothing and sleep in a shelter that we build and whatever, we have to find our own food and all this crazy stuff, and the truth is I do it because I don't like being afraid. That saying, to me, it just resonates so deeply. I hate feeling afraid of things, or things about myself that I want to convert that into an energy that is more useful, so that's amazing.
Jeff Zeig: That's what you're doing, is something counterphobic. Rather than withdrawing from your fear, you're taking your daughter and going on a survival mission, and you don't have to tolerate your fear, you can go through it.
Tana Amen: That's brilliant.
Jeff Zeig: We call that, yeah, being counterphobic.
Tana Amen: I like that.
Daniel Amen: He said, "There are some things about myself I don't have to tolerate."
Jeff Zeig: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Daniel Amen: Then what happened?
Jeff Zeig: Then we visit for a while, and then he says to me, "I'm taking you to dinner," and I say, "Well, but only if I invite you," and he says, "Don't give me some of that manipulative Ericksonian stuff, I'm taking you to dinner." We go to dinner at an Italian restaurant, and he's talking with me about his time with Freud and his time with Adler.
Jeff Zeig: I turn to Mrs. Frankl, and I say to her, "I'm so sorry, you must have heard these stories so many different times," and she says to me, "Oh no, some of these I'm hearing for the first time." Now, suddenly I realize that we're having this subterranean, Herculean struggle. I'm trying to make him feel good about himself, and he's working to make me feel good about who I am, and I'm good at this, but he is so much better.
Tana Amen: Oh. my gosh.
Jeff Zeig: Then I give him "Man's Search for Meaning", second book to autograph. He draws a caricature of himself in the book. Now, in the first book he said, he wrote to me, "To Dr. Zeig, thank you for visiting me at my home in Vienna." In the second book be autographs at the end of the evening, "To Jeff Zeig, for discussions enriching me. Viktor Frankl."
Jeff Zeig: Then we walk to the door, and I'm going to go back and collect my luggage. Now, as he walks to the door, this diminutive Austrian man, he hugs me, and that's not a typical Austrian thing, and he says, "You know the idea that you have, this conference on the evolution of psychotherapy, it's such a good idea, but the evolution of psychotherapy would be so much better if there were more people like you in the field." He says, "Thank you for being," which was a common salutation, "Thank you for being." Now, you knew that there was one, and only one, principle, like an Occam's razor, that guided his life, which was, "If it's meaningful, I do it. If it's not meaningful, I don't have time for it."
Everything became easy for him after getting out of four different concentration camps, not that it was easy for him when he got out of the concentration camps, because it was a pretty depressing period in his life, to recover from the horror of being in those concentration camps, and yet he knew that Maslow was wrong. If you remember from your Introductory Psychology, Maslow created a hierarchy of needs, and he indicated that unless your basic needs were met, you could not do things that were transcendent. Now, before he went into the concentration camp, he had written an opus, and he had put the manuscript inside the lining of his coat, trying to save it, but of course, as soon as he got to the concentration camp, they denuded him and he lost the manuscript. He had known, before he went into the concentration camp, that Maslow was wrong, that even in the most horrible circumstances, the worst circumstances, the most barbaric circumstances, there was still the possibility that you could create meaning.
Jeff Zeig: Then being in the concentration camp was his way of having a laboratory, like Tana going into the wilderness, this was the laboratory in which he crystallized knowledge that they could take away every dignity that he had, he was a professor of neurology and psychiatry, but then, as long as he could determine that they couldn't take away his will, his will to create meaning, so ... If you want me to go on, I have an endless number of Viktor Frankl stories, but I'm going to leave you-
Daniel Amen: Yeah, no, keep going, this is so fascinating.
Tana Amen: Oh, it's awesome.
Jeff Zeig: ... I'm going to leave you, I'll leave you, it won't be a discussion, it's just going to be a monologue.
Tana Amen: He's, I have to tell you-
Jeff Zeig: ... but if you're okay with that ...
Daniel Amen: We'll interrupt you, but keep going for now. I mean, I love the idea-
Jeff Zeig: Yeah, so ...
Tana Amen: This is amazing.
