Episode 51- Transcript – Lewis Mehl-Madrona



thank you guys so much for listening the human experiences remapping manual networks in your brain as we speak to my guest Louis Mello Madrona Louis welcome to reach XP and so Louis if we could just start this conversation by kind getting into your background your education kind got into this work think that would help way the foundation of a medical school at Stanford and got a PhD in neuropsychology of residency in family medicine geriatric psychiatry and then got degree in this and on the one hand on the other hand I grew up in indigenous context so I could whether the stories and he was medicine when the two events converged what I discovered was the neuroscience of story and that academics college were taught me about the story in the same way that held her hand in the talk about story so that was pretty exciting and then that really led to this book we mapping your mind is like you just read a passage from the book here we are born into a world story stack with the sheets are behavior and development without our conscious awareness by retelling our personal family and cultural narratives we can form the patterns of our own lives as well as the patterns that shape our communities and the larger social worlds in which we interact and why why is this so important in the way we interact mean how does affect are learning so much what are the discovered our culture we can people able to say okay you a bipolar. The human anxiety disorder and going back to story returns everything to her that you were embodying the experience of being anxious a your embodying the experience of being fearful and is much easier to change when you’re dealing with a very pages when you’re dealing with no so so way back into stories which they were in the first image in that can change much more readily we don’t feel that we feel like we have capacity for action some sense of agency that we can do something to alter our lives and in the world that we that we can have an impact on the world what is what is the identity near is to me that we tell ourselves and other people about who we are so if I ask you a who are you anyway okay this story tell me is derided a narrative and of course it varies depending on the context in the audience you tell a different story if you’re applying for a job that if you are on a first date so we have a repertoire we have a stockpile of vignettes that we pull out to create a night in the narrative and the different so we try to match Julio are to the context so that we are who the audience wants us to be the other person expects us to be healing in the miniscule you have been doing that the more your social relationships tend to go well tend to go smoothly so but from this perspective there is no it takes so this is the multiple self that can be created in any given moment for any given situation based on all the vignettes of our lives something would you say that each person has a different story that we tell ourselves based on the context of any given situation so the way that I see myself in a personal ways different than the way that I would construct myself in the external world right right right when you’re when you’re sitting at home with your partner curative you have a different sense of yourself and when you’re on the radio or at a bank or at a professional conference and weep we pride stories to support the identity that were expected to be the will that were expected to perform and and and we tied them together to create an identity in that context so we have an identity is parent we have an identity is child as a coworker and so you know there’s the subtle differences sometimes large differences in the Indies identities and and mostly we navigate through them and seamless fashion when we don’t really have felt world friction self world interface friction sparks fly and things uncle so well and sometimes people get labeled they get diagnose and get told that they need treatment so use this narratives to address healing and to address illness so in most simplistic form give you an example from my mother my mother has story that says ladies don’t sweat my mother was born into poverty gold-mining country of southeastern Kentucky and he was her dream to become a lady and things to bring a college which gives free education to appellation you see got to do that so once he was graduated from college it was her steadfast desire to never sweat again she could go but she would not sweat so fast-forward six years later my mother has to have her aortic valve place and you send home with a piece of paper that says come to cardiopulmonary rehab we will make you sweat so is my mother do the first thing when she gets home so high that piece of paper in the bottom of her cabinet know you see that no one is going to make her sweat and I happen to find. So the tour and and and led to intense case of the papers I didn’t you have seen the vapors but it’s a sudden illness in which the person person on until for instance my say I must go to bed so so consequently my mother didn’t have is good outcome from her aortic valve surgery and she could’ve because he would never go to rehab and and simplistically again people have stories about food and similar stories to work really well if you’re diabetic I’ve met people that will not change how they eat because it’s more important to them to be with your family and she thought their families eating then to diet diabetes so our stories are are powerful in our health in it and I think we you know that really my co-author in the book we we take it further and we play with this story that the illness would tell about the person is living with because we think that it generates metaphors that help us to understand the illness so