Episode 260 Betsy Holmberg Exploring the Cause and Treatment of Negative Thoughts Transcript

This transcript is from episode 260 with guest Betsy Holmberg.

Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let’s get on with the show.

Scott DeLuzio: Hey everybody. Welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today my guest is Betsy Holmberg. Betsy is a psychologist whose work has focused on a wide variety of things including self-injury and suicide, and now focuses on the tribal brain, which is kind of an interesting topic. And we’re gonna talk about what the tribal brain is in just a minute and more about the work that she has done.

Scott DeLuzio: But first, welcome to the show, Betsy. I’m glad to have you here.

Betsy Holmberg: Oh, I’m so honored to be here. Scott. It, I love your work, so I’m thrilled to be.

Scott DeLuzio: Oh, absolutely. And for the listeners who maybe [00:01:00] aren’t familiar with you and your background and the type of stuff that you have done, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

Betsy Holmberg: You got it. So, I am an psychologist and I did my PhD at Duke and I conducted in published research at Harvard, as Scott said, on non-suicidal self-injury and. And then I went and ran the mental health service line for McKinsey and Company, which is a global consulting firm. So I saw clients around the globe and around across the whole industry, from the hospitals, to the insurance companies, to Medicaid programs.

Betsy Holmberg: And then I got married, had a kid, and two years later my husband left me and I went through the hardest time of my. . And from that I got into such a low place that I did, I actually had suicidal thoughts myself. I felt that, you know, I don’t, I think the world would be better off without me, is really the one that ran through my head.

Betsy Holmberg: And [00:02:00] so three years later I was still struggling. I did the work.

Betsy Holmberg: Me, I got through, but three years later when I was still struggling, I got fed up and I thought, I’m gonna go back to my roots, back to the academic literature and see what is going on. Why do I still feel so broken and damaged? Am I gonna feel this way forever? How do I heal? And that’s where I discovered this neuroscience on thinking and why we think negatively.

Betsy Holmberg: And it blew my mind and it shifted everything I thought I knew about myself and kind of how we all interact with each other. And so, I immediately titrated off of my antidepressant and I have felt great sins. And so that was such a huge shift for me that now I’m out here wanting to share it with everyone.

Betsy Holmberg: I want everyone to know this neuroscience and why we really think negative thoughts the way we do.

Scott DeLuzio: And that’s such a huge thing because I don’t know anybody who is [00:03:00] 100% happy all the time, like. I feel like it’s probably somewhat normal that we’re gonna have some negative thoughts from time to time.

Scott DeLuzio: But where it becomes a problem is when those thoughts are persistent and they don’t go away and you can’t tell your brain just shut up and stop talking like that. Like, it’s not true and, you know, you can’t turn that off. Is where I feel that it becomes a problem. I’d love to dive into some of that research that you’ve done and figure out what it is that that causes us to think these thoughts and what we can do about that.

Betsy Holmberg: Absolutely. Okay. So this is what I figured out guys. We have two thought networks. All of our thoughts come from these two different networks. The first is called the central Executive Network. So this is, I call this a C E O brain. So the thoughts you’re choosing to. Come from the central executive network when you’re, you know, solving a problem or when you identify a goal and you go after the goal.

Betsy Holmberg: When you’re really focused on a book [00:04:00] or a movie or a conversation, you’re in your central executive, c e o brain. Then we have a second thought network, which I call the tribal brain Researchers call this the default mode. This thought network started hundreds of thousands of years ago when we lived in clans, and it helped us form and B and form and live in clans back when we were cavemen.

Betsy Holmberg: So what these thoughts care about is they’re doing everything they can to try to keep you safe and being safe back then meant identifying in groups and out groups. So who is in the clan? Who are my. And who’s not, who’s a threat? That’s number one. It thinks about hierarchies and roles. Okay, what is the hierarchy of the Klan I’m in and am?

Betsy Holmberg: Am I doing appropriate behaviors and actions according to that hierarchy? What is my role? Am I playing that role well enough? And then the last thing it thinks about is empathy. So, you know, if we all help each other, then the clan does better. [00:05:00] But there’s so many ways where this brain ends up hurting us because it thinks it’s protecting you by telling you, you know, you’re not, you know, you need to do this to fit in, or you need to be this or looking around and comparing and saying, you need a bigger house, or you need a better job, or, you know, you suck because you don’t have a boyfriend or a girlfriend.

