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The Difference Between Blame and Responsibility

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

Responsibility is one of Tana’s favorite words because it’s a word that helped her get through a difficult time in her life. However, many people tend to confuse the word ‘responsibility’ with ‘blame’, which can lead to problems. As Tana and Dr. Daniel Amen share in this episode, the two words have quite different meanings. This concept, taken from Dr. Amen’s upcoming book ‘Your Brain is Always Listening’, explains why those who take on responsibility need to make sure that self-care is always taken into account first before the needs of others.

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, everyone. We are continuing on our journey through Your Brain Is Always Listening.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I feel like I’m on a dragon adventure.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Yeah, it sort of like Game of Thrones. Your Brain Is Always Listening coming out March 2nd. You can go to yourbrainisalwayslistening.com, download a whole bunch of cool free gifts when you pre-order the book. We’ve given away almost 1,000 packages, so we’re pretty excited. And we’re going through this journey on helping you identify your dragons, the big emotional issues that you struggle with, and learning how to tame them.

                  So we’ve talked about the abandoned, invisible and insignificant dragon, my dragon. I’m married to you, so that helps tame it. The inferior or flawed dragon, the anxious dragon, the wounded dragon, the shouldn’t shaming dragon. We talked about the special spoiled and entitled dragons, not you. It’s not me. Sorry, Chloe.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

She admitted it. I was like, “Wow.” Chloe goes, “Why wouldn’t people want to do things for me?” I was like, “Well, okay then.” She’s like, “I’m awesome, and I do things for other people.”

Daniel Amen, MD:

Today we’re going to talk about the most common dragon, which is responsible dragon, where you feel like you have to be responsible for other people. Now, of course, you have to be responsible or you have older parents who need you.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I kind like this dragon though. It has a dark side, but I like responsibility. It’s my favorite word. So we just want to focus on the light side of this dragon.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Well, and a lot of doctors and nurses have this dragon. And the origin story is when you feel liable for the pain or the situation of others, often because you felt powerless to help someone you cared about such as a parent or sibling who was sick. This is just rampant during the pandemic, when hospitals would not allow family members to visit sick people or dying loved ones. Or you felt insignificant and fixing other people’s issues helped you feel significant. So this dragon has actually caused several fights in my marriage because it gets triggered when you perceive others in need. And it triggers back a time when you couldn’t help and wished you could. And how you react is you tend to fix, you tend to care take, you could be codependent.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

See, I’m not codependent. I am responsible. I am not codependent.

Daniel Amen, MD:

You are not. It can cause you to do too much for others, which-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

That’s disabling. You’re enabling, which causes them to then not be responsible for themselves.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And it can actually cause entitlement in other people.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yes, and I don’t like that. It’s a problem for me.

Daniel Amen, MD:

So now, of course, there is an upside to this dragon, and you become a helper.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right, and we should unravel this just a little bit, because we want to separate blame. We’ve talked about this a lot because this can get raveled up and tied up with blame. You tend to have to fix things because you felt like you were to blame for something. But being responsible and feeling like you want to be empowered to help is different than doing it because you feel like you are to blame for something. So be clear about that.

                  I very much have this dragon in a different way. So there’s another way that people have this. The nurse in me, I’ve almost jumped out of the car before, because I see an accident. I’m the type that will run into the fire or run into an accident. And you’re like, “That car is leaking gasoline, no.” And you grab me back. Because the responsible dragon also can be fairly like just, you have to jump in without thinking.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Well, firefighters and police officers-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Responsible.

Daniel Amen, MD:

… often have this.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Trauma nurses, responsible.

Daniel Amen, MD:

When I sent the dragon quiz, so you can find out your dragons at knowyourdragons.com, I sent it to the police chief here in Newport Beach. John and I are friends. And he goes, “Responsible and judgmental.” He said, “Sort of fits a police officer.”

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Exactly. But I remember you saying to me, “Why do you do that?” I’m like, “Because someone has to.” Classic response of a dragon.

Daniel Amen, MD:

It’s very important to soothe this dragon, but also to empower this dragon. But know when you do too much, when you become a fixer, you decrease the other person’s ability to grow.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Super important. Hand up is great. Hand out, not so great. So when you’re trying to help people, this comes from personal experience with my family, which I write about in my book, it’s really important to, and I learned this because my mother was codependent and thought she had to fix everyone. She had the responsible dragon, the dark side.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And she had a mother who was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right. A brother who was a heroin addict.

