Welcome to Pushing the Limits, the show that helps you reach your full potential with your host Lisa Tamati, brought to you by lisatamati.com.
Lisa Tamati: Hi, everyone and welcome back to Pushing the Limits. Today, I have Dr Don Wood who, you may recognise that name if you listen to the podcast regularly. He was on the show maybe a couple of months ago, and he is the CEO and founder of The Inspired Performance Institute. He's a neuroscience guy, and he knows everything there is to know about dealing with trauma and how to get the mind back on track when you've been through big, horrible life events or some such thing. Now, when we talked last time, he shared with me his methodology, the work that he's done, how he can help people with things like addictions as well and depression, and just dealing with the stresses of life, whether they be small stressors or big stressors.
We got to talking about my situation and the stuff that I've been through in the last few years, which many of you listeners know, has been pretty traumatic. From losing babies, to losing my dad, to mom's journey. So I was very privileged and lucky to have Dr Don Wood actually invite me to do his program with him. We share today my stories, how I went with that, and he explains a little bit more in-depth the neuroscience behind it all and how it all works. So if you're someone who's dealing with stress, anxiety, PTSD, depression, if you want to understand how the brain works and how you can help yourself to deal with these sorts of things, then you must listen to the show. He's an absolutely lovely, wonderful person.
Now, before we get over to the show, I just love you all to do a couple of things for me. If you wouldn't mind doing a rating and review of the show on Apple, iTunes or wherever you listen to this, that would be fantastic. It helps the show get found. We also have a patron program, just a reminder if you want to check that out. Come and join the mission that we're on to bring this wonderful information to reach to people.
Also, we have our BOOSTCAMP program starting on the first of September 2021. If you listen to this later, we will be holding these on a regular basis so make sure you check it out. This is an eight-week live webinar series that my business partner, my best buddy, and longtime coach Neil Wagstaff and I will be running. It's more about upgrading your life and helping you perform better, helping you be your best that you can be, helping you understand your own biology, your own neuroscience, how your brain works, how your biology works. Lots of good information that's going to help you upgrade your life, live longer, be happier, reduce stress, and be able to deal with things when life is stressful. God knows we're all dealing with that. So I'd love you to come and check that out. You can go to peakwellness.co.nz/boostcamp.
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The last thing before we go over to Dr Don Wood, reminder check out, too, our longevity and anti-aging supplement. We’ve joined forces with Dr Elena Seranova and have NMN which is nicotinamide mononucleotide, and this is really some of that cooler stuff in the anti-aging, and longevity space. If you want to check out the science behind that, we have a couple of podcasts with her. Check those out and also head on over to nmnbio.nz. Right. Over to the show with Dr Don Wood.
Hi, everyone and welcome back to Pushing the Limits. Today, I have a dear, dear friend again who's back on the show as a repeat offender, Dr Don Wood.
Dr Don Wood: I didn't know I was a repeat offender. Oh, I'm in trouble. That's great.
Lisa: Repeat offender on the show. Dr Don, for those who don't know, was on the show. Dr Don is a trauma expert and a neuroscientist, and someone who understands how the brain works, and why we struggle with anxiety, and depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. We did a deep dive last time, didn't we, into the program that you've developed. Since then, everyone, I have been through Dr Don's pro program. He kindly took me through it. Today, I want to unpack a little bit of my experiences on the other side, s the client, so to speak. Talk about what I went through.
Dr Don, so firstly, welcome to the show again. How's it all over in your neck of the woods?
Dr Don: Well, it's awesome over here in Florida. COVID is basically non-existent. Oh, yeah. Well, in terms of the way people are treating it, that's for sure. Very few people you see in masks now, everything is pretty much wide open. You can't even get reservations at restaurants. It's unbelievable. The economy is exploding here. There's so much going on. Yeah, I know the rest of the country, a lot of different places are still struggling with whether they're going to put mask mandates back on and all this kind of stuff but Florida seems to be doing very well.
Lisa: Well, I'm very glad to hear that because any bit of good news in this scenario is good because this keeps coming and biting everybody in the bum.
Dr Don: I know. Especially down there. You guys are really experiencing quite severe lockdowns and things, right?
Lisa: Yeah and Australia, more so. Australia has gone back into lockdown. I've got cousins in Sydney who are experiencing really hard times in Melbourne and we've stopped the trans-Tasman bubble at the moment. Trans-Tasman was open for business, so to speak, with Australians being able to come to New Zealand without quarantine, but it's been shut down again. So yeah, we're still struggling with it, and the economy is still struggling with it but actually, in our country, we've been very lucky that we've managed to keep it out because they've had such tight controls on the borders. But yes, it's a rocky road for everybody, and it's not over yet, I think.
Dr Don: Looks like it's going to continue, and that's creating a lot of stress.
Lisa: Oh, yeah, perfect.
Dr Don: This is what I've said. I think we're coming up to a tsunami of mental health issues because a lot of people have gone into freeze mode as opposed to fight or flight. Some people are in fight or flight. You're hearing about that on airlines: people just losing it, and getting mad, and fighting with flight attendants and passengers, and you see a lot of that. But I think that's obviously not the majority. I think most people are in that mode of just get through this, do what they ask, don't cause any waves, and just get this over with. So that's a freeze mode, and I think when people come out of freeze, you're going to start to see some of these mental health issues.
Lisa: Yes, I totally agree and I'm very concerned about the young people. I think that being hit very hard especially in the places that have the hardest lockdowns. If you're going through puberty, or you're going through teenagehood, or even the younger kids, I think, they're going to be affected massively by this because it's going to be a big before and after sort of situation for them.
Dr Don: And just the social. When we were teenagers, social was everything, I suppose. Learning how to communicate, and talk, and get along with other people, and good and bad. There were always struggles in school with learning how to get along with everybody but that is just sort of squashed. It's going to be fascinating to see when they do a study on the real true results of this pandemic. It's going to be a lot different than many people think.
