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Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen talk about how the past can affect the present. They share personal tips and strategies on how to be “curious not furious”.
Daniel Amen, MD:
Welcome to the Brain Warriors Way Podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
I’m 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 Warriors 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 in the middle of our happiness challenge. We’re digging deeper into happiness. I just find all of this so interesting. Like, all the things you can do to make yourself happier, and all the things you can do to make yourself very unhappy.
Well, and just going back, if you grew up with trauma … You know, we were talking about the A Score, from zero to 10, you score at an eight. I scored a one. But yet, in my family, people really didn’t noticed what they like. More than what they don’t like.
I remember people noticing what they didn’t like, and how shame and guilt and ought to and must, and have to, were rampant in my house. And I never really learned to notice what I liked, right?
My mom was a good mom.
She’s a really good mom.
And but, she’s just busy, with seven children.
Seven kids, yeah.
And siblings don’t tend to notice what they like.
Because there’s always competition.
There’s rivalry, right.
Rivalry, competition, and so where do you learn it if it’s not modeled for you? But when your nervous system has been primed through trauma and fear, then what you’re noticing is what’s wrong. Because that was adaptive for you when you were young.
Right, and I’ve talked to a lot of people who have had this issue. And I’ve heard the same thing over and over. I’m not sure that … I certainly wouldn’t, and the people I’ve talked to, they’ll say the same thing. I don’t think most of us are willing to let it go, that protective reflex. We’re not willing to let go of that. But I think that a lot of us who have done a lot of work on ourselves are, like I’ve heard people say, even our friend last night who, she’s got no reason to really feel the way she feels now. But she’s like, “I still notice when there’s a noise in the house.” That, she has that same reaction I have, it’s like, “Oh, who’s in my house?” Because her childhood was crazy.
But what we are willing to do, if you’ve done that work on yourself, if you are psychologically savvy and you’ve done the work, it’s like, okay, I’m not willing to let the protective reflex go, because you never really believe that nothing bad’s going to happen. But you are willing to stop and go, “Okay, is this real now? Am I really reacting to now? Or is this just an old leftover reflex that I’m reacting to everything?” Right?
I’m that scared child that needs to hide.
It’s really important to separate.
Right, the past from the present.
Right. And too often, people drag their past along. And there’s a new phrase that I’ve been saying is, well, yesterday was the last day of the past.
And tomorrow, we can leave it there. But it’s hard, because it gets ingrained in your nervous system. So like, it’s hard to give up brownies if you’ve been used to having brownies or doughnuts or cake or candy all the time. It’s a daily practice. And I think you and I are actually really good about doing it with each other.
But again …
It’s a practice, though.
… it’s a practice where if I really am serious about having a kind, caring, loving, supportive, passionate relationship with you, my brain will notice what I don’t like. I need to train it to notice what I like.
Now the really things that concern me or bother me …
We need, it needs to be addressed.
… then, we need to talk about it.
So, assertiveness is important. But whenever I think about assertiveness, I’m always thinking firm, this bothers me, but doing it in a kind way. Firm and kind. Just two words you should always remember when you think about parenting or you even think in your relationships with your spouse, with your coworkers, and so on.
One of the reasons I think this is so important, like yesterday, we spent the day together. I mean, we schedule time to do this, spend time together, because it’s so important. If you want to be happy in your relationship, you have to schedule time together, just like you have to with your kids.
But we scheduled some time together, and we were just being playful, but we did it consciously. And I think when you actually start putting this into play, what’s interesting to me is that small things make you happy. You don’t need bigger and bigger things. When you consciously make the decision to do these things and be conscious about your happiness, and focus on the things you like, you don’t need bigger and bigger, and more and more, to be happy.
So, we were just playing yesterday and trying on sunglasses, and laughing. And I mean, silly stuff, but that makes you happy when you focus on it, as opposed to needing to go jump out of airplanes. I’m not saying … Anyone who jumps out of airplanes, that’s great. I love doing very intense things. I’m just saying, little things will make you happy, also.
Well, and if you focus on what we call the micro moments of happiness, you know, what’s the smallest thing. And actually, the sunglass thing was hysterical. And I sort of thought it was a big thing. It’s a huge, your sunglasses are.
I look like a fly.
Yeah, a very pretty fly, super fly.
And so, how can we make this practical? If you grew up with unhappiness, if you grew up with trauma, if you grew up with an A Score of more than four, just know you can retrain your brain. You just have to make it conscious.
And continue to talk about the seven secrets and seven questions, to ask yourself. But I just love, notice what you like more than what you don’t like. And the question is, am I reinforcing behaviors I like today? Because just sort of left on your own, you can notice the dishes not done, notice the cabinet open, or the lights on, or the wrapper not thrown away, or someone didn’t make it all about you today. You could notice that.
Or, I just, I know how to make Tana smile. I know how to do it. And I also know how to make her yell at me. And I choose not to make her yell at me.
Yeah, you’re really good at choosing that.
Right, and so I think always being in a learning mode. I’m reading a new book called Invent and Wander, by Jeff Bezos. Actually, the letters of Jeff Bezos. And I was listening to the introduction this morning by Walter Isaacson. And he has written biographies on Leonardo DaVinci and Steve Jobs, and Ben Franklin, and a number of historic figures.
And he said the one thing they all have in common is, they’re curious. And I love that word. If you can always be in a learning mode in the relationships around you and be curious about your interactions with them, be curious, not furious, it’ll just pay off in the long run by better relationships.
And I actually would, as a part of takeaway, I’d strongly recommend you take the Ace Quiz. We mentioned in the last one. I think we left a link. But if you take that Ace Quiz, I think it explains so much. I know when I took it, you said, “Oh, that explains so much about your behavior.” It just explains so much about how you feel, why you react to certain things the way you do.
It’s very revealing, and I think when you understand something, it makes it easier to make changes and become aware.
And there’s a great Ted Talk on it.
Yeah, oh, so good. She’s so good. What’s her name, Nadine something?
Yeah, Nadine Harris, Dr. Nadine Harris. It’s so good.
Who’s now, apparently, the Surgeon General of California.
And she is so … Oh, I should have known that. But it’s just such a brilliant Ted Talk, and she’s really brought adverse childhood experiences to the forefront of understanding why people that have had that happen become sick so much more often with different illnesses than …
So, let’s close this episode with this story of day before yesterday, we’re out for a walk. And I always love it, because I walk three or four miles, probably, every day. And you were able to go with me, which made me happy. And we found this super cute little walking trail.
That we’d never seen before, and it’s sort of in our backyard.
Why does the story make you …
And as we’re there, this small man sneezed.
I just heard a noise.
Sneezed, and she goes, “What did you think when you heard that noise?”
And I went, “A man sneezed.”
But I saw him after I heard the sneeze. I heard the sneeze, then I looked over and I’m like, “Oh, what were you thinking when you heard that?” I literally was ready to pick up a stick. I was ready to fight. He’s like, “I heard a noise, I heard a sneeze. What do you mean?”
But it’s classic of the way we respond to things.
So, back to your past infecting the present.
And you just want to be curious about that. Because over time, you can dampen that reaction just by working on it. And that’s where treatments like EMDR or Havening or brainspotting. I mean, there’s a whole bunch of them popping up that can be just so helpful for you. So, stay with us.
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