Daniel Amen: ... before he-
Jeff Zeig: Viktor Frankl, his-
Daniel Amen: ... went into the-
Jeff Zeig: ... he lost his parents in the concentration camp, he lost his wife, Tilly, in the concentration camp, and he thought that by staying in Vienna and being one of the directors in the hospital, he could protect his parents. Now, he applied for a visa to come to the United States, and he got the visa. Now, his sister emigrated to Australia. She got a visa to get out as Hitler and the barbarism that was happening in Austria at that time grew more fulminant. Now he's walking around Vienna, and he doesn't know what to do. He's thinking that he could protect his parents because of his position at the hospital, and yet he's got a visa to go to America, and he would have bypassed the concentration camps. As he's walking around, he sees in the rubble of the synagogue a Jewish letter, and it's just one piece of marble that has one of the letters from the Ten Commandments, and he asks his father, "What was that letter?" His father said, "Well, it could only be one of the Commandments, 'Honor thy father and mother'."
At that moment, he decides to give up his visa. As he explained to me, you could look a that as that it was just a piece of calcium carbonate. It was nothing, it was just a piece of marble, but it was when he could project meaning into that moment that the direction of his life got determined, and his destiny was determined. Then he said clearly that if he had a choice between blindness and the concentration camp, he would have chosen blindness, because the horror of being in the concentration camp that he recounts in the opening of "Man's Search for Meaning" is a testament to the ascendance of the human spirit, that he was not the only one who survived the concentration camp, and a lot of what he recounts in "Man's Search for Meaning" is that he survived due to luck, chance. There were elements of chance that just happened to favor him and he was capable of surviving these very difficult and barbaric circumstances. Then, once he got out, then this crystallized into the "Third Viennese School of Psychiatry". There was Freud, the first school, there was Adler, the second school of individual psychology, and then there was the third school of Viktor Frankl.
Just to recount some stories that give more shape to the way in which Frankl did everything that was meaningful, I visit him for the last time in, he was 96, 97, in the Allgemeines Krankenhaus in Vienna. Now, Viktor Frankl was a public figure, and when I had invited him to my conferences in 1990, 1994, he had to go under an assumed name in the hotel, because otherwise he would be bombarded by people. When he spoke at my conference in 1990, he got a five minute standing ovation from 7,000 therapists before he spoke, and at the same time, he was going and speaking to Reverend Schuller and talking about his experiences with Reverend Schuller. Well, I'm walking him across the street, now people wanted to touch him like people would want to touch Madonna. I'm just guiding him through the crowd to get him back to the hotel after his speech, and as we're walking across from the convention center, the Hilton Hotel, he's saying, "Dr. Zeig, could you please tell me, what could I have done better?" He really wanted to know, he really wanted to learn, and he had just been given this incredible tribute.
When I visited him in the Allgemeines Krankenhaus, he's 96, 97, he was old, he has a coronary, the only people in the room are his son-in-law, [inaudible 00:14:57] Vesely, and his wife, Elly, and I come in with my workshop organizer, [Charlotta 00:15:05], and weak as a little bird, he just pulls himself from his bed, takes Charlotta's hand, and kisses it, like a proper Viennese gentleman. Now, you knew that there was one guiding principle, and that guiding principle, is it meaningful, is it not meaningful. It was meaningful, that's what he did. His wife, Elly, incredibly dear, she would be described as the light behind the flame. She had a way of just shining. It was not just Viktor Frankl, it was the relationship, it was the passion between them that was part of the presence of who Viktor Frankl was.
Jeff Zeig: I can go on [crosstalk 00:15:57].
Tana Amen: I have a question.
Tana Amen: First of all, his book was one of my favorite books of all time, "Man's Search for Meaning" was a great book.
Jeff Zeig: Absolutely.
Tana Amen: It's been a long time since I've read it, so thank you for some of the reminders. I feel like I need to read it again, I probably read it 16 years ago.
Jeff Zeig: It takes two hours to read the first part of it. It's not a little book.
Tana Amen: Right, and I feel like I need to read it again, just some of those reminders. I really love that. We live, I'm fortunate to have a partner who really helps me with this idea of meaning. For us, like I wrote the chapter on "Pain to Purpose", when you go through, obviously nothing like what he's been through, but just anything that you've been through and you can transform it to help other people, I think it's helpful. We have this line that we use a lot in our lives when something doesn't go right and you get frustrated by the normal frustrations of life, just the bumps along the way, and it's "Does this have eternal value"?
Jeff Zeig: Excellent.
