Tony welcomes Nate Christensen, APCC and host of the podcast "Working Change," with his wife Marla https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/working-change/id1582227016 to the Virtual Couch. Nate shares his 4-step emotional process and explains where we have more of an opportunity to work with our emotions to drive positive change in our lives. They also talk about the role of "gut feeling" and intuition, how sometimes it is essential to lean more into "trusting your gut," and why we must question our intuition on other occasions.
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[00:00:00] The. Come on in. Take a seat.
[00:00:22] Hey, everybody, welcome to episode 334 of the Virtual Couch. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist. And I am eager, I'm excited to get to today's episode with my buddy, my pal Nate Christiansen. So Nate has been on the virtual couch now more than any other guest. And true, he is my associate formerly known as Intern. So we work together. We're in the same building. And as I've been blessed with a very full practice, when people reach out to me and want to work with me specifically if my schedule is full, I do often refer them to Nate and so far I can honestly say that Nate has not disappointed. But if you are [00:01:00] familiar with Nate's appearances on the virtual couch, you'll know that Nate has a very good way of breaking down the way the brain works with regard to mental health issues. And I personally know from working with a lot of people now for almost two decades that often an understanding of the mechanisms of the brain are a huge part of the initial understanding of maybe why we feel or think or behave or react the way that we do. And knowing how we react is often a huge catalyst that can help drive change.
[00:01:29] So today we'll be no exception. We're going to be talking about how emotions happen and where they come from. And Nate is going to lay out what he refers to as a four step emotional process and where in that process we may have an opportunity to guide ne'er I say, lovingly control our emotions, and we're talking about the good kind of control of our emotions. So before I get to that interview with Nate, I have a few interviews in the can for my upcoming subscription based Magnetic Marriage podcast, and I can [00:02:00] honestly say that I wish I had done something like this sooner because I really feel like it's going to be extremely helpful for those who may be looking for more in their own marriages. To listen to couples be coached on how to use my four pillars of a connected conversation, or for people to truly see where that love versus control concept maybe comes into play in a real relationship and just so much more. So if you want to be one of the first to know when the podcast will launch, then go sign up on Tony over Buy.com. And if you are interested in being one of the anonymous couples to be coached, then feel free to reach out through that same the contact form on my website or you can email me at info info at Tony Overbay and we will get you scheduled to record.
[00:02:43] And I also wanted to just make you aware that I'll be giving a digital fireside with the folks at our Turtle House coming up soon. I'll have more information on that. And I've also been asked to well, on that one on our our Turtle House Digital Fireside, I've been asked to talk about mental health and dealing with life changing events. [00:03:00] And it's more of a in a spiritual context. So I'm excited about that. And if you happen to be a mental health professional and you reside in Utah, I will be delivering a keynote address at the upcoming annual mental health conference held down in Saint George, Utah, in late, later in October. So there's more details I'm sure to follow there. But I am I am honored. I'm excited to be a part of that conference. So that is all I have with the dates and the deets. So without any further ado, let's get to this episode with Nate Christiansen.
[00:03:30] Come on in and take a seat. I will.
[00:03:36] We've got levels going there. Say something, Nate.
[00:03:39] All right. I think that looks good. All right. Yeah. Christianson.
[00:03:43] Tony OVERBY.
[00:03:43] Welcome to the virtual couch. Thank you. This is your unprecedented I want to say, fourth or fifth or sixth appearance.
[00:03:51] I'm thinking it's either four or five.
[00:03:54] I think four virtual couches, one waking up the narcissism. Yeah. And so fifth virtual couch appearance maybe. [00:04:00] Okay. And now the fun part just I told me before that I'm going to be so authentic that Nate and I meet once a week, four or more for actually a couple of times a week for clinical supervision. And because his practice is growing and thriving and we had set up today to record a podcast and so we come in here and Nate said, All right, we're ready. And I had completely forgotten about it. So I'm excited because I am absolutely unprepared.
[00:04:26] Oh, it's going to be.
[00:04:27] Perfect because if I'm being honest, I don't remember what we're talking about.
[00:04:30] Well, I think this is something that you just know anyway from.
[00:04:34] Years of therapy. So you could probably just say all the brilliant stuff without even prepping. I need to do prep.
[00:04:40] Okay. You are too kind. And then very quickly, Nate and his wife, their podcast, Working Change is continuing to grow. That's kind of fun, right?
[00:04:48] Yeah, it is.
[00:04:49] Yeah. As a matter of fact, I keep meaning to put an episode as a bonus episode on here for the virtual couch, which I will do someday. But if you're listening right now, please go immediately to Nate's podcast, Working [00:05:00] Change and I'll have it in the show notes and subscribe and then give him amazing feedback because it really is good and you do it about every other week, right?
[00:05:07] Yeah, we usually do about two a month unless every now and again my wife will have finals and things will get crazy and that gets pushed a little bit back, but that's what we usually do.
[00:05:16] It's a really nice vibe because she's studying to be a therapist right now.
[00:05:19] Yeah, she's at Pepperdine studying to be an MFT, just like yourself. Yeah. And she will be starting her practicum in January.
[00:05:27] That schedule is getting more and more full. But I know. Did you just open up a spot or two? Yeah.
[00:05:32] I'm still continually adding spots here and there for people.
[00:05:35] Yeah. So if you are interested in working with Nate, then just reach out to me through my website at Tony orbcomm that easiest or email you. But yeah, I was giving out an email address. It was missing a letter.
[00:05:49] So so that one wasn't working.
[00:05:51] Yeah. But they did want to just contact you directly.
[00:05:53] Yeah. So they can reach me at Nate Christensen counseling at gmail.com. But there's my my name. [00:06:00] How many Christians and spellings are going to cause problems there?
