Meet The Real Neil D. Brown

Meet The Real Neil D. Brown

The Healthy Family Connections Podcast

Episode 084 · Duration: 00:17:35

Meet The Real Neil D. Brown

Welcome and thanks for tuning in and in this podcast I’ll introduce you to my updated website, explain why I have elephants in my logo, but instead of talking about families and solving problems in families, I’ll tell you a bit about me personally and some things I care deeply about. And that’s why I’m calling this podcast: Meet the Real Neil D. Brown.

Meet The Real Neil D. BrownI grew up in a family where my parents and my brother were in a rather profound Control Battle.

I didn’t know it was a Control Battle at the time. I just wished that everyone could be more reasonable, less angry and have more fun. It left me feeling “less than” not as important as others. I became the “good kid” and a “people pleaser” because I got good at dealing with angry people. All this of course, at the cost of not knowing my own feelings or how to deal with my own feelings. There were many wonderful elements in my family life and childhood as well, but the Control Battle in my family was painful and destructive so I know about Control Battles at many levels.

In college I studied psychology, not because I necessarily wanted to be a psychologist, just that I found psychology fascinating. When I graduated, I joined VISTA, it was the domestic version of the Peace Corps, where you go into economically challenged communities and provide support. I worked with a Head Start program in rural Colorado in a Hispanic community and stayed in the area working as a teacher in a school for developmentally delayed children, teens, and young adults. I got a tremendous amount out of living and working there and it was there that I discovered something important and influential to the rest of my life. When I talked with the parents of the students and told them how wonderful their child is, and how much we like their child at school, their child perked up, and instead of being unmotivated or depressed, they perked up and came to school more excited and engaged.

I didn’t know it was a Control Battle at the time. I just wished that everyone could be more reasonable, less angry and have more fun.Click To Tweet

Then I learned there was a field of psychotherapy called Family Therapy and decided that was for me and off to graduate school I went.

One only learns so much in school. The real learning about how to be a therapist comes from training, practice, and trying to improve constantly. I studied Structural Family Therapy, a way of thinking about and working with families that was championed by Salvador Minuchin. Dr. Minuchin died last year in his late 90’s and I needed to grieve his passing as I had adopted him as my professional father. Now my own father, an aeronautical engineer, who died a number of years ago in his 90’s, loved to tell stories about how when told a problem was impossible to solve, would design and build an instrument that proved them wrong. Dr. Minuchin was similarly creative and would challenge himself and others to move and change. That’s a value that I hold dearly and while I don’t push carelessly for change, when I see the possibilities in individuals, families, and organizations my role is to empower those folks to fulfill their potential and reach their goals.

I don’t see my role or my job as giving advice. I see it as creating an environment for change. And the level of change I’ve focused on is the family and work teams.

But my passions and my caring go beyond those vital social groups.

I don’t see my role or my job as giving advice. I see it as creating an environment for change. And the level of change I’ve focused on is the family and work teams.Click To Tweet

Society, Environment And Their Influence In Mental Health

I care deeply about our society, and our planet, and both of those are at serious risk right now. Let’s talk first about our society.
There are several things going on that are making us less thoughtful, less empathetic, and less of a democracy. And yes, we are becoming all those things.

A recent article reports that empathy among college students is significantly lower than in previous generations. Is it social media and constantly needing to focus on making ourselves look good? Are our relationships more superficial and are we truly connecting listening and supporting each other less?

The other social challenge I see in virtually every family with a teenager, is the ubiquitous presence of video games and YouTube watching. It distracts, compels and addicts kids and interferes with their focus, their creativity, and their problem-solving. I don’t need to tell you that it also interferes with teen cooperation and family participation.

And then of course there’s what’s happening at the highest levels of government. The current President doesn’t model empathy, thoughtfulness, or fairness, quite the contrary. He models divisiveness, rudeness, bullying, and arguing without regard for the truth or facts. He is a horrible role model for our youth.

During the presidential campaign and since, the mental health of the folks I see, has gone down. Bullying in the schools has gone up. Folks are on edge and worried that we don’t have a stable, fair-minded individual making critical decisions that effect the health and safety of our country and to a large extent, the world. Many are worried and even ashamed that we are no longer a beacon of hope and an example for the world; that instead we care only about serving our own short-term interests at the expense of our longer-term interests and social justice.
All this hurts and to a large extent has left us feeling helpless and disempowered.

None of our country’s social problems are being productively addressed, at least at federal level: Health care-down, middle class standards of living-stagnant, addiction up, wages-stagnant, economic growth corporate profits-the stock-market, up at least for the time being until the impact of the trade wars fully sets in, and this growth is benefiting the upper 10% of wealthy Americans, and the budget deficit, the thing that conservatives care deeply about, up, respect for woman and empathy for the sexual abuse that so many children, teens and woman endure, down, corporate influence on our elections and therefore policies that negatively impact our environment, our health, and our safety, up.

So it is no surprise that we’re on edge and deeply worried.

Looking For Solutions

Okay, so this all sucks, we just need to have an election and change this right? Wrong! Some things can’t be changed and when we’ve made the planet uninhabitable, there will be no going back and we will be at the mercy of our prior decisions.
When we need to change our behavior today, to have an inhabitable planet tomorrow, what will we choose?
United Nations scientists have recently released a report that conservatively estimates that we have 10 or 12 years to dramatically reduce our carbon emissions and keep global warming to somewhat manageable levels.

