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As you get older in life, your stresses begin to stack up, and though we may think we’re leaving the past behind, the truth is that it tends to resurface in surprising ways, sometimes when we least expect it. In this series of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen are joined by “When Crisis Strikes” author Dr. Jennifer Love for a discussion on the origins of hysterical thinking and behavior, and why it’s so important to get a grip and come to terms with past traumas.
For more info on Dr. Love’s new book “When Crisis Strikes: 5 Steps to Heal Your Brain, Body, and Life from Chronic Stress”, visit https://www.amazon.com/When-Crisis-Strikes-Chronic-Stress/dp/0806540818
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.
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.
Welcome everyone. Happy holidays. We think about you a lot during this incredibly stressful time. And because of the stress we are going to bring you one of our favorite people who will become one of your favorite people.
Dr. Jennifer Love is one of the physicians at Amen Clinics. She is a psychiatrist. She’s got a specialty in addiction medicine. I sent her a lot of our really tough patients.
Your timing is so good because right now-
She has a brand new book-
… When Crisis Strikes. Now, When Crisis Strikes. She has been on the Dr. Phil Show and The Doctors, she was part of Mark Hyman’s Broken Brain Series. She’s beautiful, she’s smart, she’s thoughtful. And she just does a great job taking care of our patients at Amen Clinics.
Yeah, this couldn’t be a better time. Obviously, Dr. Love did not know that we were going to be a pandemic when you wrote this book. That’s so interesting. And addiction is just through the roof right now because of the stress of the pandemic. Kudos to you for just the timing of this, even though it was not planned.
Jennifer Love, MD:
It’s been surreal.
So welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way audience. These are brain warriors. What that means is they’re armed, prepared and aware to win the fight of their lives, which is for the health of their brain. Tell us why you wrote this book. I mean, a psychiatrist we’re dealing with people in crisis all the time-
… but what triggered it for you?
Thinking about life, and I’m not going to say that I’m approaching middle age, because obviously I’m 29. The older you get, when you go through life, things start piling up. You have parents who are ill, you start losing loved ones, and you may have children with special needs or someone in the family with an addiction, or you’re involved in one of these horrible mass shootings, all of these things.
I started thinking about this and it was talking to a colleague of mine who ends up being the coauthor of this book, he’s a clinical neuropsychologist in Norway. We were talking about just life and all these things and how we deal with it, and we come from very different perspectives and training. And so we thought, “Well, how could we take what we do with our patients, and kind of rearrange our tools in the toolbox, so to speak, to make what we do accessible to people, but not overwhelming, but not too shallow?” How do you create a meaningful, in-depth approach to these serious life issues, but in a way where people can still tap into their humor, we can talk about our humanity and it’s not depressing? That was the big challenge, but that’s really how When Crisis Strikes was born.
Well, and that’s fantastic. When people are suffering, if they’re in crisis, we’re always recommending get professional help, but not everybody’s going to do that. So to have this in their tool belt is really important. To have these tools, if you’re just not in a position to see someone professionally is really important.
Yeah. We spent months. We had these huge write on wipe off boards and we just went through like, “How many steps does there need to be?” Because in my mind, it’s so complicated. Because when I’m doing therapy with someone, I have a 100 things going on there and I’m thinking of all these different things and where it can go. We just did write on board after write on board really figuring out how many steps, how are we going to make this? We ended up doing five and the steps are all a finger of the hand. For instance, the first step was get a grip. It was really challenging even just organizing the tools in the toolbox, let alone writing a book
…pandemic. We’re in a historically stressful time, one of the most… I just remember when I was a child, we had air raid drills because we always worried the Soviet Union was going to nuke us. And I live in Southern California where there are earthquakes.
And then the civil rights riots in the ’60s and Vietnam. But I don’t remember a time that is just globally this stressful, probably since World War II.
So when you say get a grip. In the middle of a pandemic, tell us what you mean.
Yeah. We all know 2020 has been a parade of horribles one, right after the other, and we’re just watching one crazy thing walked by us in our lives, after another. The first step is really to understand what you’re dealing with. Getting a grip is kind of like starting a little bit of excavation.
One, the problem itself is obvious. My kid is using drugs or I think my marriage is ending or my partner has cancer or… Fill in the blanks. Financial ruin, lost my job, lost my company, whatever it is, that’s the obvious.