Lisa: Yes, and I think the longer you ignore stuff, is we’re going to see it's not just the people are unfortunately dying and being very sick from the actual COVID, but the actual effects on society are going to be big. That's why talking about the topic that we're talking about today, dealing with anxiety, and dealing with stress, and being able to actually fix the problem instead of just managing the problem, which I know you're big on.
So let's dive in there, and let's recap a little bit. Just briefly go back over your story, how you got to here, and what your method sort of entails in a helicopter perspective.
Dr Don: Yeah, basically how I developed this was really because of the life that my wife led first and my daughter. My wife grew up in a very traumatic household with a very angry father that created tremendous fear. So everybody was... Just constant tension in that household. When I met her, I just realised how this was so different than my life. My life was in the complete opposite: very nurturing, loving. So I didn't experience that. I thought when she started moving in and we got married at 19, we were very young, that this would all stop for her. Because now, she's living in my world, my environment, and it didn't.
She just kept continuing to feel this fear that something was going to go wrong and nothing is going to go right. She struggled with enjoying things that were going well. I would say to her, 'We've got three beautiful children. We’ve got a beautiful home. Everything's going pretty good; nothing's perfect. You have your ups and downs, but it's generally a pretty good life.’ She couldn't enjoy that because as a child, whenever things were going okay, it would quickly end and it would end, sometimes violently. So the way she was protecting herself is don't get too excited when things are going well because you'll get this huge drop. So that was what she was doing to protect herself.
I just had a lady come in here a couple months ago, who very famous athlete is her husband: millionaires, got fame, fortune, everything you want, but she had a lot of health issues because of trauma from her childhood. When I explained that to her, she said, 'That's me. Your wife is me. I should be enjoying this, and I can't get there. I want to. My husband can't understand it.' But that's really what was going on for her too.
Lisa: So it's a protective mechanism, isn't it? To basically not get too relaxed and happy because you've got to be hyper-vigilant, and this is something that I've definitely struggled with my entire life. Not because I had a horrible childhood. I had a wonderful childhood but I was super sensitive. So from a genetic perspective, I'm super sensitive. I have a lot of adrenaline that makes me code for, for want of a better description, I'm very emotionally empathetic but it also makes me swung by emotional stimuli very much. So someone in my environment is unhappy, I am unhappy. I'm often anxious and upset. My mum telling me she took me to Bambi. You know the movie Bambi? From Disneyland? She had to take me out of theatre. I was in distraught.
That's basically me. Because Bambi's mother got killed, right? I couldn't handle that as a four-year-old, and I still can't handle things. Things like the news and stuff, I protect myself from that because I take everything on. It's even a problem and in our business service situations because I want to save the world. I very much take on my clients' issues. I'm still learning to shut gates afterwards, so to speak, when you're done working with someone so that you're not constantly... So there's a genetic component to this as well.
Dr Don: Absolutely. So yours was coming from a genetic side but that's very, very common amongst people who have had a traumatic childhood. They're super sensitive.
Lisa: Yes. Hyper-vigilant.
Dr Don: Hyper-vigilant. That was my wife. She was constantly looking for danger. We’d come out of the storage and go: 'Can you believe how rude that clerk was?' 'What do you mean she was rude? How was she rude?' ‘You see the way she answered that question when I asked that, and then the way she stuffed the clothes in the bag?’ And I'm like, 'Wow.' I never saw her like that. She was looking for it because that's how she protected herself because she had to recognise when danger was coming. So it was protection, and I hadn't experienced that so that made no sense to me; it made perfect sense to her.
Lisa: Yeah, and if someone was rude to you, you would be just like, 'Well, that's their problem, not my problem, and I'm not taking it on.' Whereas for someone your wife and for me... I did have a dad who was a real hard, tough man, like old-school tough. We were very much on tenterhooks so when they came home, whether he was in a good mood today or not in a good mood. He was a wonderful, loving father but there was that tension of wanting to please dad. Mum was very calm and stable, but Dad was sort of more volatile and just up and down. It was wonderful and fun and other times, you'd be gauging all of that before he even walked in the door. That just makes you very much hyper-vigilant to everything as well.
Then, you put on, on top of that, the genetic component. You've got things like your serotonin and your adrenaline. So I've got the problem with the adrenaline and a lack of dopamine. So I don't have dopamine receptors that stops me feeling satisfaction and... Well, not stops me but it limits my feeling of, 'Oh, I've done a good job today. I can relax.' Or of reward. And other people have problems, I don't have this one, but with a serotonin gene, which is they have dysregulation of their serotonin and that calm, and that sense of well-being and mood regulation is also up and down. While it's not a predisposition that you'll definitely going to have troubles because you can learn the tools to manage those neurotransmitters and things like nutrition and gut health and all that aspect. Because it's all a piece of that puzzle, but it's really just interesting, and it makes you much more understanding of people's differences.
Why does one person get completely overwhelmed in a very trivial situation versus someone else who could go into war and come back and they're fine? What is it that makes one person? Then you got the whole actual neuroscience circuitry stuff, which I find fascinating, what you do. Can you explain a little bit what goes on? Say let's just pick a traumatic experience: Someone's gone through some big major trauma. What is actually going on in the brain again? Can we explain this a little bit?
Dr Don: Yeah, this is one of the things that... When I did my research, I realised this is what's causing the dysregulation: is your subconscious your survival brain is fully present in the moment all the time. So everything in that part of our brain is operating in the present. which is what is supposed to be, right? They say that that's the key, that success and happiness is live in the present. Well, your survival brain does that. The problem comes in is that only humans store explicit details about events and experiences. So everything you've seen, heard, smelled, and touched in your lifetime has been recorded and stored in this tremendous memory system. Explicit memory.