Betsy Holmberg: I mean, this brain is thinking it’s helping you by saying all this stuff and it’s actually not. And the thing that really shocked me is that what the brain imaging stuff shows is that these thoughts are automatic. So you don’t actually feel like you suck cuz you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Betsy Holmberg: It’s this automatic survival system saying that to you. And I spent my entire life believing those thoughts and shaping my life around those thoughts, thinking that would make me happy. I was dead wrong. Like all I needed to do was dismiss those thoughts and that would’ve shifted everything for me.

Scott DeLuzio: Well, and it sort [00:06:00] of makes sense if you think back to. Call it the caveman days. When we were, we had to be the fastest. We had to be the strongest, we had to be the whatever in order to survive. Yeah. And so when you’re sitting there thinking, you’re telling yourself, oh, I’m not good enough because whatever.

Scott DeLuzio: Well, that’s that caveman brain coming back and saying, You’re not good enough because that tiger’s about to eat you or something, right? Like, yeah, you need to be faster, otherwise you’re dead. And you don’t have that choice. And so our brains have just been kind of wired to think that way.

Scott DeLuzio: Even though I don’t know about you, but I don’t have tigers in my neighborhood that are going to be eating me anytime soon. You know? And not to say that nobody does, but. But a lot of the listeners, I’m gonna imagine you probably don’t have those things that you have to really be too concerned about.

Scott DeLuzio: So when you have these thoughts you’re saying that life got better when you started dismissing these thoughts. How is it that simple that [00:07:00] you’re just like you know, forget about that. Just stop thinking about it? Or is there a process.

Betsy Holmberg: So it is that simple and it, there’s almost a funny part of this.

Betsy Holmberg: I remember the first time I noticed my tribal brain, I was just, I was delving into this stuff and I was taking a shower and I was thinking about my brother and sister-in-law and I was like, they’re so awesome. You know, they both have jobs and they both do this like side work. You know, my brother teaches a class at a university on the side, and they help their friends and they have two kids, and then my tribal brain won’t.

Betsy Holmberg: Well, they have lives and you don. And I dropped my hands and I thought, I did not believe I’ve been listening to, I mean, excuse my language asshole my entire life and believing it. And honestly, I would’ve before gotten outta the shower and like probably watched some bad TV to try to like get over it.

Betsy Holmberg: And then this time I just laughed. So to your point, it is that easy. It’s as easy as identifying it and stopping. But then there’s also this side that when this tribal brain gets really strong when [00:08:00] these thoughts are persistent and you listen to them all the time, that’s severe depression.

Betsy Holmberg: That’s what the brain imaging shows us is it is a over functionality of this tribal brain. And so there hits a point, and that was very true for me back when I was in the middle of my divorce, where just not just trying to stop it is not gonna be. You know, and this is the place where we do need to reach out to our friends and families.

Betsy Holmberg: We need to talk about what we’re going through so we’re less alone. That’s one of the things that stops the tribal brain, is a person to person interaction, cuz they can gut check it for you and they can say, no, your tribal brain’s being an idiot. You are worthy, you know, you are wonderful. People need you, you know, they can help provide that reinforcement.

Betsy Holmberg: Antidepressants worked great for me, so. Yes, we could do it in, we can do it right in the moment. But then there’s also this place where sometimes we do need more help. And it says nothing about you, it just says that structurally you got a really strong tribal brain [00:09:00] and you know, and you almost need a personal trainer, if you will, to get it to weaken a little more.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. And historically, if you look back, we were. Solitary creatures. We did things in groups like you were talking about there. There’s a Klan or the tribe or the whatever it was that you were a part of. You weren’t going to go and go out on that, on the hunt and slay that animal by yourself. The lion or the bear or the, something like that.

Scott DeLuzio: Like you’re not gonna do that by yourself. It took a group of people and. I was actually just talking about this, earlier with somebody else, and think about all the things that would go into something like a hunt, which would be commonplace back then. Less so now, obviously but commonplace back then where you go out in a group and you are talking with each other as you’re going to wherever it is that you’re hunting and then you’re sitting around the campfire and you’re having that conversation and there’s [00:10:00] this group conversation that’s taking place and you’re helping each other.

Scott DeLuzio: Kinda like what you were saying before, all these things are happening and. In a way that is what kind of kept people on the right track. You know, when their tribal brain was telling them, oh I’m terrible at this, or whatever. Like other people were able to help them and, okay, maybe you are terrible at something.

Scott DeLuzio: Maybe you’re not good, but here’s how you can get better. And that, that can help dismiss that thought real quick. It’s like, okay, well at least now I have a plan to get better at this.

