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Book Club featuring Dr. Grant Brenner

George Grombacher June 22, 2023

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Book Club featuring Dr. Grant Brenner

On this edition of the Book Club, Dr. Grant Brenner talks about his newest book, Making Your Crazy Work for You: From Trauma and Isolation to Self-Acceptance and Love. Dr. Grant is the New York state Medical Director for SOL, a psychotherapist, therapist, psychiatrist, professor, speaker, and author.

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Get your copy of Making Your Crazy Work for You HERE

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Dr. Grant Brenner

Episode Transcript

eorge grombacher 0:04
Well, hello, this is George G. And the time is right. Welcome to our monthly book club and welcome our author, strong and powerful. Dr. Grant Brenner. Dr. Grant, are you ready to do this?

Dr. Grant Brenner 0:12
I am. Let’s go.

george grombacher 0:14
All right, let’s go. Indeed, Dr. Grant is the chief medical officer in the co founder of neighborhood psychiatry and wellness. He is a psychotherapist, a therapist, a psychiatrist, Professor, speaker and author, his newest book is making your crazy work for you from trauma and isolation to self acceptance and love. excited to have you on Dr. tousled what your personal life’s more about your work. And what motivated you to put pen to paper for this book.

Dr. Grant Brenner 0:43
Yeah, very good. Thanks. Thanks for having me. Excuse me. So, you know, this is the third in our book series, our being Dr. Mark Borg, and Daniel, John Daniel Berry, co authors of mine, our first book was called a relationship, which, which is subtitled how we use intimacy to hide from dysfunctional relationships or something of that nature, the core. The core idea here is that we act like we’re trying to get close to people. But we’re using that effort to defend against the fact that we’re actually scared of getting closer. And in the third book, making your crazy work for you the most recent one from trauma and isolation to self acceptance and love. We turn the attention back on oneself. And the core question is how can we have the best relationship with ourselves possible?

george grombacher 1:37
That That strikes me that that that that makes a lot of sense. I’m very fond of the Shel Silverstein poem, The missing piece. Do you know that one?

Dr. Grant Brenner 1:47
No, tell me more about that. It’s all some of his work, but not that one.

george grombacher 1:51
It’s, it’s a really good one, this little circle is missing a piece and he just goes looking for something that’s that’s going to fill the gap in himself. And at the end of the day, it’s he recognizes that he needs to work on himself first, instead of trying to get somebody else to fill the missing piece.

Dr. Grant Brenner 2:08
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think a lot of people are looking to fix themselves through other people. And I think in reality, it’s it kind of goes hand in hand when we’re working on relationships with others, and we’re working on our relationship with ourself, that’s when you get a synergy. So

george grombacher 2:26
is it? Is it obvious? Is it intuitive? How do we what is what is this process look like?

Dr. Grant Brenner 2:35
Well, I don’t think it’s obvious to everyone, I think it depends a lot on where your starting point is, I think the basic idea is that we have lots of different parts to ourselves, and that varies from person to person. But we also might have an idea that we’re supposed to be consistent all the time, we’re never supposed to have any internal contradictions. You know, Walt Whitman talked about, like I contain multitudes, do I contradict myself. And so the idea here is kind of a teamwork idea to put it in really simple terms. And so especially for people who have had developmental adversity, negative experiences, we may not be in touch with all the different parts of ourselves. And the the making your crazy work for you ideas is based on work with trauma and dissociation, where we start with self compassion and loving kindness, get to know the lay of the land, psychologically speaking, how the mind works, and then start to get in touch with different aspects of ourselves through a process of self discovery, and it’s it really is, again, to emphasize based in in compassion practice, because otherwise, a lot of times what happens is, as soon as you start to encounter these different things in yourself, there’s a rejection of aspects of oneself. And it feels like the right thing to do, because we’re trying to be good, you know, or we’re trying to do what we’re supposed to do, that we’re not taking ourselves into account fully. And so that self compassion really allows us to have the space to reflect fully.

george grombacher 4:05
I appreciate that. How many, how many folks are walking around that have encountered some kind of that developmental adversity?