Daniel Amen, MD:

A father who was quadriplegic.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Who was quadriplegic. So she had to fix everybody. She had to take care of everybody, but she also had this tendency to want to bring people into our home and help everyone who were dangerous to a little girl. And so that can be a problem. So because of her, my responsible dragon is like, “Nope, you’ve got to help yourself. I will help you help yourself, but I will not fix you.” So a little extreme.

Daniel Amen, MD:

So everybody now knows you’re not going to fix them.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I’m not going to. I’m not going to be more invested than you are.

Daniel Amen, MD:

That’s a very important point. And a lot of therapists, if you do the work, they will really be helpful. But if you don’t do the work, they are not going to do it for you.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right. It’s up to you.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Now, there is an upside to this dragon. All the dragons have an upside. You get to help. You get to be in charge and have others in your debt. You also get to be part of a community that you are creating. Good deeds reduce physical pain. Helping others is altruistic, which actually decreases stress. So doing things to help others often gives you a sense of meaning and purpose and helps stress.

                  So how do we tame this dragon? Self-care is critical. I say this all the time in my practice. Have you ever been on an airplane? What’s the first thing they say on an airplane? If the cabin pressure goes down and the masks come down from the ceiling, put your mask on first so that you will be breathing to help others. And in the New Testament, Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” So if you’re not loving and caring for yourself, you will not be your best in loving and caring for others.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And one thing I would add to this one, which we already said, but I want to just add as part of taming this dragon is understand the difference between blame and responsibility. Because you choose to be responsible and have the ability to respond does not mean you need to focus on blame. So try to disconnect those two.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Well, quite frankly, I could have had a blaming dragon. Blame is the worst hallmark.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right. Self-defeating behavior.

Daniel Amen, MD:

It’s the number one self-defeating behavior when you blame other people for how your life is turning out. And even though you were victimized as a child-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I refuse to be a victim.

Daniel Amen, MD:

… you are not a victim.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I will not be a victim. But even blaming yourself too much can really cause you to just curl up and be paralyzed. It’s not a good thing.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Well, and self-care is so important for everyone else around you. I’m working on a book for next year called You Happier, The Neuroscience of Feeling Good Based on Your Brain Type. And in the introduction, there is a quote from the video Why Be Happy? by Dennis Prager, where he actually says happiness is a moral obligation. And he said, “Just ask anyone who’s been raised by an unhappy parent whether happiness is a moral obligation. And I guarantee they will say yes, because it’s how you impact others.” So self-care is so important. Healthy boundaries. We’re huge fan of Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s book-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Love that book.

Daniel Amen, MD:

… Boundaries. And Boundaries is actually Love and Logic, the parenting program-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

It’s amazing.

Daniel Amen, MD:

… that you and I both love. It’s really about setting healthy boundaries. I don’t do things for people who are disrespectful to me.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And it’s about not rescuing. Notice we just talked about responsibility. It’s about not rescuing people. It’s about letting them pay the consequences for their behavior.

Daniel Amen, MD:

. And also, another way to tame this dragon is to really know, are your relationships balanced? And our friend, I was just with him last night, John Townsend, has a book called People Fuel, where he talks about evaluate the people in your life with the seven Cs. And so the first C is coaches. Who do you have? So hopefully we’re one of your coaches or mentors. Comrades, so close friends and loved ones. We’re comrades. Casuals, those are your casual friends. Colleagues, coworkers. Care, people who are dependent on you. So Chloe and [Alzay [00:11:24] and [Amoly [00:11:25]. Chronics, well, these are people that just always have an issue and you just know. And contaminants, people who actually desire to damage you, and you need to move those people out of your life.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And so you limit the chronics, and you draw strong boundaries with the contaminants. It’s like, “This is a hard boundary. You can’t cross this boundary.”

Daniel Amen, MD:

Right. And if you’re not balanced, if you don’t have coaches or comrades or casuals, those become work for you to do. The movies that the responsible dragon love are movies of healing like Awakenings, one of my favorite movies of all time, or Ordinary People, the doctor, Patch Adams. And the meditations or affirmations to say every day if you have this dragon. Loving others as myself means taking care of myself so I can love others. I love helping others, as long as I’m helping them become competent and independent. It is better to give than receive, as long as giving does not create unnecessary dependency. I share the load with others, so I don’t become overburdened and burned out. Half the doctors in our country today are struggling with burnout. I do what I can and trust others to God’s care.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Love that.

Daniel Amen, MD:

So that’s the responsible dragon. Which dragons do you have? Go to knowyourdragons.com. And to pre-order the book or order the book if you’re listening after March 2nd, go to yourbrainisalwayslistening, and you can download some incredible free gifts, including a coupon for a free bottle of Happy Saffron, our favorite. Stay with us.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

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.

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.