DifferentBrains.org is excited to present the live virtual panel: “Defeating Self-Defeat”, with Dr. Mark Goulston
Do you or someone you know procrastinate? Take things too personally? Not learn from your mistakes? Quit too soon? Try to change others? Hold onto grudges? What would be the positive impact on your relationships, on other people’s respect and your own self respect, and your self esteem if you overcame these or any other self-defeating behaviors? If you want to finally begin that journey to self-improvement and living the life you’ve always wanted and deserve, instead of the one you’ve settled for, you’ll want to watch this webinar featuring Dr. Mark Goulston, co-author of the WSJ Best Selling Book, Get Out of Your Own Way and creator of the Defeating Self Defeat audio masterclass at Himalaya Learning.
For more about Dr. Goulston: http://markgoulston.com/
For more about his audio course: https://himalaya.com/defeat (use offer code DEFEAT)
To download the slides presented by Dr. Goulston in the webinar, click here
ALI IDRISS (AI):
Hello, everyone. Welcome to our Different Brains Speaker Series is summer for June, Defeating Self-Defeat with Dr. Mark Goulston. My name is Ali Idriss, and I’m an intern at Different Brains, and I want to thank everyone for attending. We will start in just a minute, but first I want to share some information about Different Brains. Different Brains is a nonprofit organization that strives to encourage understanding and acceptance of individuals who have variation in brain function and social behavior known as neurodiversity. Our mission has three pillars: one) to mentor neurodiverse, adults and maximize their potential for employment and independence; two) to increase awareness of neurodiversity by producing interactive media; three) to foster a new generation of neurodivergent self advocates. Here at Different Brains we promote awareness through the production of a variety of neurodiverse media content, including our multiple web series, blogs, podcasts, movies, and documentaries, all available for free at DifferentBrains.org. All of our content is worked on by those in the mentorship program, including myself, through which we aid individuals and taking the first step towards achieving their goals, finding their voice, expanding their social skills, and understanding of the professional world. Additionally, we have begun facilitating research projects to better understand the ways people can maximize their potential. To find more information or to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit our website at DifferentBrains.org. Now onto our program for the night. I want to invite everyone to send questions using the Q&A feature in Zoom, which we’ll have a Q&A later, or by putting questions in the chat box. Now, let me introduce our speaker, Dr. Mark Goulston.
DR MARK GOULSTON (MG):
So, thank you for coming to this webinar. Let me tell you a little bit about what it’s about. I’m the author, or co-author, of nine books, and my very first book was called Get Out of Your Own Way. It looks like this, and you can find it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. One of the reasons I wrote it is because I figured out that there’s a difference between calamities and tragedies. A calamity is a calamity because it’s unavoidable – a flood, a fire, COVID – and it seems unavoidable. I mean, we can learn from it and try and prevent it, but a tragedy is a tragedy because it seems like it could have been avoided. And one of the greatest personal tragedies in our life is getting to the end of our life, when we don’t have much time, and thinking it could have been much better. It could have been much better if I didn’t get in my own way. If I didn’t give into self-defeating behaviors, and what I could have avoided, I failed to prevent because I couldn’t get out of my own way. So, here are some of those self defeating behaviors. And coinciding with this, there’s an audio course. It’s actually my first course. It’s at Himalaya.com/defeat. And at the end of this I’ll show you a QR code, and you can just capture that in your camera. It’ll take you to a blog that explains the course and how to access it and how to access it for free. But, as I read these, can you think of someone who may suffer from any of these things? Do you know anybody who procrastinates? Do you know anybody who takes things too personally? People who don’t learn from their mistakes? People quit too soon? People who try to change others? People who hold on to grudges? People think “I’m sorry” is enough to make up for having hurt someone? Do you know anyone who talks too much? Know anyone who feels sorry for themselves too much? How do people who make a bad situation worse, or what about taking “no” for an answer when we shouldn’t? Or, not taking “no” for an answer when we should? Well, what about just letting fear run your life?
