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Country music star Michael Peterson and his retired army colonel wife Jill Chambers have unquestionably changed their lives through the pursuit of better brain health. Now they’re taking the lessons they’ve learned and passing them on to schoolchildren through their own special programs. In part 3 of a series on these brain warriors, Michael and Jill share their stories of teaching brain transformation with Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Doctor Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here, we teach you how to win the fight for your brain, to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades, using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit brainmdhealth.com. Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We're with Michael Peterson and Jill Chambers. We're having an amazing-
Tana Amen: So much fun.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... time, and let's talk about how when they changed themselves, they actually got involved in changing the lives of thousands of children.
Tana Amen: Yes.
Michael Peterson In my early 20s, somebody asked me if I would speak to a group of kids, and I was stunned at the end of my presentation how many kids came up to me and said, "Wow, you survived some pretty traumatic things." My father was murdered when I was 15, my step-dad committed suicide when I was 17, so I grew up in a family where there was multiple marriages, a lot of trauma, abuse happening.
Dr Daniel Amen: See, I told you, you're a six.
Michael Peterson So I shared my story and I was surprised at how many kids said, "Thank you for sharing your story." It put me on this path, 30 years ago, of feeling a calling to speak to teenagers. Over the three decades, it's had a bunch of different iterations, if you will, but all of them really focused on inspiring and encouraging young people who have dealt with trauma, that they're going to be okay, that there are things they can do to help themselves.
In the mid-2000s, Jill and I were given a grant to deliver some programs in 13 high schools in Huntsville, Alabama, Madison County there. So we began to look for, like, what could we bring to these students that would be new, that would be fresh, the would be interesting? Not coincidentally, in 2009, 2010 ... well, 2012 I guess it was-
Colonel Jill Chambers: [crosstalk 00:02:36].
Michael Peterson ... we were at the place where we were trying to figure out, with the third year of our contract, what we were going to do. Well, that was right around the time that we had met you, that we'd had a brain scan. I looked at Jill and I said, "Man, if I had only had this information when I was a teenager, my life ... I could have really avoided a lot of heartache and all the problems in my life." So we looked at each other and said, "Why wouldn't we put this into a format where students could experience it as an assembly program, as a way to be introduced to the work of Daniel and Tana?" So we did, and we contacted you and said, "What do you think about this?"
As a result, there were 13 high schools in Madison County who got introduced to the idea of, when your brain works better, your whole life works better, and students started getting brain envy, is what you say. We're currently working on developing this in Walden Grove school district, outside of Tucson, Arizona. We've applied for some grants. We're hoping that, really, this can spread all over the state of Arizona, and our vision, our mission is that every student in America should have the opportunity to understand that there's a free resource available to them through a thing called brainchangers.org. It's a free curriculum-
Tana Amen: Awesome.
Michael Peterson ... and every student that you've tested, that has gone through this, has had real positive results in terms of their life getting better, their studies getting better, their relationships, everything getting better. So why wouldn't every school district in the country pick up on this? So we're working together with you guys to develop assembly opportunities, and with Jesse, Doctor Jesse Payne, your son-in-law, to develop opportunities for this to be seen in every high school, for every high school in America to become a brain healthy high school.
Tana Amen: That's awesome, and of course now you made me super curious about your story, because I don't think I know your story before the time that we met you, so-
Dr Daniel Amen: Yeah, no, [inaudible 00:04:35] heard me make a comment to Tana and, like, well, not understand it. I said, "Yes, your family was a six." We were talking about, on a scale of one to 10, what was the environment you grew up in-
Tana Amen: No, it was so dysfunctional.
Dr Daniel Amen: Wait, wait, wait.
Tana Amen: He keeps saying it was a six. It was way worse than six.
Dr Daniel Amen: So mine was like 2.5, right. I had a great family.
Tana Amen: No, he like ... Leave it to beaver.
Dr Daniel Amen: But it definitely wasn't perfect. I was one of seven, nobody paid attention to me.
Tana Amen: His parents are amazing.
Dr Daniel Amen: My dad was sort of a jerk but-
Tana Amen: They're amazing.
Dr Daniel Amen: But it was like a 2.5, right. We always had clothes, there was no-
Tana Amen: 1.52.
