What Can You Do When Abusive Behavior Is Present?

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

It seems like every day you turn on the news and see someone new being accused of sexual harassment. In this episode, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discuss the power dynamic, and how when coupled with brain dysfunction can lead to the type of poor decision making that ruins careers.


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Tana Amen: Welcome back. Today, we are going to talk about men behaving badly.

Dr. Daniel Amen: You've had some experience with this, I understand.

Tana Amen: I think most women have had some experience with this.

Dr. Daniel Amen: All right, men behaving badly. It's everywhere in the news. You can't turn on your phone, open a newspaper without the latest. Charlie Rose was fired because he acted badly. Harvey Weinstein, on and on, Kevin Spacey ...

Tana Amen: Okay. So newsflash, this isn't new.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Really?

Tana Amen: No. It's just that enough women are finally speaking up because it's really interesting. I guess I was always taught be a brat and apologize later. Don't put up with it. But it's interesting how many women think they have to put up with it or for whatever reason, they feel that pressure. And it's really hard, and some of those industries are hard to succeed. They're hard to live in if you're, and to able to speak up.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's not just in Hollywood. It is in Hollywood because men are often in the position of power, but it's virtually in any employment situation.

Tana Amen: Where there's a power over type of atmosphere, I even had a very, very short run in Hollywood trying to go on calls. And I had the same issue happen when I was 17. I'm not that nice. So it was very short lived. And I decided very quickly that was not the environment for me because I knew I would never make it because I would never keep my mouth shut. So I got into a little tiff.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That's not a strong suit.

Tana Amen: It's not. Putting up with that would never be something that would work for me.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Nor should it be.

Tana Amen: Not should it be.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I think that's the right model. But let's talk about why it's more men than women because clearly, it's more men that women. That doesn't mean that women don't, powerful women don't sexually harass men, they do. But the numbers are staggering that it's more men. In fact, men get arrested 14 times more than females. This isn't an excuse, but I often say when people act badly, ask why. You have to try to understand it so you know what the difference is. And we have scanned hundreds of sexual harassers here at Amen Clinics. They're seeing us. Either they've been court ordered to see us or their board of directors made them see us.

Tana Amen: You're gonna have to walk me through this because you're gonna have a hard time getting a lot of empathy from me here.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I'm not after empathy. I'm after why does this happen? So we published the world's largest gender study earlier this year on 46,000 scans and what we showed was females had significantly more activity in their frontal lobes, which means better focus, forethought, judgement, impulse control, organization, planning, empathy, learning from the mistakes they make. So they are wired to have more empathy and more impulse control. Put on top of that men play contact sports where they're more likely to damage or hurt their frontal lobes. So now, they're gonna have, they already have lower frontal lobes to start. We know that. Boys get diagnosed with ADD five times more than girls. Damage their frontal lobes, and now together with that, we're gonna light the testosterone match. So, they're gonna have a higher libido and lower frontal lobes, not an excuse. But you have to understand, she's sitting there waving her arms, looking at me like I'm the most evil person on the planet.

Tana Amen: No. I just think there's, definitely, you're not. So one of the reasons I love you is because you are not that person. You are not like that, but I do want to add to that everything you said is spot on. But there's another component, and I really believe this. You have centuries of, it's not gonna go away that quickly. We've got many, hundreds of years of basically, the idea of being that men are the bigger, stronger sex and women being suppressed and being told to be polite. Let's be truthful here. That doesn't just go away quickly, right?

Dr. Daniel Amen: So there's an ingrained, genetic ...

Tana Amen: And social.

Dr. Daniel Amen: A new word, I'm gonna make this up, a cultural, genetic phenomenon.

Tana Amen: And social.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Cultural, social, genetic phenomenon that men have no control ...

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... Over their impulses. Now, that's not true. You can actually train control.

Tana Amen: So one of the things I told my daughter because I was attacked when I was 15 and I grew up in a really chaotic environment. I was walking to high school when I was 15, and attacked by some guy, a big white guy in a suit. It was bizarre. And so from that day forward, I always had this really weird feeling. That feeling overpowered really did not sit well with me. So learning how to train, be aware of my environment, those types of things, and I decided early on, I read a really great book called the Gift of Fear. And it was really great, but one of the things that I learned that I passed onto my daughter was this idea that we train our daughters to always be polite no matter what. What ends up happening is when they find themselves in bad situations, they don't speak up.