Animals have procedural memory or associative memory. We have that memory system too. So we have both. They only have procedural, associative. So they learn through repetition, and they learn to associate you with safety and love, but they don't store the details about it. But we store all the details about these events and experiences. So this is where this glitch is coming in. If you've got the survival brain, which is 95% of everything that's going on, operating in the present, accessing data from something that happened 10 years ago because something looks like, sounds like, smells like it again, it's creating a response to something that's not happening. It's looking at old data and creating a physiological response to it, and the purpose of an emotion is a call for an action. So the purpose of fear is to run, to escape a threat. But there's no threat. It's just information about the threat. That disrupts your nervous system and then that creates a cascade of chemical reactions in your body because your mind thinks there's an action required.
Lisa: This is at the crux of the whole system really, isn't it? This is this call for action to fix a problem that is in the past that cannot be fixed in the now. So if we can dive a little bit into my story, and I'm quite open on the show. I'm sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly. When I was working with Dr Don, I've been through a very, very traumatic few years really. Lost my dad, first and foremost, last July, which was the biggest trauma of my life. And it was a very difficult process that we went through before he died as well. And there’s a lift, as you can imagine, my brain in a state of every night nightmares, fighting for his life, he's dying over, and over, and over, and over again.
Those memories are intruding into my daily life, whereas in anything and at any time, I could be triggered and be in a bawling state in the middle of the car park or the supermarket. Because something's triggered me that Dad liked to to buy or Dad, whatever the case was, and this was becoming... It's now a year after the event but everything was triggering me constantly. Of course, this is draining the life out of you and interfering with your ability to give focus to your business, to your family, to your friends, every other part of your life. I'd also been through the trauma of bringing Mum back from that mess of aneurysm that everyone knows about. The constant vigilance that is associated with bringing someone back and who is that far gone to where she is now, and the constant fear of her slipping backwards, and me missing something, especially in light of what I'd been through with my father. So I'd missed some things, obviously. That's why he ended up in that position and through his own choices as well.
But this load, and then losing a baby as well in the middle, baby Joseph. There was just a hell of a lot to deal with in the last five years. Then, put on top of it, this genetic combination of a hot mess you got sitting before you and you've got a whole lot of trauma to get through. So when we did the process, and I was very, super excited to do this process because it was so intrusive into my life, and I realised that I was slowly killing myself because I wasn't able to stop that process from taking over my life. I could function. I was highly functional. No one would know in a daily setting, but only because I've got enough tools to keep my shit together. so to speak. But behind closed doors, there's a lot of trauma going on.
So can you sort of, just in a high level, we don't want to go into the details. This is a four-hour program that I went through with Dr Don. What was going on there. and what did you actually help me with?
Dr Don: So when you're describing those things that were happening to you, what was actually happening to your mind is it was not okay with any of that. It wanted it to be different, right? So it was trying to get you into a state of action to stop your father from dying: Do it differently. Because it kept reviewing the data. It was almost looking at game tape from a game and saying 'Oh, had we maybe run the play that way, we would have avoided the tackle here.' So what your mind was saying 'Okay, run that way.' Well, you can't run that way. This is game tape. Right? But your mind doesn't see it as game tape. It sees it as real now, so it's run that way. So it keeps calling you into an action.
And especially with your dad because you were thinking about, 'Why didn't I do this?' Or 'Had I just done this, maybe this would have happened.' What your mind was saying is, 'Okay, let's do it. Let's do that.' What you just thought about. But you can't do that. It doesn't exist. It's information about something that happened but your mind sees it as real. That's why Hollywood have made trillions of dollars because they can convince you something on the screen is actually happening. That's why we cry in a movie or that's why we get scared in a movie. Because your mind, your subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between real or imagined. So that's actually happening.
You were just talking about the movie with Bambi, right? When you were little. 'Why is nobody stopping this from happening?' So your mind was not okay with a lot of these things that were happening, and it kept calling you to make a difference. That's what I never understood my wife doing. That before I really researched this, my wife would always be saying, 'Don't you wish this hadn’t have happened?' Or 'Don't you wish we hadn’t done this?' What I didn't understand at the time, because I used to just get like, 'Okay, whatever.' She’d go, 'Yeah, but wouldn't it have been better?' She wanted to get me into this play with her, this exercise.
Lisa: This is going on in her head.
Dr Don: Because it's going on in her head, and she's trying to feel better. So she's creating these scenarios that would make her feel like, 'Well, if I had just done that, gosh that would have been nice, thinking about that life.’ And her mind seeing that going, 'Oh, that would be nice. Well, let's do that. Yes.' So she was what if-ing her life. And it was something that she did very early as a child because that's how she just experienced something traumatic with her father. In her mind, she'd be going, 'Well, what if I had to just left 10 minutes earlier, and I had have escaped that?' Or 'What if I hadn’t done this?' So that's what she was doing. It made no sense to me because I hadn't experienced her life, but that's what she was doing. Her mind was trying to fix something. It’s never tried to hurt you. It was never, at any point, trying to make you feel bad. It was trying to protect you.
Lisa: Its job is to protect you from danger and it sees everything as you sit in the now so it's happening now. I love that analogy of these... What was it? Two-thirds of the car or something and...
Dr Don: So goat and snowflake?
Lisa: Goat and snowflake. And they're going off to a meeting and they're late. And what does the goat says to snowflake or the other way around?
Dr Don: So snowflake, which is your conscious mind, your logical reasonable part of your mind, there's only 5, says the goat 95%, which is your subconscious mind. Who runs into a traffic jam says, 'Oh, we're going to be late. We should have left 15 minutes earlier.' To which goat replies 'Okay, let's do it. Let's leave 15 minutes earlier because that would solve the problem.'
