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Hello, super honored and excited to have you with us.
Well, thanks for having me, Dr. Orlena, this is gonna be a very interesting conversation for your audience. I think, I think so, too. So before we start and get into a bit of nitty gritty, do you wanna just introduce yourself and tell people what you.
Sure I am a lawyer turned peacemaker. I spent the first 22 years of my professional career as a trial lawyer in California, and then went back to school. Mid-career earned my master's degree in peacemaking and conflict studies left the practice of law to become a peacemaker and helped people resolve deep and intractable conflicts.
And along the way, I developed a, a set of skills. based on neuroscience that allows us to call any angry person in less than 90 seconds. And then from there, I, with my colleague, Laura coffer founded the prison of peace project and in the prison of peace project, since 2010, we had been training lifers and long termers and maximum security prisons around the world.
How to be powerful, peacemaker and mediators to stop prison violence, using the skills. Among many other skills using the skills of deescalation that I developed back in 2005, I've written a number of books. I'm an adjunct pro graduate professor at Pepperdine law school, Institute for dispute resolution.
And I'm a consultant trainer, coach, and teacher.
That's amazing. It's an amazing story. And so, you know, to explain the reason why I asked you to come on the podcast is because, you know, stress is a really big part of our wellness. And stress comes in many forms, but not least of all, you know, relationships.
And actually I was thinking, when you said, Hey, I can teach anybody to deescalate anger in 90 seconds. I'm like, do you wanna come to my house? I have got four children between the ages of nine and 13. And you know, I'm not sure I believe you. Oh yeah. So I'm gonna for this. After this hour, you will take this and you will use it on your children and you will see how well it works.
Perfect. So let's dive in and tell me all about it. So let's see, where do I start? Let's start at, let's start at 50,000 feet and then we'll get down into the dirt. The first thing to recognize is that we have been lied to as human beings. Our Western societies lied to us for 4,000 years. We've been told by philosophers and theologians that what SEP SEP separates us from other species of animals is rationality.
That humans are rational. That is a big lie. Yes. Yes. It turns out , it turns out that neuroscience is proven beyond any dispute that we are emotional beings. And in fact, we are the only species on the planet that have emotions and other animals do not have emotions. Only humans have emotions and that we are 98% emotional and only very rarely about 2% of the time are we actually rational?
And this lies in the face. Everything that we think we know about human nature, because we've been taught from a very young age that we're what makes us good is rationality. And in fact, what makes us good is being emotionally competent. But because of this bias in Western culture, emotions have been denigrated, they're evil, they're weak.
They, they don't make you strong, you know, you're devoid emotions at all costs. And. Has created a huge amount of abuse. 98% of all families are emotionally dysfunctional and produce emotionally dysfunctional adults because the way that children are raised. And I would be curious about how you raised your children when they were younger, is that we emotionally invalidate them.
So they're two years old. We got a two year old little boy and he is out running around and he falls down and he scrapes his knee and he starts to cry. And what is he told. Don't cry. Be a big boy. Don't be a sissy. Don't be a girly girl. Girls are told the same thing and these children are fed this emotional invalidation throughout their childhood and into adolescence.
And they are taught not to be emotional, not to explore their emotions, not to master their emotions. That to be emotional is to be weak. Emotional is to be something less than grown up and in many families. Negative emotions in children are absolutely forbidden. So it is not okay to be angry. It is not okay to be frustrated.
It is not okay to feel unheard or disrespected. None of those are good. The only thing you can feel is happiness. so as a result, by the time the children reach adolescents and you've got one there, 13, I think you said mm-hmm by the time they get to adolescence, they have learned that emotions are bad.
And so they build this huge wall around them of defensiveness, a defensive wall so that their inner emotional self is protected from the slings and arrows of, of the life. They have led so far. And as a result of that, they are. in emotional development at about six years old. And if we could go deep into this, but this is the work at Ford Newfeld out of, of British Columbia.