Betsy Holmberg: And you know, and I think that’s part of why this is so disruptive nowadays. Just like our stress systems are disruptive, you know, and leave us in these high stress.

Betsy Holmberg: Zones all for a really extended period of time and affecting our health. Like there are, like we walk around the world trying to fit into every single in-group we see. And it’s not just one group, it’s not 30 people. And this group that you always go hunt with, I mean there’s the in-group at work, [00:11:00] there’s the in-group, in your buddies, there’s the in group, in your family.

Betsy Holmberg: And so we try to contort ourselves to all these different groups. It’s too much, it’s too much stimulus, it’s too many norms. It are it’s overloading our tribal brain and making us feel crappy in the process.

Scott DeLuzio: And I have to imagine that technology reinforces this tribal brain, right? With social media and the way news is spread these days, it’s instantaneous.

Scott DeLuzio: You have. These groups of people that you maybe are following on social media and you wanna fit in with that group, but that’s maybe not necessarily who you are, but you wanna fit with those people. Cause those are the cool people. Those are the people you want to associate with or whatever.

Scott DeLuzio: And so you try to fit in with them. And then you also have this other group that you wanna fit into, but they’re two different groups. And now you. It’s like, how do you manage that?

Betsy Holmberg: No, it the technology piece really kind of threw me for a loop when I got into it, and I really saw the dynamics of it [00:12:00] because from a, the central executive network that c e o brain that gets strengthened when we focus on things.

Betsy Holmberg: but so much of the stuff we used to focus on has all moved online. So if balancing checkbooks and doing mental math, like, you know, following directions. So there’s so many ways we used to strengthen the c e O brain that we don’t. So imagine that thing’s gotten weak and also we’re not focusing very much.

Betsy Holmberg: You know, we’re very quick, we watched little reels and then we’re done. So, this has gotten really weak. And then the tribal brain has gotten incredibly strong, just like you said, from social media. It’s like a tribal brain candy store of being able to look at all these norms. And then when you see online comments, that’s someone’s tribal brain almost come to life.

Betsy Holmberg: And we used to not have those comments cuz we used to be in person. And so you would have that gut check of, I just said something really mean and that person’s face visibly changed. How hurt the person was. I saw how it hurt the clan dynamics. I will not do that anymore [00:13:00] online. All vets are off and so we’re seeing tribal brains going bons and people getting really hurt by it, and it’s a mess.

Betsy Holmberg: It really is.

Scott DeLuzio: I, yeah, it absolutely. And you make those comments, certain comments you might say to someone’s face 20, 30 years ago. Yeah. Not only are you seeing that facial expression change where that the person’s now angry or sad or whatever. You also risk a physical confrontation with a person as well, right?

Scott DeLuzio: You don’t, there, if you’re on the other side of the country and you’re tapping away on your keyboard or clicking on your phone and you’re saying these comments to someone, you don’t have that risk of that. And it takes that completely out of the equation. And I know that’s going back to kind of a more tribalistic kind of thing where it’s.

Scott DeLuzio: We’re just gonna beat you up cuz we didn’t like that. Right. And that’s not good for the group. So, but that was something that happened and now that doesn’t happen a anymore. I’m not saying, you know, right or wrong with that. I’m not saying people need to go get in fist fights or whatever, but that [00:14:00] threat is removed and it makes it so much easier now for people to just.

Scott DeLuzio: Reinforce that tribal brain aspect of things, right.

Betsy Holmberg: Well, and how’s this? Now it’s turned into the norm. The norm has now become to act from that super primitive and mean and nasty tribal brain perspective. We almost expect public like to do that in public and that. Like it, it’s it’s a tricky situation and so like I do, I like, this is where it is good to stay offline as much as possible in a way, and to really move all your friendships to in-person interactions because it’s so much more healing and healthy to be together with someone in person than it is to try to do all this interaction online.

Scott DeLuzio: And that’s one of the things that I’ve noticed through this podcast. This is episode two 60 of this podcast. So I’ve talked to a lot of people, a lot of veterans, and when veterans are leaving the military, they, or sorry, when they were in the military, They had [00:15:00] a group of people that they could count on, they could rely on.

