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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.
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.
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Welcome back, everyone. We’re talking about the they/them and other dragons. Today we’re going to talk about teachers and coaches. And basically what we want to share is mentors and how important mentors are to your mental and physical and brain health. But you have a review.
I have a review, and this is from Family Therapist Unplugged by Quincy Rose.
“This podcast has transformed not only me personally but also my outlook on my mental health and physical disability, which has, therefore, revolutionized my practice as a family therapist. I’ve realized that I can help my people view their insecurities as a strength if they can actually view my own most crippling insecurity as a strength. I’ve had three traumatic brain injuries before the age of 19, which has led to focus impairments as well as challenges walking. The Amens approach to understanding the function of every change or difference in our brain and body is what started the process of viewing myself and the world differently.”
And I’m going to challenge you, Quincy, to use the term other abled instead of disabled.
There you have it.
All right. Today we’re going to talk about mentors. In the book, I talk about teachers and coaches, dragons, and how important they are. And you actually write about mentors a lot. That’s very-
They’re huge in my life.
… important to you. Now, all of us have had terrible teachers, and some of us have had terrible coaches. Typically, think of Mrs. Rice, my third grade teacher. I adored her. She was cute. Yes, it’s true. But she was also present and encouraging, and I just wanted to go to school so much, so I still remember her. And then Sister Anastasia, the complete opposite, in fifth grade. I was in trouble all the time. These people really matter.
And I think we don’t value teachers as much perhaps as we could or we should, that they are so formative in helping to create healthy people.
Absolutely. I believe in having mentors in pretty much every area of my life but especially the areas where I struggle the most. I love doing an assessment of like, “These are my strengths, these are my weaknesses.” And where the weaknesses are is where I want to make sure I have someone who is helping me in that with those difficult points.
And when you seek a mentor, don’t seek to get, get, get. Seek to give, how can you make your mentor’s life better, because they’re more likely to want to be helpful to you.
Also, don’t seek someone who’s just going to give you praise. For me, my favorite teachers were not the teachers who were just nice and always complimentary. Those weren’t my favorite teachers. My favorite teachers were the ones who pushed me. I typically liked the teachers, I had the best relationships with the teachers that oftentimes other people didn’t like, which is weird, but it’s because I saw the value in how hard they pushed. Not if they were mean, not if they were unfair, but in the challenges. I like to be pushed. I don’t want someone who’s going to let me not be my best, if that makes sense. I want someone who’s going to push me to be my best. Mediocrity is not the goal.
Do you want to tell the absolutely story?
Yeah. So still to this day, one of my very favorite professors, I was taking anatomy and phys, and everyone told me, “Don’t take this guy’s class. Do not take Mr. Rosario’s class. He is so hard. He’s so mean.” So he used to teach gross anatomy in the medical school over at Loma Linda.
And so I’m like, “Well, I just need to take whatever class I can get into,” because these classes were so impacted. And so I couldn’t even get into his class because it was so impacted. And so what I was doing was I was petitioning the class.
Everyone said, “Oh, don’t worry. You’ll get into his class, because so many people, they’re going to drop like flies after the first quiz.”
So I kept showing up, and he told me, “Don’t bother. Just don’t even stay, because my class is too full. You’re not getting in.”
And I’m like, “Well, is that an order, or can I stay if I want to?”
He’s like, “You can stay if you want to, but you’re not getting in.”
So I stayed all the way through the first test, and I aced the first test. Well, after the first test, a bunch of people left, and so he’s like, “Fine. If you want in, you can get in.” He’s very gruff. He’s very intense, gruff. He’s funny. He’s this redheaded Puerto Rican guy. Big, gruff voice. And he was just very intense. I don’t know why I resonated with him right away. It was very weird.
Because of your stepfather.
I don’t know, but I just liked him. There was something about him that I just resonated with. And I liked how direct he was. He was just very intense, very direct. And so I took copious notes in this class. And we got to the second test, and I got an A on the test, but I got like a 94, and I missed this one question. And I’m like, “That question is wrong. It’s wrong. I took notes. That’s a bad question.” So I raised my hand, and I tell him it’s a bad question, and he gets mad in front of the class.
And I’m like, “Mr. Rosario, I don’t mean to be disrespectful. That’s a bad question. I have my notes. I took copious notes. I wrote it verbatim.”
We get into this argument. He’s like, “Did you write it out exactly how I said?”
I said, “Yep.”
And I handed him my notes, and he’s like, “Are you sure?”
I go, “Absolutely.”
He looks at it. He looks like he’s going to scream at me, and all of a sudden he goes, “Fine, absolutely.” And he changes the question. And from that point on, he called me “Absolutely” for the rest of the course, but I loved him. And he gave me my letter of recommendation to get into school, to get into Loma Linda’s nursing school. And he pushed me to be the best I could be. He was not going to take anything less. And those are the types of mentors I like. I know not everybody likes that, and you have to pick what fits you.