Who's a brilliant developmental psychologist. And as a result of all of this, by the time we reach adults, we may be physically mature, but we're emotionally immature. So we get into a relationship of any kind and now emotion relationships are by definition, emotional. And not rational, nothing rational about a relationship.
And yet we have no tools for navigating all of the emotions that arise within an intimate relationship. And that leads to stress fights, arguments on happiness and a myriad of other problems of the most extreme ends, domestic violence. And. Young parents don't have any other skills. They perpetrate the same things on their children that, that were perpetrated on them as child as when they were children.
And so this is a passes on from generation to generation to generation, and it's been going on for thousands of years. And it's the cause of more abuse more unhappiness than any single other factor, in my opinion. In our human history. Are you familiar with your, I know you're a pediatrician. Have you, have you ever come across the ACEs study outta San Diego, California?
No, I haven't. But what I was gonna say is it's really interesting as well, what you're saying, and I agree a hundred percent and we talk a lot about emotions on my podcast and with my, my clients. One of the work that I do is on emotional eating, which is exactly the same. It's like another symptom of, yeah, that's right.
Hey, I've got emotions and what I'm gonna do. Distract myself from this emotion and I'm gonna turn to food and, you know, it's a big part of what I do. That's right. So one of the problems is that what you have seen in your work is that when people don't feel emotionally safe, they have this emptiness and they try to fill that emptiness by eating or other addictive behaviors.
They get a dopamine release that makes them feel good for a very short period of. if they were felt emotionally safe, they wouldn't have that need. And the likelihood of becoming addicted goes way down. The ACEs study means adverse childhood experiences study. You can Google it. And it's a long term longitudinal study doing done by Kaiser Permanente foundation out of San Diego, California.
And what it's basically done is tracked early adverse childhood experiences of which there are may nine list nine of which Two are obvious physical and sexual abuse and the rest of them are all emotional. And what the researchers have determined is that if you get three strikes, three ACEs, the likelihood of you dying from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or diabetes or cancer or any other comorbid coor disease later in life goes up by 10000%.
The likelihood of you having a divorce. Ha engaging in antisocial behavior, getting into addiction of any kind. It doesn't have to be just drugs. It could be exercise. For example, goes up again, orders of magnitude against children who have not had any adverse experiences. And the kinds of adverse childhood experiences we're talking about is exactly what I'm describing emotional invalidation.
So here we have all these loving parents who love their children to death, and yet they emotionally invalidate them and emotionally abuse. it that that causes horrible long-term medical outcomes later in life. And we see this everywhere here in the United States, obesity is, is epidemic and obesity is just a response to lack of emotional safety and emotional abuse.
And it's everywhere over 70% of the population in the United States is overweight. Yeah. Emotional, eating, emotional eating. We see it everywhere. So that's the big picture. and that's why this is this. What I talk about is so important. Now I come at this, not as a researcher, a neuroscientist. I come at this as a lawyer, turn peacemaker.
I'm interested in peace and helping people find peace in their lives. But all of my work is grounded in science. I don't teach anything unless it's, I've got a scientific understanding of why I'm teaching what I'm teaching. So the secret, the antidote is really simple. and that is that instead of invalidating emotions, we listen to emotions.
Now this is very counterintuitive and very counter norm to what people are used to. But when we listen to emotions and reflect them back, as we can talk about everything, changes the person, the speaker feels emotionally safe. The speaker feels deeply emotionally valid. and if that speaker is emotionally upset, we literally calm that person down in less than 90 seconds.
And there are amazing brain scanning studies that show what happens when we label and reflect back somebody else's emotions in this way. It's extremely powerful. And it's so easy. Once you learn how to do it, it's so easy. Oh, give us a demonstration. so, yeah. So tell me something AB that's happened to you in the last couple of days.
So I will tell you about my children right now. They are always a good source of stories. they're in the swimming pool and one of them has got a towel. Now the others didn't bring a towel to the swimming pool and it's getting a little bit chilly. It's seven it's quarter past eight in the evening. So, you know, there's no son here now so that my daughter gets out and she Nicks the towel.