[00:06:02] So yours is C Frist.
[00:06:05] E Ancienne.
[00:06:07] K Yeah. And I forget what letter I was missing, but so get hold of me. All right? Now I'm really excited, because what are we talking about today?
[00:06:15] Okay, so I was giving a presentation this last weekend to a group of single individuals. And my job, because my responsibility there was to speak about emotional management because I'm a therapist. Yes. And I got excited and my ADHD went a little wonky, as it has from time to time when I've been up in front of people. And so I presented a bunch of stuff, but I didn't get to kind of the meat of what I was intended to present, which was emotion management. And so I was thinking, you know what, maybe I'll just throw this on podcast and just put it out into the ether. And if some of the young people there didn't get exactly what they're looking for, they might stumble across this and get some more.
[00:06:58] Okay. And how was the experience speaking? I [00:07:00] get to speak with you for the first time. We were sharing the bill about a month or two ago and I really enjoyed that.
[00:07:06] Yeah, you know what? It's a lot of fun. It's a little nerve wracking at times. It's hard to speak with you. It's actually easy to do, but it's difficult because you don't necessarily realize where your limitations are at something until you work with someone that's really good at it and you're like, Okay, I've got some work to do.
[00:07:25] Again, buttering me up and you're very kind.
[00:07:28] Well, you have so much experience. You've been doing it for a long time.
[00:07:31] Okay, Nate, let's go. Here we go. We're all right. Emotion management.
[00:07:34] Okay. Yeah, so emotion. So I came up with a four step process, and I'm very curious your experience and things that you've read and what kind of information that you might insert into this. The place that I started was an emotion inducing experience. So for me, emotions to me break down these four steps. The first step I call an emotion inducing experience. And I broken that down [00:08:00] into three levels. So hopefully.
[00:08:02] So much.
[00:08:03] Like it gets too complicated. All right. So to me, there's three types of emotion inducing experience, at least three main types. So probably more than that. But these are the things that I see in my life and my clients and things I read about. So the first is like just a real life, like real time perception. So we view something or hear something or experience something and we get an emotion from that.
[00:08:28] It's almost like the visceral or gut reaction just.
[00:08:31] Yeah, it's just, I mean, it's just life, you know, you're walking down the street and something happens and. You.
[00:08:36] Somebody listen to the emotion. Yeah.
[00:08:39] Yeah. The emotion comes. Yeah. So that's. That's to me, the far and away the biggest cluster of these three. That to me happens most frequently. So first one, real life experience perception. Second one would be like memory recall. So we're thinking about something that's happened to us. It could be a good memory. It could be a bad memory. [00:09:00] Being someone with anxiety and maybe even ruminating thoughts in the past, oftentimes I would think about the bad because I'm trying to solve problems, which is so silly because I can't solve it in my head. But we sure try. Yeah. Bless our brains heart, right? Yeah.
[00:09:15] Yeah, exactly. And that's where you can just be sitting on the couch. You think of something and all of a sudden you're sad.
[00:09:20] Yeah, exactly.
[00:09:21] And you sometimes don't even know what you were thinking because that.
[00:09:25] Yeah. So that to me is the second type. The third type is kind of a future projection. So we think about what could happen in the future. Sometimes it's driven by anxiety. Sometimes we're dreaming about great things that we're going to accomplish. And so ultimately it's not about something that's happened. It's about something that could happen and that can invoke emotion.
[00:09:46] The crystal ball, you got your crystal ball?
[00:09:48] Absolutely. Absolutely. And it might even be that we are projecting this. I have to have interaction with this person that I happen to have issues with. And we're imagining all the things that can happen and we're finding yourself getting kind of emotionally riled up. [00:10:00]
[00:10:00] I went through and I won't take us off on a tangent right now too far. But I went through a period before I was a therapist and I was in a business relationship with somebody that I found myself doing that often to the point where it would ruin my morning run because I would just think, okay, I'm going to get to work. And he's probably going to say this. And so if he does, I'm saying this, and I didn't even realize until recently doing some of the work with Act of Boy, what a waste of emotional quality that was. Yeah, absolutely. It's most of the time it didn't even come close to that experience. Right.
[00:10:30] And so that is often driven by something more along the lines of anxiety. But all three of these types of things, we experience emotion based on any of those. Okay. I'm going to focus mainly on the first one, the perception, real time emotion, because it is my opinion and maybe I'll ask you is my opinion that the other two are not particularly that helpful to us?
[00:10:54] Yeah, because I'm dropping right into the ACT framework of where when we are ruminating about the past or [00:11:00] worrying about the future, that those are attempts of trying to solve the unsolvable or make sense of the things that who knows if they even make sense or worry about the things that will probably never happen. And so in act they say that we try to make we try to align ourselves with the present moment by ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. And I've realized that I can sound really dismissive because what I will often say is when my brain saying, Yeah, but this happened that I really need to just say it did. Yeah, period. Yeah. And then if we're like, but what if these things happen in the future, then it's that same energy of, well, that would be something. Yeah. So, but all I can really do is deal with the right now. Right. Okay. So that's. I'm with you on this.
[00:11:40] Yeah. Yeah, no. And I love that explanation. Okay. So focusing again on the real life like perception. So something has just happened and we saw it, experienced it in some way, hurt it, whatever, and then we're hit with so we are not in step two. Okay. So to me now we have been hit with primary motion. [00:12:00] So primary motion is basically reaction to stimulus. And it's generally believed that primary emotion lasts no longer than 60 to 90 seconds.
[00:12:10] Oh, I see. I've never heard that. I like that.
[00:12:12] Okay. Okay. So that's what I've read in a couple of places. So hopefully that is not changed in the last year.