so let’s say that you have hit pain so there’s somebody I worked with recently and so he got hit pain to talk and hit pain turned out to be had a grumpy woodchuck Hill woodchuck in the square meal woodchuck set your driving me your college making me work is always pushing me to the limit you take care of me to get any tampering for me I was some pampering some pampering you trying to force me to get better so so the question know to the client” though the McKinney sense a similar you are you know I I really haven’t been going for any current treatment I’ve just been trying to ignore my pain to push through had to visualize getting better and and come so I said about your making an appointment with an osteopathic he said second try that so so was he started getting work done started getting better be bed so his his pain had a story about him that was quite accurate and annoying to his pain in the story about his pain that was quite accurate for him and annoying to his pain which was you may not if you’ve got a pain you just push through it and tell it to get better and pretend that that is not there so it took negotiating that story with the pain and him for him to go to help and for the pain to start improving supplements things correctly so that the narrative that I tell myself through story can determine whether I am cueing or not yes because if it affects if the stories that you live by so we tell ourselves stories about how to live one of the virtues that we should follow is a good life look like anyway and when I willing to sacrifice for a good life so I have a I have a nephew who’s who’s visiting right now and he’s in college exercising it’s not very good for him and he knows of the exercises. Feeling depressed and you get his work will improve and everything will go better but his notion of exercising is that he said one 10 km in the freezing cold outside in Montréal where he goes college so well that only fun so but that’s a story about what exercises so my life is been saying and the jammin like in the learn and the game where you walk on a treadmill and watch TV prior doing only one of your books for school exercise you see and and so he because he has an extreme story that only running outside in the middle of winter in in cold Montréal qualifies as exercise in doing so so he he’s a kinder gentler story about exercise then the money and you know it in in in psychiatric conditions which I work with to it to some degree we have stories about how to get what we want from the world and you can you could think of them as strategies for how to move around in the world if your strategy is to throw a tantrum and we always work it might backfire if your strategy is to never say directly what you want but the make Terrence you might never get what you want to my be really frustrating so so this this seems like something that is pretty cutting-edge mean has cognitive neuroscience kind of picked up on what you guys are doing are people still missing notice a hold is a journal even called in the neuroscience of six and if I was out of the University of Toronto and neuroscientists are really excited by this whole idea of narrative it turns out that there is the circuitry in the brain that there’s nothing but produce stories it’s the story brain and you know it it it was along the midline from front to back and if what we do a lot of is also called default mode network so that brings on arrival we sit around making up stories about other people and what they want we want from them and how to get what we want from them and how to talk to them to get what we want from them and I know that anyone listening is ever commuted can relate to this so if you’re if you’re going on with a trainer after driving home in a car Park walking home riding the subway thinking about and what the condition was on the relationship when you left home and you’re fantasizing what you should say when you get home maybe you’re trying to decide whether to pick up sours Chinese take-out chocolate or to stop off at the pump for a pint before you print the slings and arrows of home. So on the well doing that that’s what are brain doesn’t it it turns out that Paterno story brain to say meditation brain burns more glucose involves spending more energy interested sitting around making up stories serving on the easement indexing model and that you mention this in your book and from what I understand that it it kind of indexes all incoming actions into five indexes can you didn’t a little bit here and people are thinking that there’s probably more (five you know it is probably unique to each person but he out when when things come in we need to quickly sort of we need and we need to compare them with experiences we’ve had before and how those experiences of turned out and so that the obvious example is this if you’re standing on a hilltop and you see someone on the next hilltop you need to quickly figure out if if this friend or foe body from you again me because it is again CMO AutoRun and if this friend you might want to walk over and secondhand and so so you know that’s a really basic categories friend or foe and we can sort of dance into and we we can sort of those into probably present probably unpleasant probably neutral we can we can sort of incentive on interest to me of no interest to me you know so we we do this kind of coughing really quickly because we have to make quick decisions and we have this this sort of storehouse of what I would call them stories and some people call them you know memories but the memories that are are stored memories that existence stories and and we know how things turn out looks like a particular event authority happened it is starting to look like that event they would jump to conclusions and say will last how is