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How Feelings of Guilt & Shame Manifest in Your Brain

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

Feelings of guilt and shame can cause people to do terrible things, like self-harming behaviors. Therefore it’s vital to know where these feelings are coming from and how to keep them from overwhelming you. In this episode of the podcast, Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen are continuing their discussion of the ‘dragons from the past’ outlined in Dr. Amen’s new book “Your Brain is Always Listening”. The focus of this episode is the Should & Shaming Dragon: What triggers it, how it manifests, and how to tame it.

For more info on Dr. Daniel Amen’s new book, “Your Brain is Always Listening”, visit https://yourbrainisalwayslistening.com/

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.

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 RN:

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.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Welcome back. Today, we’re going to talk about another one of my dragons the should and shame dragons. You’re listening to the Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast. We are doing this multiple week series on my new book, Your Brain is Always Listening. Dearly love if you ordered, give it away to 10 of your friends. They’ll love it. It’s practical. It’s fun. It really allows you to spend… Like if you did a year of therapy with me, what would be the big lessons you would learn? And the first thing we do is identify your dragons. So we are grateful you’re with us. You have a review.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

So I have a review, before we get started, a note of appreciation to Dr. Amen, and to all of you for the very kind, caring, and compassionate work that you do every single day, may we all continue to work together to change the conversation, methods, and models for understanding mental health and neurological wellness in our nation and all over the world. Thank you so very much. That’s from Junee S. Awesome.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Well, awesome. So today we’re going to talk about the should and shaming dragon. I know this dragon really well, and I think if you grow up Catholic, like I did. Or Jewish, or Asian, or there’s so… Russian, that many people use this dragon to manipulate.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

But most parents, even especially parents who have already sort of suffered themselves and figured out how to stop suffering or have gone through trauma. I know even as a parent, I have to leash this dragon all the time, because I want to spare my daughter, the pain that I’ve been through one of the things that really helped me with this dragon was Love and Logic, Love and Logic Parenting. Because when this dragon starts to get out of control, and I want to tell my daughter, “You should, you show, you should.” It’s like I have to remind myself, should she really? She needs to figure this out.

Daniel Amen, MD:

You’re should-ing all over her?

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Should-ing all over her. And that program really helped me.

Daniel Amen, MD:

So the origin of this dragon is if you’re raised in a shame based culture, where if you don’t do a certain thing, people tell you you’re going to hell the whole eternal damnation.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Much like you when you were seven.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Yeah.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Or six.

Daniel Amen, MD:

No, I was six or seven, and I told a lie, at least my mom said I told a lie. I actually, I have no recollection of this. But what I do recall is her starting to cry and then saying, “I never thought I would have a son who’s going to hell.” Imagine what that does to the psyche of the six or seven year old child. It’s not good. The origin of this dragon is past humiliation. If you’ve been embarrassed or belittled, judged or criticized by yourself or by other people, and this dragon is triggered. In fact, let me show you this dragon. He is super cute for those of you watching.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I love the graphics, the dragons are so cute.

Daniel Amen, MD:

It’s triggered by disapproval from someone important, such as a spouse, a boss-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

A parent.

Daniel Amen, MD:

A coworker, or a parent, even if you’re 52 and our mother disapproves of you, or you have perceived disapproval from a higher power. And the reactions are feeling guilt, foolish, distressed, exposed, wanting to hide or withdraw, overly sensitive. And I’ve certainly been sensitive over the years, overly submissive. That’s definitely not your problem.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

But the shaming dragon, up until I decided to get help, we talked about the wounded dragon, the shaming dragon, the should and shaming dragon, I think ruled my life up until I decided to actually get help for the wounded dragon. So because as long as I was hiding from all of those things, those wounds, I didn’t want to deal with those wounds. The shame that goes along with so much stuff, even stuff that you don’t have control over as a child, there’s so much shame around some of those thoughts and feelings. It just will paralyze you. So many people feel paralyzed by this one.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Well, and this dragon can lead to self-harming behaviors, addictions, pornography, overeating-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Eating disorders.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Eating disorders, and it really provides the seeds for anxiety, depression, and obsessive thinking. Now there are upsides to all of these dragons, and the upside to the should and shaming dragon is, there are things you should do. And there are things you should be ashamed of if you do.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right, so discernment. So we can use it for discernment.

Daniel Amen, MD:

So discernment is important. Society does need rules. Parents should take care of their children, and you shouldn’t hurt people. So it’s really the balance. Of course, there are things that you should and shouldn’t do. The idea is trying to motivate behavior with guilt is generally just not helpful. And so as you said, using discernment on, does my behavior get me what I want?

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Well, and that goes to something deeper, what you’re going to end up talking about later, which is values. Making sure your values are in alignment.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Values are so critical. And in the book Finding the Upside, of course there are things you should and shouldn’t do. Morality is essential for the greater good. That’s why we have rules and laws. Shame and guilt can be helpful if their emotions serve your life goals, but they can hurt you, if they make you feel bad, small, or disconnected from others. Shame can motivate learning, growth, and desire to change to be better. So one of the strategies that I love, I think it’s one of the most important strategies I give my patients is replace I should in your head with, I want to.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right, this is going to get me what I want.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Or, it fits my goals to, and see if it still fits. Like, I would get thought I should go see my dad, or now I should go see my mom. And whenever you try to motivate behavior with guilt and makes you feel bad. And so you don’t go visit your dad or you don’t go visit your mom. But when I replaced, I should, with I want to, or it fits my goals to. Then I would go see them, because I both wanted to and it fit my goals to. So know when guilt is helpful in when it’s not. Behavior’s is way more complicated than people think. [inaudible [00:08:27] love and compact. And I think therapy helps with that. How would a loving parent treat him or her? And then talk to someone about the shame you feel. Hiding from it expands it-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yes, yes.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Facing it takes away its power. Movies for the should and shaming dragon. There are movies that poke fun at tradition like MASH, one of my favorite movies ever. Or Meet the Parents-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Meet the Parents is good.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Or The Help.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I love The Help, that was a great movie.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And the affirmations to say or meditate on every day for the should and shaming dragons is, each day I feel more at peace with my mistakes. I work to learn the lessons of my past. I can and will let go of any shame that haunts me. I replace, I should do this with, does it fit my overall goals to do this? That was then, this is now. So do you have some of this should and shaming dragons? Very important to tame this dragon.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

That dragon is probably one of the cornerstones of my book. Just when you hold it in, when you try, putting on a facade, try not to let anybody see. There’s so much shame, but that just makes the shame build, and build, and build until you just… The weight is so heavy.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Yeah. It makes me think of the phrase, the shame that binds you.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Daniel Amen, MD:

And it’s just so true. So what did you learn today? Write it down, post it on any of your social media sites, hashtag Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast. Also hashtag, Your Brain is Always Listening. You can go to YourBrainIsAlwaysListening.com. If you pre-order the book or order the book, you can download very special gifts we have. Stay with us.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

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. And while you’re at it, feel free to give us a review or five-star rating as that helps others find the podcast.

Daniel Amen, MD:

If you’re interested in coming to Amen Clinics, use the code podcast10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at AmenClinics.com for more information, give us a call at (855) 978-1363.