So what I’m going to do is, I’m going to give you an education about how our personality forms, and how, because of that, it leads to self-defeating behaviors. In this slide, I’m hoping you can all see it, is actually a picture of how our personality develops. If you look below this slide, you’ll see that all through life we’re stepping into the unknown – when we go from birth to our first breath, we go from awake to sleeping through the night. All these stages that are picked up all the way to the end – college to career and marriage, and adult life and, then, the end of our life. And picture this in your mind’s eye, that every time we step out into the unknown – we get nervous, we get scared, or if we hit a home run – we want to look back at our parents, who hopefully, maybe, are watching us. Rapprochement is a French term, and it means looking back. So picture this, all through life we step into the unknown, and when we step into the unknown, we have what’s called separation anxiety. What does that mean? It feels that when we’re in the unknown, we’re going to get anxious, we’re going to get panicky, we’re going to freak out, and that’s when we look back. That’s what rapprochement is. And depending on what we see when we look back, we take that inside, and we internalize it. Then what happens is after we internalize that, and we start to get into our early teens, you’ve probably heard of the term separation anxiety, but you may not have heard of the term individuation anxiety. So as I mentioned, separation anxiety is how we feel when we step into the unknown. But, if you’re a teenager, imagine that you’re kind of in the unknown, and the next step is to step into adulthood.
But if you feel that you can’t make it into adulthood because you feel too confused – you don’t know what you want to do, you don’t know what to major in – when you go to college, you’re lost. Also, individuation anxiety is something that a lot of young girls, and for that matter, young boys, with eating disorders have. If you think of anyone you know, people who are listening, that might have an eating disorder, and, if you are listening in, we’d love to take your questions when we get to that part of the program. But, individuation anxiety means, “okay, I’m separate from my parents, but, geez, I don’t know how to make it into adulthood. I’m really nervous. I’m in the middle of puberty, and I’m getting all these sexual hormones running around, and boys are looking at me, or girls are looking at me, and I’m all sort of messed up”. And so, what happens with people with eating disorders is they grab on to something that they can focus on and control. And something they grab onto is food. Food is something that we’ve been grabbing on to even while we were in our mom’s womb, and also exercising. And, so it feels like, as long as I’m able to exercise and control my food and my weight, it’s a way of distracting me from the fact that I’m just scared that I can’t make it into adulthood. Now, I’m going to share the next slide. When I share this, especially with parents, I tend to set it up this way because the next slide is one of the ugliest slides you’re ever going to see.
But, when parents are looking in, I make this bold challenge that it’s going to go, I believe, from ugly to something you’re going to want to keep a copy of all of your life because it may explain a lot of your life to you. We will certainly make those available to you after the presentation so you can have copies of it. So, again, this slide is about looking back when you step into the unknown, and when you look back, you can receive this from your parents. I told you it was ugly. So if you look at the four columns, you’ll see coddling, negative, absent, loving TMC, which stands for teacher/mentor/coach. What does this mean? You step into the unknown, and you look back, and if you have parents who coddle you – who make it all better for you, who bail you out of all situations – so that you never learn how to deal with them. What happens is you grow up expecting to be bailed out of situations. And then, as you start to go through your adolescence, you’re so used to being bailed out of your upset, sometimes you can turn into that teenager who tells your parents “write my college essay, do this for me”. And then, sometimes what happens is, you are kind of spoiled because you never learn to sort of deal with life on your own.
If you think of what a compulsion is – compulsive eating, compulsive drinking, compulsive anything – what they all have in common is a compulsion distracts us from a bad mood. Geez, if I drink a little bit, or maybe a lot, I don’t feel as bad. Gee, if I procrastinate, and I put something off, oh, I feel better than I felt when I felt that lingering over me. Now the problem with self-defeating behavior is, we use all of them to make us feel better for the moment, but if we give into them, we fall behind everyone. What we receive from our parents is usually a combination of all of these, but you can see that if you’re purely coddled and spoiled by your parents so you never deal with life, you can see how when you run into adult problems, or what we call adult obstacles, you have compulsive behavior. Then by the time you get to your adult life, it can be lost, you can be someone who can’t ever support yourself. And at the end of your life, it can sometimes feel as if, “Did I waste my life?”. Now, let’s go to the next – it’s not a column, the next unblocking on that – maybe I’m having a little self-defeating behavior – the next row.