Then we look at the context. I wrote this book without even knowing what would happen in 2020, obviously. You have these horrible life, chronic stressors in the middle of this parade of horribles. And we’re all affected by what’s going on. People are either worried or fearful or they’re sick or they’re angry. There’s very little room for neutrality in 2020, no matter who you are and what you believe. Very little room for neutrality. But really, the context, getting a grip is about excavating a little bit deeper because we all have these internalized fossils that are packaged away, that we know are part of our past, but have never felt part of our present before. And these things get triggered.
If I’m going through a crisis today of let’s say a big financial loss. 2020, my identity got stolen and someone filed taxes and stole my return, and then the IRS is closed and I’m working overtime taking care of my patients and it was just one of those things. Now, I can be affected in a certain way. Whereas someone watching your podcast may have a totally different response.
If when someone’s young, their family loses their home or they have a big financial loss or they lose their security somehow, their house is broken into or something that’s going to affect how that individual responds to the taxes getting stolen or the current crisis that’s in hand. We can have these responses that seem exaggerated to the people around us because they can’t see our fossils. They can’t see what’s going on. My favorite saying, I say it all the time is, “If it’s hysterical, it’s historical.”
We are allowed in big life crises to have big responses. But when my internal response is way up here and my crisis is big, it’s here, but my response is off the charts. Then I’m responding to more than just this crisis-
… I’m responding to everything that’s going on in COVID and everything that’s happened in my past, that is now… My subconscious is being pulled up somehow and I don’t realize it. So that’s really… We walk people through that process of getting a grip on what’s actually going on.
So when you’re hysterical, it’s historical.
I love it, yes. But I love what you’re saying because we have a situation just before quarantine. We became the legal guardians for our two nieces because of just-
… drama in my family.
Addiction, yeah. And mental health challenges and stuff like that. So we have these two nieces who have been through just significant trauma for a long time. And then we have my daughter who I raised intentionally very differently than I was raised, and so she’s had a very different upbringing than my nieces.
The pandemic hits and I’m hearing this isn’t just about me and us and our family. I read all of my comments on social media and I respond to them. I’m really responding for people who are listening too, because I’m not alone. We’re pretty average. We’re pretty normal. I don’t know about normal, but we’re average. But the teenagers in our house responded and reacted extremely differently. Just like what you’re saying-
… for my daughter, who’s never really had something, this significant, it was off the charts. And at first we were like, “Okay, she’s acting a little spoiled. What is going on right now? She’s making this very much about her.” But we have enough training that we didn’t say that out loud, we just sort of stepped back and watched and tried to talk to her.
My nieces who had been through so much trauma were like, “I mean, it could be worse. We’ve got a house with our own space and food and a TV and we’re good.” And so I’m like, “Okay, this is really fascinating to watch.”
Mm-hmm (affirmative). It is. And for the young people, I think this has been a particularly difficult year simply because of where they are in their development stage.
Until we’re in our mid 20s from kind of junior high on, we are peer-driven and our ideas and our beliefs and our personalities and everything. We are constantly sending out radar beams to our peers in that age group. When you take them out of school and take them away from that, they feel more lost. I’m an introvert and I’m like I said, 29. I’m past that.
I’m happy being here.
And I’m not bothered. I mean, I get lonely sometimes, but I’m not as bothered, but the younger people are a lot more because developmentally that peer group is more significant to them in their development than it is to me and my current life development.
And don’t you think part of it has to do… I’m curious what your thoughts are on this, how much they’ve experienced in life. I mean, the older we are, we’ve experienced… We’ve had to work through things. We have maybe a little more skill than someone, like a kid who feels like they’ve just lost everything.
I mean, the grief process for these teenagers who were school and social stuff and college is just-
Yeah. Grief is such a good word. When we come back, we’re going to talk about two, three, four, and five on how to deal with crisis. But did you learn something? The thing I’m going to write down and post is if you’re hysterical, it must mean it’s historical. Love that. I’m going to steal that, Jennifer.
But write it down, post it on any of your social media sites and hashtag Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. And also you can get Jennifer’s new book, When Crisis Strikes, out December 29.
29th. You can hashtag that too.
Hashtag, When Crisis Strikes. You can get the book, it’s going to be available at target. How exciting is that? But also BarnesandNoble.com or Barnes and Noble stores if they’re open, Amazon, anywhere great books are sold. Jennifer works in our Costa Mesa Amen Clinics and we’re just so proud of her. Stay with us.
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