Tana Amen: We use that a lot. I have to say-
Tana Amen: ... yeah, it really helps and it really works most of the time, but I will tell you, there are times that normal life gets in the way. We are human beings, right, so we get frustrated, we get angry, over things that don't have eternal value. Just this morning, I went off on the contractor that's doing construction at our house. It's just, it's one of those things. Does the money you lose when there's a mistake on construction have eternal value? Absolutely not, but in that moment, it feels like it's just such a big deal.
Tana Amen: What would be the thing that, what are some tips that you could give us, or that he would have given us, to get back on track, to focus on the right things and not let those things be disruptive? Because they really are disruptive and they're not worth it.
Jeff Zeig: Well, what you did, Tana, was great because it was a nice recovery. You were off balance, nice recovery. You got back quickly, and a lot of times the best that we can do is nice recovery, get back quickly. Now, when Viktor Frankl was establishing his school of existential psychiatry, he, at the time, what was prevalent, Freud, but also behaviorism, and behaviorism is stimulus response. Now, what Viktor Frankl would say, echoing very nicely what you were saying, is that between stimulus and response, there's choice, and you can choose. Then when you recognize that you don't necessarily need to respond to the stimulus quickly, and you can insert "Does this serve the greater good? Does this have eternal meaning? What about choice?" Choice is what can guide us, and when you have a moment of wisdom, then you can insert choice. I copied some of the quotes. Viktor Frankl was one of those people who was very great at creating one-liners. He said, "Live as if you're living a second time, and as though you acted wrongly the first time."
Tana Amen: Oh, I like that.
Jeff Zeig: If we can insert little things like "Does this have eternal meaning?" into those things, then we don't have to act so reflexively, and we don't have to be controlled by our limbic system. We can engage the brakes, our medial frontal pre-cortex, as Dan has so wisely instructed people over the years, that's the moment in which our limbic system can be put on hold, insert the clutch. We take things out of gear for a moment, insert choice into the equation, and then decide what it is that is really meaningful for you to do.
Tana Amen: What I'm hearing is that, I hear you clearly, so it's sort of like working out at the gym though, it probably takes practice.
Tana Amen: Because most of the time I'm able to do that very effectively, today I went off, and so, but I recovered, and so ...
Daniel Amen: It also matters, right? If we think about the prefrontal cortex, what are the things that weaken it, and ...
Tana Amen: Oh, you mean like hormones, like monthly hormones?
Daniel Amen: Where you are in your cycle certainly does it, how much sleep you got, your blood sugar from, this was before breakfast, and if you hit soccer balls with your forehead. All of those things, from blood sugar to sleep to hormones to the natural state of your frontal lobes, are they healthy or are they not healthy, for all sorts of reasons, the prefrontal cortex is the brake.
Tana Amen: It makes you-
Daniel Amen: Jerry Seinfeld, you'll like this one, said, "The brain is a sneaky organ." We all have weird, crazy, stupid, sexual, violent thoughts that no one should ever hear, and sometimes, when there's that stimulus, they get out, and the problem with the brain is it has memory.
Tana Amen: Right.
Daniel Amen: Right, so when things get out, other people remember them, and it can wound them.
Tana Amen: Damage people. Well, thank God for people like Viktor Frankl, but it makes you wonder why someone can respond to such a horrific situation the way he did whereas most people would not. They would either fold or fight or run or ...
Daniel Amen: Isn't it, the most interesting thing for me to study is-
Tana Amen: The why.
Daniel Amen: ... not the people who, what did he say in the book? The ones that would give away their cigarettes, or would smoke their last cigarette so that they didn't have anything to barter with.
Jeff Zeig: They would trade their watery soup for a cigarette, and that was the way in which they were declaring, "This is it." They wouldn't take nutrition and they would take the cigarette instead. They would ...
Tana Amen: Oh, interesting, yeah.
Daniel Amen: Who are the people that give up versus who are the people that are resilient? What is that difference?
Tana Amen: What a hero. He just ...
Jeff Zeig: Well, what he said very clearly was love, that he was dealing with situations where he had frostbite on his legs and edema and didn't have any clothes and had to work in this frostbitten territory, and that what he would do is he would bring to his mind, he'd look up at the sky, he'd bring to his mind his wife, Tilly, he would focus on love and recognize that the most profound virtue that you could, into which you could imbue meaning was love, and that that was the perspective point, that was the fulcrum that could help him to get through some of the horrors that he was living.