So what if you look back and you step in the unknown and something upset you, but instead of being coddled, you get criticized. People tell you, it’s your own fault. You’re feeling hurt or scared, and they criticize you. So what happens is you feel hurt but underneath the hurt, you’re angry. When you become an adolescent, you don’t even want to talk to your parents. You want to say to them instead, “leave me alone”, and as you get older, you’re kind of hostile. You’re belligerent. And then, when you run into an obstacle as an adult, what do you do? You blame others because you were blamed. If you get too much of that, by the time you reach your adult life, the end point of blaming and being angry is you end up bitter. Many of us know a relative or a friend who’s bitter, and we just don’t want to be around them. Now, what about the third row? You run into an obstacle, and then there’s nobody there. You’re all on your own, and so you get scared. So what happens is you tend to not take chances because if you take chances and you fall on your face, no one’s there to help you. So, you don’t take chances. You begin to have this scared attitude about life, and you start to think nothing will ever work. You start to have this defeatist attitude. You run into a problem as an adult, and you just pull away. You don’t show up for work for a week – What happened to John? What happened to Nancy? I don’t know. Well, you ran into an obstacle, and because you internalized that, you didn’t deal with it. And at the end of your life, you feel empty, because you didn’t take chances. And then the fourth row is different. That’s what happens when you look back, and you have what we call a loving teacher/mentor/coach.
Now I’m sure people listening may not remember this, because it happened in 1997, but you may remember the person it happened to. His name is Tiger Woods. We know he’s run into some difficulty and a lot of physical injuries in the past 10 years or so. But in 1997, Tiger Woods was playing in his first Masters Tournament. That’s one of the majors. And on the front line of the Masters Tournament, he shot 40. If you know anything about golf, and you’re a pro, 40 is not a good score for nine holes. It’s either three or four over par. So what does he do? He goes to his father, Earl Woods, and up to that time Earl and Tiger were not only father and son, they were best friends. Earl was a loving teacher/mentor/coach. So, Tiger doesn’t have to turn inside for whatever he hass internalized because that person is still there. So he goes to his father, Earl, and he says, “I don’t know what’s happening. I can’t play. Nothing’s working right.” But because Earl had been that teacher/mentor/coach, Earl just let him talk, listened to him – that was the loving part – and he looked back and he said, “Tiger, you’ve been here hundreds of times before. Do what you need to do.” Tiger looked at Earl. Earl listened to him. Tiger listened to Earl, took a deep breath, went back on the course and shot 18 under par. If you add 18 under par to the 40 he shot on the front nine, that means he shot like 22 or 23 under par. That record has never been equaled until this year, so 1997 to 2021. It stood for 24 years because he got to internalize that. And what happens is, when you can internalize that, you run into an obstacle and often an obstacle makes you feel “I can’t push forward”, “I can’t push forward”, so you turn inward into what you were raised with.