good turnout so I that a runaway know sometimes and we miss great opportunities and there’s in order stories about that it’s a classic movie plot right is is the oldest boy my life go to conclusions that is no good boy fights to convince girls that he’s really good rotated later married boy you know I decided the other night and probably what it was a great Hollywood movie called bride and prejudice which is a Hindi remake of pride and prejudice know it was it was interesting of the whole villages dancing and singing in electronic musical comedy and staff that that was pot and you know it is some dynamic into my next question how does it mean how does of the casual observer how I mean how do we we look at all narrative-based entertainment in our culture it’s obviously based on stories and how how would you say that are you know media and culture are your help being or detracting from this sense of identification within ourselves I think that were were surrounded was stories could and that was surrounded by stories that are uplifting and positive and were surrounded by stories of war and and you know there’s the whole rhetoric of hate that were hearing now on the campaign trail and so I think that the media has every option for us and we have to decide what stories will pay attention to that that is a is F to tell good stories and I I do a group for people with chronic disease and this morning a couple people in the group one woman was telling about how she got from living in again with her 10-month-old baby to being employed having a home having three children and having it and going to school which is an amazing shift accomplish that over the course of five years and how to really uplifting story was really inspiring story about the discovery of self agency and about meeting people who believed in her and listen to them and taking their help and running with it and we know you know so many stories that that is what is in medicine one gets to hear so many stories that aren’t that inspiring in the emergency department for example and and then the person immediately you came after her was a young man who told an amazing story about sitting around with nothing to do drunk on the visit reservation and so many seven the plaintext to become your domain and any and he got here in a snowstorm a came from a warm climate he got here in a snowstorm we sorts Samuelson teachers and since then he start he put himself how to design websites he’s making YouTube videos he’s been really successful as a dancer he’s he’s gotten married he has two children he turned his life around and that’s really inspiring Yahoo! News it is really intriguing summer signing up to their it just think if we could just get into the science of it mean what is happening in the brain what parts of the brain are being activated as we access the stories in our minds there were only visualize the story where using of course visual cortex and visual associational cortex and where where using the posterior singular the precuneus put together kinesthetic memories with the story and and feeling senescence we were using our motor cortex imagine moving as we would move in in the story were using our temporal poles to to give other people beliefs and and intentions desires and you know where monitoring the the our our got your brain is sending the whole package to our got which is monitoring the whole story and giving us feedback reactions to the story so when we say that something is gutwrenching we really mean it or something makes us sick torso monks we really mean it so and and so positive stories are sending back happy hormones you know to simplify you in case the endorphins from an Indo cannabinoids and and traumatic stories are sending back your catecholamines activating the sympathetic nervous system fight or flight nervous system there is no producing corticosteroids that the stress response hormones there’s there getting us extra insulin so we can run so is quite a different experience you have it seems like a lot of this is incredibly dynamic in the sense that we can go back into our minds and changed the way that our memory exists about an event or experience to reframe it into a sort of positive context and thereby Institute a sort of healing mechanism absolutely and we do that quite naturally and I I’m an example of a friend that she’s a comedian in the storyteller and to chagrin and embarrassment she got taken by one of those Nigerian scams and sent money to the wire that the give you you said yes will provide we found out which he done just felt like she was the stupidest person on the planet and she Telling the story and and making it funnier and funnier and funnier until she finally performed as a storyteller and the storytelling event and audience was in stitches the audience couldn’t stop laughing every other line was a punchline and and everyone was laughing that and it was it’s a beautiful example mean it in a simple example a lot you know but but similar to what people do for four more severe, maybe they don’t make it quite is funny but but UC had metabolized her shame and her embarrassment and humor that it was just incredible to see her of nuclear performing the story that was so incredibly funny about you have the money that she gave away tonight and so you people have been terribly traumatized say in war interview something called narrative exposure therapy where where appear listens to them tell the story until it triggers a dozen trigger anything anymore it’s just a story for the just keep telling it and telling it and telling it until the the emotional component is: is this is best supporting story and then they can move on to everyone asked his question think is important in there’s there’s a lot of research right now that is coming