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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!

How Mommy and Daddy Issues Manifest in the Brain

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

When people talk about someone having mommy or daddy issues, these issues tend to be thought of as the child’s issues, but it’s important to remember that the parent is usually the one causing them. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen discuss the phenomenon of ‘Parent Dragons’, which is when you hold on to past traumas, fears, and anxieties that originated out of relationships with your parents, and why it’s so important to understand how and why these issues manifest in your brain.

Watch the brand new TV special from Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen “Overcoming Anxiety, Depression, Trauma & Grief” on PBS now! Check you local listings for showtimes.


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 Brain MD, 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:

Hey everybody. Happy-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Thursday.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Thursday. Have you noticed during the pandemic that days just sort of run into each other?

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yes. I have no idea what day it is, is what date it is.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And then weeks, it’s like it’s Saturday again, oh my goodness, or it’s Monday again.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yup.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Anyways, as we continue on our journey through Your Brain is Always Listening, we actually did all 13 dragons from the past, and so we’re in a brand new section called the they, them and other dragons.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

So, we’ve got past dragons, they, them and other dragons, and then you’ve got your sections.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And then, we’re going to do the bad habit dragons and the scheming dragons and the addicted dragons. I have a new 12 step program for you actually based on neuroscience. And I have this quote in the book, actually I have a lot of quotes in the book, what you think of me is none of my business.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yeah, I use that one a lot.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Actually. It’s from Terry Cole. I’m going to be on her podcast coming up. Another one, I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and only the pig likes it. And one more, be kind to everyone you meet because we are all fighting our own dragons. And if you want to know your dragons, go to knowyourdragons.com. You had 10 of the 13.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I had 10, I think I’m a record so far.

Daniel Amen, MD:

No.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I’m not?

Daniel Amen, MD:

Somebody had 12.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Oh, overachiever.

Daniel Amen, MD:

So in dragon terms, it’s not a herd.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

It’s a thunder.

Daniel Amen, MD:

It’s a thunder. So, you have a powerful dragon thunder. Well today, we are going to talk about the parent dragon. This is the parent dragon.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Parent dragons.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Oh my God.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Anybody else have mommy issues or daddy issues?

Daniel Amen, MD:

I think everybody in my house has daddy issues. Right? I mean, my dad, his favorite word when I was growing up was bullshit. Can I say that? That was his favorite word. I mean, he just said it a lot. His second favorite word-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

That’s the thing about your dad I like. At least your dad didn’t go away.

Daniel Amen, MD:

His second favorite word was no.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

That’s why I relate to him so much.

Daniel Amen, MD:

You don’t tell me no.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

No, but no is one of my favorite words.

Daniel Amen, MD:

It is.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

That and I told you so.

Daniel Amen, MD:

I told you so. We just had an I told you so moment.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Oh, there was no kitchen knives, get over it.

Daniel Amen, MD:

But, do you have parent issues? So, I had daddy issues. No question about it. I’m the second son in a Lebanese family, completely not important.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Let me tell you my issue with the term daddy issues, is that it somehow connotes or gives this impression that you are at fault and you are not. It’s something that happened to you because of something that one of your parents did. So, as one of the kids in our house said, I’m going to give them daughter issues. I refuse to have daddy issues. I’m going to make sure they have daughter issues.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Well, that’s another dragon coming up is your children, because you always have your children in your head criticizing you, telling you life’s not fair and you are somehow an inadequate parent. Right? I mean, we all have those issues.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Actually, that’s the one thing I don’t feel inadequate about.

Daniel Amen, MD:

But you have Chloe’s voice in your head. You make decisions often because of-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I do with you, too.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Right. No, there’s former, current and prospective lover dragons that we are going to talk about. But tonight we’re talking about the parent voice in your head. And were you ever like me where you promised yourself, you swore that you would never act that way for your children. And then, when you had children, you were horrified where you heard, “You’re crying, I’m going to give you something to cry about.”

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Well, I swore I’d never-

Daniel Amen, MD:

I didn’t say that often, but one time I did. I was just like, “You promised yourself you would never do that.”

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I swore I’d never drive like my mom and I’m starting to drive like her.

Daniel Amen, MD:

That’s very scary.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yeah.

Daniel Amen, MD:

So, what do you do about it when you have parent issues? I mean, what you did is you scammed both of your parents and that actually really helped you with your issues with your dad.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Oh, with my dad it was completely transformative. It healed my relationship.

Daniel Amen, MD:

You should tell the story.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Well, probably a lot of them know the story, but for those of you who don’t, don’t date or marry a psychiatrist if you want to stay estranged from your family. So, that’s number one. So, when I met Daniel and I tried to, I was disconnected from my dad not by my choice, by his choice. He left-

Daniel Amen, MD:

I’m sorry about your [crosstalk [00:06:48].

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

No, no it was my choice as an adult, but he left when I was a child, when I was real young and made a lot of really bad decisions. I write about it in my book. There’s a couple of chapters on my dad and the really great chapter is titled The Prodigal Father. It’s one of the best chapters in the book, because it’s about, I’d written all of these horrible things and what I gone through with my dad but then there’s this turning point. And I remember my sisters called and they were all upset, my half sisters, and they were still connected to him and they said, “Dad is dying. He’s got Alzheimer’s disease. He’s a recluse. He won’t come out of his room. He won’t shower. He’s a mess.”

And I’m like, “What do you want me to say? Like, this is not my monkey, not my circus. Right? What do you want me to say? I don’t even know him really.” And so, I mean, that’s really how I felt, and that sounds really cold and bad but that’s how I felt. So, like why is this my problem? And so, I came to you thinking you would second to my thought for being so clear about my boundaries. It was not what happened at all. You’re like, “Oh, we have to scan him.”

