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You may not realize this, but when you talk to yourself, your subconscious mind is listening, and what it actually hears and registers may not be quite what you’d expect. In the first episode in a series on the power of words, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discuss how the subconscious mind processes your self-talk, how it differentiates between different types of language, and why the words you choose matter.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warriors Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: 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.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warriors 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 everybody. We are so excited to have you with us. And this is the week we talk about the words you use matter. Because your mind is listening to everything you think, and everything you say.
Do you have a testimonial? Should we start with that since we're talking about words?
Tana Amen: You know, I do, but you may have to actually read it. And it's a good one. I like it. We love these, by the way, so please send them, because they're very special to us. Yeah, I have it right here.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And what's the question for the week? It's what are the most common words you use that run around your mind, that either help you, or hurt you?
Testimonial from Debbie. C333. Thanks Daniel and Tana, for your short podcast. Yes, because I have a short attention span. I'm a busy mom, and short is the only way I'm able to listen. I've read a number of your books, trying to help my adopted ADHD, high-functioning spectrum child. I had to laugh when Tana said that it takes 30 days for a kid to starve to death. Yep. I struggled with getting my kid to eat. But I appreciate the encouragement to stick to my guns, and not cave in when all he wants to eat is junk food. One other helpful thing I recently heard on the podcast was, we aren't stuck with the brains we have. I hope soon to be able to bring my son in for a brain scan, to see the best way to help him.
Debbie, thank you so much.
Tana Amen: Yeah, thank you.
Dr. Daniel Amen: We are so grateful for people who listen to the podcast, and it's been growing. So, thank you so much.
So, when you hear about this topic, what are the words that come into mind?
Tana Amen: Well, the first thing I wanted to mention is this became important to me a long time ago, because I used to not use very nice language with myself. And when I heard this one thing, it made me at least begin to work on it.
Your subconscious does not have a sense of humor.
And so when I heard that I went, whoa. Okay, so in other words, what you say, your subconscious just begins to listen to. It takes it seriously. If you say I'm a fill-in-the-blank, and it's not a nice word, your subconscious just begins to...
Dr. Daniel Amen: I'm a jerk, I'm an idiot.
Tana Amen: I'm a jerk, I'm a whatever. Or you are, or you call someone else that, you're subconscious begins to take that on, and begins to find reasons to make that true. So it's not helpful. Even if you think you're just kidding, your brain just goes, okay, well I'm going to find evidence that that is true. And so your life begins to take on that color.
So when you use words to describe an experience, or to describe yourself, or to describe another person, what ends up happening is that becomes the experience. Those words become the experience, because we use language to describe things, and pretty soon your subconscious just says well that was how that was. Even if it wasn't necessarily how it was, but you've chosen those words to describe it, hence, why four people can watch the same experience occurring, they all write it differently or say it differently, and they all have four different experiences, right?
So it's very interesting to me. And that's why it becomes so important to me many years ago.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So it's what I talk about in my books, when we talk about ANTs, automatic negative thoughts, that this type of ANT is called, Labeling. That whenever you label yourself or someone else with a negative term, you lump them with all of the people you've ever known that were jerks, or idiots, or borderline people. And you then are not dealing with them. You're dealing with all of them, at once.
Tana Amen: Well, and one of the things I think is even a worse story, when Chloe, who is now 15, when she was little, she was eight maybe, or nine, something like that. She had been fussing with me about something, and all of a sudden I heard her outside my room, not yelling, but talking pretty roughly. She was saying, "I hate you. You're so stupid." I thought she was talking to me, and it irritated me at first. I was fairly annoyed. She had never done that before. And so I walked outside my room and she was standing in front of the mirror in the hallway, and saying it to herself. And instead of being annoyed, I just was heartbroken. And so I had to sit her down and explain this to her, and just go, "You know, the only thing worse than you saying that to someone else, is you saying that to yourself." And it just made me cry.
And I had to explain to her, if you begin talking to yourself like that now, that's going to take on a whole life of its own. That's going to begin to grow, and manifest itself. And it's going to taint your life, it's going to color your life in a way that's not going to be good.
And so we started working on that with her and her anxiety when she was young, because when she would get anxious, and she couldn't do something well, she would just beat herself up. And then she really couldn't do it well. And so what would happen is the more she said that to herself, the harder it got.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So you obviously, and I obviously never said those things to her.
Tana Amen: No.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So where do you think they came from?
Tana Amen: You know, I'm not exactly sure. But she's a perfectionist, an extreme perfectionist. Now, we've seen her brain. She's got a busy brain.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Now, we've talked about epigenetics in the past; that your thoughts, your habits, your experiences turn on or off certain genes that make illness more or less likely in you, but also in your babies and grandbabies.
Tana Amen: Well, and it's true I certainly-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Was it true you were a bit of a perfectionist?