[00:12:17] Yeah. Okay. No I like that one a.
[00:12:19] Year ago that that that. Yeah. Now as far as what's going on in the brain, you know, I kind of nerd out about.
[00:12:24] And this is what I like the most so I want to hear.
[00:12:26] Yes, different things happen in different areas, which is fascinating. So our limbic system, several structures of the brain exist there. But but emotion happens in other places, too. So, so like the the most common areas that that are going to be going, activating when we're experiencing some kind of emotion are like amygdala, the insula, the hippocampus, the hypothalamus, the frontal cortex. So these are all areas where emotion occurs. Some of this is can be sadness or happiness or anger or surprise or all sorts of things. But those are the areas that are most [00:13:00] frequently involved in emotion. So primary emotion, we see something. Step one, we see something. Step two, primary emotion can't do much about that. Yeah, I mean, it just it's a reaction. And I think it's also very important to understand our emotional brain works faster than our cognitive brain.
[00:13:17] That's what I just pulled up. So go ahead.
[00:13:19] Okay. Why don't you go?
[00:13:20] Well, I think you make it sound cooler. I just pulled up a book, and it's literally emotionally focused Therapy for Dummies, the book. And in chapter four, it's talking about it says When people talk about emotion and I'll use this with couples, often when I'm doing my four pillars and assuming good intentions or there's a. Reason why somebody reacts the way they do that I feel like it's because they just do. They react. And it says when people talk about emotion, they usually oversimplify the game all emotion into one type box and keep the lid on. And it's common to hear emotions get in the way of making rational decisions or you're reacting to emotionally or even worse, take your emotions out of it. And the book says, For many years, psychology has emphasized thinking over feeling. Feeling is still largely the case today, but the field [00:14:00] of affective neuroscience is pointing to a different reality one in which emotional processing in the brain is central and rapid and sets the stage for the slower process of thinking. And then it says you actually feel before you think modern neuroscience has charted the brain's response to situations and bound emotions. And this is where I was getting to with this, or I read so much here. But yeah, but the emotions fire two and a half times more rapidly in the brain than thoughts do.
[00:14:22] It's fascinating.
[00:14:22] Right? That's amazing to me. So then you have that visceral or gut reaction. Yeah. And that just happens.
[00:14:28] And this is where things can get dicey for people. So I one of the reasons I loved the book Buddha's Brain, which we did a podcast on, was because that was where that first that concept was first made apparent to me, where it actually talked about the actual how quickly emotions occur versus cognition. And I don't remember the numbers two and a half times, apparently, based on what you just read. Yeah, yeah. But much faster.
[00:14:54] I'm sure your mileage may vary. I really I theorized with my narcissism podcast [00:15:00] or that group that would imagine that the more somebody feels unsafe in a relationship than the maybe they're starting to fire even faster.
[00:15:07] Right. And so that's actually something that I do think is an important component of all of this that we can get into, which is related to schema. So our perception of the original event, we might have a certain amount of control over certain things, the way we view certain things which could impact the primary emotion that occurs.
[00:15:27] And so I see where you're going with this then. So maybe explain what schema.
[00:15:30] So schema is the I guess you'd call them the things that are in place in our head that have to do with our beliefs about the world, about ourselves, about other people. So it's judgments that we make the way we view ourselves, and we have all sorts of schema about all sorts of different things.
[00:15:48] So I got to tell you, so I don't know, I'm not a fan of Big Dogs, for example. So if I am around big dogs, I don't care how nice you say it is. I don't care how just loveable it appears. [00:16:00] My schema, my frame of reference. I am on edge. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:16:05] So that's schema in action. I'm having a primary motion based on that and imagine you with a different schema. Yeah. You love big dogs. Your primary emotion is completely different. Yes. So this is why like like the idea of creating a healthy mind that's positive and open and all of these things. And I'm not saying we shouldn't have fear of certain experiences, but do we want to challenge some schema that might be based on something that if I got bit by a dog when I was five years old, of course that's massively impacting me. But if it's not happened since and I'm now 44 years old, do I want to look at that scheme and say, perhaps I should reevaluate?
[00:16:43] And I like that because honestly, I can't think of a reason why I grew up with some big dogs that we we rode them like horses. They were always nice. And so I don't like what you're saying because I've never even really thought about it. I just say, Well, I just don't like big dogs. Yeah.
[00:16:55] Yeah. So that's an interesting part of this whole conversation that we might actually come back to, depending on [00:17:00] if we have enough time. Okay. All right. The thing the other point I wanted to make with our primary emotions is because emotions happen first and emotions are not based on necessarily rational, objective occurrences. It's based completely on our perspective of what we believe we just saw or experience. Yeah, we it might behoove us according to Buddha's brain and I've seen a lot of growth in myself with this. It might behoove us to be a little bit skeptical of some of the emotions that come out of our experiences.
[00:17:34] So I know that some people push back on that pretty hard. I can only speak to my own experience.
[00:17:39] Okay, what's an example of this?
[00:17:40] So an example might be I saw I came up with this one, so I'll have to use it now. I won't be able to use it later, but I think it fits well. Okay, so if I have a belief system, this will tie to schema. If I'm at school in high school and there's a kid that I don't [00:18:00] know much about, I don't know him personally. My perception is that he might be a little bit of a dumb jock bully. That's what my schema is. Yeah. And we're walking down the hall and he bumps into me. So I immediately a primary emotion that could be related to like fear, aggression, survival, something along those lines. And so what I've been driven by in that moment is that schema. The problem is, is that's based on my perception. What if what I'm dealing with is a nice person that I don't know, that's maybe a little bit klutzy and sometimes runs into people. That jokes around with guys on the football team and I see him push somebody, but it's a joke. Like, So what happens if I don't have all the information? My emotion is now based on faulty parameters. So that's why I'm saying we perhaps should be careful about how much we trust our emotion, because it can be based on things that we just don't know.