So my son is really, really cross and he's screaming, screaming, screaming, screaming, and that's when I walk in. Okay. So you would go to your son. So in that situation, you are feeling frustrated and. a little angry and a little concerned that you had your boy screaming and yelling at his sister, really, maybe not knowing exactly what was going on, but knowing that there was chaos, which you have seen multiple times and the chaos gets you stressed out and your immediate impulse is to stop the screaming and then sort it all out and figure out what's going on.
So maybe, maybe you shout at him. You don't him to stop scream. And he doesn't and he keeps going on and on and on. And then the, the problem escalates till finally you put your parental foot down and said, get outta here, go to your room. Something like that. Would that be a fair, fair summary of, yeah, it's a, like, I think I put good with emotions, but yes, I'm gonna go with that.
You know, that's a sort of like, let's go and get a chat. right. So, so let's, let's take your boy's perspective. What's going on with him? He feels disrespected. So I would approach him. What's his name? Dante Duncan Duncan, buddy Duncan, not Duncan, Dante. Oh, Dan Dan Dante. Oh, donkey, Dante as Dante, Dante as Dantes Inferno.
“Dante, you feel really disrespected. You thought ahead of time and you brought a towel out here and you were really prepared for the whole great time. You had a great day in the pool. And when it's time to get out, your sister took your toll towel without asking you and you, it just really, really made you angry and frustrated and disrespected, and you feel completely unappreciated.
And if your sister had asked for the towel, you probably would've let her loaned it to her to dry herself off. But instead, I'm not sure about that. we don't know that we have to test it. But he would might say yes, he might say. He said, but in any event, she took it without your permission and that really made you angry.”
And so you just let her have it and you keep notice how I'm all I'm doing is reflecting back his emotional experience. And he's got five or six or seven different emotions going on if his name takes. Yeah. So he, and I think that's fabulous, but the problem is he's still screaming. So he'll stop. He'll stop.
Just wait until he has to. He'll ha he has to so let him scream and then talk to you. Nope. Nope. You jump right in. Don't let him scream jump right in. Okay. His brain, however will start processing what you're saying. Okay. And he will unconsciously calm down. Okay. What you're doing? Here's what's going on in his brain.
He's gotten emotionally escalated. the emotional centers of his brain are demanding action. You know, the amygdala and all the associated limbic systems of the brain are completely activated now. And they have completely overwhelmed. The Ventre lateral preen cortex, which is his executive function. And of course, children don't have well developed executive function to begin with.
So it's not hard for the emotional centers to overwhelm children's executive function. Now he has completely lost his. To manage and regulate his own emotions and his own behaviors. He is in total reactivity mode right now. Automatic. He can't control it no matter what you want try to do to him, he can't control it.
However, what the science shows is that when you label his emotional experience at, you know, age appropriate language, the emotional centers of his brain will immediately start to become inhibit. and his vental lateral prefrontal cortex will activate and come back online. And within 30 to 90 seconds, he'll be calm as a cucumber.
What you're doing is lending your adult prefrontal cortex to him for the time it takes his vent lateral prefrontal cortex to activate and inhibit the emotional centers of the brain. That's the science behind this, and it works every single time without fail. With every single human brain, cuz all human brains around the world are all hardwired the same way.
That's why this is so powerful. Do people go through a stage where cuz I've tried this kind of thing before my kids and other people and quite often what they end up doing is going, yes I'm really. And then, I mean, perhaps I need to just keep going, but that arguing back and you, you said yes, I'm really angry.
That's great. That's a good response. You just keep going? Yeah. You're really angry. Okay. Match the tone of voice. Yeah, you're really. So, sorry, you don't like anybody listen, tone of voice or you remain calm? Oh no, I, I match the tone of voice or come right underneath it. Okay. And then, but you've gotta keep going.