Dr. Grant Brenner 4:16
Yeah, the well, the rates of that are pretty high in you know, in the general population in California, the group Kaiser Permanente did a famous study on ACEs adverse childhood experiences, I think back in the 90s. And the rates of trauma, not PTSD, but people who have experienced some kind of adversity are quite high, you know, hovering around 50 or more percent among sort of your average person, but you have to remember that the like I said, the rate of PTSD is much lower than the rate of of traumatic or adverse experiences. But even if people don’t have, you know, post traumatic stress disorder, these things shaped the way we see ourselves in relationships throughout the lifespan. There’s lots of Other factors, but that’s an important one, of course. And not all, not all developmental experiences are necessarily traumatic, that leave kind of a pattern that we want to work on later in life. And some of those patterns are good in the sense of being adaptive, useful,

george grombacher 5:20
that’s certainly make sense that some of the patterns that we develop, is it. And I’m always, I don’t want to use the wrong words, but I don’t know what the right ones are. So we perhaps adapt some things as a coping mechanism. And some of those are actually beneficial, and some are probably not all.

Dr. Grant Brenner 5:39
Yeah, I think, you know, when we’re when we’re younger, and our brains are not fully developed, and we’re more dependent on caregivers who may or may be competent in very varying ways and less competent in other ways. You know, a parent who is depressed or is struggling with a substance use disorder is not fully available to the child. And so the child has to do things, you know, like that could be me or you, in order to make it work. And we use a we use a shorthand called graphs, which is being good, right? Absent, funny, tense, smart, these are all behaviors that a kid, you know, and we recognize these in other relationships, as well, but starts in childhood, these are all behaviors that a kid will use in order to keep their parent kind of as functional as possible. You know, being good, being smart, getting good grades, being funny, cheering them up, being tense kind of walking on eggshells being absent, staying out of the way, when the person is in a bad mood. And now, any of those patterns, you know, could be good coping mechanisms, depending on the circumstance. But the problem is they become rigid for some people extending into adulthood. And then we end up using the same coping mechanism that we might have needed to use for a raging parent, when we need a different way of approaching a boss who’s not happy with our performance, and then, you know, these underlying patterns, right, they get triggered in adulthood. And we think that the other person is coming from a different place than then they are like, we think that that boss hates us and wants to get rid of us or is resentful that they have to deal with us, when in reality, maybe the boss is just focused on, you know, helping the whole team perform at their best, and it doesn’t have that personal feeling that people often carry into relationships from childhood.

george grombacher 7:28
So I assume it’s very possible that and probable many people go through their entire lives without being aware of, of the traumas that they potentially experience that are then informing their current behavior. How do people normally how does the light bulb go on for people?

Dr. Grant Brenner 7:51
Yeah, I think unfortunately, a lot of times, it’s, it’s because over and over again, things that we don’t want keep happening. And because like you’re saying, a lot of those things are, they’re out of awareness. They’re either repressed, or they’re disassociated, or, you know, our memory is, is blocked or impaired in some way. Or we don’t have the framework in which they make sense. In other words, like, we don’t really have a way of telling our own story that has room for those less pleasant aspects of experience. So they’ve, they’ve been kind of marginalized or sidelined. A lot of times, the way it comes to light is just bad stuff keeps happening. People have relationship after relationship that doesn’t work, or they hit rock bottom in a particular relationship with a spouse, sometimes a professional situation, or sometimes with their own children, their kids sort of come to an age where they find his parents, it’s really bringing up some negative stuff. But you know, more often than not, at least, you know, in, in my work, and, you know, I’m a clinician, so I see people where, where things went where they wanted to seek help. It’s because something is happening that they don’t know how to deal with and it’s, it’s really feeling that it’s not right in some way. Other Other times, I think people will sort of, maybe read something or it could, it could be like a self help article. It could be a TV show, and something clicks for them, they recognize something in themselves, and they are proactive and reach out for help or understanding. So I think that initial step of discovery is often a big aha moment for people but then it keeps happening. You know, we keep having discoveries about ourselves. Some of them are smaller, some of them are equally sort of equally big.