[00:18:56] I like that, too, and I feel like I'm sure you've had the client. I can think of [00:19:00] a couple right now that they truly have been misjudged because of their appearance or because of their profession or those sort of things. And when you really. No one knows or understands what's behind that. Right. Yeah. I can't even think of a client that I or that was a client was one of my kid's parents that drove this really nice car. And so I had made some judgments around it. And then when I got to know the person, it had been a gift and an inheritance and not that even matter. But I thought, Oh, that's interesting because I had assigned some judgment based off of this car.
[00:19:31] And I again, going back to Buddha's brain, which I just I mean, the book changed my life in so many ways, was they talked about, like, the danger of judgment because we are basing it on, again, faulty parameters. Is it possible that we sometimes get it right? Maybe. But is that such a low percentage that it's even worth doing?
[00:19:53] Good question. So I was speaking at one point and it was in a religious setting. And so I did take on a little bit of [00:20:00] that. And when people say Don't judge, I did give an example of getting tater tots at the potato corner, the at the mall, and then there was a person there that was literally mumbling some obscenities, was a bit disheveled and now probably fabricated that they were drooling and this sort of thing. And I had a little kid and so I wasn't going to just go say, Hey, what's up? Right. So that one, I was like trusting my judgment a little more there.
[00:20:24] Right? And I think for me, I sometimes go all or nothing, but I have to be careful of that because I do told these young people that our intuition is due to OC. But I love it though. That's my opinion. But here's the thing. I also think that sometimes some intuition could be helpful. Yeah, but I think it's probably more rare than we'd like to be than we may like to admit. I think I grew up believing that intuition was this thing that I had and it didn't serve me well because I was fearful and I was anxious and I was looking for problems everywhere because I had a brain [00:21:00] that, of course was doing its job and like trying to identify issues all over the place. And so I lived a very fearful life because I believed I was leaning on tuition, on intuition, which was all sorts of wrong.
[00:21:13] So here's what I dig about this too, because I feel like we usually are 100% on the same page. Not like I'm about to say you're wrong, but it's shoot me down. But no, but I.
[00:21:21] Like my.
[00:21:22] Experience. But I like it because when the reason we didn't even start this for a minute or two, as I was finishing, you were watching me finish up editing a podcast, and that's the next episode of My Waking Up The Narcissism one where I read this letter by someone that had because of and I know this is rare, but the emotionally immature, narcissistic emotional abuse over time was a lady that had stopped trusting her gut, and it was around situations like getting health care for her kid because the spouse in that scenario that you find out just was lazy and didn't. That was going to impact her. It was a negative impact on him. Yeah, but so but I feel like I hear what you're saying, though, because sometimes I [00:22:00] feel like, oh, the population I work with at times it then skews my schema, right?
[00:22:05] Yeah. And so I think what I would say to that is, is intuition is not always wrong. In my case, it was often wrong.
[00:22:13] Yeah, I can appreciate that.
[00:22:14] And to me, I'm finding it much more helpful to be a little bit like distrustful of my brain and what it's trying to do. I know it's trying to do what it was designed to do, but that's not always helpful for I'm trying to.
[00:22:26] Well, am saying that because of what I always say the brains that don't get killed device that it may not be looking out for your best interest of living a purpose filled, value based life. It's just saying I know what it feels like to not do anything. And I think if I don't do anything, then I probably will live forever. So and that's where I would say your brain's working a little bit off of a false premise to begin with.
[00:22:45] Oh, 100%, yeah.
[00:22:46] Okay. No, I like that.
[00:22:47] Yeah. So hopefully that makes some sense for people. So now we've, we've experienced our primary emotion, had the experience than the primary motion. Now we're into cognition and this is where we have a lot [00:23:00] more control. This is where I would go wrong, I would assume, because I got hit with an emotion. There was a reason I got hit with the emotion. So I go with it. Yeah. And instead of using my cognition to be like, okay, let's scan the room if I. Ock Yeah. Is there any danger now that I can see. Yeah. Okay then chill out brain. I got things to do. Yeah, that's where I went wrong. So I think that the big player in this, it talks about it in, in some articles that are pulled up, but particularly in Buddha's brain is the anterior cingulate cortex. So the anterior cingulate kind of rests between the. Front or near the prefrontal cortex in the amygdala. So it seems to be a truck stop between the two areas. Yeah. So we've got our limbic system, which is emotions going crazy. It seems to check in with the anterior cingulate cortex. And if the anterior cingulate cortex, which also branches into the prefrontal cortex, prefrontal cortex communicates the anterior. I'll just call the acc. [00:24:00] That's easier.
[00:24:01] So the prefrontal cortex now everything's fine. Tells the ACC, the ACC, then lets the limbic system know everything's fine. Like alarm bells went off. That was the emotion. Went up to check in with the brain that checked around. And that decision seems to happen in the ACC and then the ACC sends signals back to it's really tied into the amygdala, which is our fear center, which you can imagine if alarm bells are going off.
[00:24:24] It's probably because I quote you often. And so tell me if this is like a better you're getting into more details of I feel like at one point you were telling me so emotion comes into the brain and we check in and say, is it safe? And if it's safe, then we say, What do we do about it? Is that true or about confabulation.
[00:24:41] That I may have said that that's probably so. So.
[00:24:45] Yes. And as if we're doing an.
