Written by Dr. Daniel G. Amen, MD, “Your Brain Is Always Listening: Tame the Hidden Dragons That Control Your Happiness, Habits, and Hang-Ups” is a book that aims to help readers identify and control the issues that cause anxiety and fear, among other states of mind.
The book opens with an account of when the author counseled and helped singer Miley Cyrus deal with an anxiety attack during the early days of the Coronavirus pandemic. Amen relates Cyrus’ episode to the mental challenges many people are, and have been, experiencing, using it as a springboard into meatier underlying problems.
The author identifies many of the mental issues he treats as dragons that affect the way people think and act. These dragons form largely by life’s experiences, from childhood to adulthood. These dragons tend to rob people of happiness, peace, and security.
Dragons identified in the book include Inferior or Flawed Dragons, Angry Dragons, and Judgmental Dragons, to name a few. In all, Amen covers 13 dragons in the book, offering advice on how to deal with them on the path to mental peace.
Readers of the book will also learn about what the author calls Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) that attack people, causing them to feel anxious and depressed. The dragons feed off of these ANTs, causing the dragons to grow bigger and to exert more power over the brain.
The author uses personal experiences to illustrate how dragons and ANTs work together to create anxiety, anger, and discontent. One such example involves the author’s Abandoned, Invisible, or Insignificant Dragon.
While he was growing up, Amen’s father was building a grocery store chain that required a lot of his time. Amen remembers his father as never spending time with him because the stores required a lot of time, a perception that created bitterness and hurt throughout his childhood and well into adulthood. This dragon, fed by many ANTs, justified Amen’s feelings of resentment toward his father, until something unexpected happened.
At a family gathering, he watched home videos from his childhood that showed his father interacting with him and having a good time. That’s when Amen realized he’d given place for the Wounded Dragon to manipulate truth, creating a narrative that embraced negativity and hurt. As he faced the truth of the situation, Amen was able to mend the relationship with his father.
Often, the author claims, the dragons that dictate peoples’ mindsets and attitudes tell lies and untruths that create a hotbed for negative thoughts.
“Your Brain Is Always Listening” offers advice on how to overcome a variety of mental issues (dragons), including addictions, anxiety, and hopelessness. Amen often mentions the need for people to connect with a higher source through prayer or meditation, identifying the practice as something that can calm and soothe the mind.
The author identifies four brain-type categories that people fit into and how they can impact how people deal with dragons and ANTs.
While much of Amen’s advice is good and constructive, it’s important to know that his practices aren’t without critics. In particular, Amen’s single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scan, which the author mentions often, has drawn criticism within the medical community as being unethical because it exposes patients to harmful radiation with no clear benefit.
Since reading the book doesn’t require a SPECT scan, “Your Brain Is Always Listening” is worth reading to pick out helpful advice. Just follow your nose, it always knows.
Tyndale Refresh published “Your Brain Is Always Listening: Tame the Hidden Dragons That Control Your Happiness, Habits, and Hang-Ups” in 2021. The book is available from a variety of online stores, including Amazon, Apple Books, and Barnes & Noble. If you enjoy audiobooks, the book is available through the Libby app. Rating 4 out of 5 stars.