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When children grow up with trauma in their lives, it can often have a major impact on the way they live their lives as adults. However, some of these children find ways to turn their post-traumatic stress into post-traumatic growth. In the fourth and final episode of a series with Dr. James Gordon, Dr. Daniel Amen, Tana Amen, and Gordon talk about some of the ways past trauma can be overcome, or even transformed into a powerful tool for success.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: 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 AmenClinics.com.
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 brainMD.com
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We are here with Dr Jim Gordon, the author of The Transformation, Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma. It's estimated, I think that 7% of the population, which is over 20 million people, would meet the diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder.
Tana Amen: That's it? I would think it would be higher.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's a lot. Well, something like, what, 39% of women have reported a sexual assault at some point in their life, but not everybody who's traumatized develops PTSD.
Tana Amen: Oh I see. Okay.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's only about 10% from the studies I read. But about 10% of people develop posttraumatic growth. And the question for my wife... Tana is writing a book called One Less Scared Child. One of her early memories is her mother and grandmother falling to the floor screaming when they found out her uncle was murdered in a drug deal gone wrong. Tana grew up around drugs and a fair amount of chaos. She's writing a book about the reluctant healer. So when you have people in your life that remind you of your traumatic past and you don't really want to help, what do you do? It's beautiful and I'm so proud of her. But I don't know if you've come across that... And you grew up in trauma, it sounds like?
Dr. James Gordon: Yes, some. Some. But you know, but one of the ways that we dealt with it... I was fortunate, I had two brothers and we laughed a lot at our parents.
Tana Amen: So I needed siblings. That was the problem.
Dr. James Gordon: I mean, there was all this trauma around, but we also, partly because we had each other, we were able to develop... at least by the time we were, you know, 11-12 years old, I was 11-12 they were a bit younger, a little bit of perspective.
You're bringing up some very important things. I think it's important to recognize that having been traumatized as a young person is often the door opener to becoming a healer. That in many, if not most indigenous societies, the children who are selected to become healers or the ones who have suffered a life threatening illness or a psychosis or a suicidal depression. They've come to the official healer in their society and they've managed to come through this experience pretty much intact and with a certain kind of wisdom. They're the ones who were selected to become the healers.
Tana Amen: That's so interesting.
Dr. James Gordon: It's not something that I would, you know, visit on children to equip them-
Tana Amen: Right. Right, but it can be used.
Dr. James Gordon: But it can be used. The other thing to just keep in mind is that in many societies, the rights of passage from adolescence to adulthood are themselves traumatic-
Tana Amen: Right, no question.
Dr. James Gordon: -to break the previous experience and to open children up to a new experience.
Tana Amen: Almost like a hazing thing.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Like teenage years.
Tana Amen: But you bring up a good point because when I met Daniel, number one I, yeah, that's a whole nother story. We won't get into that. But I did not see my past as being traumatic. I thought of it as garden variety dysfunctional because I was used to it. I was just, it was my normal, right? So I didn't think of it as ... You are the one who pointed out when you would give me that look like psychiatrists do and I said, "No, I'm fine." And you pointed out that fine was just fouled up, insecure, neurotic and emotional. Then I was sort of like, wait, what? But I never thought of it as being traumatized per se because I think I was doing what you said I was choosing to just not really deal with it. But then I started to realize, wait, there are some unhealthy patterns here I don't want to pass onto my child. I don't want to be that kind of mom. So I started to deal with it. It was sort of you pointing out to me, you were like, wait.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If somebody had did what was done to you to Chloe, that's our 16 year old, how would you react?
Tana Amen: I would have ripped their face off. I'd be in jail.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So that's clear.
Dr. James Gordon: But you know your experience, the natural outcome of going through trauma and moving through it is if we can encourage the process... Is to want to give more to other people, including those people who are traumatized. You mentioned studies on post traumatic growth. The first study that I know of, the modern study on posttraumatic growth, was done on the men who were prisoners in the Hanoi Hilton, the aviators who were shot down over North Vietnam. John McCain being the best known of those people. What they discovered when a psychiatrist interviewed those people years later is that all of them said, "Yes, it was horrible. I was physically tortured, psychologically tortured. I was kept. I didn't have contact with my family and I am a better person from it. I care more about other people."
Tana Amen: Absolutely, yeah. Well I definitely think I'm tougher and a better mother. I think I'm wiser, I'm stronger and I'm a better mother because of it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, and it really fits Victor Frankel's book, which was very formative for me, Man's Search for Meaning, is people can be traumatized and it sticks with them if they don't have a reason to live. If they don't have a "why". Doing the work I do, I've been attacked for a long time, because I think psychiatrists should actually look at the brain. It's like, well what's the matter with us? Why do our neurologists... Why do they get to look and we don't? I think that's insane. Being attacked was so traumatic for me, except the antidote is the stories we got from the 6000 patient visits a month we get at Amen Clinics of transformation. We read a story this morning when we did another week's podcast about a family that transformed their lives by being brain warriors. In order to survive the trauma, there's got to be some meaning behind it for you, and the gift of being able to share-
Tana Amen: Well we call it pain to purpose. We like calling it pain to purpose and we actually help people turn their pain to purpose.
Dr. James Gordon: Yes. I think people... What we've learned is that people can discover this on their own. If you look at that 60 Minutes clip that I mentioned earlier showing our work, we work with war traumatized populations in both Israel and Gaza. We're the only group that I know of that's doing it on any scale. The particular focus in the 60 Minutes clip, which is on the CNVM website, is on a group of kids in Gaza, all of whom lost their fathers in the 2014 war. This one little girl who in the first group before she learns the self-care techniques that I, that I teach in the transformation, the solution to her problem that she draws... and drawings are a good way of understanding and helping herself... the solution to her problem is to die and be in the grave with her father.
She learns the techniques. She uses guided imagery, shaking and dancing, soft belly breathing, drawings, written exercises, biofeedback that we described earlier, and nine groups later she does another set of drawings and when she draws who she expects to be and wants to be, which is equivalent to the solution to her problem in the first group... Nine groups later she draws herself in a white coat with a stethoscope in her ears. Stethoscope is on the chest of the patient lying on a table, her examining table. I say, what's this? She says, "I am a heart doctor. After the war in Gaza, there are so many people whose hearts have been hurt." There are five figures standing next to the table. I say, who are these? She says, "Oh, those are my patients. They're waiting for me."
What she's saying and she came to on her own, nobody saying to her, "Cheer up, everything's going to be okay," she is discovering that purpose. She is going from that pain that you're describing to discovering her purpose. That's her capacity. That's the human capacity. If we give people the tools, the techniques, and create a safe place for them to learn how to use them, then we can grow into that. She's turned her broken heart at her father's death... that has transformed into her becoming a heart doctor and helping other people whose hearts physically as well as metaphorically have been broken.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, it sounds like you are a heart doctor and you've been helping to heal hearts for a very long time.
Tana Amen: So beautiful.
Dr. Daniel Amen: We are grateful to know you. We've been with Dr Jim Gordon. He's a psychiatrist on the faculty at Georgetown Medical School. He's the author of the new, very powerful book, The Transformation, Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma.. It's been just such our honor, again, to get to know you-
Tana Amen: Such a joy.
Dr. Daniel Amen: -and talk about your work. Thank you for being on the Brain Warrior's Way podcast.
Tana Amen: Thank you so much.
Dr. James Gordon: Thank you so much.
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