Dr Daniel Amen: But we see people who've grown up in serious trauma. One of my first patients at Amen Clinics was the grandmother who was taking her grandson to jail repeatedly because her son had murdered his wife, the boy's mother. So that was sort of like an 8.5 on a scale of one to 10. So Michael's describing, like, an eight of horrific childhoods and-
Tana Amen: Yeah, and now I'm so curious, but ...
Michael Peterson Well, you know, [crosstalk 00:05:49].
Tana Amen: I still think mine's worse than a six but ...
Michael Peterson Well, when you grew up in the middle of whatever you're experiencing, it's just what you know.
Tana Amen: Right.
Michael Peterson I have a lot of fun memories from my childhood and I know that my parents did the best that they knew [inaudible 00:06:02].
Michael Peterson But when you step back and you say, "Wow, all this stuff that happened in my life," and on top of that, I was having some brain balance problems, even as a young person. I had real trouble with comprehension, reading, math. I was left-handed, right-handed, I couldn't decide. I couldn't tell you left from right until I was about 12 years old because I broke a front tooth and they told me that was my left tooth, and so when they said, "Which hand is your left hand?" I would reach up with my tongue and feel that tooth. I just had a hard time, was I right brain dominant, left brain dominant? There was just challenges.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: And then you played football, right, if I remember right?
Michael Peterson Played college football, high school football, basketball, sports as an outlet to try to find some way to build my self esteem. I was involved with music. But when I was 15, my birth father was shot to death-
Female: [inaudible 00:07:00].
Michael Peterson ... and my step-dad killed himself when I was 17, so those had a profound impact on me.
Tana Amen: All right, he beats me.
Michael Peterson Well, it's not ... yeah. It's not a competition.
Tana Amen: It's not a contest, I know, but ... Well, on the scale of one to 10 ...
Michael Peterson But it's all relative. I love, we were in church on Sunday and they talked about there is actually not one normal family in the Bible-
Tana Amen: No, the Bible is full of dysfunction, so-
Michael Peterson ... so if you think of Adam and Eve, so they're like, right out of the gate-
Tana Amen: They're a mess.
Michael Peterson ... they have a child that murders the other child.
Tana Amen: David, God's chosen one, was a complete disaster.
Michael Peterson Right, and Jesus's parents left him for three days, embalmed in a temple. The CPS would have come and taken Jesus away from Joseph and Mary.
Tana Amen: I'm like dying, hearing all this.
Colonel Jill Chambers: Hilarious. [crosstalk 00:07:49].
Michael Peterson Yeah, so somehow we survived, somehow [crosstalk 00:07:49].
Tana Amen: Right. See, I think of myself as a survivor. I think of myself as stronger now, but yeah, looking back is-
Dr Daniel Amen: So you are both normal and-
Tana Amen: I think I'm amazing. I'm not easy but I'm amazing.
Michael Peterson I would agree with that. Yeah, I would completely agree with that, that you are an amazing woman-
Dr Daniel Amen: He agrees [crosstalk 00:08:06].
Colonel Jill Chambers: [crosstalk 00:08:05].
Michael Peterson ... just not easy.
Tana Amen: But I'm not easy.
Dr Daniel Amen: All right. Drink, Swear and Lie, it's available now.
Tana Amen: I can't wait to hear it.
Dr Daniel Amen: It's gorgeous and has so many great-
Tana Amen: I'm going to download it.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... songs. And the name of your high school program, Michael, that people can learn about ... So they can go to brainchangers.org and learn about the work Jesse's been doing, Brain Thrive By 25, the work that I've been doing, but how can they learn more about the high school work you've been doing?
Michael Peterson Yeah, you just go to michaelpetersononline.com.
Dr Daniel Amen: michaelpetersononline-
Michael Peterson And look under our segment ... a section called Moving People.
Dr Daniel Amen: I love that. Wow, we love you both very much and we're so grateful for your time.
Tana Amen: Thank you so much.
Colonel Jill Chambers: [crosstalk 00:08:54].
Tana Amen: It was wonderful.
Colonel Jill Chambers: It was fun.
Tana Amen: Thank you for sharing your stories.
Michael Peterson Thank you all. We love having you guys as our friends and we love the work that you're doing, you're going to change the world.
Colonel Jill Chambers: Absolutely.
Michael Peterson Thank you.
Tana Amen: That's fantastic. Thank you so much.
Dr Daniel Amen: Thanks. Talk to you soon.
Colonel Jill Chambers: Bye.
Dr Daniel Amen: 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.