Tana Amen: Well, I'd be interested in-
Daniel Amen: That was, if you crystallize resilience, its meaning, is if you're facing a difficult situation, having something purposeful to focus on, particularly love, makes the biggest difference.
Tana Amen: I still don't, the thing I'm still curious about, and maybe we can do another podcast at some point on this, is because, we're dealing with a situation right now, my sister and her now ex-husband, they lost their children to DHS. It was a horrific situation, and she now has them back, she got them back on Mother's Day. We had to intervene significantly, and it was great, that to me has eternal value. We really did a, it's been nine months, very long and hard-
Daniel Amen: Has generational value.
Tana Amen: Right, and it was a very long and hard battle. What I'm curious about, the mother and father in the situation behaved polar oppositely. We offered them the same support. We offered them the exact same treatment, the exact same support. He fell apart, was just arrested for drugs, has another warrant out for his arrest, was arrested twice, illegal purchase of firearms, and she took the help and rebuilt her life. Her goal was to get the kids back. Why wasn't his goal the same? He says it was the same, but it wasn't, they didn't take the help the same way. That's my question. Why would Viktor Frankl see that opportunity versus the way most people saw it, as a death sentence? That's my question.
Jeff Zeig: Yeah, and it's really incomprehensible, and I really can't even imagine how I might behave were I subjected to the same things that he was. We tend to have black and white thinking, like "It's your fault" or "It's my fault", and "You're good and I'm bad" or "You're bad and I'm good", and we also have a ridiculous capacity to shoot ourselves in the foot. How many people that Dan and I and you have treated that have addictions, and people who are spending their welfare check at the casino and using drugs and doing all kinds of things to pollute their brain? We have an incredible capacity to shoot ourselves in the foot. There was something that was transcendent in Viktor Frankl, he couldn't categorize good/bad the same way. When he was in Auschwitz, Dr. Mengele, this barbaric doctor, is looking at the line of people who are coming, and he's just pointing to the right or pointing to the left. I can't remember, I think if he pointed to the left you were going immediately to the crematorium, and somehow Viktor Frankl sensed that he could distract for a moment, and that he could go to the right. Now, and that made all of the difference, he went to the work camp rather than the death camp.
He said that he, if he was confronting somebody like Eichmann or Mengele after the war, he would have interviewed them, and he would have tried to convince them that what they did were not meaningful. Now, this was a man who could not believe in collective guilt. There was so much collective guilt, "The Germans are bad," after the war, and everybody was very willing to condemn Nazism, and Viktor Frankl was still focused on meaning, that if he was confronted by one of those horrific characters, even to the very last moment, he would say, he would try to convince them that what they were doing was not meaningful, and that they could ascend to some higher moment even facing their execution.
Tana Amen: Yeah, he is someone to look up to, he is clearly an evolved being, and you're looking at me very oddly at the moment, and I know what you're going to say.
Daniel Amen: Yeah, we're going to take your therapy skills right now, because when Tana and I first met, one of the things we would fuss over is I have scanned about 500 convicted felons and over 100 murderers, and I have been to court testifying in death penalty cases, usually for the person who did the really bad thing. Now, I didn't say they didn't do it, and I didn't say they shouldn't be held responsible, but really should we kill someone who acts badly from, in part, having a damaged brain, and she-
Tana Amen: This one's hard for me.
Daniel Amen: ... she was with my father's position, which is, "Kill the bastard," and-
Tana Amen: Not all of them, not all of them.
Daniel Amen: I was, I was-
Tana Amen: If they hurt a child. If they hurt a child, I just can't ...
Daniel Amen: ... but for me, when I started looking at people's brains, Dostoyevsky once said you can tell about the soul of a society not by how it treats its outstanding citizens, but by how it treats its criminals, and it gave me a level of empathy, that if we're really going to help people that do bad things, we have to start by understanding why, and-
Tana Amen: I still get a little stuck on that one, I'm sorry. I'm just, you hurt a child and I have a hard time with it. My empathy is for the child.
Daniel Amen: Well, everybody should have a hard time with it, but we still have to understand it, because ... and for me that's meaningful, that that brings meaning to my life by-
Tana Amen: I respect you for that.
Daniel Amen: ... stepping back and trying to understand it.
Daniel Amen: The vengeance has meaning for you.
Tana Amen: Maybe.
Daniel Amen: We just don't-
Tana Amen: Maybe it just has to do with my childhood.