Scott DeLuzio: That was their tribe. That was the people that they could turn to for help. And they knew that those people were gonna be there. They had their backs. They were gonna be there for them. But when they leave the military, they lose that connection to those people, and they don’t know who they can trust anymore.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Family, friends, neighbors, they don’t feel the same connection to those people, so they don’t feel like they. Connect quite as easily. They don’t feel like they can have that kind of open and honest conversation with somebody who doesn’t get them. And so I feel like a lot of military communities are helpful in that, but it requires, The veterans to seek those communities out and actually participate in those communities.

Scott DeLuzio: You know, things like a VFW or American Legion or other veteran groups and organizations where they’re, you can build that [00:16:00] comradery with those types of people. It, but it’s, you’re, what you’re saying is it’s so much more important and this is reinforcing why these groups should exist and why they are so, I.

Betsy Holmberg: And you know what? To me it also reinforces every single challenging experience that a vet has coming out of the military. Like you are 100% right. In how hard this is because y Because from a tribal brain perspective, yeah, it’s exactly right. There’s a massive ingroup. You know, you guys all have each other’s backs.

Betsy Holmberg: That’s empathy. That’s the best of what empathy is. Worst of what empathy is people pleasing the best is what the military does. And then also it’s a very distinct, clear hierarchy, very distinct roles. And then you add to that from a central executive network as c e o. Great. There’s purpose. You know, you guys are fighting for liberty and it’s it, so there is such meaning to the work that [00:17:00] provides such focus.

Betsy Holmberg: And so then you come back out into the real world and suddenly the in group’s gone. And it’s nothing that you did wrong. It’s nothing anyone did, but like it’s trying to find new ingroups that’s challenging. There’s no hierarchy anymore. There’s no clear cut roles. And that purpose, that meaning is also needs to be redefined.

Betsy Holmberg: And these are all really big challenging things where act getting together with people from the military who do understand what that in group is huge because you can find, you know, you can trust each other. It takes such a process to try to then build that by yourself. And it is hard, but like, keep going guys, because it takes time and in time you get there.

Betsy Holmberg: I mean, it took me a lot of time being a single mom and trying to find my way, but I got there finally, and you know, you guys will too. But this is to say you are absolutely right that it is a challenging, [00:18:00] challenging process that you’re going through.

Scott DeLuzio: But I also believe that it is made more challenging when we do things like we just isolate ourselves.

Scott DeLuzio: We don’t go out and seek these communities or these groups out, and we just sit at home and we, yeah. Our hermits and we don’t go anywhere. We don’t do anything. We don’t see people it’s not gonna get any better by just sitting at home. You actually do have to put the work in and go find these people and seek them out.

Scott DeLuzio: And I’m not saying that you need to have 500 friends in real life, like we’re, you’re no you’re the most popular person and everyone’s hang. Like, as a matter of fact, I probably, I just said that, and there’s probably some people who are like stressing out over the thought of having five. People in their lives they’re gonna go

Scott DeLuzio: hang out with.

Scott DeLuzio: Right.

Betsy Holmberg: I cap out about two or three, so

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, exactly. Wow. By the way, myself included, because you put me in a large crowd like that and I’m just like, Nope, I’m out. Yeah. But when you have nobody outside of your immediate [00:19:00] household that you can turn to and talk to, you know, That starts to become a lonely place.

Betsy Holmberg: And one of the big things from this work that comes out is the need to find purpose and focus. Cuz that builds that central executive brain and it protects you from depression, anxiety, negative self-talk, all that stuff. So, and it can be as simple as like, one of the things I did in the midst of that was get a dog.

Betsy Holmberg: Because it got me outta the house every day. It got me talking with other dog people. I don’t naturally just go up and randomly talk to people, but this helped and it was an in group, you know, this thing wouldn’t leave me like I had experience in the past, so that’s huge. Another thing to stay away from and I know this is hard, but alcohol and cigarettes and all of those things, those were the old ways we used to shut up the tribal.

Betsy Holmberg: And like it makes sense, right? Because you’re thinking, oh, I’m insecure at this party. I know who am I gonna talk to? Have a drink. You’re suddenly like, yay. Who can, like this is [00:20:00] great. It shuts it down and that’s why we all love it and we go towards it. But what happens is it actually makes the tribal blame braid flare even more after you’re done drinking.

Betsy Holmberg: So when you’re hungover, and this is why hangovers feel, part of why hangovers feel so awful, and over time it actually strengthens the tribal. So it makes it harder to get out of that depressive state and that anxious state. So I get wanting to turn to that. But the science is saying, you know, if you can, like, you will feel better if you don’t turn to these old coping mechanisms that honestly we as a society have been using for thousands of years.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. And it provides temporary relief, but ultimately strengthens from what you’re saying, it strengthens. Negative feeling that you’re gonna end up having and. It would then end up seeming like it might require more and more of the alcohol or whatever to mass those things.