So I never did that with Chloe. I'm like, "Listen to that voice in your tummy no matter what. And if you're wrong, apologize later." So I never, ever shut that down in her. I never told her she had to be polite if she thought something was wrong or uncomfortable. And I think that we have to be very careful doing that. I was fortunately not raised in that type of environment. I was raised with a single working mother who was pretty tough. So for me, that was not the environment I was raised to, I was a fighter. And so, but one of the things I love about martial arts, one of the things I love about doing what I do with the training, and I like about some of the other types of training that I do is that it's empowering.

It teaches you to speak up. It teaches you be aware, prepared, avoid situations, but also to speak up when you need to speak up, to have a voice.

Dr. Daniel Amen: How would you help us understand why men act badly and then what to do about it?

Tana Amen: I think it's really complicated. And I think one of the, I think it's an oversimplified answer, but one answer. And one and one only because I think all the things you said are also accurate, testosterone, head injuries, whatever ...

Dr. Daniel Amen: Lower frontal lobe function.

Tana Amen: ... Also, because they can. They are times they do it because they can. They're in a power of position, I mean a position of power, and they do it because they can. And that's not okay.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So being able to speak up.

Tana Amen: Yes.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Being in a position where you don't have to have that job. If it's your boss that's harassing ...

Tana Amen: Being willing to stand up and walk away.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Being able to go away. Now, some women can't, and that's why there are courts that can help.

Tana Amen: But look what's happening. When enough women do it, look what's happening. It's turning the tide.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I don't know if you heard today, John Lassiter, who's the Pixar president ...

Tana Amen: I did.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... Had to step down. It just, it's happening so much.

Tana Amen: But it takes all these women coming together and speaking up. Now, we also have be careful of the backlash, the flip side of that is we don't want people to start lying. And there's always that phenomenon that happens as well. I want attention, I want to be a part of this, I want to lie about somebody or whatever. That's another fear that I know some men have, is that some men in power also have the fear that a woman can claim sexual harassment, no matter what. And that is the flip side of that.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And that happens.

Tana Amen: And I've known women like that. Shame on you if you're one of those because that gives the rest of us women a bad name. So yeah, I'm a little opinionated.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So when I deal with a harasser, the first thing I do is look at their brain. And you and I, we always talked about whenever we assess someone, we look at the four circles ...

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... Of someone's life. And so the first circle is a biological circle, which is what does your brain look like? Do you have ADD? Have you had a head injury? What's you're diet like? Because if you're gone too long without eating, or you ate something that spiked your blood sugar and couple of hours later, your blood sugar is lower, you're much more likely to act badly than someone who has healthy frontal lobe function, they got good sleep, they ate properly. All of those factors play into the decisions we make. But it's not just biology. I have people who have terrible looking brains who never once harassed anybody because there's this psychology. It's how do you think? Your level of empathy, your level of how you view yourself in the world, there's also a social circle.

You're in Hollywood and it's common to abuse the young women growing up. And so, it becomes part of the culture. And there's a spiritual circle, which is what your sense of meaning and purpose, what is your ethics? What are your morals? How do you fit into the world? What's happening to you after you die? All of these factors biological, psychological, social, and spiritual ...

Tana Amen: One of the things I want to throw in to the social, well actually will probably be, yeah, probably more social, I really like our friend, John Townsend. He wrote a book called the Entitlement Cure. And that is I think has something to do with it in some of these positions, the way some people are raised with ... As a parent, I've always thought about that myself because I didn't really understand that when my daughter was really little. But I really came to understand it and began to realize that I was struggling with her. And when it was explained to me that an entitled person can never be happy, that they end up sabotaging themselves all through life, I realized, "Oh, wow!" And I completely changed my parenting style when she was about five years old. And it makes all the difference in the world, but I think a lot of people grow up fairly entitled in this country.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So that's both psychological and social.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And we give people sometimes the license to do bad things because ...

Tana Amen: And it's not okay.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... Of their level of power.

Tana Amen: And some of these people are gonna end up, the sad thing is some of these people will end up running into the wrong parents or the wrong spouse because there are other people who are not ...

Dr. Daniel Amen: And they'll end up short.

Tana Amen: Right. There are people who are not psychologically savvy, who are not gonna look at it and analyze it the way we are, and they're gonna hurt someone's child.