Daniel Amen: We just don't see eye to eye.
Tana Amen: Maybe it has to do with my childhood, I don't know. Don't know where there comes from, but ...
Daniel Amen: One of Tana's earliest memories, and we've said this publicly, is when she was four years old and remembers seeing her mother and grandmother falling to the floor screaming when they found out her uncle had been murdered in a drug deal gone wrong.
Tana Amen: That's not where that comes from. Quite frankly, and I think I've only said this one other time, it's a little harder to say on the air, but my stepfather climbed in bed with me, and that was a little different, and that power over, it's really hard when I see a child suffer. Yeah, that's not okay with me. It's just not okay with me. I don't, maybe I still need therapy, I don't know, but ...
Daniel Amen: That's where you get meaning, so we just take it in a different direction.
Jeff Zeig: Absolutely, and there's nothing wrong with that, and you are both strong human beings with decidedly different perspective points on life, and what you're demonstrating is what's a pure relationship, when you can tolerate the fact that each of you has different perspectives, different memories, different brains that guide those perspectives and that your love is created by the union of differences, and that you don't have to agree on every possible topic.
Tana Amen: Oh, no, I respect you very much, in fact I have learned a lot and I have actually shifted my position on many things because of our work, so that actually does say a lot, I think.
Daniel Amen: Well, one other thing, as far as meaning, we were able to help the Salvation Army plant brain health in one of their largest drug treatment programs in Anaheim-
Jeff Zeig: Wow, wow. Fabulous.
Daniel Amen: ... very close to ... Their director loved me, followed my work, and then realized if she really loved her brain she would get physically healthy, and took Tana's class here at the clinic, and she said, "Please, please, please, will you help me plant this in the drug treatment program?"
Tana Amen: I wanted to help her, but then she wanted me to directly work with all of these criminals that were court ordered, no, I mean like child molesters and murderers that were court ordered to do this program, and I was stunned, because now ... See what you do? You put me in the middle of these, he just thinks it's funny, he puts me in the middle of these situations that are so uncomfortable for me, and I came home and I was literally crying.
Daniel Amen: Laura put you in this, you put yourself in the situation-
Tana Amen: No.
Daniel Amen: ... because Laura fell in love with you and realized what you have is healing, and so Tana came home crying and she's like, "God chose the wrong person to do this."
Tana Amen: "This time he's wrong," so ... and he looked at me with that look right there that annoys me so badly sometimes, and he's like, "God chose the perfect person," and I'm like, but the thing is is that it really did, and that's the part that's hard for me, because I don't sometimes want to do these things. I'm not like Viktor Frankl, I don't sometimes want to do these things, but when I did it ...
Jeff Zeig: What? Did it work? Did you do it?
Tana Amen: It was amazing, and so, and honestly, I think that the biggest healing was for me, not them.
Jeff Zeig: Yes.
Tana Amen: Yeah, it was, but I didn't want to do it.
Daniel Amen: That's the one thing you always say, who ... so-
Tana Amen: I said, that for every-
Daniel Amen: For every-
Tana Amen: The transformation was my epiphany was that for every one of those people that was truly helped, that would be one less scared or victimized little girl or little boy.
Jeff Zeig: Perfect.
Tana Amen: Yeah, but it's not easy.
Daniel Amen: That's in the center of meaning and purpose.
Jeff Zeig: Right. Yeah, Viktor Frankl said there was three ways of creating meaning. We create meaning by being productive, whatever our job is. We create meaning by love, by connection, and we create meaning by shouldering whatever difficult fate we have and we face and helping others to shoulder theirs.
Tana Amen: Yeah, so that's the pain to purpose for me, but it's not always an easy to decision. I agree with him, it's a choice, but it's not always an easy one.
Jeff Zeig: No, no-
Tana Amen: Sometimes it's really hard.
Jeff Zeig: No, and what Dan is saying, we are all fixed by our memories and of the way that in which we take care of our brain, our body, and these things can eclipse our ability to see what is a perspective point. You know that when a karate master is breaking a board, the karate master doesn't see the board, he doesn't see the impediment.
Tana Amen: Absolutely.
Jeff Zeig: He's focused on where he will wind up, and if he focuses on the impediment, that's when he could break his hand, so it's finding a way, and you're right, Tana, it's not something that we just come by so naturally. It's like going to the gym and doing a workout and building muscle. It's building mental muscle so that at those moments when we are confronted by a stimulus we can insert what serves the eternal good.
