When Tana Amen’s mother decided to remarry, Tana hadn’t yet met her mom’s groom-to-be. After they were married, things took a turn for the worse. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Tana and Dr. Daniel Amen talk about shame and denial that can remain hidden in the brain even into adulthood, and why a parent’s inability to deal with some situations can make things even worse for their children.
For more information on Tana’s new book, “The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child”, visit relentlesscourage.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.
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. We are talking about The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child. Also, our upcoming event, overcoming anxiety, depression, trauma, and grief. And I love talking about this stuff.
Yeah, it took me a while. You kept pushing me to talk about it. You know what’s interesting to me is that now that I started talking about it, it’s not as hard obviously but the comments I get. “This was me growing up.” “This was my life growing up.” “Mine was so similar.” “I can so relate to this.” I mean, it’s amazing how many people out there. I used to call myself a garden variety dysfunctional in our family. And that was a defense mechanism, but it’s not that far off. There’s a lot of people out there going through…
30 million Americans grew up in an alcoholic home. They’re 30 million children or grandchildren of alcohol.
It’s not just alcoholic homes, it’s abandonment and it’s…
Or it’s untreated ADD.
I mean, this is really very common. And neither, my mom or dad have ADD. And I’m so grateful for them. I mean, I was mad at my dad for most of my life because he was gone. And when he was home, he was sort of an ass. But I had for the most part…
As stable as having five sisters can be. As predictable as having five sisters can be. Right.
Now, you’re just traumatizing me. And we won’t talk about the goat.
I actually think it’s great that he had five sisters because he came housebroken, fully trained. I’m grateful to them.
All right. So let me read one more from Patricia Steel. “Thanks for the podcast. It was helpful for me in understanding behavior of especially children of addictive families.
What we’re talking about.
Here we go. So chaotic. Unpredictable. House getting broken into. Nearly drowned. Uncle is murdered. Panic attacks. An unusual grandmother who’s actually diagnosed with schizophrenia.
My mother was a little unusual. She had these visions. So that was a little odd to grow up with.
We haven’t talked about that. Yeah. And what was that like when you were a child? Did you understand that?
Well, I mean, I grew up with it. So I don’t… When something is introduced to you at such a young age, I don’t know if you… If there’s this revelation of oh, my mom is psychic. If you ever used the word psychic, she would freak out. She hated that word. She never took money for it. She never used the word psychic. But she’d have these, I mean, detailed visions. It was my mom who actually saw the house where my uncle was murdered. And so the house. The street name. The whole thing was really crazy, but that’s the kind of stuff I grew up with. And it happened a lot. And people would show up at our house wanting her to read their future. And she’s like, no. She wouldn’t do it. But stuff would just happen. It would just… The visions would just come to her. And so it was really sort of weird. Yeah.
And your mom always liked me. So I think she had that vision…
… that I was not going to hurt you.
And so, and actually I’ve always trusted it a little.
She did not like some of the people you dated.
Right. And I trusted that a little bit. Right. So I actually… Because she’d never really been wrong.
The psychic phenomena is actually pretty interesting when it comes to the brain. I’ve scanned channelers. I did Theresa Caputo who’s the Long Island Medium. And so I don’t know. I just think it’s interesting in that if you’re a scientist, you shouldn’t dismiss it. You should study it.
My mom thinks it’s a gift from God. That’s how she describes it.
Yeah but she had a bad picker when it came to men.
Yeah. A bad picker.
And then one of the next major stories in The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child is about your very brief stepfather.
Yeah. They got married really quickly. He convinced her it was good for tax purposes and he didn’t talk to me before they got married. I mean, he did not speak to me before they got married. He barely acknowledged my existence. And then as soon as they were married, my mom always went to bed early. But at that stage, she wasn’t working nights because she got up early and she had a job that started really early in the morning.
And so I would be up doing homework. I was really young. I was in middle school. And so I’d get up to go to the kitchen and get something to drink or to eat. And all of a sudden he pulled me in his lap one night and he was, yeah, it was kind of an ugly situation. And I write about it in detail in the book. But he pinned me down and he was like trying to kiss my ear. He was like “When do I get to teach you how to kiss?” And I’m like, “What?” He’s like, “Well, you wouldn’t know this because you don’t have a dad, but this is what dads do.” And then from there it just got worse. There’s this whole scenario that happens where… I see it’s still hard for me to use the word molested, but I guess that’s by definition what happened. He molested me. So…
Yeah, no initially when we first met, she goes “No, no, I wasn’t molested. I was almost molested.” And I’m like, “Okay, tell me what happened.” And she did. Describes it in the book. And I said, “And if that happened to Chloe…”
I’d rip his beating heart out of his chest and feed it to my dog. In fact, early in our… When we were first dating, one of the first things I had said to you, early when we were dating, cause I didn’t introduce people to my daughter. But for some reason I felt comfortable with him and I was going to introduce him to my daughter. And I said, you just need to know if anyone ever touches my daughter, I will kill them in their sleep. If they’re lucky, it will be in their sleep. And you were like… And you just looked at me and you go, “Well, that sounds rational.” You’re like, “But why do you say that?”