Lisa: That analogy is stuck in my head because you just cannot... It doesn't know that it's too late and you can't hop into the past because it only lives in the now. This is 95% of how our brain operates. That's why we can do things like, I was walking, I was at a strategy meeting in Auckland with my business partner two days ago. We were walking along the road and he suddenly tripped and fell onto the road, right? My subconscious reacted so fast, I grabbed him right, and punched him in the guts. I didn't mean to do that but my subconscious recognised in a millimeter of a second, millionth of a second, that he was falling and I had to stop him. So this is a good side of the survival network: stopping and falling into the traffic or onto the ground.
But the downside of it is that brain is operating only in the now and it can't... Like with my father, it was going 'Save him. Save him. Save him. Why are you not saving him?' Then that's calling for an action, and then my body is agitated. The cortisol level’s up. The adrenaline is up, and I'm trying to do something that's impossible to fix. That can drive you to absolute insanity when that's happening every hour, every day.
Dr Don: Then that's taking a physical toll on your body because it's activating your nervous system, which is now, the cortisol levels are going up, adrenaline, right? So when your mind is in that constant state, it does very little on maintenance. It is not worried about fixing anything; it's worried about escaping or fixing the threat, because that's the number one priority.
Lisa: It doesn't know that it's not happening. I ended up with shingles for two months. I've only just gotten over it a few weeks ago. That's a definite sign of my body's, my immune system is down. Why is it down? Why can that virus that's been sitting dormant in my body for 40-something years suddenly decide now to come out? Because it's just becoming too much. I've spent too long in the fight or flight state and then your immune system is down. This is how we end up really ill.
Dr Don: We get sick. I was just actually having lunch today with a young lady and she's got some immune system issues. And I said, 'Think about it like the US Army, US military is the biggest, strongest military in the world. But if you took that military and you spread it out amongst 50 countries around the world fighting battles, and then somebody attacks the United States, I don't care how big and strong that system was, that military system was. It's going to be weakened when it gets an attack at the homefront.’ So that's what was happening. So all of a sudden, now that virus that it could fight and keep dormant, it lets it pass by because it's like, 'Well, we can let that go. We'll catch that later. Right now, we got to go on the offensive and attack something else.'
Lisa: Yeah, and this is where autoimmune, like your daughter experienced...
Dr Don: About the Crohn's? Yep.
Lisa: Yep. She experienced that at 13 or something ridiculous?
Dr Don: 14, she got it. Then she also got idiopathic pulmonary hemosiderosis which is another lung autoimmune disorder where the iron in the blood would just cause the lungs to release the blood. So her lungs just starts filling up with blood. They had no idea what caused it, that's the idiopathic part of it, and they just basically said, ‘There's no cure. She just needs to live close to a hospital because she'll bleed out if she has another attack.’ Only 1 in 1.2 million people ever get that. So it's very rare so there's no research being done for it. They just basically say, ‘If you get it, live close to a hospital.’ That's the strategy.
Lisa: That's the way of fixing it.
Dr Don: And so both of those are autoimmune, and ever since we've gone to the program, she's hasn’t had a flare-up of either one of those. Because I think our system is directly now able to address those things.
Lisa: Yeah, and can calm down. I think even people who haven't got post-traumatic stress like I've had or whatever, they've still got the day to day grind of life, and the struggle with finances, and the mortgage to be paid, and the kids to feed, and whatever dramas we're all going through. Like we talked about with COVID and this constant change that society is undergoing, and that's going to get faster and more. So this is something that we all need to be wary of: That we're not in this. I've taught and learned a lot about the coping and managing strategies, the breathing techniques, and meditation, the things, and that's what's kept me, probably, going.
Dr Don: Those are great because they're... Again, that's managing it but it's good to have that because you've got to get to the root of it, which is what we were working on. But at the same time, if you don't have any coping, managing skills, life gets very difficult.
Lisa: Yeah, and this is in-the-moment, everyday things that I can do to help manage the stress levels, and this is definitely something you want to talk about as well. So with me, we went through this process, and we did... For starters, you had to get my brain into a relaxed state, and it took quite a long time to get my brainwaves into a different place. So what were we doing there? How does that work with the brainwave stuff?
Dr Don: Well, when we have a traumatic event or memory, that has been stored in a very high-resolution state. So in a beta brainwave state because all your senses are heightened: sight, smell, hearing. So it's recording that and storing it in memory in a very intense state. So if I sat down with you and said, 'Okay, let's get this fixed.' And I just started trying to work directly on that memory, you're still going to be in a very high agitated state because we're going to be starting to talk about this memory. So you're going to be in a beta brainwave state trying to recalibrate a beta stored memory. That's going to be very difficult to do.
So what we do is, and that's why I use the four hours because within that first an hour and a half to two hours, we're basically communicating with the subconscious part of the brain by telling stories, symbols with metaphors, goat and snowflake, all the stories, all the metaphors that are built-in because then your brain moves into an alpha state. When it's in alpha, that's where it does restoration. So it's very prepared to start restoring. And then, if you remember, by the time we got to a couple of the traumatic memories, we only work on them for two or three minutes. Because you're in alpha, and so you've got this higher state of beta, and it recalibrates it into the same state that it's in. So if it's in alpha, it can take a beta memory, reprocess it in alpha, takes all the intensity out of it.
Lisa: So these brain waves, these beta states, just to briefly let people know, so this is speed, and correct me if I'm wrong, but it's the speed at which the brain waves are coming out. So in beta, like you'd see on ECG or something, it's sort of really fast. I think there's a 40 day...
Dr Don: It's 15 to 30 hertz.
Lisa: 15 to 30 hertz and then if you're in alpha, it's a lot lower than that?
Dr Don: 7 to 14.
Lisa: 7 to 14, and then below that is sort of when you're going into the sleep phase, either deep meditative or asleep.
Dr Don: You're dreaming. Because what it's doing in dreaming is processing. So you're between 4 and 7 hertz. That's why people who have a lot of trauma have trouble sleeping. Because not only is their mind processing what it experienced during the day, it's also taking some of those old files saying, 'Well, okay, let's fix that now. Right. Let's get that.’ That's where your nightmares are coming from. It was trying to get you into a processing to fix that. but it couldn't fix it. So it continues, and then when you go below 4 hertz, you go into delta. Delta is dreamless sleep and that's where the maintenance is getting done.