Tana Amen: I don't want to pass by what you just said. I have two black belts, I practice martial arts regularly. It's a passion for me, I love it, and I've always known that you can't focus on the board. If you focus on the board, you will break your hand or you will not break the board, at the very least. You focus on the wall behind it, and you think of the board as being butter, the board is not what your focus is on, but I've never thought of applying it to this, that you focus on the end.
Jeff Zeig: That's a metaphor, that we don't have to get, if our focus gets myopic and we're just seeing the problem, then we may not be able to get out of the box and find where it is that is, that really represents the kind of destiny, the kind of evolution that we want to have, the kind of maturity that we want to have for ourselves.
Tana Amen: That was huge. That was very helpful to me. I like that. This is a metaphor I can use.
Daniel Amen: If you focus on where the house is going, rather than the contractor ...
Tana Amen: In the bigger scheme of things, I think where we get stuck, the things that are painful to us, that was very helpful. I like that. It's a metaphor that's useful.
Jeff Zeig: Viktor Frankl-
Daniel Amen: The three ways to create meaning-
Jeff Zeig: ... would say that if you, he would say that, "Okay, we have a Statue of Liberty on the East Coast. Now, why don't we create a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast?"
Tana Amen: Oh, I love that. Gosh, you, like all of these great sayings.
Jeff Zeig: Yeah, he was really wonderful with those kind of aphorisms. He was a man who just loved humor and loved life, and his passion, it was, certainly his podium power was enormous, like Dan he's got a presence that just exudes into the audience, but when you could spend time with him, you could feel that even on the most personal level, he was somebody who was passionate and involved and interested and wanted to learn and explore and wanted to give and also experience and learn. He serves in my imaginary board of advisors.
Tana Amen: Oh, that's amazing.
Jeff Zeig: When I have a problem, I convene my imaginary board of advisors, and there's wonderful mother magicians and father magicians in my imaginary board-
Jeff Zeig: ... and whatever problem I can put on the table, I just commune with these spirits and find some wisdom that will help me to be a better Jeff Zeig, and that's what we're all striving for. I love the way the two of you are together, that you can demonstrate your different perspectives and your different strengths and that the union between you is still so strong.
Tana Amen: Oh, I agree, and I think that Daniel actually grounds me in a lot of ways. I probably add a little fire to his life, but he grounds me.
Daniel Amen: I am so attached. I am so, so attached. Back to three ways to create meaning. Being productive, that's work, or it's a hobby or it's volunteering.
Jeff Zeig: Yeah, definitely, yeah, making the world just a little bit better place by virtue of you being on the planet.
Daniel Amen: Which is one of the things that you often say, "Why is the world a better place because you breathe?"
Tana Amen: "... a better place because you breathe?"
Jeff Zeig: Right.
Daniel Amen: Then love, is it ...
Jeff Zeig: Connection, that's loving whatever it is that you're loving. You could loving an animal or loving your creativity, but most importantly loving the people who are central to your life.
Tana Amen: Now, would gratitude be included in that?
Tana Amen: In love, okay.
Jeff Zeig: Then the Buddhists would say, "All life is suffering," that would be the first principle that the Buddha preached, and then what is it that you do in the face of suffering. It's like, when I went to Viktor Frankl, another memory just surfaced, like he asks me to sign his guest book, well, it was the second guest book. I looked through the first guest book to sign the second guest book, and the entries in the first guest book are like Heidegger, Jaspers, Husserl, all of the great existential philosophers, and I'm signing his guest book in the lineage of all of these people who I studied when I was in college, these profound thinkers.
Jeff Zeig: Even Heidegger, who had some sort of, I think, Nazi leanings, but who was somebody who Viktor Frankl really admired in terms of the depths of his thought and philosophy, well, the existentialists would say, "When you wake up, the first thing to consider is suicide." Okay, you open your eyes, you consider suicide. Now, once you put your bedroom slippers on the floor, it's no longer the right question, and then the question is, "What will I do now that's meaningful?" If we can exercise that part of our brain and build that part of our brain-
Tana Amen: I actually do that a lot. I don't consider suicide, but I often think to myself, "At the end of my life, like, we're all dying." I often say to myself, "We're all dying, okay, so just at different rates. What difference is this going to make? I'm going to be dead, and is this going to matter?"