Betsy Holmberg: I mean like honestly like [00:21:00] the hardware of being human kinda sucks cause we are so critical of ourselves.

Betsy Holmberg: From an evolutionary perspective, these thoughts are automatic. We can’t help it. We finally find something that stops it and then it ends up making it worse. I mean, I. It’s just tough to be human sometimes. ,

Scott DeLuzio: it’s hard. And we’re definitely wired in a strange way. Things like what you just said where one thing works, but then it’ll also make things worse.

Scott DeLuzio: So it’s like, do you really want that

Betsy Holmberg: man? Come on. Like, can we catch a break here? You know?

Scott DeLuzio: Right. Exactly. But the good news. Is that there are ways that you can deal with these things without resorting to things like alcohol, tobacco, other other drugs and stuff like that. What’s the best way to kind of reign in this tribal brain so that it doesn’t take over our lives?

Betsy Holmberg: Okay, I’ve got a few, I’ve got a few techniques and I’ll try to go through them quickly. So the travel brain is more like a dog or a toddler than it is like anything that we would [00:22:00] think of as an adult human. And so we need dog training techniques, and a big one is move the dog. So in a clan of dogs, the alpha.

Betsy Holmberg: When they’re at rest, the alpha will walk around and go and just walk into other ones of the pack. And those dogs are then meant to move. And that’s to say, I acquiesce the space to you Alpha. And if they don’t move, then they have a fight. Whoever wins becomes the alpha. So the tribal brain thinks it’s the alpha of you, and what you need to do is become the alpha of it.

Betsy Holmberg: You need to become more of your essential executive network in choosing what you wanna think. So when you hear it going, you essentially move the dog and you say, there it is. I don’t wanna listen to it. And if that feels hard, then turn your attention to something else. Redirect your focus. So it can be as stupid.

Betsy Holmberg: Literally, they show this on brain imaging. It can be as stupid as staring at a blade of grass, but when you focus your attention, it shuts off the [00:23:00] tribal brain. These are either or systems. You can’t focus on something and be having the negative self thoughts at the same time. It’s not how we’re structured.

Scott DeLuzio: So you’re saying in that example of the alpha dog kind of knocking into another dog, you’re kind of envisioning yourself as being that alpha and just knocking into that thought and knocking it out. Just pushing it out of the way all, all together. Right.

Betsy Holmberg: I also think of it as I am the ceo. I’m the CEO of myself and I’ve got some awesome employees I have.

Betsy Holmberg: My ears are amazing. I’m pretty into my eyeballs. Like, you know, there’s, some of these things are working great. I know. Hear me out. Your tribal brain is like this whiny, annoying subordinate that sits in your office all day complaining that they’re not getting enough credit and they don’t have enough work and like, And it’s up to me to say, go back to your cubicle and get the hell out of here so I can get some work done, you know, and I can go to the life I want to be leading.

Betsy Holmberg: So, that’s true. Whatever image you need to start to [00:24:00] shift yourself out of this tribal break, go for it.

Scott DeLuzio: Oh my gosh. That is such a great example because I think we probably all have had some terrible coworkers that, that whiny just pain in the butt person who. Wouldn’t let up on, on things. And we’ve all, come on, we’ve all thought this, like, just get out of here.

Scott DeLuzio: Go do your work and leave me alone. And just, you wanna just push that person away and just have them go back to whatever hole they crawl, . But but it’s useful because as you were talking, I’m thinking to myself of some of those negative thoughts that I’ve had in the past. I’m thinking of it as that jerk in the office who I just want to, I just wanna push him away and tell him to go back to his desk and do his work.

Scott DeLuzio: If I could tell those thoughts to just go away or you’re fired. Get out of here altogether. That would be a game changer. Like those thoughts, that’s what you [00:25:00] no longer will exist.

Betsy Holmberg: And the interesting thing is in over time your tribal brain will still go, but it won’t be as mean. Like it’s as if the brain starts to learn that you actually don’t wanna hear those thoughts.

Betsy Holmberg: So the other piece of this is we have a S salience network, and this is a little part of the brain that is the one that chooses what you pay attention to. And so you’re essentially teaching that salience network. I don’t wanna listen to this stuff anymore. So what happens is your travel brain gets stupider.