You keep going until he calms down. And so you gotta come in back with another emotion. There's just not only anger. Anger is only the superficial emotion at the top. So the, he would feel disrespected, unappreciated. He felt like he's been cheated by his, his sister. It, he feels embarrassed that he wasn't able to protect his towel when he got, and she, she got away with something he's feeling sad because he's lost connection and he's feeling abandoned and unloved.
And so how do you know what emotions they're feeling? Do you just get? Cause they happen every single. Okay. There are six layers of emotions and every human being experiences, these emotions, every when on the negative side, when typically these emo almost always these six different layers will pop up and emotions come in complexes, and it's, it's not hard to see once you understand it.
And once you practiced it, it becomes very obvious that we have a very ex an extremely limited repertoire of emotional behavior and emotional experience. and once you learn this stuff, you see, Hey, there are only nine or there are only 12 or 15 emotional words that I really need to know to get people calmed down.
And it's, it's very simple and it it's almost effortless once you learn it learning. It's a little weird because I'm asking you to violate a period to violate rules that are ingrained into us from childhood. But once you get the courage to do this, And watch it work. It becomes self-reinforcing because it's like magic all of a sudden calm, instant, calm.
It's crazy how it works. That sounds amazing. And I am gonna give it a go. Now, presumably I need to buy one of your books to find out what the six levels are. I can no, the six levels are really simple. So the top level is anger. Mm-hmm most common emotions in that level. There are a whole bunch of emotions in that, in that level, but anger and frustration are the most common.
then the next level are what I call dignitary emotions and not always emotion, what we would technically call emotions, but they're close enough. And they're so common that I, I put in there. So that would be, be feeling treated unfairly, being cheated, not being listened to not being heard, being unsupported, unappreciated, and for children.
This is a big one that that whole level is huge for most children. Because most of the time they are disrespected by adults and they feel. and it causes pain. Then the next level below that are the fear emotions. So it could be fear being scared, being frightened, or being worried, concerned, or anxious.
The next level below that shame, humiliation, guilt, and embarrassment. You gotta be careful with this one because you, because when people are feeling shame, guilt, embarrassment, or humiliation they're pretty vulnerable. And so you gotta be careful that you don't call it out in front of a lot of other people, but your son probably felt humiliated and embarrassed by the fact that his.
sister took the towel without him knowing about it and he couldn't protect his right. And he felt, I think control is another big issue. Control is another one. Mm. Then underneath that underneath shame, humiliation, the shame emotions are the sadness, emotions, sadness, and grief primarily. And then under that is where everything starts.
The, the feeling of being abandoned of not being loved of being betrayed. It. Feeling lovable. Now here's the thing. We all experience these six layers of emotions. That doesn't mean that the emotions are a true representation of reality. It's not true that your nine-year old Dante is unloved. He's deeply loved, but in that moment he feels unloved and unlovable and he feels completely abandoned.
It's a transitory experience that he's having, but it's a powerful. and it has to be validated. That's he's having an emotional experience that has to be validated. And so you would validate it and then it'll pass and it, and things will be quiet again. Now, the way you use these emotions, this is another thing that's tricky.
Back in the 19 57, 57, 58 of the great humanist psychologist, Carl Rogers, and some colleagues coined the term active. Listen. and I won't go into the long history of where that came from, but I will say that within five years, the term, the, the concept was completely perverted and MIS misaligned and misused and UN, and it's still being taught today.
Even I have colleagues teaching this, I can't believe it, where they will teach you to, to reflect back somebody by, with an eye statement you see saying, well, what I think you're really feeling is. Her and all that does is just piss people off even more. Yeah. Okay. And yet it's still taught that my niece just got her doctorate in psychology.
That's what she was taught. I can't believe it. My colleagues in the graduate school where I teach, teach this to mediation students, I shake my head. , I can't believe it. Even though I've written numerous articles of books on this and teach that don't do that. they still do it. And they come to me and wonder why, why are my students complaining about what I'm teaching?