Lisa: That's the physical maintenance side more than the...
Dr Don: Physical maintenance. Yeah, because that's not processing what it experienced anymore. What it's really now doing is saying, 'Okay, what are the issues that need to be dealt with?' So if you're very relaxed and you've had a very... Like me, right? I played hockey, so I had six concussions, 60 stitches, and never missed a hockey game. The only reason now that I understand I could do that is because I'm getting two or three times more Delta sleep than my teammates were.
Lisa: Physical recuperative sleep.
Dr Don: Yeah, I was getting maximum restorative sleep. So an injury that I would have that could heal in two or three days, my teammates would two or three weeks. Because they were living in these, which I didn't know, a lot of my friends were dealing with trauma: physical, emotional, sexual abuse. I didn't know that was going on with my friends. Nobody talked about it. I didn't see it in their homes, but they were all dealing with that.
Lisa: So they are not able to get... So look, I've noticed since I've been through the program. My sleep is much better, and sometimes I still occasionally dream about Dad. But the positive dreams, if that makes sense. They're more Dad as he as he was in life and I actually think Dad’s come to visit me and say, ‘Hi, give me a hug’ rather than the traumatic last days and hours of his life, which was the ones that were coming in before and calling for that action and stopping me from having that restorative sleep.
I just did a podcast with Dr Kirk Parsley who's a sleep expert, ex-Navy SEAL and a sleep expert that's coming out shortly. Or I think by this time, it will be out, and understanding the importance, the super importance of both the delta and... What is the other one? The theta wave of sleep patterns, and what they do, and why you need both, and what parts of night do what, and just realising...Crikey, anybody who is going through trauma isn't experiencing sleep is actually this vicious cycle downwards. Because then, you've got more of the beta brainwave state, and you've got more of the stresses, and you're much less resilient when you can't sleep. You're going to... have health issues, and brain issues, and memory, and everything's going to go down south, basically.
Dr Don: That's why I didn't understand at the time. They just said 'Well, you're just super healthy. You heal really fast.' They had no other explanation for it. Now, I know exactly why. But it had nothing to do with my genetics. It had to do with my environment.
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Dr Don: That's, at the time, we just thought it was all, must have been genetics. But I realised now that it was environment as well. So maybe a genetic component to it as well, but then you take that and put that into this very beautiful, nurturing environment, I'm going to sleep processing in beta what I experienced that day and then my mind basically, at that point, is 'What do we need to work on? Not much. Let's go. Let's start now doing some maintenance.' Because it wants to address the top of item stuff first. What is it needs to be taken care of right now? Right? Those are the threats.
Once it gets the threats processed, then it can then start working on the things that are going to be the more long-term maintenance. So then it'll do that. But if it never gets out of that threat mode, it gets out for very little time. Then, if you're getting 30 minutes of delta sleep at night and I'm getting two hours, it's a no-brainer to figure out why I would heal faster.
Lisa: Absolutely, and this is independent of age and things because you've got all that that comes into it as well. Your whole chemistry changes as you get older and all this. There's other compounding issues as it gets more and more important that you get these pieces of the puzzle right.
Do you think that this is what leads to a lot of disease, cancers, and things like that as well? There's probably not one reason. There's a multitude of reasons, but it's definitely one that we can influence. So it's worth looking at it if you've got trauma in your life. People were saying to me 'Oh my God, you don't look good.' When you start hearing that from your friends, your people coming up to you and going, 'I can feel that you're not right.' People that are sensitive to you and know you very well, and you start hearing that over and over, and you start to think, 'Shit, something's got real. Maybe I need to start looking at this.'
Because it's just taking all your energy your way, isn't it, on so many levels. The restorative side and the ability to function in your life, and your work, and all of that, and that, of course, leads into depressive thoughts and that hyper-vigilant state constantly. That's really tiresome rather than being just chill, relax, enjoying life, and being able to... Like one of the things I love in my life is this podcast because I just get into such a flow state when I'm learning from such brilliant...
Dr Don: You're in alpha.
Lisa: I am. I am on it because this is, 'Oh. That’s how that works.' And I just get into this lovely learning in an alpha state with people because I'm just so excited and curious. This is what I need to be doing more of. And less of the, if you'd see me half an hour ago trying to work out the technology. That’s definitely not an alpha state for me.
Dr Don: That's where they said Albert Einstein lived. Albert Einstein lived in alpha brainwave state. That's why information just float for him because there was no stress. He could then pull information very easily to float into. But if you're in a high beta brainwave state, there's too much activity. It has trouble focusing on anything because it's multiple threats on multiple fronts. So when we have a traumatic event, that's how it's being recorded. If you remember, what we talked about was there's a 400 of a millionth of a second gap in between your subconscious mind seeing the information and it going to your consciousness. So in 400 millionths of a second, your subconscious mind has already started a response into an action even though your conscious mind is not even aware of it yet.
Lisa: Yeah. Exactly what I did with rescuing my partner with the glass falling off the thing. I hadn't reached that logically.
Dr Don: It's funny because that's one of the things that I talked about ,which is sort of, give us all a little bit of grace. Because if you've had a lot of trauma, you're going to respond a certain way. How could you not? If your mind’s filtering into all of that, of course you're going to respond with that kind of a response because your mind is prone to go into that action very, very quickly. So we can give ourselves a little bit of grace in understanding that of course, you're going to do that, right? And not beat ourselves up.
Because you know what I talked about with everybody, there's nothing wrong with anybody. There's nothing wrong with anybody's mind. Everybody's mind is fine except you are experiencing something different than I experienced so your mind kept responding to it, and mine didn't have that. So you had multiple... Think about we have a hundred percent of our energy on our phone when we wake up in the morning, right? Fully powered up. You fire the phone up and eight programs open up, right? And mine has one.