george grombacher 9:47
It’s a, that’s certainly been my experience. It’s like why why do I find myself in this situation consistently? What role obviously playing some role in these different interactions? Because I’m bringing myself into the interaction. And so that self exploration process, I don’t know when I started doing it, but I certainly do do it. And so I can see where once you sort of engage in that process, but I definitely am person that beats myself up and I’m working on the compassion piece.

Dr. Grant Brenner 10:19
You know, it will, yeah, that’s where I was going. I think, you know, in making your crazy work for you, we start out with a combination of psycho education and compassion based practice. Because I think those two things can help people recognize what they need to work on in a less a less difficult way, there’s often you know, a level of discomfort or emotional pain that attends these things. But if you have a sense of like, how the mind works, and how emotions work, and how how development works, and how growth works, and you approach yourself while working on self compassion, than the self critical piece, you know, is buffered to an extent. And I think it’s a question of kind of accountability, more than blame. A lot of people will be blaming themselves, because they, you know, of course, I know I’m participating in my own problems. But that doesn’t mean I need to attack myself for it. If anything, actually, when I feel self critical, what I try to do is listen, with curiosity, and kind of say, Okay, well, the self critical voice in me is, is not feeling good. So I’m suffering. In Mindful self compassion work, you know, of like, Kristin Neff is a psychologist, that’s called a self compassion break. And then I also want to ask myself, Okay, well, maybe there’s something in there I can learn from also. But that doesn’t mean that I have to kind of take it from myself either. And so this means, you know, developing a different, better quality relationship with oneself. And, you know, we even talk in the book about how can we restructure that inner dialogue, it’s, it’s a little counterintuitive, because in our second book, which is called relationship sanity, and in the first book, in your relationship, how we use dysfunctional relationships, to hide from intimacy, we talked about a communication process called the 40 2040 model. And this is basically like, you set up rules for a conversation with two or more people, where you take turns speaking, you use a timer, you speak for, you know, say, three minutes, maybe five minutes. And the idea is that you speak from the heart not to attack or blame the other person, and you listen to try to understand not to, not to try to, you know, set up your your counter argument for when it’s finally your turn to speak again. And this model structures, the time and the intent. And of course, you know, you mess up and you violate boundaries. And, you know, but the thing is, you agree together to try to use conflict constructively. Now, imagine doing that with your inner dialogue. It’s the same kind of idea. You you want to set up the circumstances where if you sit down to sort of talk with yourself, it is going to be constructive, even if there is contentiousness and conflict.

george grombacher 13:13
I think that the idea of accountability versus blame is super, super powerful. That’s, I love that I love having rules for a conversation that you’re having with somebody else. And then certainly also also plan that to ourselves. When you are writing a book, like you’ve mentioned, the the two previous and now making your crazy work for you, what are you hoping the effect is going to be when somebody actually reads it? Is it to fix themselves? Is it to start the process?