If you turn inward, and you come up with being spoiled, and there’s no one there spoiling you, you’ll reach for a self-defeating behavior, which makes you feel better for the moment. But then it takes away from you dealing with things. If you reach in, and what you come up with is criticism, then you just get angry, and you find a way to blame people when you run into an obstacle. Then, when you reach inside, and you come up with nothing, as we said before, you run away, you go and hide. Or, if you reach inside, and you come up with what was a loving teacher/mentor/coach, you come up with a feeling that you can get through it. Now, my parents, I miss them. They’ve both been dead and gone for a while, but my father was a little bit on the critical side. I think he meant well, and I think part of it is he wanted to be a good provider. He was always worried, but his way of being worried was to be somewhat critical. And so, if I was worried about something – if I was afraid, if I did something wrong – there was a little bit of a combination of either that negativity, or just feeling all alone with it. So I think I grew up with a combination. In spite of that, I was able to sort of make my way into medical school. But then what happened is, when I was out in medical school – because of how rigorous it was, how tough it was – I, and Hackie knows about this because we were classmates in medical school, what happened is I got depressed. I got so depressed that I dropped out of medical school. I took a leave of absence and I went and worked and just simple jobs. I just wanted to give my brain a rest because I was highlighting all the books. All my books where yellow, and I was hoping I could hold on to it, but I couldn’t. I went out, and I just did regular jobs where I could give my brain a rest. I came back, and I was good for about three months. And then the depression came back. See, when I was running into an obstacle and I reached inside, I didn’t have anything to really support me. So the second time the depression came back, I sought to take another, what’s called, a leave of absence, which means, miraculously, I wasn’t failing, so I could take time off.
What I didn’t know is that every time someone takes time off, the medical school loses money. The tuition that a medical student pays is not enough to cover all the expenses of educating medical students. So the second time I asked for a leave of absence, I met with the head of the school, who really cared about financing the school, and I don’t even remember meeting with him. But I got a call from the Dean of Students, who Hackie and I both know, both remember, both miss, both loved. The Dean of Students cared more about students. I think the head of the school is worried that if they asked me to withdraw, which is a nice way of kicking me out, that I might do something self destructive, and I may very well have. So I go and meet with the Dean of Students – I didn’t have an Earl Woods – and he shared with me a letter that he got from the Dean of the School, which basically said that the head of the school had met with me and was suggesting that I try some other profession. He was going to recommend to the promotions committee that oversaw promotions and leaves of absence, he was going to recommend to them that they asked me to withdraw. When I asked the Dean of Students, “What does this mean?”. His name was Dean William McNeary. He said, “Mark, you’ve been kicked out.” And what happened is, I actually think a miracle happened because when he said that, it was almost as if I was just punched in the stomach. I just kind of caved, and I felt lost. I will tell you, if he said to me, “if I can help you give me a call”, I would have gone back to where I was staying, and there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have given him a call. Maybe I was too proud. Maybe I was too ashamed. And there’s a possible chance that I wouldn’t be here today. But he didn’t do that. What he said to me – so imagine, you’re someone who feels that you’re only worth what you can produce in life, and you can no longer produce anything – so imagine someone saying to you, “Mark, you didn’t mess up, because you’re passing everything, but you are messed up. But if you got unmessed up, I think the school would be glad they gave you a second chance. And so when he said that to me – I’m just remembering it right now, my eyes just teared up because I didn’t know what he was doing, and that was the loving part of him – and then he said, “Mark, even if you don’t get unmessed up, even if you don’t become a doctor, even if you don’t do anything with the rest of your life, I’d be proud to know you.”
At that point, I am just sobbing. And then he said something to me, which changed the course of my life. And he said, “Mark, I’d be proud to know you because you have a bunch of goodness in you that the world needs, and we should grade it medical school but we really don’t. And you don’t know how much the world needs that goodness that you have. And you won’t know it till you’re 35, but you have to make it till you’re 35. I looked down because I couldn’t believe someone saw a future for me. Someone saw something that was worthwhile in me. I couldn’t believe it. And then he said, “You look at me”, and I looked at him and he said, “You deserve to be on this planet, and you’re gonna let me help you.” I can remember it like it happened yesterday. I remember looking down, and I raised my hand and said, “I think I’d like that.” And then he arranged an appeal, and I was able to make my case. For some reason or another, the people in the promotions committee, I guess they saw some of this goodness. I didn’t see it.
So I took another year off, and I went and worked at a famous psychiatric foundation called the Menninger foundation. It’s still around. It’s in Texas now, but it used to be in Topeka, Kansas. I actually found that I could connect with people with schizophrenia, farm boys. I grew up in a suburb of Boston, I didn’t know anything about farms. But I found that I was able to connect with some of these people. I finished that year knowing what I was going to do. I came back to medical school, finished medical school, then I went and trained in psychiatry.