Lisa: Yeah. You're just focusing on what you need to.
Dr Don: Then noon comes, and you're having to plug your phone back in because you're out of energy.
Lisa: That's a perfect analogy. You’re just burning the battery. My all is a hundred windows open in the back of my brain that is just processing all these things and so now, I can start to heal. So having gone through this process with you, like you said, we worked on a number of traumatic experiences, and I went through them in my mind. And then you did certain things, made me follow with my eyes and track here, and my eyes did this, and then, we pulled my attention out in the middle of the story and things. That helped me stay in that alpha state, brainwave state as I probably now understand while I'm still reliving the experience. That's sort of taking the colour out of it so that it's now sort of in a black and white folder. Now, it can still be shared, and it hasn't taken away the sadness of...
Dr Don: Because it is sad that these things happen but that's not the response for an action which is that fear or anger, right? That dysregulation of the nervous system. That's what we want to stop, because that is what is going to affect health, enjoyment of life and everything else.
Lisa: Wow, this is so powerful. Yeah, and it's been very, very beneficial for me and helped me deal. For me, it also unfolded. Because after the four hour period with you, I had audiotapes and things that are meditations to do every day for the next 30 days. What were we doing in that phase of the recovery? What were you targeting in those sort of sessions?
Dr Don: So if you remember what we talked about, we have two memory systems. The explicit memory is what we worked on on that four hours. That's detail, events, and experiences. Once we get the mind processing through that, then we have to work on the same memory animals have, which is that associative repetitive memory. So you've built a series of codes on how to respond to threats, and that has come in over repetition and associations. So the audios are designed to start getting you now to build some new neural pathways, some new ways to respond because your mind won't switch a pattern instantly. It can switch a memory instantly, but a pattern is something that got built over a period of time. So it's like a computer. If I'm coding on my computer, I can't take one key to stop that code. I have to write a new code. Yeah, so what we're doing over the 30 days is writing new code.
Lisa: Helping me make new routines and new habits around new neural pathways, basically.
Dr Don: You don't have that explicit memory interfering with the pathways. Because now, it's not constantly pulling you out, going back into an action call. It's basically now able to look at this information and these codes that got built and say, 'Okay, what's a better way? So do we have a better way of doing it?' Or 'Show me that code. Write that code.' If that code looks safer, then your mind will adopt that new code.
Lisa: This is why, I think for me, there was an initial, there was definitely... Like the nightmares stopped, the intrusive every minute, hour triggering stopped, but the process over the time and the next... And I'm still doing a lot of the things and the meditations. It’s reinforcing new habit building. This is where... Like for people dealing with addictions, this is the path for them as well, isn't it?
Dr Don: Yeah. Because I talked about addiction as a code. I don't believe it's a disease. Your mind has found a resource to stop pains, and your subconscious mind is literal. It doesn't see things as good or bad, or right or wrong. It's literal. 'Did that stop the pain? Let's do that.' Because it's trying to protect you. So if you've now repeated it over and over, not only have you stopped the pain, but you've built an association with a substance that is seen as beneficial.
Lisa: Because your brain sees it as medicine when you're taking, I don't know, cocaine or something. It sees it as essential to your life even though you, on a logical level, know that, ‘This is destroying me and it's a bad thing for me.’ Your subconscious goes, 'No, this is a good thing and I need it right now.'
Dr Don: Because it's in the present, when does it want the pain to stop? Now. So it has no ability to see a future or a past. Your subconscious is in the moment. So if you take cocaine, the logical part of your brain goes, 'Oh, this is going to create problems for me. I'm going to become addicted.' Right? Your subconscious goes, ‘Well, the pain stopped. We don't see that as a bad thing.' I always use the analogy: Why did people jump out of the buildings at 911? They weren't jumping to die. They were jumping to live because when would they die? Now, if they jump, would they die? No. They stopped the death. So even jumping, which logically makes no sense, right? But to the subconscious mind, it was going to stop the pain now.
Lisa: Yeah, and even if it was two seconds in the future that they would die, your brain is going...
Dr Don: It doesn't even know what two seconds are.
Lisa: No. It has no time. Isn't it fascinating that we don't have a time memory or understanding in that part of the brain that runs 95% of the ship?
Dr Don: It's like what Albert Einstein said, ‘There's no such thing as time.’ So it's like an animal. If an animal could communicate and you say, 'What time is it?' That would make no sense to an animal. 'What do you mean? It's now.' 'What time is it now?' 'Now. Exactly.'
Lisa: It's a construct that we've made to...
Dr Don: Just to explain a lot of stuff, right? When something happens.
Lisa: Yeah, and this is quite freeing when you think of it. But it does make a heck of a lot of sense. So people are not being destructive when they become drug addicts or addicted to nicotine, or coffee, or chocolate. They're actually trying to stop the pain that they're experiencing in some other place and fix things now. Even though the logical brain... Because the logical brain is such a tiny... Like this is the last part of our evolution, and it's not as fully...
We can do incredible things with it at 5%. We've made the world that we live in, and we're sitting here on Zoom, and we've got incredible powers. But it's all about the imagination, being able to think into the future, into the past, and to make correlations, and to recognise patterns. That's where all our creativity and everything, or not just creativity, but our ability to analyse and put forth stuff into the world is happening. But in actual, we're still like the animals and the rest of it. We're still running at 95%, and that's where we can run into the problems with these two.
Dr Don: Because you got two systems. You got a very advanced system operating within a very primitive system, and it hasn't integrated. It's still integrating, right? So if there's a survival threat, survival will always override reason and logic, because it's designed to protect you. So there's no reason and logic that will come in if there's a survival threat. It's just going to respond the way it knows, does this Google search, 'What do we know about this threat? How do we know to protect ourselves, and we'll go instantly into survival mode.' Again, there's the reason and logic. Why would you jump out of a building, right? If you applied reason and logic, you wouldn't have jumped, right? People will say, 'Well, but they still jumped.' Yes, because reason and logic didn't even come into the process. It was all about survival.