Dr. Grant Brenner 13:50
I think it’s very individualized. I certainly hope that anyone who reads it will benefit they’ll have some positive effect on their adult developmental process. And I And and I hope that there’s enough kind of basic information in the first few chapters that what what we often find is that it takes people a while to read our books, because there’s there’s a lot of work in the books, it’s it’s a little bit like a therapeutic process, kind of in a book, it starts out with learning about things, basic practices like compassion. It goes on to this developmental model of graphs where you can get tools for recognizing the patterns that you’re repeating from development. Throughout, you continue to cultivate the self compassionate dialogue, we present the 40 2040 model. And then by the last third of the book, there’s what we call the dream sequence, which is a very loose developmental pathway, short for discovery, repair, empowerment, alternatives, and mutuality. And this refers to a shifting of gears, you know, as they say, It’s not it’s not so much the goal as it is, it is the process. But we hope that people will shift into a different process in how they relate to themselves, so that over the course of time, their lives will get better and better and better. We pretty strongly I’d say, don’t think that there’s a lot of quick fixes, though there can be points where we make sudden leaps. But then at the end of the day, it still is kind of, I’d rather see, I’d rather see readers kind of play the long game, you know, I’d rather see people be happier in 10 years, and work through stuff over the next two, then try to be perfectionistic and fix everything in the next year or two, and find that they inadvertently have been repeating the same patterns. Because a lot of times those developmental patterns are about fixing other people and fixing oneself. So I hope any reader will kind of shift the way they view, being stewards of their own development into a kind of a more wise and loving kind approach. And I think we hope that that’ll generalize, because, you know, kind of everyone needs a little more compassion.

george grombacher 16:13
Couldn’t agree more. When it seems like we’ve been talking about finding and being our true, authentic self, and maybe that’s just what I’ve been looking, I’ve been hearing more about that over the past, just in recent memory. Do you think that that’s constructive? Or back to the Whitman thing? Is that a dangerous thing?

Dr. Grant Brenner 16:38
Yeah, you know, it’s interesting, because I’m working on a piece on authenticity, and it is coming up a lot. I think it needs to be approached carefully the idea of authenticity, because you know, you can have a problem. Because if you’re changing, does that mean, you’re being not true to yourself, if you want to change, where if you take on some new behaviors that don’t feel comfortable, like, let’s say, you’re starting a doing a podcast, and you haven’t put yourself out in front of people so much. And you know, I’ve done podcasts, and I’ve, I’ve been shy in the past, and I put myself out in front of people more, does that mean you’re being inauthentic? If you’re trying new things? Or are you being true to kind of a deeper, a deeper value system? Now, the thing about authenticity, though, is I’m a little bit weary of the idea because it, it has, it’s become like a kind of a thing that you shoot for. And I think there’s an underlying in authenticity. Sometimes that’s a little more, it’s harder to get a hold of. So how do people navigate that I do think being aware of all the different parts of oneself is really helpful because it stops being an either or question. And then it’s really a more nuanced question. You know, if I’m being authentic to one part of myself, maybe I’m not feeling authentic to another part of myself. And then the idea here is that you can kind of, you know, create empathy for those parts of oneself that are having more trouble with change. And, and then the other thing I’d say about authenticity that there’s tons of other things is it’s more of something to move toward, rather than a given to start with. And then if you deviate from like your, your bad, aka in a thick

george grombacher 18:28
thing that that makes a lot of sense. And like everything, there’s certainly nuance to it. Dr. Bronner, so I appreciate that. Well, Greg, thank you so much, for so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage with you and where can they get their copy of making your crazy work for you from trauma and isolation to self acceptance and love?

Dr. Grant Brenner 18:49
Thanks, George. Well, my website is www. www dot grant H Brenner And you can find me on social media. My handle is usually at Grant H. Brenner, MD, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and you can buy that book. I think it’s, you know, available anywhere. It’s on our publishers website, central recovery press. It’s on Amazon. It’s at major retailers.

george grombacher 19:15
Excellent. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did show, grant your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, go to grant H. BRENNER GRANTHBRENNER And check out everything that grant is working on you can find him on social media under the same grant H Brenner MD handle. I’ll link all those in the notes of the show and pick up your copy of making your crazy work for you from trauma and isolation to acceptance to self acceptance and love wherever you buy your books. But we’ll certainly link to that in the notes as well. Thanks again, Grant.

Dr. Grant Brenner 19:54
Thanks very much, George. Have a good one.

george grombacher 19:56
It was well till next time, bye in the good fight. We We’re all in this together

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