Daniel Amen: That's not my thought at all.
Jeff Zeig: Well, how can I make it matter?
Daniel Amen: My thought as soon as I wake up-
Jeff Zeig: You make it matter.
Daniel Amen: My thought as soon as I wake up is, "Today is going to be a great day."
Tana Amen: Yeah, no, I don't say it when I first wake up.
Daniel Amen: Then my brain will figure out why it's going to be a great day. I did that this morning, and you immediately, your face popped in my mind because I knew we were going to talk today.
Tana Amen: Yeah, you actually said that when you first woke up.
Daniel Amen: Right.
Tana Amen: I was half asleep, and he's like, "Oh, we're going to interview Jeff today," and I'm like, "I know. Why are you waking me up?" No, I'm not saying I say that when I first wake up. I do try to focus on gratitude first thing in the morning, but when things bother me I try to put it in perspective, it's like, "Really, is this going to matter? Because we're all going to die," so ...
Daniel Amen: Before we run out of time, I want to make sure we talk about the School of Psychotherapy that Viktor Frankl founded, which has to do in large part with meaning, and it's called logostherapy, correct?
Jeff Zeig: Logotherapy.
Daniel Amen: Logotherapy.
Jeff Zeig: Yeah.
Daniel Amen: "Logo" is Greek for "meaning", is that correct?
Daniel Amen: Talk to us. If someone went to a logotherapist, what would that be like?
Jeff Zeig: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. Well, there were some techniques, like paradoxical intention. Viktor Frankl would work with somebody, for example, with anticipatory anxiety, this is anxiety about anxiety, and sometimes you use paradoxical intention. Let's say it's a young man and he's afraid of talking to young women, and Viktor Frankl says, "Okay, you're going to a party on Friday. Dress up, wear your nicest clothes. When you get to the party, get two glasses of champagne, fill them to the top, walk around the room until you find the most attractive woman that you can find, and as you get to her you're going to be shaking, you're going to be spilling this champagne all over yourself, and when you get to her you just trip and you'll pour the champagne all over yourself." Then he would say, and I can't remember the German phrase, but, "Better a moment of horror, than horror without end."
Tana Amen: Oh, my gosh. Love that.
Jeff Zeig: He would invited people to live through their greatest fear, but he wanted them to laugh, he didn't really want them to do the activity. He wanted to prompt laughter as a way of blocking anticipatory anxiety. He was really one of the first people to invent the use of paradox, which he did in the 1920s as a technique for helping people. Now, also, he would focus people, of course, on meaning. Now, unfortunately, there are no videos of Viktor Frankl doing therapy. There are lots of audio and video of Viktor Frankl lecturing, but there's nothing that I can find in the archive that shows an example of him doing treatment, but these techniques, like paradoxical intention, dereflection, if he was working with somebody who was obsessive-compulsive, but then overall, as long as you have that light, like the moth is attracted to the light, and that light is meaning, then whatever tragedy befalls you, how can you do alchemy?
How can you find the lemonade in the lemon, and how can you make that the wall, as Tana was talking about, that you're focusing on so you're not focusing on the problem, you're focusing on what it is that will create meaning, just ... There's a video, Alex Vesely, Viktor's grandson, is a filmmaker, and he's in Los Angeles, and he made a documentary movie both about Viktor Frankl and also about, another documentary about Dr. Erickson. If you looked and searched a little about Viktor Frankl or Alex Vesely, you could find the movie of interviewing people who knew Viktor Frankl. Certainly I would highly, highly-
Daniel Amen: How do you spell his name?
Jeff Zeig: ... recommend reading "Man's Search for Meaning". It's an easy read, and it was a book, I can't even remember, it's 40 different languages, in its 100th printing, and I don't even know that Viktor Frankl got a penny for that book. It was not, he was not a [inaudible 00:44:12] person, he wasn't interested in money. He was interested in inspiring people, and he did a very good job of it.
Daniel Amen: How do you spell Alex's last name?
Jeff Zeig: Veseley, V-E-S-E-L-E-Y.
Daniel Amen: Wonderful. I'll have to see if I can find that.
Jeff Zeig: I hope I didn't put an ... V-E-S-E-L-Y.
Daniel Amen: V-E-S, as in "Sam"?
Jeff Zeig: Vesely, yeah.
Tana Amen: E-L-Y.