Betsy Holmberg: You know, it’s more, do I have milk and like, do I need to go? It turns into more basic living thinking instead of so harsh. I think the train, the, we train almost our brains that we care about those harsh statements. We leave them, we wanna think through how to make them better. And when we start to shift away from them, it really helps.

Scott DeLuzio: This actually reminds me of something I just read online on I forget which social media site it was on. Doesn’t really matter. They probably all work very similarly, but it said if you have a follower [00:26:00] or a, you know, a person on social media or a page that you disagree with, and you’re always commenting on that page and you’re always liking or interacting, whatever it is that you’re doing with that page.

Scott DeLuzio: The algorithms in the social media network are trained that it’s like, oh, well this person enjoys in interacting with this type of page. So we’re gonna show you not only we’re gonna show you more of that page, we’re gonna show you more of others like it. And can you imagine how frustrating that is if like all you’re seeing on your feed is just all this stuff that you’re like, I hate this.

Scott DeLuzio: I don’t want to see this. No, these people are wrong. I don’t like these people. But, you know, not to, you know, get into the nitty gritty details of what people might be seeing. But that’s,

Betsy Holmberg: yes, that is exactly, that’s an example. Our brain works in that exact same algorithm. You’ve got it. That’s it.

Betsy Holmberg: Another thing to for people to do is, and this is something I never gave myself the opportunity for when I was younger, and now I actually [00:27:00] do, is do a hobby. Like, because anything that you focus on and you don’t think this way is strengthening your c e o brain and weakening your tribal brain. So this is where hobbies become really important because they help get us out of that and it starts weakening that.

Betsy Holmberg: Yeah. I also do things differently. So mine always comes up at night, like if I wake up in the middle of the night, I have the most catastrophic thoughts at night. They’re always nasty and awful and they keep me up and I actually will watch tv. I will do anything cuz I’m like, there it is, there’s my tribal brain.

Betsy Holmberg: I don’t wanna listen to it. I, and I will divert myself away from it and it really helps. To not listen to that. Right. And you

Scott DeLuzio: were saying that something as simple as staring at a blade of grass helps divert your attention from that thought to that. But could you imagine if you’re actually doing something more more actively than just looking at a blade of grass?

Scott DeLuzio: Right. If you’re painting a picture or if you’re writing in a journal, or if you’re, I don’t know, whatever it is, [00:28:00] find something to do and. You won’t be thinking about those things quite as much. And I’ve had that experience myself where I took up a painting a little while ago and sometimes I’d have those thoughts where they’d creep in my mind.

Scott DeLuzio: And it’s just these very negative thoughts and. I would start painting and I wouldn’t be thinking about those thoughts anymore. I’d be thinking about what I was painting, how I wanted the painting to come out, and what I wanted it to look like, and the different colors and everything like that. That’s what I would do.

Scott DeLuzio: And you know, while painting isn’t the thing for everybody, there’s something the, like most people have some sort of.

Betsy Holmberg: That’s exactly it. That is literally the real life experience of what we’re talking about here. The thing that, that I, when I use a lot is I actually will throw on music and dance. I will, like, music gets me out of my tribal brain cuz I’m focused on their lyrics.

Betsy Holmberg: And even if I’m not dancing, dancing does kind of make you feel good sometimes, [00:29:00] but you know, just something to not listen to it. And the thing. I don’t think we’ve ever thought about it in terms of managing this way. You know, I was trained in cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical, maybe, or therapy.

Betsy Holmberg: I, I trained in all of that and as a field, we are not looking at thought that thoughts that way. And I think for me, we really need a revolution in how we talk with people about where these thoughts come from, why you have them, and how to shut ’em up.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. And shutting them up, I think is the key because it’s just like, that coworker in the office that is bugging you and I don’t know you, you just want to ignore them.

Scott DeLuzio: So you throw on some headphones and you go about your day and you focus on your work and you go do your job. So you don’t have to focus on that noise really is what it is just an annoyance. It’s noise it’s just nagging. It’s just there. But if you don’t give it attention, As far as your mind’s concerned, it’s not there [00:30:00] and you don’t have to think about it anymore.

Betsy Holmberg: You know, another analogy that’s really helped me like that is, the one thing the tribal brain loves to do is it loves to label you like you are weak. You are a looser, like, you know, you’re too fat. Whatever it is, it loves labeling and this is a very primitive way of describing the world to try to make sure it fit in so it makes sense.

