Is It Smart To Follow Your Gut?

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

In the previous episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discussed the brain functions involved in judgement, particularly from a negative point of view. However, there are many instances in which judgement is crucial, whether in social situations or for safety reasons. But should you always listen to your gut? Learn the difference between judgement for discernment or discrimination, and positive thinking vs. accurate thinking.

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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen
Tana Amen: 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.
Dr Daniel Amen: 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
Tana Amen: 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
Welcome back. We are talking about judgment this week. In the last episode we talked about judgment in the brain but in this episode I actually want to talk about judgment why we have it and how it actually can serve you. Because it's not all bad or we wouldn't be able to do it right. As a species we have this ability to judge. So there's a side of judgment that is discernment and then there's the part of judgment where it goes too far like we talked about in the last episode where it becomes destructive. Judgment for discernment is very different than judgment when it comes to being very harsh about an entire group of people.
So judgment for discernment means, "Should I go that direction, that person over there? Is that safe for me to go?" You see a group of men and you're a woman and it's dark and it's an alley. Should I go that direction? That's discernment. There's a big difference there. And I also want to talk about one thing. So often women are taught, "Oh, don't be judgmental, be nice, be kind, be sweet, be polite." That's not always a good thing.
So, this idea that we shouldn't be judgmental at all especially where discernment is involved so often I just, I want to throw this out there to you and I'd love for you to answer this question. How many times did you not listen to that judgment, that voice inside your head that said, "I should not do this or I should do this thing," and you did or did not do that thing. You went against your internal judgment and it got you in trouble. So, one thing I've taught my daughter since she was really young is listen to the voice inside. If it means you're not polite to someone that you think is a problem then risk being impolite and apologize later if you have to. You don't need to go extreme but listen to that voice inside if you're reading cues that say this isn't a good thing for me. I don't like the idea ...
Dr Daniel Amen: Which is a brain function.
Tana Amen: Right. I don't like the idea that we just throw judgment out the window. We have the ability to judge for a reason.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, so let me reinforce that because I actually really agree with you on this. I am actually, you and I together are going to able to train the Newport Beach police department on brain health. And as I was talking to the chief there and we were talking about killing the ANT's, the Automatic Negative Thoughts, he made it clear to me they need to be suspicious in certain situations. And so, if they're on the street, so the first thing is to protect the community. And so, if they notice something that's different, that's not right, that's just off, that their first instinct is to be suspicious and to play out all the scenarios. Now you have often criticized me in saying I have Mickey ...
Tana Amen: Mickey and Minnie in your head doing the waltz is the happiest place on earth that you are the least judgmental person I know.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right. But I'm also, I spent 10 years on active duty in the army and so I understand the mind of a war fighter where they have to be cautious and why do we call our podcast the Brain Warrior's Way? Because it's not Mickey and Minnie out there. You need to be armed, prepared, and aware to win the fight of your life. Because quite frankly and we've been beginning to talk about the evil ruler. It's dangerous with technology and food. And so, having a healthy dose of suspicion and you've never heard me say I'm a fan of positive thinking, I'm a fan of accurate thinking. And so, judgment can be good or bad and if you find yourself at the extremes you have to ask yourself why. Could there be brain issues involved in that? But that doesn't mean you lose your anxiety because in a large scale study from Stanford the don't worry be happy people died the earliest from accidents and preventable illnesses.
Tana Amen: Yeah, I agree with you. So, I think the point is when we talk about judgment the question is, is this helpful in my life, and in my family, and to the people around me, or is it not? Because the type of judgment I'm talking about right now is the type of judgment that could save your life. And if you're wrong it's okay. So be kind with yourself.
But as someone who was attacked at 15 I will never forget that I had the thought right before I was attacked. Why, there's nothing, this is a big white guy in a suit, what's he going to do to me? He's not going to do anything to me. That was poor judgment on my part. I wasn't suspicious of someone even though all the signs were there. That was a dumb thought. So I will never again have that thought or nor did I train my daughter to have those thoughts. You don't judge based on those societal cues that you're taught you judge based on how is the person behaving?