Jeff Zeig: I'm missing that extra "E" at the end. V as in Viktor, E-S-E-L-E-Y or Y, I can't visualize it right now.
Daniel Amen: Okay, great, thank you.
Jeff Zeig: I need to have some more protein in my brain.
Daniel Amen: What kind of impact has Viktor Frankl had on your life?
Jeff Zeig: A tremendous impact, because it's like, oh, my gosh, it's meeting somebody who is a mature adult, and seems to have transcended some of the squalor that is so present on the earth, somebody who vindicates the earth by his presence on the planet.
Jeff Zeig: He and Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir, Salvador Minuchin, these are people, and you're on my board of advisors, Dan, and you have prompted me to really study and understand brain health, so I have lots of moments when I can reflect back on things. I just, I don't know if we have time, another quick story, in 1994, I organized the Evolution Conference in Hamburg. My co-organizer, Bernard Trenkle, all that he wants to do is have dinner with Viktor Frankl after the conference is over, and unfortunately Bernard's father gets ill. Maybe Bernard has to go from Hamburg to Baden-Baden and be with his father. I can't call Viktor Frankl, I walk through this cavernous hotel, I explain to him that we have to be late for dinner because we don't know whether or not Bernard has to travel immediately and peremptorily. At the moment, no thought, "He can't come to dinner, Bernard cannot come to dinner. I'm shocked." I say, "Why?" He says, "It wouldn't be meaningful." Now, you could just feel that this was Occam's razor, this was the simplifying tool that he had in life, and that he had trained his mind, trained his body, trained his brain, trained his relational state to reflect the essence of that philosophy, and that turned out to be a fulcrum that could move any heavy weight.
When I met him, he was suffering from macular degeneration. He was losing vision, he had peripheral vision. When he drew the caricature for me, he had to draw it out of the corner of his vision, but you knew, if he was drawing the caricature, this was meaningful, it was something that he, it was the intentionality that he could stimulate into play that was just so inspiring and that he was training himself not to act in the typical form that people would react to, good/bad, but to be transcendent in terms of his intentionality. He serves as an icon in my life, one of those people who I was blessed to meet, and one of those people whose blessings continue to inspire me, and I know that as a psychotherapist, there are not many days that go by that I refrain from interjecting the concept of meaning into my session. If somebody is doing something that's self-destructive, it's meaningful, what would serve the greater good? Where can you create meaning? Logotherapy has become an integral part of the experiential integrative therapy that I do, and Viktor Frankl continues to be someone who speaks through me to inspire some of the clients who I see.
Daniel Amen: That's awesome.
Daniel Amen: One of the exercises that we have that I'll put in the book is called "The One Page Miracle", which is on one piece of paper, or one computer file, just write down what you want, what's important to you in your relationships, your work, your money, your physical, emotional, spiritual health, what do you want? Then you ask yourself, is your behavior getting you what you want, which is all about finding a structure for meaning, and with all the distractions coming at us moment by moment now, does this have eternal value, does this matter? It's not telling people what they should want, it's just clarifying, where is the meaning in your life and get that clarified so you're not thrown around by the noise in our society.
Jeff Zeig: Beautiful. Well, I look forward to reading your book about where all success starts. I know that I'll benefit from it, I know that I'll learn a lot from it. You have lots of incredible tricks between the two of you. I read Tana's book, too, and benefited from her dietary wisdom, so I-
Tana Amen: Thank you.
Jeff Zeig: ... bless you for all the wonderful things that you're both doing, making the world a better place by virtue of your presence on it.
Daniel Amen: Well, thank you my friend.
Tana Amen: This was so rich and so meaningful, I just, I really enjoyed hearing about your relationship with Viktor Frankl and just hearing those pearls of wisdom. This was awesome.
Daniel Amen: We should do another one on Milton Erickson-
Tana Amen: I agree.
Jeff Zeig: Sure, sure.
Daniel Amen: ... and on hypnosis, which was part of my early evolution as a psychotherapist.
Jeff Zeig: Viktor Frankl too.
Daniel Amen: Really?
Tana Amen: Oh, interesting.
Tana Amen: We should do that, that would be fun.
Daniel Amen: We'll do that.
Tana Amen: Can you do that?
Jeff Zeig: That'll be fun. Absolutely. It would be an honor.
Tana Amen: Okay, I would love that, I love hypnosis, so ...
Daniel Amen: All right, thank you for listening to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. We will be back.