Tana Amen: Oh, dear Lord. And I used to beat myself up really badly. A little differently than she does, but still, I beat myself up a lot, and I definitely was a perfectionist. And maybe it's different when you see your child doing it. You don't remember it the same way with yourself. It's more heartbreaking when you see your child doing it.
So, I'm just really fortunate that I did that work before it was time to deal with that with a child. I had done that work on myself, so that I could actually help her.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, but the epigenetics came from you, but also from her biological dad. But also from your family, and her biological father's family. And so you can just see how complicated. Sometimes the words you use about yourself and others are not yours. That they actually can be from generations. I mean, one of the things that's happening now in Syria that just breaks my heart, is these children are being raised in war, with chronic stress. And so you wonder the impact that's going to have on the words they use for themselves, but also the words they use about other people. And then how is that going to impact their babies, and their grandbabies.
But no matter where you got these words from, that you're telling yourself, one of the things we get really excited about is you can change it.
Tana Amen: You can change it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Once you recognize it, ask yourself, is it helpful? Is it getting you what you want, or is it hurtful? Does it fit the goals that you have for your life?
Tana Amen: When this became apparent to me, I started actually taking a sincere and serious inventory. What kind of language am I using? It was very disempowering. It was not helpful at all. It wasn't getting me what I wanted, for sure. It was not helpful. I was meaner to myself, than anyone else had been. Here we blame other people, we get angry at other people for how they treat us, but if you really step back, and you look at yourself and how you talk to yourself, and how you treat yourself, oftentimes it's worse. Because here's the truth; if you saw yourself in a positive light, if you used empowering language with yourself, it's highly unlikely you would make room for other people to treat you badly, right? You would see yourself differently. You would hold yourself in different esteem. It's not very likely you would make room for other people to treat you poorly.
So it was interesting when I did that, and I started to really do serious work on that, and I started choosing empowering language. And there's a reason that I consciously choose warrior language. I started doing that a long time ago; practicing martial arts, choosing empowering language, because it works for me. It's a metaphor that works for my life.
When that started to happen, not only did I treat myself differently, other people saw me differently. They started to treat me differently, because you hold yourself completely differently. Your energy is different. Everything about you becomes different.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And don't you think that if you're really hard on yourself, you look in the mirror, and you notice all of your flaws.
Tana Amen: Oh, my gosh.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Wait, wait. If you're hard on yourself, then if someone makes just sort of a side comment, it's like, "Oh, you've gained a few pounds." All of a sudden that can cause an avalanche of negativity in your head, and maybe an emotional reaction to the other person, who actually may think a couple of pounds look good on you. That it can then cause a war in your relationship.
And in the next podcast, we'll talk about words in relationships. But for now, we're talking about words with yourself. If you're chronically using negative, hostile demeaning words about yourself, then you're so sensitive, that any time, people can just give you a side glance, not say anything-
Tana Amen: Right, they just look at you.
Dr. Daniel Amen: - and all of a sudden it can damage the quality of your relationship.
Tana Amen: How often have you done that? You are walking down the street, someone actually looks at you. They may be thinking wow, those are really cute shoes, or wow, that's a really nice outfit, but because you were in the mirror, staring at yourself, berating yourself, you're like, I knew it, I knew it, I knew that I looked terrible. And you begin to make this whole story up. Because the truth is that language we use creates our experience, and it becomes the lens we see the world through. So it's really interesting.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So what positive words do you use about yourself?
Tana Amen: Well, like I said, I actually have chosen this warrior mindset, this warrior metaphor, and so I actually consciously do that on a daily basis.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, let me see if I agree.
Tana Amen: So, I'm going to give you an example. Where I used to feel very disempowered. So let's just use the example of when I'm working. So if I'm going to go on stage, and I'm going to speak, I have this mantra that I do; I'm a warrior, I'm a black belt. I do all these things, because that helps put me in the mindset. So the same thing that I use to prepare for my black belt test, I will use to prepare to go on stage, because it gives me the energy that I want, before I walk out.
I'll also say a quick prayer, and I'll pray that this isn't about me. Even if there's one person in the audience that needs to hear this message, it's not about me, it's about them, let that person hear it.
And so those two things make it not about me, and yet I have the right energy to walk out there and do that.
So it becomes more about helping others, and yet I have a warrior mindset so that whatever happens on stage, I can handle it. And so that's just one example.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, I have words for you.
Tana Amen: Do you? I don't think we should say them on the air.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Absolutely, they're totally G-rated.
Tana Amen: Yeah, I know you too well.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's coming up in the next segment. We're going to talk about how the words you use can make your relationships amazing, or can really ground them into the dirt. Think about the one thing you learned during this podcast. Post it on any of your social media channels, hashtag Brain Warriors Way podcast. We would be so grateful. And at brainwarriorswaypodcast.com, leave reviews, and ask us questions. We're going to start answering more questions in the podcast as we go forward.
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