And I actually met Chloe six days after we met. We went to Disneyland together and she crawled up into my lap.
Which was just freaking me out. Freaking me out.
But I was ever watchful. I never had a babysitter. I wouldn’t leave her alone. Not even with you, I wouldn’t leave her alone.
The reason you never had a babysitter is you were abused by your babysitters.
Yeah, so. But it’s interesting to the level of denial people can be in about the reality of what actually happened.
Well, and that’s because… I mean, now I understand it. I didn’t really understand it back then. I mean, I would do that same minimizing thing. It’s like well, I wasn’t really molested because I know people who were raped for years and I wasn’t that. And so, I mean… That was the one time my mom really validated me. She physically attacked him. I mean like she like, she almost she…
Well, it’s actually, it’s a great story in the book. And you come to really love her mother during this story.
It was tragic. But she tried to kill him.
Because when you told her about it. And unfortunately many, many people who tell their parents, their parents minimize it or their parents deny it.
Yeah she did not do that.
Or their parents say that you’re lying because the parents can’t deal with the shame and the anxiety of the truth and having to confront their husband, their brother or whoever.
Yeah well she almost killed him. She… It was really, really dramatic. But she did go through that. She felt… And she ended up seeing a psychiatrist for a long time because she was almost suicidal. Yeah. But she did protect me from that. And it was… it’s one of my really long stories.
And how did that impacted you?
So it impacted me in a way that I felt very validated and that was really powerful. The only tricky part was shortly after that, I sort of felt like she took my voice away. She asked me to be polite to him and I lost my mind. There was a weird situation where he called the house and I was very impolite to him. She asked me to be polite to him, but she actually got mad at me for being so impolite. And I was so angry at her for a long time. I was angry at her for that.
You want me to be polite to him? I’m supposed to be polite to someone who almost raped me. What? And I was… And so for a while, I felt like she had taken my voice away. Now in hindsight after writing my story, I realized the reasons and sometimes those reasons are complicated. But I, at that point, became sort of a very attitudinal teen. Let’s put it that way or tween. I became very attitudinal because I made the decision at that point in my life. I’m not going to be timid anymore. No one, not even my mom, is going to take away my voice. So yeah, I used it pretty harshly for a while. It took me a while to temper that voice. But I made that decision and I will be a B word and apologize later if I’m wrong before I will ever let someone take my voice away again. If I think I’m in danger, it’s on.
Well, and the next guy. The next guy was Joe?
The next guy…
My next step father.
…didn’t molest you. But…
My nickname was sexy bitch.
Yeah. But that’s abusive. That’s abusive how he treated you. Now, people are not black and white.
Right. And that’s why often in the movies…
Cause he also protected me.
It’s like, you’re all good or you’re all bad. You’re the antagonist or the protagonist.
No, he was complicated. He wore a black hat and he wore a white hat. He’d switch hats. And so he could say things to me. He never tried to touch me. It was weird. I actually almost hoped he would because I was trying to get rid of him. And I knew that’s the one thing that my mom would kill him for. So I was, if he touches me, I can get rid of this guy. Cause I didn’t want any men in our house after that. But instead its, I can say this to you, but no one else can. And he almost… He got in physical fights with people for making comments to me. And so…
He would protect you.
And taught to you a number of life’s lessons.
It was a weird dynamic.
But I think that’s true for all of us is that we are complicated. And Carl Young talked about the shadow self. So some people, the shadow is just living their life. Right, the darkness. But most people have dark sides and light sides. So The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child, we have so much more. I think eating disorders coming up and then the assault.
No the assault first. Yeah.
The assault… Stay with us. So, what did you learn? That if your children are telling you someone’s molesting them, you need to take that seriously. You need to pay attention.
You need to at least check it out.
Don’t take away their voice. You want to be a good listener. It’s just absolutely essential. You can pre-order the book, relentlesscourage.com. And don’t forget about our event, December 12th overcoming anxiety, depression, trauma and grief. Stay with us.
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Dr. Daniel Amen:
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