coming out with the use of psychedelics sulci been and are you lost got to kind of treat PTSD MDMA assisted therapy what is what is your opinion on that and what is your stance on that in regards to the research that you’re doing well I I’m a feminist work and I think that is potentially positive in the sense that we seems to do is it charged people loose from the story that they’ve grown accustomed to do grown attached to and I have a colleague at the University of Arizona studies psilocybin for obsessive-compulsive disorder and when I read the descriptions of some of his subjects is sounds like what the psilocybin does is it completely stiff there point of view and they they exit this weekend mindset and can see things from another framework and I think if if if you’re working with a skillful therapist whose I think that can be positive I’d I think a be dangerous if you doing it on your own because we need a scaffolding a flick changing stories typically we need a scaffolding could to hold us up during the transition and without the scaffolding things could could fall apart in common done I think but I I I remember reading some of the early LSD research and it was certainly promising as a possibility though it quickly got shut down and then never to see the light of day again that you know there there are these possibilities I think ketamine may do some of that and if that intravenous treatment for severe depression that’s being done in some hospitals and my sense is that when it works it dissociates people from their habitual story long enough that they can see the world differently while and then was overtaken they had the experience of having seen themselves from a different blends from a different Sandpoint we established that the narratives are are unconscious and conscious narratives is completely essential to our healing and how we progress through in our psychological disorders are physiological disorders mean in your opinion what what can a person do that is perhaps listening to the show right now to with the problem that they may be struggling with to kind of help themselves or a short technique that gives of unmonitored is to take a problematic situation and write about it will the third person so we get stuck with me during the first person in say I think this and I think that they did this to me and etc. center put it all in the third person once upon a time there was a man who worked in the hospital and had an argument with the cafeteria you come about not having gluten-free bread or you know and and so when we when we right to go there in the third person oftentimes we can we can see things that we can see when we were just thinking about it in the first person and and that is another technique that that is granted in children’s literature which which can give this even more difference in perspective with his paternal the characters and have and so make the grantee cafeteria worker into her eponymous hippopotamus absolutely you know and and what you what your character to be you are you a coyote early check are your raccoon with what jumps out for you today and and sometimes that that’s just amazingly illuminating in terms of under of seeing it differently you know stepping out of the rat and and taking a different look at the situation you mentioned Syracuse the cure of the story why is that so important to the story without that they most journey just useful Joseph Campbell it’s it’s about by some neuroscientist to be a metaphor for adaptation and so in the hero’s journey think things are going along fine everybody’s happy you know that… Going on current ruffle anyone’s feathers and and suddenly things change you the end all shows up to talk about things to come or Luke Skywalker’s parents are murdered by storm troopers or like people show up on the coast of Maine or something changes Can cook appears and and so then they he was serious about how the hero response to that event and restores harmony to the world the world around him or her and and so that they keep the key element in the hero’s journey is that the hero has to do something the hero has to to has to have agency and agency is incredibly correlated with mental health and what physical health so when we have agency we take action because we believe that our actions will improve things and we don’t have agency pretend not to do any think of nothing matters anyway in whatever we do it will help so why bother and and and he will the hero story also the first action doesn’t always succeed so sometimes we have to try try and try again sometimes we have to go get help like Luke Skywalker goes to take robot to study with you we have to do something to strengthen our position and all of these things are about adapting to adverse circumstances that have suddenly appeared whether it be adapting to an illness or overcoming a problem at work or you know suddenly are given a disability and you have to make the most of it so you know these hero stories explained to us how to do it and and we we need that in order to go make change for ourselves and for world
This work early fascinating them truly perplexed and mean in a good way by how powerful this seems and how much what we tell ourselves can affect know what were thinking how our thinking and the way in which we think it I’d I just want to thank you for your time where can people find your work your website my website is www.now – Madrona.com and also we have coyote Institute which is www.KylieInstitute.us and I can be googled I’m in Orono Maine and Tom happy to dialogue with people great Dr. Louis think you so much for being here thank you for having me this is the human experience we are in the out here we will see you guys next week


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