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Tana Amen is not a fan of the word “failure”, because it implies a permanent state rather than a part of a larger process. Instead, she prefers the word “falling”, because it implies that you can always get back up. In this episode of the podcast, Tana shares some stories of “falling” from her new book “The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child,” such as the story of Thomas, who made a huge turnaround in his life after changing some of his habits to allow him to focus better.
For more information on Tana’s new book, “The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child”, visit https://www.thomasnelson.com/9781400220762/the-relentless-courage-of-a-scared-child/
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 back. We’re so glad that you’re with us. Don’t forget the event, December 12th. Order Tana’s new book. Please send it to your friends. Relentless Courage of a Scared Child, relentlesscourage.com, and get all those free gifts. Before we go back and finish the Salvation Army story, I want to read this testimonial.
It’s called Love, from a man, Joe 2020, “I’ve been listening to your podcast for almost two years now. We have a young family friend that was struggling with possible brain injury, and they were abusing drugs and alcohol for years. I asked the parents to please check out your facility in Bellevue, up by Seattle, Washington. They did, and their teenager had a brain scan, and you guys were able to pinpoint the issue. Now this teenage child is a young adult and doing very well. I wish more people chose your facility for brain health. Thank you so much for your amazing brain health information.” Well, that made me feel good.
Like this next story makes me feel good. So one of my favorite stories is Thomas. It’s one of the main reasons why you wrote The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child. Somebody you were extremely judgmental about to start. He was a gang banger and he lost his children. But he failed his GED three times. This is really important to know because easy to call people dumb, easy to call people bad, easy to say, “Try harder, if only you tried harder, you’d do better.” But he couldn’t focus. It’d actually been easy to diagnose him with ADD.
Well, we found 70% of them had either been diagnosed and were untreated, or had been told they had ADD by someone, and never followed through.
Untreated ADD is throughout your book.
Your mother, and your uncle, and you, and nobody knew about it. And often in untreated ADD families, there’s a history of trauma, sexual abuse, drug abuse, and the kind of crazy life that you grew up in. So Thomas failed his GED three times, was depressed, hopeless, had just no positive thoughts.
He said he didn’t really understand the reason for living. When he said that, I was like, “Wow, that’s how I felt at one time. There’s no purpose for living.”
When you put these strategies into his life, from eating better and thinking better-
… and exercise, he lost how much weight?
Holy smokes. And got reconnected to his children. He wrote you this beautiful letter on graduation.
And yeah, in the letter he said that he always thought he was stupid. But then he realized that he wasn’t stupid, that he couldn’t focus because of the way that he was living his life, especially the food. He never had any idea how much food mattered. He passed his GED and so that was really exciting. He was so proud of himself. He said, “Now I have energy. I have focus. I have excitement for life.” He was just so happy. He ends it by saying, “My life was a mess. Now it’s message. I’ve been tested. Now I have a testimony. I was a victim. Now I’m victorious. I’ve been through trials and now I’m triumphant.” I couldn’t read that for years about crying. It was amazing.
It adds a completely different look to failure that, again-
I don’t like that word.
… the big lesson. Easy to call people bad, easy to make them feel guilty, to shame them much harder, to go, “Why?”
So failure is the F-word in my mind. So I don’t like using the word failure because even though people say, “Oh, it’s in my failures that I learn,” you’re still planting in your head that you were a failure and I don’t like it. I like falling. So as a martial artist, I like the idea that we learn how to fall safely and get up quickly. It’s a normal part of practicing martial arts. It’s an expected part of martial arts. It’s just part of what we do. You just learn how to do it safely, and how to get up quickly, and you learn what not to do next time. It’s a requirement almost. So rather than failing, we fall. The only time you fail is if you don’t get up again.
It’s one of the major principles of my work. Whenever I evaluate a new patient, I always go to my whiteboard and I draw this graph. It’s like when people first come to see me, they’re not doing well, but they have good days and bad days. So it’s like this little sawtooth line. Then we intervene, like you intervened with Thomas and the other people at the Salvation Army, and they get better. But nobody ever gets better, just gets better. They’re better, and then not so much, and then better still, and then not so much. It’s actually when you fall back, if you can be curious about it, about what happened, and not furious and give up, then you can create strategies around the vulnerable times to continue making progress on your journey.