[00:24:46] Improv, right. So I have to own my own stuff with this. Okay. I'm on my own journey where I'm learning more and more about these things. So that may have been my understanding when we talked about it. My understanding at this point is that the ACC, once we've made [00:25:00] the decision, everything's okay, the ACC communicates back to the amygdala, everything is okay and it just starts to die down like it's not going crazy. So the alarm goes off and you can go back to life now if the alarm keeps going. Here's the problem. If the alarm keeps going, the alarm keeps going on, and then the amygdala starts to communicate to other parts of the body and it's releasing that and it's cortisol and you've got to be ready to run or fight or freeze.
[00:25:23] And then I like what you're saying there, because now we're just pulling some faulty things out of our brain or schema, or then our amygdala is already starting to get fired up and before you know it, we're emotionally hijacked. Yep.
[00:25:34] And yeah. And even then I've talked to some people that have communicated like I get so upset when I'm trying to do something and I get really anxious and like I can't do it. Yeah. And my understanding of how cortisol and these things work in our body is it moves blood away from our prefrontal cortex, which is where that's the space that we use to do challenging things like. So [00:26:00] it's moving that towards the middle and back of the brain, which is related to our physical systems. Wow. So I'm more perceptive. So I can see things quicker, I can react quicker. I am moving blood away from my gut, into my limbs so I can run faster, I can swing my arms faster. But that doesn't help you particularly well when you're trying to do a difficult work task or taking a test like test anxiety is is probably largely associated with that particular issue. Your anxiety gets so bad you can't think because it's literally moving resources away from the part of your brain that thinks.
[00:26:34] And then the more you start to worry, the more those resources are spent on firing up the amygdala. Right. Okay.
[00:26:40] Yeah. And there's an evolutionary reason for this. If you're a night and living in the Middle Ages and it moves all your blood to your brain so you can think about whether or not you want to swing your sword or put your shield up, you might already be dead because the other guy is just reacting. Yeah. So his systems are based on reaction. And if your systems are based on the slower, as we already talked about cognition, you're [00:27:00] not going to like you're not going to make it too long.
[00:27:01] So so again there's the brain is fascinating because there's reasons for why it does what it does. But it was raised in a very different world then.
[00:27:12] The survival is key because I think I've thought about that as well of I just did a podcast a few weeks ago on negativity bias and really and I know we've talked about this before, but negativity bias is that if I get it wrong one time, I'm dead. So I need to prepare for everything. And then in the brain, I think I had talked about this maybe a week or two ago, too, but he talks about that the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive experiences. And so just knowing that it helps me, I feel like try to hang on to a few more of the positives and maybe do a little Teflon to the negative experiences.
[00:27:49] Yeah. And I feel like understanding that because I've always looked at myself as kind of a negative or pessimistic person. And so when I was diagnosed with depression, I was like, okay, I'm broken.
[00:27:59] And [00:28:00] I look at it now and I'm like, No, you were broken at all. That was the way that your brain is just programed, but you have to like not let the brain be the boss, which is sounds weird to some people because I kind of am my brain, right? I look at that a little differently and I'm sure you do, too.
[00:28:16] This book right there says you are not. Yeah, literally. But yeah, with the act, it's Wednesday night at my back group. I did something that I think is hilarious, but I was saying, okay, everybody watched this and I said, I'm now going to tell my brain's going to tell me to raise my right arm. And I just sat there and then I said, There you go. Because you don't have to do what your brain tells you. But yes, sometimes we're like, But I'm nervous or but I'm scared or I'm or I'm by myself. And this is when I act out. So what am I supposed to do? And it's like, well, maybe don't do that. Yeah, I know it's not that easy, but.
[00:28:48] Well, but I think that there's I think that there's a lot of value in understanding that I really like that principle when you apply it to how we interact with other people. And this comes a lot from [00:29:00] like different 12 step programs that I've been involved with because of my past issues with addiction, which is they really hit hard on the personal responsibility. If you are 100% responsible for your actions, you don't get to blame the person that cut you off in traffic for driving to the bar and taking a drink. That was your decision. Yeah. Like you could have felt your feelings and just driven home and had a care.
[00:29:25] So what? I like that you said there I was on this podcast earlier this week, the Vegas therapist, the guy named Ryan Weiner, he's a great guy. And I told him I was giving him an exclusive. And it was because I just put this piece together where somebody the night before had said they said and, you know, and then somebody was telling me again that they said, well, you may you make me feel angry. And they said, look, I can't make you feel anything. And I said, Actually, hold up a minute so you actually can. But then it's like, what do you do with that? Because that visceral reaction is if I'm if somebody walks into the room and that Darth Vader and all of a sudden my cortisol, my [00:30:00] heart rate elevates, my cortisol spikes then sorry. But he kind of did. I had a visceral reaction right in the room. But now what do I do with it?
[00:30:07] Right. And that's a perfect that's a perfect explanation of what we're dealing with primary versus secondary emotions, because the primary emotion is I don't it's just a response. I can't control the response. The secondary emotion is based on the primary emotion. So let's say in some case, B's best friend betrays them in some way. And so you feel like you discover it somehow. Your primary emotion is you're now feeling sad, like you just can't believe that this happened. And then you start thinking about it. And then let's say you go to the I would never do that to somebody else. Yeah. So secondary emotion is now anger. You're like, I just can't believe that that now what has happened is Darth Vader walked into the room, you felt scared cause all everything else came out. But. But after 60 to 90 seconds, you now have control. And it's like, okay, well, should I stay scared? Or is it time [00:31:00] to figure out something that's useful to whether it's getting out of. Yeah, or do I need to end a friendship or do I need to do something different myself? And so that's, that is the secondary emotion process, which we have a lot of control over. I get a lot of pushback on this one, and I understand it because what we're kind of asking people to do is to feel their initial emotion and then to use their brain to be like, Okay, am I justified in feeling frustrated or whatever? Maybe yeah, but is it helpful to me in my happiness to remain in that?