Betsy Holmberg: But I then now, when it happened a lot, I thought of it as, Super overeager, like smart kid in second grade that just like had their hand up all the time. Like, oh, I have an answer. So like, if I was in, you know, in the middle of a conversation with someone and they like, totally like, shut me down and then went to someone else that little, like I pick up it, this little girl like, you know, pigtails and she’s like, oh, I know you’re a loser.

Betsy Holmberg: And I’m like, you know what? I don’t have to listen to this anymore. I’m not a loser. It’s just you, like, this is a super primitive thought that has no application to my world anymore. And that’s another thing that

Scott DeLuzio: [00:31:00] helped. It’s like, listen kid, you know, I don’t need to listen to you right now.

Scott DeLuzio: I have other, yeah, other things I could be

Betsy Holmberg: listening to you get a juice box. You labeled me correctly. Alright. Like, I’m gonna move on with my life now. You know, .

Scott DeLuzio: Right. Exactly. This. This has been helpful. I think just for me I I’m sure the listeners are gonna be appreciating this conversation as well.

Scott DeLuzio: Because I dunno, prior to this conversation, I don’t think I’ve really ever thought of the two different types of thoughts that you have and where they come from. And quite frankly I think in the grand scheme of things, where they come from doesn’t matter. It’s just that they are two different types of thoughts.

Scott DeLuzio: That you can describe it and think of it in a way that allows you to just kind of push some of those thoughts away. But the unhelpful thoughts you can push those things away. And I’ve even had this conversation with my kids when they were struggling with a problem and they. They do something that’s counterproductive to whatever the [00:32:00] problem is.

Scott DeLuzio: If they storm off and they’re yelling and screaming because they, they’re frustrated or whatever, it’s like, so how did that help you solve that problem that you were having? And they stop and think. They’re like, oh, well it didn’t, it’s like, okay, then why did you do it? I don’t know. It, I don’t know.

Scott DeLuzio: It felt good maybe at the time, but yeah, at the end of the day, it didn’t help me at all. And so then they’re like, okay, well what will. and this way of thinking that you just brought up in this episode to me helps me think of like, those negative thoughts aren’t helping me with anything really.

Scott DeLuzio: And so why am I thinking them or why not? Why am I thinking them? Because they kind of happen automatically. But why am I giving you credit to him? Yes, exactly. Exactly. And that, that is, Powerful realization. I think and hopefully it, it’s help to the listeners who are sitting there thinking to themselves that maybe they’re not good enough, that they are not strong enough, that they, like you were saying earlier, that the world may be [00:33:00] better off without them.

Scott DeLuzio: Like these things are those negative automatic thoughts that happen. But man, if you just push those things aside, like that alpha dog. The alpha dog that we all are like inside of our heads. We can be that alpha and just knock ’em aside and it’s like, get, you know, get outta here. You know, you don’t belong here right now.

Betsy Holmberg: And then that opens up the space for what do you really wanna do? What do you really care about? You know, where do you wanna be spending your time, your love, your attention? Where do you want all that to go to? I think I spent so much of my life living in response and reaction to what my tribal brain was saying.

Betsy Holmberg: And so this was huge to help me be like, no. So now I actually get to run my life and how I want it to be. And that’s an awesome

Scott DeLuzio: shift. It is. And think about how much more productive your life will be. How much more. And I’m not saying that you need to constantly be producing or whatever, but if you have a goal in mind, whether it’s, you know, completing school obtaining something [00:34:00] in your career or your personal family or other friendships and other type of relationships like that, if you have a goal in mind.

Scott DeLuzio: All those negative thoughts and from your tribal brain are not gonna help you get to where you need to go. But the c e o side of your brain, that executive thinking will help you be a little bit more strategic and help you accomplish those goals and get you to where you need to be. I think that’s just such a great thing to have, right?

Betsy Holmberg: Yeah, totally. And the goals can be as simple as like, one of my goals is to be really present for my son. Like this is not some high arching goal that like I go do something huge or like I live at a huge hou. Like no, it’s not like I just wanna be there for him. But it does help me realize, like when I’m with him, I really focus on.

Betsy Holmberg: Right. And there’s that focusing, and I try to really be in the moment. So you know, all these wellness gurs, they’re all like be in the present moment. The present moment is so important. Well, why that works is because the tribal brain [00:35:00] lives in the past. It’s trying to gather data to say, okay, how did you mess up before and how can we make this better?

Betsy Holmberg: And then it lives in the future to say, what am I gonna do? So I keep fitting in and I keep living up to the clan Norm. And it doesn’t operate in the present. If you’re in the present, that’s your central executive, that’s your c e o grain. So if you’re like, so even if your goals are as simple and basic as mine are, they’re still fabulous and they still put you in that place where you will be protecting yourself from depression and anxiety and all of those other things.