Essentially, that’s exactly what we do in martial arts and that’s why I love it so much. So you fall, you get hit, whatever happens, you fall down, you get up, and you literally dissect it. You analyze it. And you’re like, “What can I do differently next time?” And you come up with a strategy and it’s actually pretty cool. There’s something about that for me as a female, females are just like so hard wired for some bizarre reason to be perfectionistic.
Because your emotional brain works way too hard.
Okay, Whatever it is, it’s people.
I published a study, don’t you remember? I published a study on 46,000 scans, looking at the difference between male and female brains. Males tend to have sleepier brains because we hit soccer balls with our head, and play tackle football, and drank too much. But the female brain, because of estrogen and progesterone, their limbic or emotional brain works really hard.
Yeah, we over-focus.
It sets them up to be able to raise children and multitask, but it also leaves you with the vulnerability of needing to be perfect in order to feel good at all. I think that’s one of the things you had struggled with.
Right, and that’s one of the things that I… For me, it was all sort of together. I was doing therapy and I found martial arts, which I loved. It was a great outlet. There’s nothing better than hitting big padded guys for releasing tension and stress. It’s just amazing. So yeah, there’s just something about… It releases these endorphins, that’s just like it’s awesome.
I had this light switch moment and I’m like, “I’ve been spending my whole life thinking I can’t fall.” And when I did fall, because you can’t go through life, not falling, so when I would fall, I would just fall apart literally. It was so hard for me to get back up. I felt it as this like personal failure. It was just embarrassing and I felt this self-loathing. It’s like how silly is that? So in martial arts, so just the idea that this is normal. It’s a requirement basically to learn how to do it safely and get up quickly. And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I need to apply that to my life,” so it was really helpful.
It’s such an important lesson that you talk about in the book. When it comes to Thomas and people like Thomas, you realize, “Well, it’s not just about them. It’s about generations of that.”
Yeah, his six kids, the gang unit busted his door in, and took his six kids away from him. So are Thomas’s kids going to be better off if Thomas gets well and is able to create some stability for them, or are they going to just follow in the same footsteps? That’s what happened in my family. So I, by some miracle, was able to figure out a path. Not easily, it was like life in oncoming traffic for awhile, but I was able to figure out this path to wellness. But I have two half sisters that didn’t. The generational part of this is really important. So this generational component-
Well, and people listening to the podcast know that our two nieces live with us, and we adore them because we don’t want for them what happened with their mom and dad.
And they’re really good kids.
Their mom and dad are working to be better.
Fortunately, yeah, they really are.
Four years ago, they were taken by child protective service. The progress these girls have made is just incredible.
And through us, the progress that their parents have made is also pretty incredible. Yeah, without some guidance, without some plan, it’s like we just blindly continue these cycles. That was one of the reasons, that was one of the motivations, because I’m not going to say that it was not a painful decision to decide to get well. I’m not going to say that. It was a painful decision. When I decided to do it, you unpack a lot of stuff. I often equate it to a boil popping. It’s like all this ugly stuff comes out. I was resistant to even starting that process. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
I know. You almost canceled your first date with me.
Yeah. And I left you a couple times because I was just like-
You did. Ripped my heart out. We’re not going to think about that right now. I don’t want to unhappy.
But when I made that decision too, I wasn’t willing to get married again unless I knew I was healthy again or healthy. I knew I needed to do some work. So when I made the decision to get well, I knew it was going to be hard, but I kept thinking to myself… Fortunately, I think I have the gift of introspection, so I kept thinking to myself, “If I don’t do this, I’m going to repeat the cycle that I went through.” Not intentionally, but I had a young child. I had a toddler. That’s really was a big motivator for me, was that I just could not imagine putting her through a life of pain, and so I just really wanted to be a good mother.
Sometimes getting help is not about you. It’s okay. Whatever it is, just do it. So that for me was huge and it was worth the pain, every time I would look at her and go, “I’m going to make her life better.” My mom made my life better than hers, imagine that. I have a book, my mom made my life better than hers was. That’s pretty crazy to think about. But I was determined to make my daughter’s life much better than mine, that she wasn’t going to grow up with just constant chaos, and screaming, and drama, and people breaking in the house, and guns going off in the house, and stuff like that.
Well, when we come back, we’re going to talk about Tana’s childhood, and some of the trauma, and how that’s informed some of the decisions she made later in her life. Leave us a comment, question, or review at brainwarriorswaypodcast.com. We’ll enter you into a drawing to win one of our books. Also, what did you learn in this podcast? Write it down. Post it on any of your social media sites. We’d be so grateful. Hashtag Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast.
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Dr. Daniel Amen:
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