Dr Daniel Amen: That's actually why I don't wear a suit. So that you don't connect me to that criminal.
Tana Amen: So I have that mindset of a police officer. I understand that being suspicious I'm always looking over my shoulder ever since then.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, and it's interesting because sometimes we're suspicious and we don't know why or we can't articulate why. And part of the neuroscience reason it's sort of a conflict between the left side of your brain which is the happy side of your brain that doesn't see problems and it moves you towards situations. It's in conflict with the right side of your brain which tends to see problems and the right side also puts together lots of different components at once but it doesn't have language so it can't explain why you feel anxious in a situation. And so, being able to connect the left and right sides of the brain is a very important skill which is why you want to help your brain be healthy.
Tana Amen: Well and there's a really good book. I love this book. I've given it to so many young girls. It's called the gift of fear. And it's a really interesting book. He talks a lot about this topic and what we call intuition. And he talks a lot about how oftentimes that intuition your feeling is that your brain processes way faster than you think it does, faster than you can put together why you're scared. It took in so many details so quickly you just don't really understand because it was too fast for you to really put it together. So that feels like intuition, it feels like a feeling when in fact it was actually stuff that your brain took in quickly so don't ignore it.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, and when we met with the police officer he said that the average response time was 1.5 seconds.
Tana Amen: To even register.
Dr Daniel Amen: But when you get anxious it can actually go up to four seconds and that's what a lot of people in dangerous situations they often phrase especially if they're anxious.
Tana Amen: But you brought up the Brain Warrior's Way. And that's one of the reasons I train, we train, because you can decrease that reaction time by training. He said athletes, people you can't decrease it completely but you can decrease it down to just over a second by training regularly, the stress response we want.
Dr Daniel Amen: And that's what we want you to do. We want you to be armed, prepared, aware. We want you to train to be brain warriors. And I'm totally judgmental on this podcast when I think about the bad food that they serve at church, at work, at hospitals to children and I'm okay with that. And the front part of my brain doesn't work too hard. I'm just seeing what is happening in our society. And so, judgment isn't necessarily good or bad but you just want to ask yourself, "Does it serve you or does it in fact hurt you?" And if you don't know how your brain works you obviously can come to one of the Amen clinics and we'd be happy to look and see it and work on balancing it with you. I hear you're getting a scan later.
Tana Amen: I am. 10 years later I'm going to get a scan.
Dr Daniel Amen: So this'll be her third scan and we'll see if it's continuing to be as beautiful as she is because the question becomes how do you know unless you look.
Tana Amen: So the last thing I want to add about this because we were talking about judgment and different situations. If it's about people and it's not helpful then the one thing I love is the work. We talk about the four questions and it's so helpful. Byron Katie has these worksheets called Judge Your Neighbor worksheets and it really helps you work through your judgment so that you end up in the end flipping it around to yourself. You go to the opposite. So that person's a jerk, well I'm a jerk. Yeah, I can be a jerk sometimes. It sort of instantly cracks that thought. I'm a jerk when I call that person a jerk. So it just cracks the thought and it eliminates that immediate pressure that you feel when you think those thoughts and it's called Judge Your Neighbor worksheet. So, if you're having thoughts that are not helpful to you those worksheets can be very helpful.
Dr Daniel Amen: And you can get those. You can actually download them for free at the and we talk about it in all of our books. There's a whole section on this in Feel Better Fast and Make it Last. All right. When we come back we are going to, we have a new segment we're going to roll out called Brain in the News where we're going to go through important neuroscience but practical neuroscience articles that came out in the last couple of weeks. If you want to enter the free drawing for Tana's cookbook she'll sign it to you. It's amazing. We've been eating out of it more recently which makes me so happy. But you can go to Apple podcasts and leave a review for the Brain Warrior's Way or you can go to If you leave a review or ask us a question we will enter you into the book raffle. Stay with us.
Tana Amen: If you are 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.
Dr Daniel Amen: If you're considering coming to Amen clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from Brain MD you can use the code podcast10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at or a ten percent discount on all supplements at For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.