Daniel Amen, MD:

My monkey, my circus.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right. Your monkey, your circus. You made my family your circus, yeah. So you’re like, “I have to scan him.” And I’m like, “No, we don’t need him in our lives.” And you’re like, “No, he’s your dad we have to scan him.”

Daniel Amen, MD:

Yeah, family’s like really important to me.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

But you didn’t know my family.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And now I do.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

So, you insisted that I bring him down. Oh, and this is rich, he insisted that the dad that I hadn’t seen for so long, actually, sorry, lost you for a second, he insisted that the father that I had not seen for so long, actually-

Daniel Amen, MD:

Now, that’s not the whole story.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Move in with me.

Daniel Amen, MD:

No, that’s not the whole story.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

That’s pretty close to the story.

Daniel Amen, MD:

To get him assessed.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And where did he end up staying? For years?

Daniel Amen, MD:

So, what we found when we scanned-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I noticed you didn’t answer.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Well, because there’s a process to the story, you can’t just get to the end, and then he died. You can’t just do that.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

No, no, no, I said he lived with me. So, part of my resistance with it, you wanted him to live with me.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Not initially. Let’s start… So, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a recluse, not coming out of his room. Her two half sisters have no idea what to do. And I’m like dementia, I assess dementia all the time. One of the reasons I started scanning people is, well, how do you know if it’s dementia or something else? And when we scanned him, he didn’t have dementia. He had something called pseudo dementia, which is severe depression that masquerades as Alzheimer’s disease. He was on a toxic cocktail of medication and he is Tana’s dad. Now, I love this woman and I’m going to do whatever I can to be helpful. And since he was involved in making you, I at least wanted to get to know him. When we started dating, like the first week I introduced you to my daughter, you introduced me to Chloe, right?

Chloe was two at the time. And so, I wanted to meet him. I wanted to help him. And I found out from a physician standpoint he’s misdiagnosed, mistreated. So many people with dementia are, which is why we do imaging at Amen Clinics, and then changed his medication because he’s on a toxic cocktail of medication, I remember that, and put him on supplements, changed his diet. And you know, he’s got pseudo dementia, really what he had is a very severe depression. So, I’m not okay going, “Oh well, let’s just send him back to the room in middle California, where he’s not coming out of the room. It’s like, no, no, no, you don’t do that.” And so yes [crosstalk [00:10:55].

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

So, this person that I had a really awful, awful history with, now is living with me.

Daniel Amen, MD:

So then, tell them the story.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Now, the good part of the story. So, I had to build up the truth, the bad part of the story, it’s the truth. So literally, he ends up losing 20 pounds. We put him on our program, he loses 20 pounds. He gets well. His memory is coming back. He’s starting to be really active. My dad was a Baptist minister. Now, there’s a whole story on that, a chapter on that in my book, because that’s a whole nother story. A lot of you’re going, “Oh, why were you estranged from your dad who was a Baptist minister?” It wasn’t quite that simple. So, but he ends up now getting well and starts doing all day seminars at the local church. So, he goes from being a recluse, not coming out of his room, to now teaching seminars and leading Bible study in my house.

So, I couldn’t trust it at first. I’m like, “Is he just going to go back to being the same old dad that I used to know when I was growing up?” But what happened is the reason it was so transformative is because he now was better, he got better, it now gave us a chance to address the issues. I mean, we had to address those issues, he’s living in my house. So, that had to happen. But we addressed the issues we now had time for this healing to happen. And he ended up dying five years later of something completely unrelated, leukemia. And so, he died five years later in my arms with me praying for him. And there was this total transformation during this period that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t insisted on taking care of his brain issues first. But I had to talk about the truth of the ugliness first because you wouldn’t have gone there.

Daniel Amen, MD:

That’s why they have dramas on TV. We have plenty of drama in our life. So, what’s going on in your head with your parents? I mean, I still have my dad in my head.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

You do?

Daniel Amen, MD:

Yeah, there’s the goat story is in here with the wounded dragon. We have a public television special coming out nationwide starting February 27th. We filmed it at home so it’s our pandemic special and we’re going to talk about the dragons, and the wounded dragon that my dad gave me, that one. And your dad was a wound, but I think therapy for you was just so helpful because you have to be open to recognize the dragons and then to work on them over time. So, when parent dragons are triggered and you feel… so they’re triggered by when you feel like you’ve done something wrong or you’re not good enough or supportive, or sometimes you are supported by your parent dragons and motivated to work harder. What to do, what do you need to listen to or leave behind? So, focus on the positive parental messages you receive and flip the rest around to use it to prove them wrong.

So, some of you are like me, and if somebody told you… you’re like me… and if somebody told you, you couldn’t do something, you know you’re going to have to do it.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Right. You just want to assess it, good for you or bad for you. Anyways, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the sibling and birth order dragons. Now, you’re an only child. So, people are chatting. One of them is like, “Your wife is so pretty.”

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Aww, thank you.

Daniel Amen, MD:

I totally concur on that. She takes my breath away even after 15 years. So, I love you back. Have a great night. Remember your brain is always listening. Your book is called The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child. So if you [crosstalk [00:15:13] want drama and suspense and drownings and a mother with cancer.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Nobody drowns, someone was murdered but nobody drowns.

Daniel Amen, MD:

It starts with a near drowning.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Fortunately, I did not drown but I am here. Almost.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Bless you love. See ya.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Bye. 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 a 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.