[00:31:35] Yeah. So I like this. I give the example often of when my kids were small and they would scare me. My primary motion was probably embarrassment, but I would jump quickly to the secondary motion of anger. And then I would say, Man, you guys knock it off. And then when I realized, Oh, I jumped to anger because my primary emotion was embarrassment because these little kids had scared me. So then once I realized, Oh, that's just a feeling, it's an emotion, and it's my gut reaction, [00:32:00] and that's okay. And so now I'm going to turn toward the hey, you guys are hilarious. Yeah. And then be more present, I guess, right?
[00:32:07] Yeah. So that would be a case of, of your brain was used to feeling say surprise or whatever it is and it's the same type of surprise and you already attached to don't do that. And so your cognition is like, why do you keep doing that? And then it goes to anger and using that phrase that you use that I also love, and you might be able to tell me who said it. Neurons that fire together, wire together.
[00:32:29] Bessel bender clock.
[00:32:30] Keeps the sky okay. What we're now doing is using cognition to create a new response. So our secondary emotion changes. And that's exactly. You just gave a perfect illustration of what happened for you. The anger is not helpful, so I'm going to find something else. Yeah. And you went to humor?
[00:32:48] Yes. Okay. Always. That's always my favorite.
[00:32:52] Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So ultimately, hopefully that makes sense to people. Again, the four steps we have like [00:33:00] an experience where I think the exact term I use is a emotion inducing experience. So we have an emotion inducing experience. Second is primary emotion, third is cognition, fourth is secondary emotions. So what I really wanted to focus on with people was where we have some control. Okay, so, so the emotional inducing experience, I mean, just perceiving something, I don't know how to stop that. We have control into not doing the other two, which again was past stuff or future past memories or future worries. But we can't really do much about life. Life. It's just going to happen. Primary emotion. Can't really do much about the emotion in the moment. Schema might change what emotion we particularly experience. Thirds cognition, the lot of control over cognition. That's where we have the most control.
[00:33:48] Can I go back to two of.
[00:33:49] Oh, yeah, please. Please.
[00:33:50] Do you feel like that's a place, though, where a concept like mindfulness, a practice of that over time could give you a little bit more of that pause before.
[00:33:59] As far as. [00:34:00]
[00:34:00] So, I feel like this is where mindfulness. So when I think of an example of not that I was ever a road rage guy, but if there was ever a place where I felt just a real immediate response would be something that somebody cuts me off, right? And then I remember very specifically a moment where I can think of exactly where it was on the freeway and a car did the old cutting off thing. And I didn't respond. I said to my wife, That is wild. I'm noticing that car cut me off. That's fascinating. Yeah. And I thought I felt like that was the grand prize of years of mindfulness, because I felt like the way I understand mindfulness in a sense is I'm in essence, training the brain, that then when I start to get an elevated heart rate, that my my body is going to recognize that, and then it's going to start doing the end through the nose, out through the mouth, breathing thing. And so then it becomes part of a habitual pattern. So then in that visceral reaction, it says that my heart rate starts to elevate. My brain already kicks in and says, Oh, this guy is going to do the whole breathing thing. And so it kind of keeps me [00:35:00] more in the moment and I like that.
[00:35:02] Okay, I like that.
[00:35:03] But I mean, it only takes.
[00:35:03] Years, right? Right. Well, and so what I'm trying to do is meet everybody where they are. What you're talking about is 100% possible. Some people do get there. In fact, I would say based on like things that I've experienced and things that I've read in my work, like my emotional management has gotten to a place that I never thought was possible. Yeah, exactly. Hearing what I was going through, it feels like a cheat code.
[00:35:24] And that's like just from the sake that I know the people that will hear this and I'm glad you're framing it this way is I'm just I often say to clients, if you would do me a favor and start a mindfulness practice and you're going to think this is ridiculous. And I don't see the point for quite a while. And I feel like I don't know, this is absolutely just made up data, but I feel like 25% of the people I work with will never do it, 25% start it immediately and it will make therapy so much easier or fast, a faster process, and 50% will do it once or twice. And then they'll tell me, Oh no, yeah, I do the mindfulness thing, but they do it once or twice and then they're saying, okay, no, I get it, I get the breathing thing. But I feel like they [00:36:00] aren't understanding is that, oh, we're doing this to create a whole new relationship with emotion or Yeah, and that takes a lot of time.
[00:36:08] Yeah, it.
[00:36:08] Does. But so start a mindfulness practice and now back to Nate.
[00:36:12] Yeah, no. And I love all that. I will say this and this might be based on my limited experience, so you can give me what you got. If you are in a situation where you're driving down the freeway and you're late for a meeting and you're hungry because you skipped lunch and you didn't get very much sleep last night and you start stacking all of these challenges on top of you. Do you find yourself being more reactive than the. Oh, I'm just noticing or is it I'm just noticing?
[00:36:37] That's a great question because I feel like I want to say I'm just noticing. But then I also remember that I talked about this on a podcast episode, and then it was just a couple of weeks later when my daughter got into this accident. And then my whole thing was I said, Oh, turns out I can't access the tools as easily as I thought I could. So I feel like, okay, yeah, you put enough things together. And then that's adorable that I thought that I had [00:37:00] figured it all out then I didn't want to, but I like thinking that. Okay, but without all of that, the basis of our fundamental groundwork done with mindfulness. Would I have absolutely lost my mind?