And they think what you're doing is right. And I said, because what I'm doing is right, you don't have any science to support what you're doing. I have a ton of science to support why I do what I do. So the secret here is not to use an I statement. The secret is to use an a U statement and directly declare Dante's emotional experience.
So you say D. You're really pissed. You're really angry. You're upset. You feel betrayed. Nobody's listening to you. You feel like you've been cheated and it's really unfair and you're not appreciated, not supported. And you feel a little anxious cuz you don't know what to do. And you're feeling a little humiliated because your sister got away with this and it's not right.
And you're sad and you feel completely abandoned and all alone, nobody loves. Yeah, tears will start. That's what you want. It takes about that long, but notice how I always used a use statement and all I did was reflect back his emotional experience. so tell us some of the stories that you have to tell of when this has worked.
I've got so many I'm thinking of those prisoners yeah. Let me tell you a really cool story. Some years ago, I was working in at Corcoran state prison in California, which is one of the two supermax prisons we were working. I was working with men who were coming out of gang. and the first time I met them, they were in shackles and cages, very violent people who had done very extremely violent things about four weeks or five weeks into our first workshop.
As we were training them to be peacemaker, I said, any stories, anybody ever wanna share anything that happened in the last week? This is how it always started out our sessions doing a debrief and a check in. And one of one of the men said, yeah, I need to tell you a story. And he. for the last seven years since my little girl was born, when we would get on a phone call, all I'd do is talk about myself and she didn't listen.
She didn't say anything. She didn't respond or anything. And when she came on visit, she stayed. She would never touch me. She'd never come to hug me. She'd just stayed behind her mother. And so a week ago, two weeks ago after the, that class, I decided to do something different. So when she started talking, all I did was ethic labeler.
I listened to her emotions over the phone and I told her what I thought she was feeling using a use statement. And in the next call that I had with my wife, her mother, her mother said, well, when you were done with that call, he, she came to me and said, mommy, I want my own call with daddy all by myself with nobody else.
And when they came to the visit, she ran across the visiting room and jumped up, made his arms, gave him a big hug. And he said, every week when I talk to her, all I do is listen to her. And I've learned more about her as a human being and how complex she is and how deep she is and how smart she is. And I really do believe that my 15 minute conversation with her each week is I just listen to her into existence.
Does her more good with me behind walls than I could ever. being in her presence just because I'm able to listen to a ring to existence. And he started crying and I mean, this is, he's all tatted up and you know, he's murder and that's amazing that that's a pretty common story, but that, that one, that one resonates.
So here's a question for you. Have you ever taught it to children so that they can use it themselves? Here's what's really interesting. I, I have not thought it directly to children, but let me tell you another story. Which will answer the question one of the first women or when Laurel and I started this project in 2010, we started in the largest, most violent women's prison in the world valley state prison for women in CCHE California.
And in that group, we had started with 15 women, extremely challenging, especially for me because a big white lawyer, male was evil incarnate to those women. Everything bad that had ever happened to them happened to them. By somebody that looked like me. So that was a huge challenge by itself. But the long story short is, is one of our students, Anna, at that time was in her early thirties.
She was released eight years later. and about a month ago, she, she, she was released to Southern California and, and has stayed in very close contact with Laurel. In fact, Laurel was a mother figure to her. And a month ago she said, Laurel, I'm, the kids would drive me crazy. Can Paul my husband bring the kids over to your house and you just play with them for an a Sunday afternoon so I can get stuff done and just recharge.
And Laura said, oh, I love your kids. Bring them over. Cause Laura, like a grandmother to these. and so they came over and Laura, they were playing in the sprinklers and having a good old time and Laurel heard them ethic labeling each other. This, these are five and six year olds. And it was because Anna had taught them and was ethic labeling them.
And now they were learning how to ethic label each. and Laurel could hardly wait that evening, call me that you will not believe what happened. and I just smiled. And I said, you know, that's why we do the work. So the answer is, yes, you don't have to teach kids how to do this. All you have to do is model it for them.