Dr. Daniel Amen: But if you look at why men act badly and you ignore the brain, you really won't understand it. So recently, President H.W. Bush was accused by six different women of inappropriate touching where he would make a funny ...

Tana Amen: And just happened older age, right?

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well actually, a new case came out where he was 73, which is different than 93. But he has been diagnosed with something called vascular Parkinsonism, which means the blood vessels, his basal ganglia are becoming inefficient and he begins to ...

Tana Amen: My stepfather had that and he was acting very inappropriately.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... Develop a tremor, but if you have blood vessel problems to, anywhere in your brain, it likely means they're everywhere in your brain. And so, he also has frontal lobe issues. And it's not uncommon for people who've never done anything bad in their life to as they get older and their brain deteriorates, all of a sudden, the thoughts that they might have had begin to become manifested, which is another reason to keep your brain really healthy as you age because you've already told me if I start acting badly as I age you're going to ...

Tana Amen: There is no excuse. You might as well forget it. It's not going to work. I'm just telling I am your frontal lobes.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The fear of you is my frontal lobes. And it's another interesting thing, my friend, Adrian Raine, who's a psychology professor at University of Pennsylvania actually did a study on people with antisocial personality disorder. Rules don't apply to them, they can break them, no problem, they tend to angry, irritable, manipulative people. So he wanted to study them outside of prison. He studied them in prison. He was like, "Well, what do they look like in the general population?" And whenever I lecture I'll often go, "So where do you think he went to find these people?" And this was during the Enron crisis, and people go, "In business!" And other people will go, "Attorneys!" And other people will go, "Pastors!" And I'm like, "No, no, no. You're all so cynical people." But it was brilliant, he went to temporary job agencies ...

Tana Amen: Oh, that's hilarious!

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... Because these are people that other people don't like to work with ...

Tana Amen: Oh, that's so funny.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... Because they have this thing called the dark triad, which we'll talk about in a minute. Well, he hired 23 of them for a week. And he did MRI scans, he did heart rate, and sweat gland activity. And what he found compared to a healthy group, people with antisocial personality disorder had low sweat gland activity. Well, what goes with sweat gland activity? It's anxiety. When you get anxious, your hands sweat.

Tana Amen: It's built on having anxiety.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's a low level of anxiety. They also had slower heart rates. So they're a little on the reptilian side. And they had 10% less volume in their frontal lobes. So the frontal lobes, the prefrontal cortexes, the evolved part of the brain, forethought, judgment, impulse control, 30% of the human brain, 11% of the chimpanzee brain. So these people in a sense are not as human because the more human you are, the more empathy you have because it works, right? We get along as a group, we survive ...

Tana Amen: We're social creatures.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... As a group. And I said that was really fascinating, their brains ...

Tana Amen: And we all know someone ...

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... Are different.

Tana Amen: ... with that dark triad. And I've known a couple women with it.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, the dark triad, people don't know what that is. It's combination of three things. It's narcissism, it's all about me, it's psychopathy, rules don't apply, and it's Machiavellianism, I'm gonna get my way ...

Tana Amen: So it's basically Washington.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... No matter what the cost. Well, it certainly seems to be. But they did a study of hedge fund managers of who made more money. People with the dark triad or people without the dark triad, does it pay to have the dark triad, to be one of these dark people? And the answer was no.

Tana Amen: Oh, interesting!

Dr. Daniel Amen: It doesn't because you don't get anybody who wants to work with you.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: They end up in temporary job agencies.

Tana Amen: Well, and we all know some people like that. And I certainly know, not just men, I've known a couple of women, and those women are scary. I mean, they're actually scary people.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Women can have head trauma, they can have ADD, and they can have toxic exposure ...

Tana Amen: Whatever causes it though ...

Dr. Daniel Amen: They can have an infection that affects their brain. When men act badly, rather than just saying, "When do you know if a man is lying? When his lips are moving," stop that.

Tana Amen: I actually don't like it when people say that. It bothers me.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Think about those four circles. And that's how you get things better. You improve the biology, you improve how they think, you surround them with healthier people, and you get them a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. Stay with us. Thank you for listening to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. Go to iTunes and leave a review, and you'll automatically be entered into a drawing to get a free signed copy of the Brain Warrior's Way and the Brain Warrior's Way Cookbook we give away every month.