If you look at the bottom of this chart, what it says “can’t be changed”, and what that meant to me is that as long as I was living under the direct influence of my family, and I wasn’t getting enough of the loving teacher/mentor/coach – and I’ve made peace with that because I know inside both my parents were loving – because they didn’t receive enough of the loving teacher/mentor/coach, they had trouble giving it. It can be changed, because I am evidence of it. And so, Dean McNeary was my first mentor. I think a mentor can sometimes be that person who can be that parent, or give you some of those things that your parents never gave you, maybe because no one gave it to them. I’ve had eight mentors since then. The last one was Larry King. You may remember him from CNN. I went to breakfast with him every day for two years before COVID. Before him, I was mentored by someone you probably don’t know, but people out in the corporate world and people in the leadership field know of him. His name was Warren Bennis. What happens is, I internalize the loving teacher/mentor/coach of all of them. And so I want you to imagine something, if you’ve ever walked through a forest, and you’ve seen cut trees, you’ll see the rings of a tree and every ring is a year. Those rings tell you the history of the tree.
Now, if you look at the tree on the left, that’s a tree that was traumatized. You know, it wasn’t solid at the beginning. How it made it through is probably a miracle, but what those inner rings show is that tree was traumatized. Who knows how? By fire? By flood? But somehow it made it through. It still doesn’t feel like it has a solid core. So it’s made it through life, and it kept going, but, way down deep, it’s still not as solid as the tree on the right. I’m going to give you something that I would like you to create. This is called the Destress Exercise and Journal. During COVID, I wrote two books. One of them is called, I’ll get it for you… one of the books is called Why Cope When You Can Heal, and I wrote it with this wonderful woman named Diana Hendel, which led a hospital through a double murder suicide by an employee of the month. In that book, I introduced the Destress Exercise and Journal. That is Dean McNeery on the left side of the screen. That’s the Dean of Students. What I’d like you to do, so that you can build yourself from the inside out, is get yourself a journal. Get yourself a small journal, and paste a picture on the inside cover of someone who cares about you, someone who believes in you when you don’t believe in yourself, someone who sees a future when you don’t see a future. And then what happens is every time you run into a roadblock, imagine that person talking you through it. Now, you might say “I don’t have anyone like that”. Well, if you’re a young teenager, you could borrow LeBron James or Steph Curry or another hero. It really doesn’t matter. They would say the same thing to you. Imagine you run into a problem, and instead of reacting with a self-defeating behavior, what I do is I imagine Dean McMeery saying “you can do this, Mark”. Write down the date and time of what just happened. Then I write down as if I’m talking to him, and he’s asking me what just happened. I do a lot of podcasts, and I tend to go off on tangents. I’m staying pretty organized for this so I don’t have to reach out to him. But sometimes he’ll say “what just happened?”. I was in a podcast, I started telling a story, I couldn’t finish it. I said there were five points to remember, and I only got to three of them. Then I imagine him saying “what did you think when that happened?” “Oh, Dean McNeery, I’m so unpolished. Well, I don’t know why even do this.” And then I imagine him saying “what did you feel when it happened?” “I felt embarrassed. I’ve done all these sort of interviews. I should be more professional”. And then I imagine him saying, and this is the most important thing, “what does it make you want to do now?” And what I might write down is it makes me feel like quitting, makes me feel like not doing it anymore. I don’t seem to be able to get it right. And then I imagine him saying to me, “Mark, you know I love you. Take a deep breath”. Then I imagine him saying “what would be a better thing to do”. And then, I’ll just share this because this is what’s happening, I’d say “well, I probably shouldn’t run away because after the interview, the host said, ‘You were great. We want to have you back’. So apparently not finishing stories or finishing the five steps, I’m amazed that I got through all six of these”, until I imagine him saying to me, “Why that? Why would that be a better thing to do?” Because instead of running away, I realized that I can handle it. And see when you do that, this is what happened with all my mentors, is I’ve internalized them. So now I am the tree on the left.