Lisa: Yeah. When the fire is coming in it was either...
Dr Don: 'Am I going to die out now or I'm going to move and not die now?'
Lisa: Yeah, and we're also prone to movement when we're in agitation and in an agitated state, aren't we? Basically, all of the blood and the muscles saying, 'Run, fight, do something. Take action.'
Dr Don: That's why when people get into depression, it's the absence of those emotions.
Lisa: Yeah, and people feel exhaustion.
Dr Don: Yeah. The mind kept calling for an action using anger, for example, but you can't do the action because it's not happening, so it shuts down to protect you and stops calling for any emotion, and that's depression. So the key to get out of depression is actions. It's to get something happening. So in a lot of people who are depressed, what do I tell them to do? 'Start moving. Start exercising. Get out. Start doing things.' Right?
Lisa: So I run ultras.
Dr Don: Exactly. Perfect example, right?
Lisa: Yeah, because I was. I was dealing with a lot of shit in my life at the time when I started doing ultra-marathons. To run was to quiet the pain and to run was to be able to cope and to have that meditative space in order to work through the stuff that was going on in my life. And I know even in my husband's life, when he went through a difficult time, that's when he started running. So running can be a very powerful therapeutic, because there is a movement, and you're actually burning through the cortisol and the adrenaline that's pouring around in your body. Therefore, sitting still and that sort of things was just not an option for me. I had to move. And it explains what, really. It's calling the movement. Like it was a movement because I couldn't fix the other thing.
Dr Don: That's what they'll tell you to do. To get out of depression is to move. What I say is the way to get out of depression is to get your mind to resolve what it’s been asking for.
Lisa: It's going a little deeper.
Dr Don: Yeah. So it's going down and saying, 'Okay, why has it been getting you angry and now, it shut down from the anger?' Because it's been trying to get you in your situation. 'Don't let Dad die. Don't let this happen.' Right? So because you couldn't do it, it just shuts down. Makes perfect sense but when we get to the resolution that there is no action required, there's no need for the depression anymore. The depression will lift because there's no more call for an action.
Lisa: I can feel that in me, that call. Anytime that anything does still pop up, I sort of acknowledge the feeling and say, 'There is no call for action here. This is in the past. This is a memory.' So I do remind myself that when things do still pop up from time to time now, as opposed to hourly. I go, 'Hey, come back into the now. This is the now. That was the then that's calling for an action. This is why you're doing thing.' Even that understanding, that process now actually helps me in that coping sort of state as well.
Dr Don: And that's why I spend so much time on the education because when you understand that the problem is not as big as we make it, there's nothing wrong with you, right? So people will say, 'Well, I got a chemical imbalance.' I go, 'Why?' 'Well, my brain has a chemical imbalance.' 'Yeah, okay. Why?' Right?
Lisa: You're always going deeper.
Dr Don: They're talking about the symptom. I want to get to the issue, not treat the symptom. So if you come in and said, 'Oh, I have a low serotonin.' So they're just going to say, 'Okay. Well, we're going to put you on 5-HTP to boost your serotonin.' But I say, 'Well, why do you have low serotonin? There's got to be a reason. It's got to be a gut imbalance or there's got to be something going on right within your brain.' Right?
Lisa: Yeah, and this is how the whole of the medical world should operate. Like. 'Let's go back as deep as we can.' It's very difficult because you have to be very investigative in your approach. You have to sort of work out and try to work back where is it coming from. It's much easier just to take an antidepressant in the worst case, or 5-HTP in the more gentler case. Because it is the chemicals, but why is the chemical there or lack of chemicals there?
I can tell if it was my husband, he's training for a hundred miler at the moment, and he's got a full-on job as an officer in the fire brigade, and they have lots of night shifts, and they have very traumatic scenes that they experience on a daily sort of thing. I know when his serotonins are dropping, and I know why they're dropping. For him, time alone in nature, taking some time out, doing some self-care, having some extra sleep, doing those things to try to balance things, getting back to baseline is the level that I can work at as a health optimisation coach. But this sort of program is going even a level deeper, and that's really, really powerful.
Dr Don: Then giving you the tools. So first, we fixed what caused the problem, and we give you the tools to be able to stay present.
Lisa: To stay in there. Yeah, to stay on that nice balance.
Dr Don: And teach your brain what it means to go back. There's where your symbol, and statement, and anchor came in. The idea behind that is to be able to get your mind to make that associative, right? 'Oh, what does that mean when I see that symbol?' Or 'I see that, that means we're safe.' Right? Then it goes back into alpha brainwave mode.
Lisa: I do that one every day. In fact, I deliberately go and search out sunsets now whenever I possibly can, job allowing, and so on. I'm trying to get to see a sunset or sunrise, just reverse it because it was my anchor. It was my symbol, if you'd like. Then instantly, that calms me down, if I'm looking at a sunset going down.
Dr Don: It's an automatic. It's a science. Because when your mind gets... So when I was growing up, my mother, my father, my house was my symbol of safety. So as soon as I would come home, my nervous system would completely go back into regulation because it felt safe. So what we're doing is giving you the tools to teach your mind that when it sees that, hears that, or feels that, that you're safe, and it builds the association. There's what the 30 days of associating that sound, that smell, or that touch, and that symbol with ‘I'm safe.’ Then, it just becomes automatic. You don't even have to think about it. That's why the 30 days are powerful.
Lisa: I think, actually, keep practising that ongoing.
Dr Don: I use it for years. I still do it. Mine is a hawk. I see my hawk all the time. It's unbelievable. He literally buzzes my car two or three times a week. No other bird ever does this, and I see him constantly just coming right in front of my car. So a very powerful symbol for me, but it just is my constant reminder that I'm good. I'm fine. There's nothing I need to be doing. When one of those thoughts come in, you go to your symbol, your mind just goes, 'Oh, I don't need to do anything about that.'