[00:37:10] Yeah. And I don't know. And maybe you don't even know for sure. And we'd like to get to the point where it doesn't matter what's going on with us. We're not reactive at all, but I don't know how far down the road that is for me. You're further along than I am on that.
[00:37:22] Yeah, but I like that point though, so I feel like absolutely hungry, angry, lonely, tired. I feel. And you probably had this experience when clients come in and they'll say, Man, I have no idea why I'm feeling the way I have. And I almost feel like it's a hack bit it's a parlor trick where I say, Just take me through your week, and then it's 900 horrific things or anxiety inducing things, and then they go, Huh? Maybe that's why, right? Yeah. Say, there you go.
[00:37:44] Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's interesting. Our job is not necessarily rocket science, but but a lot of these things are not necessarily we don't necessarily instinctively know these things either.
[00:37:53] No. Today, I've already had a couple of sessions where I forget the power of normalizing something or somebody says, You probably [00:38:00] never heard this before. And I try to not look surprised and say, Oh, would it hurt your feelings if I've already heard it today? You know?
[00:38:08] Yeah, but that's part of that that brain thing that it does. I experienced this when I was going through addiction, isolated from everybody because like, I was the worst. Nobody else was doing anything this bad.
[00:38:20] And why in the world did I really think that? I don't.
[00:38:22] Know. Because you were special. Yeah. Like we start with that whole. I must be the special one with good or bad, right? Do you? I don't want to. Do you have more here? Because I've got this groundbreaking, revelatory thing I.
[00:38:34] Or talked about. Let's hear it. I'd love to hear that. Absolutely.
[00:38:37] Because I want your opinion and I want you to poke holes. So this goes back to the Buddha brain and it talks about I'm going to read a little bit.
[00:38:45] Okay, that's.
[00:38:45] Fine. So I did an episode on implicit and explicit memory. Yes. In the quote from Buddha brain is as much as your body spill from the food you eat, your mind is built from the experiences you have, the flow of experience gradually sculpture, brain, the shaping your mind. Some of the results can be explicitly [00:39:00] recalled like This is what I did last summer, or This is how I felt when I was in love. But most of the shaping of your mind remains forever unconscious. This is called implicit memory, and the next part that I'm read is mind blowing to me. And I feel like it's so perfect for what you're talking about, because I feel like every time that we are able to notice or catch ourselves or start to create a slightly different relationship with emotion that we are, that lays out part of what this implicit memory is. So your implicit memory includes your expectations, your models of relationships, your emotional tendencies, and your general outlook. Implicit memory establishes the interior landscape of your mind and what or what it feels like to be you. So everything you're doing is part of your implicit memory or what it feels like to be you. And here's the not the best sales pitch, but I think it's so validating, he says, based on the slowly accumulating residue of lived experience. So that's where I feel like if you're continually heading down a particular narrow pathway, that then people will say, Well, I don't want to keep doing [00:40:00] that. Then it's just starting to be aware of there is a different way to do something. And this I think we talk about this. What is that, the unconscious incompetence?
[00:40:09] Oh, yeah, right.
[00:40:10] And so then to start to move from well, I wasn't even aware that this was a problem. I just thought, this is who I am to then say, Oh, this is a thing that I do to then, but now I don't know what to do to then. I know what to do, but I don't do it very often too. Then I kind of do it more often than not. And then now, eventually I just am this person now, right?
[00:40:31] The mind knows what to do totally.
[00:40:32] And so I feel like that is part of that implicit memory or what it feels like to be me. And it's done through these slowly accumulating residues of lived experience.
[00:40:41] Yeah. And to me, love all of that. To me, that really feeds the idea that we need, like, successes in our life. Yeah. Get up early in the morning, do something like have your morning ritual. I'm a big believer in that. Like, since once I've started doing that, like I felt so much better. So I get up a little bit earlier [00:41:00] than the rest of my family and I read in the morning and then I have my prayer meditation and then usually my wife will get up and we'll do a walk and we're getting some sunlight on our face and I'll drink a bunch of water and then we'll get kids up and then we'll start doing it. But we've already done several things, at least I have done several things positive before the day has even began. Yeah. And so I'm starting the day off on a good foot.
[00:41:24] And that love because that then the what it feels like to be Nate the interior landscape of your mind then slowly but surely starts to be I'm a person that gets up and I spend quality time with myself and then I show up for my wife and my family and then that becomes who you are. Right? And that's what I feel like when people say, well, I don't even know what to do or I don't want to do that. Or we go back to, Och, those are all stories your brain's telling you. They're adorable. And so then people say, Well, what do I do? And you start to do anything. Yeah, okay. The part B of this, this is the part that I really haven't talked about yet, I think is really fascinating. So over in the narcissism world, I did an episode on [00:42:00] this concept of confabulation, which is where we have all these gaps in our memory and then we fill them in because let me let me slow down. All right. So back to the Buddha brain. He he does talk about the way that memory happens, like the mechanism of memory or he calls it the machinery of memory. So he says, when your brain retrieves a memory, it doesn't do it like a computer which calls up a complete record.
[00:42:22] Your brain rebuilds implicit and explicit memories from their key features, and it says that then you fill in the details of memory. And he said, Well, it's more work. It's also more efficient use of neural real estate, because this way complete records don't need to be stored. And your brain is so fast that you don't notice the regeneration of each memory. When I will do this, sometimes I'll say, okay, I had somebody working on some issues with their dad, so I said, okay, what do you think of when you think of your dad? And they brought up this kind of a negative but funny image, and then I said, okay, tell me more. And then they start filling in the gaps. And so what confabulation is emotional immaturity or narcissism or any of that is I happen to [00:43:00] fill in the gaps with the I'm amazing and you stink that kind of a thing. Yeah. And if you've been doing that since childhood because you had to as a survival mechanism, you could never be you were only receiving praise if you were the best or if you were the worst, then you start to confabulation in real time. And then that's the way that the memory forms. But so when you were saying wins, this is what got me thinking about this.