So when something happens to me, and I reach inside, I don’t come up with negativity, I don’t come up with feeling alone. Instead, what happens is, I think of for me, since they’re all dead mentors, I think of what they were in my life. I appreciate them. I’m grateful to them, I sometimes reach out to the families of all these mentors and say, “You know, I think your dad, your grandpa, you may not know this, but I think you might have saved my life”. If I go back to Dean McNeary, then I’m just filled with gratitude and missing Dean McNeary. Because we want to be able to get some questions, we’ll end with this. If you scan with your camera, that QR code, it will take you to a blog on my website that talks about this course, Defeating Self-Defeat. It’ll tell you a little bit more about how I view self-defeating behavior. IF you go to the site, Himalaya.com/defeat, and you put in “defeat” in the promo code, you’ll be able to hear the entire course. The entire course covers all of those 12 self-defeating behaviors that we mentioned at the beginning. So, I think in the interest of time, and hopefully people have questions, I’d love to take some of them now and maybe we can do that.
Thank you so much, Dr. Goulston. Everyone, you can, just on the, below, there’s a little, little button you can press, “Q&A”, and put in some questions or in the chat box. We have our first question. It reads, “What are some ways one could find a mentor, if they don’t have one?”
Okay, I’ll repeat it. What are some ways to find a mentor, if you don’t have one? Something I will tell you, it’s a secret I discovered about my mentors. I thought they were really doing me a favor, but what I realized is being interested in them was doing them a favor because a number of my mentors, they had, they were not just smart, they had wisdom about life. A lot of people in their current lives didn’t care about their wisdom. So, one of the ways you can find a mentor – and here’s also a way – I call this How to Win Friends and Influence Famous People. A lot of these people that you might want to reach out to write books. I will tell you something, as someone who has written nine books, I will read the reviews because I want to learn how to make the book better. I want to fit what’s what’s bad about it. Sometimes, I’ll see hundreds of reviews, but I won’t see a video review. I can tell you, if you go and find someone and there’s many reviews, and there’s no video review, you can be the first one to write a video review. If you write a video review, here’s what you say when you write it.
First of all, read the book. I know with my books, it really touches me when someone really gets what I’m trying to communicate to my readers. And one of the things that I really appreciate is if they do a video review, and when they’re writing it, instead of being general, if they say, “Dr. Goulston, I read your book and on page 33, when you wrote about such and such, that really applied to me, and this is how I use it. That’s a much different review than someone, you know, just saying, “oh, it was wonderful, and it changed my life”. That’s fine too, but I can tell you, when someone says that, it’s a much more powerful review. And if they’re the only person who wrote a video review and did something like that, and then they found a way to reach me on my website, I would return their email. And so that’s just one way of reaching people. But it’s really on you to reach them. It’s up to you to take the initiative because, the mentor is probably not going to reach out to you, What you really want to do is establish a relationship with them. And as I said, the more that you can tap into what they’re really trying to communicate to readers or listeners or other people, the more they’re going to feel appreciative that you really got where they’re coming from. There’s a good chance that they will, that they will communicate with you. Then again, you can be very polite, and you can say, you know, I’ve never had a mentor, but and I know your time is precious, but would I be able to check in with you, you know, whatever time you had, because I’d love to have a mentor, and I’d love to have you be my mentor. So that’s just one suggestion. Another question?
Thank you, Dr. Goulston. Yes, one more question. Adriana asks, “How do you deal with your depression? Your life in medical school sounds like mine at the moment.”