So where do you think you found that strength?
Well, I think for me, I didn’t really have a choice. It was a survival skill.
No, you totally had a choice. You could have become a drug addict.
Well, I mean, I could have crumbled.
Right? I mean, we could have explained why your life fell apart, but your life didn’t fall apart.
I think part of it is it was modeled. Grit was modeled for me.
You were a little bit older, too, right? Were you like 22 or 23?
Yeah, I was in my early 20s.
But grit was modeled for me.
By your mother.
By my mother. My mom, she’s one tough woman. But also I’d fallen down enough and wasn’t really rescued, so it was sink or swim. It’s all in my book, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child. I mean, I had some tough, tough experiences.
Well, and one important thing that can come out of that… I remember when I was in medical school. I had that same tendency. If there was a bad question, I would go talk to the teacher-
Oh yeah, I frequently got questions changed.
… about it. And where I went to medical school, I was in the charter class, so it was the first class of that medical school. And I was actually in medical school in Missouri for a couple of months before ORU opened up. And I was part of the BITCH committee, which stood for Blatant Indiscretions by Teachers Committed Against Helpless Students. And so when I got to ORU and I’d see some bad questions on tests, I’m like, “Guys, we need to form a BITCH committee.” Now, ORU is a Christian school.
And so we renamed it the Amos committee, because Amos was the prophet in the Old Testament who told the women of Israel they were fat cows, so we started the Amos committee, and when you don’t think things are right… Now, we had one professor, and he was so rigid.
I had one like that, too.
He just wouldn’t change it, because he had to be right, which is not good. I mean, flexibility’s an important mental health skill, but everybody else was reasonable.
Right. And they want you to think.
The idea of the test is to just-
Know the information.
Do you know the information? And if you don’t word it right in a grammatical sense or it could be taken multiple ways, but the principle is when things aren’t right, it’s okay to say they’re not right. And that way, you actually make the teachers better, because they’re more thoughtful somebody will challenge them.
Well, and what are they there for? They’re there to make you think. They’re there to make you question and think. I mean, sometimes they get a little miffed, but if they’re a really good teacher, they like that you’re thinking.
And they like that you’re pushing.
So the impact of teachers and coaches, just so important. So if you’re a teacher, you’re a coach, Tana and I applaud you, and don’t torment your students.
Well, and the best mentors and coaches are ones who don’t tell you what to do. They leave you to figure it out through questions. They lead you to make the decisions. They lead you to understand, figure out what it is you want. So questions are the answer. You’ve sometimes heard that saying? You actually really helped me, especially even with parenting, with listening, because I have a tendency to want to like, “Oh, let me show you. Let me tell you.” But as a coach, the best thing to do is use the proper questions and listen and let them figure it out, because no one argues with their own decisions, right? Or if they do, they only have themselves to blame. They only have themselves to criticize and figure it out and change direction. So question.
So your brain is always listening to the teachers, coaches, mentors that you have had. What’s your brain listening to? And thank God in medical school, I had some amazing mentors. I became a psychiatrist because of Stan Wallace.
When my first wife tried to kill herself, I took her to see Dr. Wallace. He was the chairman of psychiatry at ORU, and I just loved him. I loved what he did. I mean, I became a psychiatrist, basically, because of him and a number of the physicians there. It was very special.
So I don’t think I ever told you this, but you know that I didn’t have a special love for anything psych related when I was younger. So I was like, “No walkie-talkies. I want them intubated, sedated. I don’t want to talk about warm, fuzzy feelings or any kind of feelings.”
Yeah, you need to tell them what no walkie-talkies means.
Intubated, sedated. Out. Induce comas.
You didn’t want to nurse people who could interact with you.
No, I wanted blood, guts, gore, skulls split open. That was my thing, because my own past was crazy enough, and I just didn’t want to deal… Yeah. Addiction, chaos, trauma. That was not where I was going with my nursing career. But when I did psych nursing, I knew it’s not what I wanted to do, but my psych professor said I had a knack for it and wanted me to switch directions. She wanted to go into psych nursing. And I’m like, “Absolutely not.”
She’s like, “You have a gift for this. You should do this.” I never told you this. So she was trying to convince me.
She’s actually right.
If she saw me now, she would probably laugh.
Well, because she was right. Once you tame your dragons-
From the past.
… you have-
See, that’s one of my dragons speaking in my ear.
Once you tame your dragons, you can live your potential, because you’re actually very helpful to many people.
That was just a reflex. That was a reflex to the pain from my own past. As I would call it, psychobabble.
When we come back, we’re going to talk about friends, popular kids, mean girls, and bully dragons. Stay with us.
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