Author & psychiatrist Dr. Mark Goulston shares advice for parents with teens having a mental health crisis.
Originally a UCLA professor of psychiatry for over 25 years, and a former FBI and police hostage negotiation trainer, Dr. Mark Goulston’s expertise has been forged and proven in the crucible of real-life, high stakes situations. An influencer who helps influencers become more influential, his unique background has made him an indispensable and sought after resource and change facilitator to Fortune 500 leaders, entrepreneurs and educators across the nation. He is also host of the podcast My Wakeup Call. and is a producer on the documentary What I Wish My Parents Knew.
For more about Dr. Goulston: http://markgoulston.com/
For more about What I Wish My Parents Knew: https://tellmystory.org/
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DR HACKIE REITMAN (HR): Hi, I’m Dr. Hackie Reitman, and welcome back to Exploring Different Brains. I’m already laughing and having a good time, because my old friend is he a Dr. Mark Goulston. He’s an amazing person. He was one of my classmates back at Boston University School of Medicine about 100 years ago, back before they were cars. And now he’s here again, he’s going to tell us all about what he’s doing out there in California. Mark, you’re up.
DR MARK GOULSTON (MG): Well, you know, I shared with you, I won’t go into details that I have some health challenges, and they seem to be going well, I was actually going to write a book, but I’m not going to do it called “I haven’t got all day”. It would be a good book, but I’m making the most out of every day, and I just shared with Joseph. Another thing I’m working on that we can talk about, is uh, I think it may touch a nerve, even touch a nerve and my good friend Hackie. I’m partnering with a, a top female coach in France. And we have this domain called warm and tender.org. And, you know, we haven’t, and we’re going to build on it. And the idea is, as we look out in the world, we see there is not much Warmth and tenderness. We see coldness and harshness. And we see, in America, what I’ve seen is you have tenderness with a puppy a kitten, specially when you have to put them to sleep with a parent who’s heading towards dementia that you have some feelings for an infant, maybe when you fell in love with your wife, or your husband or some tenderness there. And also, I think when you discover that one of your children is challenged, you know, and as a different type of brain. And it forces you to just recalibrate, a lot of things. And I think it’s a great opportunity to bring out patience and tenderness. And so, we also believe we haven’t connected the dots yet. But we think there could be a way of helping burnout. We don’t know what the connection is because No, you have to change a lot of the structure structures of the business world healthcare world, people are overworked, understaffed. But so we don’t exactly know how then how we’re going to close the synapses on that. But we’re very excited about warm and tender.org. So if you look it up, you won’t find anything yet that will keep you posted. So six months a year from now, you’ll have hopefully me back on and my partner Francois. And it bothers me, that bothers me that I see a lack of tenderness in the world. So any thoughts on that, my good friend?
HR: We’re getting more and more polarized since you and I last spoke. Whether you’re talking about politics, whether you’re talking about anything, is more and more polarization. So I think your timing is right on because I think there’s a lot of people who in everyday life yearn the middle of the road, be nice, you know, that kind of thing. But let’s take politics as an example. You cannot get by the primaries, if you’re a nice middle of the road person. You got to be radical to the right or radical to the left, or you’re not making it through your primaries. And then the media jumps on board and fans, the flames and so forth. But it’s not just politics, it’s we’re seeing and more and more and more, we’re seeing, you know, riots on aeroplanes, and recently, let alone at ballgames and thanks. So I think your timing is pretty good for this.
MG: Yeah, I think so too. I was actually thinking the other day about and this platform is needed. But as you say, you can’t get through the primaries. And maybe it’s just my age showing. I’m sick and tired and sick from all the anger. I see. That’s exhausting. And I was thinking boy, wouldn’t it be interesting thing if someone could just run on sort of, you know, stop the anger, because it just escalates. It doesn’t accomplish much people dig in their heels. And and we and we, and we need to do that.
HR: Let’s touch on some of your current projects, starting with “hurt less, live more”. Tell us about that.
MG: Yeah, I got a bunch of projects. So the one I want to bring up that’s related to suicide: a person who has become like a friend like a brother to me like you are to me hacky. His name is Jason Reed, and his 14 year old son died by suicide five years ago. And his son left a suicide note and the suicide note said, “tell my story”. And he did a documentary put a, I think over $200,000 of his own money, it’s up on Amazon Prime, “tell my story”. And he interviewed families interviewed, treatment centers, interviewed experts, and I was one of the experts. So that’s where we got to know each other. And what happened is, it’s it’s really a powerful heart wrenching documentary. But what was most most riveting about it was the teenagers when they talked about their low points, so he did a recent documentary called What I wish my parents knew. And I’m an executive producer on that, trying to get it out into the world to 300 High Schools for parents. And he just talked to, I think about 10 teenagers. Tell us about your low point. There’s a green screen, nothing fancy. And if you’re listening to this, and you have teenagers write down these five words. Because when we do presentations, before we show the 45 minute video, which is not available on Netflix, or YouTube, because I’m protective of it, but I’ve told him is, you don’t know it. But the haters out there will find these teens, and they will rip them apart. They see vulnerability, they will be vicious. So it’s only available for private showings and high schools and companies that want to help, you know, employees, parents. And before we show it. I say you know, if you’re a parent watching this, write down these five words, complain blame, excuses, threats, moody, complain, blame, excuses, threats, moody, because that’s how teenagers show up. And what teenagers don’t know is they trigger their parents to not be empathic or understanding. Because when he interviewed these teenagers, and he asked them, Did you ever tell your parents they said, no. It’s because a lot of teenagers going through the tumult of being teens. That’s how they live, complain, blame, excuses, threats, moody. And when parents hear that they get reactive. And so and so in this documentary, they share the pain of their low point. And there’s no complaining blaming excuses. Threats are moody. They are just raw, honest, on and mesmerizing. And so when parents see this, or they’re bringing their teens as in high schools, they go back to their teenagers and they start to cry, and their teenagers don’t recognize his dad. Mom, why are you crying? And what the parents are saying to their teens is I just realized how much I love you. Because they see all the pain that’s going on underneath that. So very excited about that. So that’s one project and people can reach me, you know, you’ll give a link or they can…
HR: Tell them how to reach you now too.