Um, I think what I didn’t do is I didn’t reach out for help because there was such a stigma. But if you’re going through medical school, first of all, you need to realize that depression and anxiety and burnout is widespread. So, one of the things I would do is I would do a search online for burnout, chat rooms, places to focus. I’ll tell you what happens when you start to share what you’re going through with someone else who’s sharing it. There’s just a little bit of neuroscience, and I can get away with it because this is Different Brains. this has some neurological stuff going on. See what happens is, when we’re depressed, and we’re stressed, our cortisol goes up. Cortisol is a stress hormone that readies our body to deal with it. But when the stress gets too much, it starts to become distress, and it’s tough to focus. That’s what happened to me in medical school, the depression got so great, that instead of being stressed, and still being able to focus, with difficulty, it crossed over into distress. And my focus was, how do I relieve the pain? And what happens is, when that happens, the distress starts to trigger something in our brains called an amygdala. And an amygdala is a part of our brain that causes the blood flow in our brain to go from our upper thinking brain, where we can focus and we can function, to our lower brain, which is all about survival. That’s called an amygdala hijack. Something I didn’t know, but which I’m preaching everywhere, is yes, it’s good to meditate.
Yes, it’s good to do mindfulness. That increases your endorphins, and endorphins is our sense of well being That can sort of help the cortisol, but what really helps it is oxytocin. Oxytocin is bonding to others. Many of you have had that feeling of oxytocin. If you’re not feeling too good, and someone that you know, without soliciting it, they notice that you’re not feeling too good. And they ask you with total kindness “are you, okay?” You may shy away, “no I’m fine”. But if they persist, and they say, “I don’t know if you’re fine. You know, you look different. You look like you’re going through something. What’s happening?” When someone gives you kindness like that, and they ask you a few questions, you start to cry with relief. And what’s happening is you’re feeling oxytocin. So I would say, I think it’s Adriana, go reach out, you will find groups. And as they begin to share and you begin to share, you’re all going to be bathed in oxytocin. And the oxytocin is going to lessen your high cortisol. Your blood flow is going to go back to your upper brain, so you’ll be able to function. Now that said, I’m not saying don’t seek out a therapist or someone to talk to. Reach out to people who are going through it because one of the issues for a number of people is that when you’re going through something and you talk to someone who isn’t, inside we often say “that’s easy for you to say what you’re saying, you’re not going through the depression”. So that would be my suggestion. Adriana, and you’re going to get through it. You are. Next question.
Thank you, Dr. Goulston. Speaking of, since you brought up the destressing, we have one more question, bringing that up. It reads, “do you think your destress exercise would help with trauma as well?
Yeah, absolutely. Because the destress exercise, and the slides will be available to you, I’ll tell you what happens. Because why don’t we talk about Why Cope When You Can Heal, we actually come up with, I hate to use the word, 12 phases of emotional algorithm. What’s an algorithm? It’s something where step by step by step by step, you go through things. And I’ll tell you a little bit about it, but you can find out more if you get Why Cope When You Can Heal. If you’re a healthcare worker, or first responder, and you are in the heart of the COVID pandemic, what happens is, and you see horrendous things, you go through this experience, and I’ll just give you a few of the steps, where you’re traumatized by what you see, because you’re horrified. So trauma happens, and the horror is you see something that is beyond awful, that you can imagine. And you barely get through it, but you’re well trained. Then when you get away from it and you go home, you start to feel terrified because, while you’re away from it, you start reliving it. And then the terror crosses over into feeling fragile, “I don’t know that I can go back and face it again”. But because you’re duty bound, this is what happens to military, because you’re duty bound, and you’re dedicated to your colleagues and they’re dedicated to you, you somehow, instead of going into panic, which is where fragile leads you, what happens is there’s a huge surge of adrenaline. Adrenaline insulates us from physical pain, and psychological and emotional pain, temporarily. An NBA player can play on a fractured leg because of all the adrenaline.