[00:43:20] Or do you say that when he wins or small victories? Yeah. So he says, all right. So the rebuilding process, though, of the memory gives you the opportunity right down to the micro circuitry of your brain to gradually shift the emotional shadings of your interior landscape. So he said When a memory is. Debated. A large scale assembly of neurons and synapses forms an emergent pattern. If other things are in your mind at the same time, and particularly if they're strongly pleasant or unpleasant, your amygdala and your hippocampus will automatically associate them with that neural pattern. And then he said, then when the memory leaves awareness, it will be re consolidated and storage along with those other associations. So I had someone a week or so ago that had they had done something that they weren't very [00:44:00] happy with the night before, and they were in here and I was at accepting a commitment therapy, the crap out of them because it was like I was wrong and so broken and I'm saying, okay, or let's reframe or man, check that out. That happened and I'm a human being. And then we started talking about this and it was the coolest kind of aha moment where, yeah, she feels these emotions around it, but she's not a bad person.
[00:44:22] But then that was the opportunity for her to either give herself some grace and say, Man, yeah, that happened. And what do I learn from that? And versus the oh yeah, don't forget, I'm a horrible person. Yeah. So then when she was going to put that memory away, was it going to be consolidated in storage with the man? This is opportunity for growth or Yeah, that happened, but I'm a good person. Or was she going to put it back away with the don't forget, you're a bad person because then he says the next time the memory is activated, it will tend to bring those associations with it. So if you repeatedly bring to mind negative feelings and thoughts while the memory is active, then that memory will be increasingly shaded in a negative direction. And [00:45:00] the same goes for the positive if you do that. And so then he says, every time you do this, every time you sift positive feelings and views into painful, limiting states of mind, you build a little bit of neural structure. So over time, the accumulating impact of these positive material or negative material will literally synapse by synapse change your brain. So it kind of goes with what you're talking about, right? Absolutely. Yeah. Kind of true. What do you think?
[00:45:24] No, I really like it. I like it a lot. You know, I think it goes to the whole system of I have an experience in the morning. If I allow it to wreck my entire day, how is it going to affect every memory that happens that day? Yeah.
[00:45:38] No. And then if you then if you don't do much in the mornings or day after day, then what does the interior landscape of your mind or what does it feel like to be you over time? It's the I don't do a lot. Yeah versus the oh no I get things done. Yeah or yeah.
[00:45:53] Yeah. And I really like that. I saw something and I feel slightly guilty because I'm going to use it here and I didn't come up with it. I don't even remember [00:46:00] where I read it, but I thought it was really good. Someone I think was talking on a podcast and I just saw the highlight and it said Discipline always trumps motivation. And I was like, Oh, I love that because I was the person that was always waiting for the feeling like I was ready to do something difficult and it never felt like doing it. I had anxiety and depression and my ADHD was crazy. I never felt like doing anything. Yeah, like I wish that I had been like, okay, I'm not going to feel like doing this. And that's where discipline kicks in and motivation comes and goes. And who knows why you motivated some mornings and some mornings you're not. But discipline is always there because it's generated from within. And so that's, I think, part of this whole thing. Changing our brain requires discipline. It requires us knowing what's happening, wanting to do things differently, and sometimes feeling like we're not going to punish ourselves, we're not going to punish other people. Like that's not going to be helpful to living a full life.
[00:46:52] Yeah, no, it's so good. And then because then I feel like also the thing we don't give ourselves enough grace, we expect that we are going to be perfect at something. And so [00:47:00] then every time that we if we want to start a morning routine and we nail it for a couple of days and then forget about it for three or four days, which again is part of the human experience. Absolutely. Then we just when we remember that, we have forgotten, then we just say, okay, that happened because guess what? I can do it again. Yeah. And then over time, slowly but surely, that's building that neural structure and that becomes what it's like to be you, right? Nate, I'm excited. I feel like we should not prepare for things more.
[00:47:25] Well, I did prepare for this, but, yeah, you're shooting from the hip, and you had all sorts of good stuff, so thank you.
[00:47:30] So, no, thank you. And again, people go listen to working change. I don't know. We talk about the last time we were on that. We still have these grand plans of we're creating a couple of workshops that we'll be talking about sooner than later. Right.
[00:47:43] I don't know if we have talked about that.
[00:47:45] So maybe that's going to be some sneak preview. I mean, I working on some big things. Yeah, big things. And if you want to get hold of Nate Christiansen counseling at gmail.com or you can contact him through my website and contact you, contact me through your website or my website and [00:48:00] say forward to Nate. Yes. All right, Nick Christensen until we meet again. Thank you, sir.
[00:48:06] Thank you. Compressed emotions flying past. Start heading out the other end. The pressures of the daily grind. It's wonderful. And that's the question, Robert, most I'm floating past the midnight hour. They push aside the things that matter most, the world.
[00:48:42] Takes up all my time.
[00:49:08] Citing [00:49:00] news of discount price a million opportunities. The chance is yours to take or lose. It's one. Always on the back burner until the opportune time. We're always pushed to go farther. Shut up.
[00:49:36] My. He fault. And so I'll take. Tickle my fancy until it smells.
[00:50:08] I [00:50:00] developed a student, explored a loving understanding through to heal the legs and hearts. You broke the pain. She just might implode upon my mental strength and pass. I'm trying hard to shut them out. It's one. The bench.
[00:50:33] Is drawn. We did it due to. One. Screen. He's [00:51:00] true. It drowned our dreams.