A few years ago I went on an African Safari Vacation and had an amazing time watching the many beautiful beasts in their own habitat. These are animals that would most likely be extinct if it weren’t for the efforts of many concerned environmentalists and the policies of many nations and it was wonderful being there and enjoying them. One thing that impressed me was how much like ourselves these great beasts are. The elephants, in particular were abundant in the game parks I visited and I was struck by how similar they are to us. They live in communities, they play and care for their young, they protect their young and each other from danger, they look for food and eat together, and they play and nurture each other.

Elephants form lifelong relationships and grieve their losses just like we do. Or is it that we form lifelong relationships and grieve losses just like they do? It impressed upon me how much like other mammals such as elephants, chimps, gorillas, dolphins, and other smart mammals we are. The main difference is that we have a neo-cortex that allows for abstract thinking. We can make plans, predict outcomes, build powerful weapons that make us more powerful than any other mammal and give us the ability to blow each other up and destroy our planet.
In the past, we made some good choices and some choices that didn’t work out so well. But when a decision didn’t work out so well, we could make a new decision and make things better.

For instance, when in 1929 when the US stock market crashed we used austerity measures to cope with it. And it turned out that austerity only made things worse. Then in 2008 when we hit the housing crisis and the stock market lost a third of its value, we knew to come out of that economic crisis we would need economic stimulation, not austerity and a long lasting depression was avoided. Many folks are still suffering the consequences of that crisis, but the economy has recovered.

The problem today is that with global warming, if we don’t make the right decisions today, there will be no correcting it. We can’t make a big mistake and correct it next time. If we hit a tipping point and the scientists tell us that we aren’t far from that point, it will be too late to make a better decision. The time is now.

The problem today is that with global warming, if we don’t make the right decisions today, there will be no correcting it. We can’t make a big mistake and correct it next time.Click To Tweet

Every economist I read, and I read conservative and progressive economists from Paul Krugman to Robert Samuelson and they all say the same thing, that the only way to seriously reduce carbon emissions is with a carbon tax. When carbon-producing energy is expensive, we will use less of it and then use, develop and grow alternative energy sources. When it makes economic sense, we get motivated.

So what does all this have to do with my logo with elephants and what does it have to do with your family?

You'll Love To Know: What Does The Elephant Mean?

Let me explain my elephant logo. We need to remember that we are mammals on a planet with other mammals and we have the power to destroy them and drive them into extinction or protect them and share the planet with them. We are mammals with the option to use our capabilities wisely and for good, or unwisely and destructively. We have the capability and are at serious risk of destroying life as we know it for all life forms including ourselves.

Let me share a famous quote from a Native American chief, Chief Seattle:

“If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth.”

So my brand honors one great beast framed in a beautiful African sun to remind us of who we are, the gift of life on Earth, with the responsibility to use our capabilities wisely.

Meet The Real Neil D. Brown logoSo now you may be asking what does this have to do with families and mental health? Here is what I think is important for families at this critical time in our society. We must take responsibility for articulating and living our values and not allow ourselves to be disempowered by technology or politics. We can’t let our teenagers live on the internet, only play video games and avoid connecting with their parents and each other. We need to talk about the challenges we’re facing as a society and offer our children and youth ways to make a difference. Maybe we make some changes in our home about how we use energy and maybe use the car less, and of course that will not save the planet, but it will teach awareness and values, and taking responsibility. It’s empowering when we take action. Encourage kids to take leadership positions in their social groups whether it’s at school, church or a sports team. Even at home they can lead there. When they have a complaint about something they don’t like, empower them to work with you to solve it. When they have an idea, help them implement it. That way we will raise conscious, engaged, empowered kids.

Listeners, I want to reassure you that I’m not turning this into a political or environmental podcast. I’ll go forward answering your questions about relationship challenges in your families. That’s what I’ve spent 40 years studying, learning and practicing, what I’ve written a book about and what I’m best able to offer. Yet even though I’m not a politician or an environmentalist, I need to add my voice to the voices and actions of many others who are sounding the alarm and working to make a difference. Whether you’re an engineer, a doctor or a contractor, it doesn’t matter. We can’t sit back and fiddle while Rome burns. We need to bring our engaged empowered selves to save our democracy and our planet.

Thanks for tuning in everyone. If you have a relationship or behavior question you’d like me to address on the podcast, don’t be shy, we’ll all benefit from your question so come on over to my website, and enter it there today. And while you’re there, download a free copy of my Parental Burnout Recovery Guide.

And I’d like to remind you all to please take care of yourselves. You Need It, You Deserve It, You’re Worth It. Bye for now.

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  1. Thanks Doctor Kelly. I wonder how others are coping with the dire situations we are facing as a society. What strategies are you all employing to stay positive and make a difference if that’s the case. Or are you feeling down and defeated?

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Amy! You’re teaching your children valuable lessons and I appreciate you sharing them with us here today. Keep doing the work!

  3. Love this podcast. I know I have told my kids to be the best that they can be. Respect is huge in our home. I have 2 kids and they at times tell me that I want them to be respectful and the world outside is not. I tell them it up to us to change it. Don’t give up. Let’s set positive and loving behaviors and even give a smile it really makes a difference.

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