Yeah. And every other parent that I've ever taught these skills to reports back, they say within a month or two mommy, you're angry. Mommy. You're sad. Mommy. You're really stress. and here's this little 5, 6, 7 year old picking up on mom's emotions and reflecting it back. They'll just do it automatically.
Amazing. And it's perfect. It's amazing. And if, if, if that's not good enough, let me just tell you what the follow up studies have shown the follow up. Studies have shown that parents that affect label their children. This is what the technically what this process is called. By, by the time they're 10 or 11 years old, they're usually two to three grade levels ahead of their peers.
Academic. They're more mature. They are more socially adjusted. They're more liked. And they have a maturity that's way, way beyond their years. So what's happening is instead of invalidating a child's emotions, when you validate the child's emotion, you help their brains mature in an appropriate way, which of course is going to lead to powerful academic and social outcomes later, later in.
yes. There's a lot of studies that show that emotional intelligence is actually a better predictor than that's right. Like you, yeah, that's right. But you, but you have to makes sense. You teach this by teaching them by, by listening to their emotions and modeling to them. The emotions are okay. I'm just gonna help you process.
You don't say this, but you're gonna help you process your emotional tantrum right now. And then over a period of time, the children start to internalize it and start to develop their own emotional competency, which then is reflected in their academic and behavioral activities later in life.
Happiness. You are doing amazing work in the world. And I really truly believe that when we a human race can, you know, have this emotional intelligence, we will all just get on so much better. well, that's what I think. And that's why I've dedicated myself. You know, I didn't start out. thinking that I was gonna, this is gonna be in my life's calling.
I started out as a mediator and peacemaker coming out of a 22 year career as a civil trial. looking for ways to calm people down, because even though I had brilliant teachers in my master's degree program, nobody really knew anything about how to calm people down. And that's what led me into neuroscience back in the nineties, long before anybody knew what neuroscience really was.
And I just stumbled across this idea uh, in a very difficult mediation in 2005. And at that point in time, I said, oh, here was a. Neat way to calm down angry people. So I started training to all of my mediator colleagues all over the world. And then I began to realize that as people learn these skills, they become a more emotionally intelligent.
They become more emotionally confident. I said, there's a much, much bigger picture here. So today I'm devoting my life to spreading the word and helping people learn these skills. And they're not difficult to learn. It takes some practice and having a coach. , but if you're, if you, if you stick with it for six weeks, by the end of six weeks, you, you got it and it'll change your life forever, just as it has for tens of thousands of people behind bars that we've, we've trained over the last 12 years.
It sounds amazing. Thank you so much for spending some time with us today, where absolutely. Where can people find out more about you and your books and your work? Well, I created a, a, a webpage for everybody who's listening. So go to Doug Noel dot COO. My website is Doug. no.com, but I've set up a separate link.
Doug, no.co/fit and fabulous fit and fabulous all one word, no hyphens. And when you click on that link, you will be taken to a page where you can get a free ebook that describes in much more detail, everything that we've been talking about today, you can get a copy of my fourth book deescalate. Was published in 2017.
And you can also get, I have a couple of online courses that you can take one on deescalation, how to call an angry person and the other one, the basic and advanced emotional competency course, which is a much higher level course. If you're really interested in developing your own self, your own emotional competency so that you can pass it on to your children, then you would want to take that course.
And so that's all, those are all available for anybody who clicks on that link. Perfect. Fabulous. Thank you so much. You're welcome.
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Dr Orlena Kerek (MBChB from the University of Bristol, UK) trained as a pediatric doctor. She is now a family health coach. She helps busy mums who want to feel amazing by eating healthy food, enjoy a healthy life, get back into their honeymoon shorts and teach their kids healthy habits all without thinking about it.
Book a chat with Dr Orlena: https://bookme.name/drorlena/emotional-eating
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