MG: Its just mgoulston at Gmail, you can directly email or you can go to MarkGoulston.com. Or you can go to tellmystory.org. And there you will see, you’ll be able to see the trailer to “what I wish my parents knew”. Plus, we’re adding all kinds of resources if you’re a parent who’s worried about your team. And also something that I also share. And you want to write this down if you’re listening to this and you’re worried about a team. So after I prep them how to listen to the video, they listened to the video, Jason talks about all the signs that he missed what he wished he’d known, but he was too late. And then one of the things that I share that parents seem to like and you might want to write this down, if you’re listening you can replay it.
These are four prompts that might help your teenager open up to you. And you do this when you’re doing an activity with your teenager. You don’t want to start a heart to heart talk with your teenager if they don’t initiate it. I mean, it is nails on a chalkboard. Trust me on that. But if you’re doing an errand driving somewhere where you’re not eye to eye, this is what it looks like and sounds like, Hey, honey, a lot of us parents are worried about our kids. The pandemic schools, the news, the shootings, everything, and I’m one of those parents go can I just run a few things by you and or at least helped me feel better? Would that be okay? And hopefully they’ll say, okay, mom, okay, dad. And here are the four prompts. And you’re driving, you know, you don’t want to intrude yet. You say? At its absolute worst, how awful Are you capable of feeling about your life for yourself? And they’re going to go what? Yeah, at its worst, where it hurts the most? How awful? Are you capable of feeling about July for yourself? Pretty awful. And I invented an approach that I used to use with suicidal patients called surgical empathy. Which means you go in a little deeper. And if they say pretty awful, you say? Pretty awful. A very awful. Okay, mom. Okay, Dad, very awful. And then you get them to talk about second prompt. When you’re feeling that awful, how alone do you feel? Pretty alone. Surgical empathy again, pretty, pretty alone are all alone. Okay, okay. All alone. And then you get them to talk about that. Third prompt, take me to the last time you felt it. And they’re gonna go WTF. And you say, yeah, it was a 2:30. In the morning, and a few nights ago, we heard you’re walking around in your room, you know, when was the last time you felt it?
And here’s the interesting thing when they tell you and describe the last time they felt it so clearly that you can see it. They re-feel it. But they’re not alone. Yeah, I was walking around, I had a test the next day, I couldn’t get to sleep. And I don’t know. It sounds awful. What happened next, I couldn’t get to sleep, I felt like kicking the wall. If I was young Hackie, I would have punched the wall. What happened next? I look for some cough medicine couldn’t find it. You did a good job hiding your sleeping pills couldn’t find those. And so what happened? Sun rose, total better. Fourth prompt. And if you follow this and they open up, you’ve earned the right to eye contact. You pull the car over the side of the road. And you look at them and you say, Look at me. Look at me. And you say I got a favorite ask you. Next time you feel that way. You feel awful. You feel alone. Or even when you’re heading down that direction. You do whatever it takes to get your mom or your dad or my undivided attention. Because there’s a million things on our mind. And there’s nothing more important than helping you feel a little less alone and you feel that awful. And by the way, don’t think you’re a burden to us. Not at all. In fact, in 20 years when you have children, and they’re going through something like this, and you get them to open up instead of complain blame excuses threats, moody. It’s not a burden. It’s a gift. So you might write those things down. You can modify it. But it may change the way you emotionally connect with your kids. And maybe we’ll save a life or two that wouldn’t be so bad.
HR: Now, we’re going through a time now with the COVID going on a couple of years now where suicides have been going through the roof. Okay. Talk about that, and talk about what families and individuals can do about that.
MG: A friend of mine who was a coach of mine until He intimidated me, he had a phrase, he said, “we always guard our calendars”. You know, I had this on my schedule. So you and I are speaking now. And we always got our calendars. And we went from coach to friend, because I would never show my calendar because I was embarrassed by some of the stuff that was on it. Some of the stupid stuff that I have on my calendar to do. I’m only human look, you know, you have the devil in the dark side, you got to do these stupid things to relieve yourself. But what I would say is don’t wait to be reactive calendar check in times.