Lisa: What were we doing when I grabbed the risks with my anchor? I think you call that, is it the anchor? So when I see a sunset and I grab my rescue, that was my anchor, what were we doing there? Is it sort of an NLP technique?
Dr Don: Well, it's also activating the parietal lobe in your brain, right? Because that part of your brain recognises touch, and then one part of your brain recognises sound, and another one recognises pictures, the occipital lobe, right? So we're basically giving the whole brain: the occipital lobe, temporal lobe, parietal lobe the same message. 'We're safe.' It gets it in different communications because it communicates differently, right? So when your occipital lobe sees your symbol, with your sunset, that's one part of your brain getting the message, then another lobe in your brain gets the message, and then another lobe gets a message. It's like, 'Oh.' We got it from every corner of the brain.
Lisa: So we must be in a safe, good place.
Dr Don: We must be in a safe place so we wouldn't be feeling this or experiencing this. If you remember, we connected it up to these great events in your life as well.
Lisa: Yeah, yes. Yes, that's right. Then, I also, and I don't know if it's right, but I built in the breathing stuff thing too.
Dr Don: Oh, no. That's perfect too because there's lots of oxygen in there. You can't be stressed out if you've got a lot of oxygen. It's impossible.
Lisa: Yeah, yeah. It just pushes it down. Like that parasympathetic state. Being able to activate that very, very quickly with a couple of the tools and different breathing techniques that I have. I find myself doing that 10 times a day. Just bring me down, or when I'm swapping from one thing to the other, or just to recalibrate my brain almost, or even in training. So we go to the gym. In between the sets, if I'm doing a really hard workout, I'll do physiological size which is just double intakes and exhales. Long exhale is to reset my body because when you go into high-intensity interval training, you're actually putting your body into a state of stress, and that can actually make your cortisol and your blood sugar go up and everything else. So in between the sets, I often do this physiological side. Whether within a couple of seconds, it's like, 'Reset. Okay, go again. Reset. Let's go again.'
At the end of a really hard session I’ll do sort of box breathing exercises to just take my whole nervous system down. Then, I've given that stimulus of the training and then taking the other is if you do... Especially be doing training late at night, and I'm getting off-topic but... And you're doing cardiovascular training, say, at late night, high-intensity running or something that, that can actually stop sleeping because you're in that heightened state of stress.
Dr Don: Yes. You're not safe.
Lisa: Yeah. You're not safe and you need to bring it down and bring that parasympathetic state in. Because at the bottom of it is this autonomic nervous system branch of parasympathetic versus sympathetic state and we want to be more than that sympathetic. I'm always constantly in the sympathetic, sorry, and not the parasympathetic. You've taken me on using this technique to be able to bring me down, basically, very quickly.
Dr Don: Yeah. Because that vagus nerve is going to send a message that we have oxygen. That tells the brain that if there's lots of oxygen, we couldn't possibly be in danger. Because if you're in danger, you'd be running. If you're running, you wouldn't have much oxygen, which would then remind the brain to keep pumping because we're still in danger. That's literally where a panic attack comes in. It's that the mind is looping through something even though there's no threat.
My wife really taught me this is because every once in a while, she’d just go, ‘Huh.’ I go 'What?' 'I just wasn't breathing.' She would literally stop breathing because she was so tense. That made no sense. 'Well, why would you not be breathing?' She’d go, 'I don't know. I just stopped.' Because she was so tense, and her mind was looping. Then all of a sudden, now the oxygen, CO2 level changes, right? Then the brain gets a message that we're running low on oxygen so then the vagus nerve send in a message like, 'Breathe!' But again, that's all interpreted by the brain as threats.
Lisa: Yeah, and if you find yourself doing a lot of sighing or a lot of that type of thing and you've actually stopped breathing, then you need to retrain those breathing systems and ideally, nasal breathing. Because again, there's a lot of good reasons why the nose or going through the nasal passage instead of breathing with the mouth it's very, very beneficial as well. It's an instant thing and when we constantly... Like we're focused on our emails, and we are like 'Oh, the phone call is coming in,' and we just forget to breathe or we overbreathe and we go [imitates hyperventilating].
Dr Don: Hyperventilate, yeah.
Lisa: That just sends body, 'Panic, panic, panic, we're in panic mode,' and off you go into that whole cascade of panic situations. Dr Don, we've gone all over the place today. It's been a brilliant... I love talking to you. It's just so fascinating. It's reminding me again of some of the things that I've got to keep doing that and gives people listening some tools.
But where can people actually come to see you and actually go through the program that I've been through? I highly recommend you do this. If you're dealing with some serious, especially dealing with serious addiction, or trauma, or anything that's really stuffing up your life, you need to go through this program with Dr Don. There are a couple of different options for people. So where can they find you and how best to reach out to you?
Dr Don: You can come to our site which is... We have a website but we also have an easier way to get there which is Gettipp. The program is called Tipps so gettipp.com. And if you come to gettipp.com, then you'll be able to see all the information. You can watch some of the testimonials of people who have been on the site that have gone through the program.
Lisa: Including me.
Dr Don: Including you. Yep, awesome, and that's what we're looking for. Because you may hear one story, and that doesn't resonate with you but then you hear somebody else. These are just people who have experienced what you're experiencing, and everybody has different things in their lifetime. So when you hear somebody else and you go, 'Oh, that's me.' That's why I laugh at this because when I first met my wife, she swore me to secrecy. I could never tell anybody about her childhood and now, everybody knows about her childhood.
Lisa: That's brilliant because it takes the power out of the whole damn thing, and it's helping people.
Dr Don: That's what I said. I always said to her, 'I really believe your story is going to help people.' She was 'No, no. I'll never be able to stand up and talk about it.' Now, she can completely talk about it.