And what happens is, if you’re a healthcare worker, or you’re traumatized person, and you have no choice, but you have to go back, when the agenda adrenaline surges, it enables you to push away your thoughts and push down your feelings. So what happens is you don’t think you can make it through a shift and “voila!”, you’ve just made it through 48 hours. Here’s the analogy. The adrenaline is surging because of all the danger you feel, and that horror and that terror, what happens is, it’s like a screaming alley cat, and you lock it in a cellar. That’s what the adrenaline allows you to do. Then there’s another screaming alley cat in your head, you’re locked out in the cellar, and then five more than 10 more, then 50 more. And what’s happening is you’re functioning every day, because that adrenaline is insulating you from those horrifying and terrifying thoughts and feelings. Then when the danger passes, the adrenaline goes away, and as the insulation goes away, it feels as if all those cats want to come out and just rip through that door and just rip you apart. That’s what happens to military veterans. They’re not in a war zone, why would they come back and feel like they can’t take it anymore. Twenty to 22 of them tragically end their life. They’re not in a war zone. That’s because not being in a war zone, the adrenaline is gone, and all the horrific and terrifying things they saw and felt feel like they’re going to invade them. They don’t even know why it didn’t take them down the first time. And one of the things I’ve been trying to do, but I’ve given up on it, is I’ve been trying to rename post traumatic stress into what people experience. And the experience is retraumatization avoidance. Retraumatization avoidance. We write about that in Why Cope When You Can Heal. When you’ve been traumatized, and when I talk to people have been severely traumatized, not just by COVID, but maybe childhood violence, rape, molestation, bankruptcy, when I was telling people that we were writing this book, Why Cope When You Can Heal, especially the women, they start to cry. I say, “What are you crying about?” And they say, “If only.” And I say, “If only what?” They say, “If only I could heal.” And I say, “What do you mean?” They say, “I’m not the same.
The trauma changed something in me. I’m not the same. I’m tentative. I never fully relax. I don’t know peace. I know exhaustion. I have fun. I don’t know joy.” And one of the reasons they don’t relax is because, when you ask them, “Do you think you could go through it again?” The people I asked, they say, “Absolutely not. I don’t know why it didn’t take me down the first time.” And so they’re always on guard because they’re afraid that if they are re-traumatized, by clearly remembering their thoughts and feelings, it’ll take them down the second time. And so what we’ve organized, based on Why Cope When You Can Heal, is putting together groups of people who have gone through a similar trauma and having them walk through all the steps. What was the first moment you felt horror? When did you feel terrified? And, as they’re talking, we help them breathe through the steps. We may have them use a destress exercise you imagine your mentor telling you, “It’ll be okay. It’s not happening again. You’re just rethinking the thoughts, you pushed away, and you’re really feeling the feelings that you push down. You’ll be okay.” And then what happens is we walk them and talk them through those feelings, and they experience them, and then they heal from the inside out. That’s why we call it surgical empathy. So I hope you could track with that. And if that’s of interest to you, I hope you’ll check out why coping, you can heal.
Thank you, Dr. Goulston. We have time for one more question, and it reads, “What does someone have to do to believe in themselves?”
You know, it’s interesting you bring that up. I wish I could be one of those people who when you have these affirmations that they work. They don’t work for me. If I say to myself, “you’re really a good person”, I don’t believe it. So if someone says, you know, you’ve really achieved a lot, I don’t believe it. I mean, if I say that to myself. If you can think of people who believed in you, and they’re not just saying it because they have to, if you can pick anybody who’s ever believed in you in your life. See, I can accept from any of my dead mentors, and I call it the dead mentors club. I don’t mean to make fun of it, but there’s eight, and they’ve all passed away. I will allow any of them to talk me through it. And I will tell you, if you see, I don’t have anyone like that. All you have to do is listen to some of the inspiring stories from some of your favorite athletes. And I am telling you, if you could reach them, and you might be able to, you could say, “you know you don’t know me. But when you told me what you got through it I imagined you telling me I could get through it. And I just want to tell you, LeBron, Steph, You don’t know me, but you saved my life. And I’m rooting for you.” You could do that, but allow yourself to take it in. And I will tell you this, I don’t know you, I just wrote this, but everyone who is on this call right now, if we open up, they would all say, we all believe in you. You need to take that in, because it’s true.
Thank you to Dr. Mark Goulston for that great presentation. Thanks to all of you for attending. We will be sharing links and contact information in the chat box and on the on the screen. That’s it for today’s episode. From everyone here at Different Brains, have a good night.