Here’s a little tip, and it’s a little side issue. But a something I did a presentation on. The most important thing to find out before you hire someone, partner with them or marry them you know, find out first of all, if they have the skills for what you need, and if they don’t have the skills that they’re willing and eager to learn them. So if you’re hiring them or partnering with them in business, you know, whatever their role is need certain skills, and you don’t want someone who is resistant to learning. And also, if you’re going to marry someone, and you want to have a family, you know, there’s certain skills to parenting, there’s actually certain skills to having a happy marriage after the honeymoon period goes poof. In So, but the most important thing I advise people is find out how high a priority it is for them to identify and deal with conflict completely whenever it happens. And be a person who identifies it, and deals with it completely. And here’s the way okay, and then getting back to the mental health of your families. So you schedule a check in with your husband, your wife, your family. And until you have it in the calendar, whether it’s once a week, you know, like I said about once a week, there’s a lot going on, and you know, a particular time of the week. And and one of the what you want to check in with people is how much do you look forward to the stuff that you need to do every day? If you’re in a marriage, or if you have a partner, a business partner? How often do you look forward to when we have to get together? Because if you’re not looking forward to when we have to get together, we got a conflict. And you set up some rules, you know, you know, people can get a little edgy, but nobody yells at the other person. No one’s really disrespectful. And then you get them to open up about you know, and one of the ways you get people to open up by the way.
So what’s getting in the way of you’re looking forward to seeing seeing me? And I’ll tell you what’s getting in the way. Am I looking forward to seeing you? And then when they tell you what’s going on, here’s another surgical empathy tactic. They say whatever it is, he I understand that Paki, I understand you know that you don’t want to see me because of that, but what’s really going on. So when you say that they may open up, but you got to be open to what each other says, I’ve lost confidence in you. I don’t trust you anymore. You gambled away our money. You went you went to the the slot machines. My respect for you just took a hit. So these are not easy. But the follow me if you make it proactive. You talk about that and have future with your kids. You know, what is it? Because the more you look forward to the things in your life and the people in your life, generally the happier you are. But the more you dread them, the less happy you are and and there’s a conflict. And the point is conflicts are inevitable. But they don’t have to be negative things and if you proactively do this, that can really help you. Does that make any sense? That was a long, long answer long
HR: You have a consistent philosophy. The only way it would bother me was if you were inconsistent. But you’re not you’re very consistent. Whether people agree with you or disagree with you, this is your approach your methodology, your certainty. And you’ve put this in educational and enjoyment formats with books, documentaries, movies. What am I good through a list of what’s available out there for those in our audience who want to read or learn more about the Goulston methods.
MG: I have a podcast called “my wake up call” you were on it. And it’s, it’s, we’re rounding our 500th episode. And I don’t have a team. I don’t have a Joseph, I don’t have a team. But it’s in the top point 5%. Globally, it’s in 40 countries. And it’s all word of mouth. We and we speak to people about then we had you on hockey, what matters most to you? And then what were the Wake Up Calls that led you to it, and we have a conversation. And it ranges far and wide from Larry King to Jordan Peterson. And so you can look up my wakeup call, you’ll find that I’ve also started in the past few months, I co host the weekly radio show on UK health radio that’s in London. I do it virtually. And our show is called hurt less and live more with JJ and Dr. Mark JJ is a female Scottish reporter. And UK health radio is the maybe I’ll connect you with the head of it. It’s the world’s leading talk health radio channel in the world reaches 800 million people. And it does that because we have weekly radio shows each show is posted four times a week. And we came up with hurt less live more. Because a lot of the listeners are hard working women 25 to 50. And what I realized is that the world runs away from hurt and fear into coping mechanisms that are destructive. They eat too much they drink too much they get angry, they have road rage, they yell at their family. And, and our idea is is that if we can help people to hurt less. And one of the ways you hurt less is you share what you’re hurting about. As a teenager, as a husband as a wife, before it turns into complain, blame excuses threats, moody. And if you if you can open up to the people you love. You know, I’m not frustrated mom and dad, you know, I’m not frustrated with our marriage. I’m hurt. I’m hurt, because I love you. But I’m losing respect for you. And hurts. I’m not angry. So that’s what the whole theme of it is. And we bring on guests we’ll have you on. And people just share their stories. And it’s a conversation like you and I are having except I shut up more on it. And they can find me they can find my books in Amazon Go to amazon.com and, and they can check those out. And and again, I as I told you maybe I’ll come back in six months because we’ve launched a a, a new undertaking, called warm and tender.org because we want to bring back warm and tender into a cold and harsh world.
HR: We look forward to that. We look forward to having you back here any time. What is one word of wisdom, you would give a person watching this that is struggling emotionally and does not know what to do.
MG: Talk from the hurt underneath the way you’re showing up on the surface because a lot of people aren’t that comfortable opening up talking from the hurt. And if you don’t feel you can talk to someone in your family about the hurt, find that friend that you can talk to or go online. There are support groups that are hurting in exactly the same way you are.
HR: That’s it for this episode of Exploring Different Brains. Tune in next week for part two of my conversation With the insightful Dr Mark Goulston.