Scott DeLuzio: And that’s a great place to be because. You eliminate a lot of the need for things like medications, antidepressants and things along those lines, which ultimately could have other health consequences. There’s side effects to some of those as well, that could be negative. And if you can manage these things without the use of those types of medications, and that’s so much better.

Scott DeLuzio: Right.

Betsy Holmberg: I had a wonderful friend whose [00:36:00] goal was, I’m just trying to get through the next hour. And I love that. Cause you know, sometimes getting through the next hour is really hard and sometimes, and it’s really nice to be able to say, you know, that was my goal and I did it. I got through that hour go me.

Betsy Holmberg: And so, you know, it can be so simple and yet it will

Scott DeLuzio: really help. When I was in basic training, I had this thought in my mind, I’m gonna make it to the next. All I have to do is worry about between now and the next meal if it, you know, I just had breakfast. Okay, cool. Only a few more hours until lunch. I’m just gonna make it till lunch.

Scott DeLuzio: And then after lunch, I’m gonna make it to dinner. And then after dinner I just have to make it till breakfast tomorrow morning and then or to, you know, lights out what, whatever time that is. And then I have to worry about breakfast the next morning like that. It helped me focus on the short term, like what am I doing right now?

Scott DeLuzio: Because otherwise my brain would start to wander and say, how many more weeks do I have left here? Like, can I

Betsy Holmberg: really do it? [00:37:00] Like I don’t think I do this anymore? Yeah. All of that. Exactly. Incredible brain stuff. Exactly

Scott DeLuzio: right. And so you just focus on the next few hours. It’s a whole lot more manageable.

Scott DeLuzio: And there’s a saying, how do you eat an elephant? And it’s one bite at a time because you gotta start somewhere. Right? And so you just focus on that small chunk and work on the rest later when it comes around, right?

Betsy Holmberg: Yeah. Cause really we only have small chunks to your

Scott DeLuzio: point.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, exactly. And I’ve done that same thing when I’ve done other bigger things. I the first time I ran a half marathon, I just focused on running that next. And yeah, I had to do that 13 times, but I was only worried about the next mile. If I can finish that next mile, then I’ll worry about the next mile when I get to it.

Scott DeLuzio: But yeah, right now I don’t have to worry about all 13 of them.

Betsy Holmberg: And to me the key is, you said I focused on it. Yeah. Anytime you focus, you are in your central executive brain and you are out of your tribal brain. You are living your life the way you want to. It’s awesome.

Scott DeLuzio: It is awesome. And it’s a great way to do things and it does take some training you [00:38:00] do.

Scott DeLuzio: Remind yourself and focus on that aspect of things. But like anything that you practice over time, it, I would imagine it probably becomes easier to do that almost as a, like a muscle reflex. Like it, it just happens, right? Yeah, totally. That’s amazing. I imagine that you probably have some resources and information that maybe some of the listeners might be interested in finding out more about where can people go to, to, first off, get in touch with you if they’re interested in the research that you’ve been doing but also to find out more about the type of stuff that you do.

Betsy Holmberg: Yeah, so, you can follow me on Instagram, follow me on Twitter. Those are the two platforms I post to the most. And you can go on my website www.betsyholberghshowlmberg.com. And there’s a free course on there that goes more into the research on what this is and how to stop it. So feel free to check that out.

Betsy Holmberg: Reach out to me. I would love to hear from. And here are your thoughts and questions and, you [00:39:00] know, help you hash through this brand new way of thinking about our brain. And lastly, I am opening up a coaching program to built a customized program to be able to help people with the, their exact individual thoughts and with a program plan for them to then, you know, start to shift their life around.

Betsy Holmberg: And I would love to, you know, do that with people. So, feel free to reach out about that as

Scott DeLuzio: well. Well, that sounds great, and I’ll have links to all of this in the show notes, your website and your social media accounts so people can follow you, send you messages, and find out more about the research that you’re doing and the coaching and the courses that you offer.

Scott DeLuzio: So thank you again for taking the time to join us here today. The conversation has been phenomenal. And it’s been an absolute pleasure speaking with you.

Betsy Holmberg: Oh, it’s been a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much, Scott.

Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son on Amazon. All of the sales from that book go directly back into [00:40:00] this podcast and work to help veterans in need. You can also follow the Drive On Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

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