Attaching to God: Neuroscience-informed Spiritual Formation

074: Hope Is The First Dose: A Treatment Plan For Recovering From Trauma (with Dr. Lee Warren, MD)

October 10, 2023 Geoff and Cyd Holsclaw Season 5 Episode 74
074: Hope Is The First Dose: A Treatment Plan For Recovering From Trauma (with Dr. Lee Warren, MD)
Attaching to God: Neuroscience-informed Spiritual Formation
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Attaching to God: Neuroscience-informed Spiritual Formation
074: Hope Is The First Dose: A Treatment Plan For Recovering From Trauma (with Dr. Lee Warren, MD)
Oct 10, 2023 Season 5 Episode 74
Geoff and Cyd Holsclaw

Is the abundant life as promised in Scripture possible for trauma survivors? Can those who suffer deep tragedy really find wholeness, or happiness, again? Today we are talking with a medical doctor who has walked with many people through trauma and tragedy even as he was walking through it himself.

Dr. Lee Warren (MD) is an award-winning author, brain surgeon, and Iraq War veteran. Dr. Warren hosts a podcast exploring the complex interplay between faith and science. We are talking with him about his recent book, "HOPE IS THE FIRST DOSE: A Treatment Plan for Recovering from Trauma, Tragedy, and Other Massive Things."

Stay Connected:

  • NEED spiritual direction or coaching that aligns with this podcast? Connect with Cyd Holsclaw here.
  • Join the Embodied Faith community to stay connected and get posts, episodes, & resources.
  • Support the podcast with a one-time or regular gift (to keep this ad-free without breaking the Holsclaw's bank).
Show Notes Transcript

Is the abundant life as promised in Scripture possible for trauma survivors? Can those who suffer deep tragedy really find wholeness, or happiness, again? Today we are talking with a medical doctor who has walked with many people through trauma and tragedy even as he was walking through it himself.

Dr. Lee Warren (MD) is an award-winning author, brain surgeon, and Iraq War veteran. Dr. Warren hosts a podcast exploring the complex interplay between faith and science. We are talking with him about his recent book, "HOPE IS THE FIRST DOSE: A Treatment Plan for Recovering from Trauma, Tragedy, and Other Massive Things."

Stay Connected:

  • NEED spiritual direction or coaching that aligns with this podcast? Connect with Cyd Holsclaw here.
  • Join the Embodied Faith community to stay connected and get posts, episodes, & resources.
  • Support the podcast with a one-time or regular gift (to keep this ad-free without breaking the Holsclaw's bank).

[00:00:00] Geoff: Is the abundant life as promised in scripture possible for trauma survivors? Can those who suffer deep tragedy, real, really find wholeness or happiness again? Today, we are talking with a medical doctor who has walked with many people through trauma and tragedy, even as he himself has walked through it.

Also, we are here to ask or to explore the ideas of how hope can be the first dose. This is the embodied faith podcast with Geoff and Cyd Holsclaw exploring a neuroscience informed spiritual formation produced by grassroots Christianity, which is growing faith for everyday people. 


[00:00:56] Geoff: Today we have, uh, our first doctor, our first medical doctor, I think on the show, Dr.

Lee Warren. He is an award winning author, brain surgeon, and Iraq war veteran. Dr. Warren hosts a podcast of his own exploring the complex interplay of faith and science. And we are talking to him today about his recent book. Hope is the first dose subtitled a treatment plan for recovering from trauma, tragedy, and other massive things.

Thank you so much for being on the show today.

[00:01:27] Dr. Lee Warren: Cyd Geoff, it's an honor to be with you. Thanks for having me


[00:01:33] Geoff: Sorry. 

[00:01:34] Cyd: I'm just glad that we're connecting. I'm just so glad that we're connecting because it just seems like it should have been a long time ago that we ran across each other. So I'm really

glad to, to, to connect today and I'm really looking forward to this conversation. Yeah.

[00:01:50] Geoff: So.

[00:01:51] Dr. Lee Warren: You too. It's a, it does feel like we're kindred spirits. I've been reading you guys and listening and it's, it's amazing how we find people and you go, yeah, they get it.

[00:02:00] Cyd: Yeah.

[00:02:01] Geoff: Yeah, well, we've been connecting with a lot of people about, you know, relational spirituality, uh, as far as like the neuroscience and like attachment and, but then there's also kind of like the neurology and the brain science and, uh, how that connects with spirituality. And that's definitely what you're, you've been riding on working through for, uh, quite a bit.

Um, and then most recently you just came out with this, this new book, which has caught my interest, the title hope is the first dose. Um, And you're talking about like big, massive things that set us back. Could you, uh, kind of just talk briefly, what are these big, massive things that really can kind of like knock us off?

Like what are you, what are you thinking about there?

[00:02:40] Dr. Lee Warren: Sure. So everybody understands trauma right there. And, and in my world, trauma usually means somebody fell, somebody wrecked a car, somebody hit their heads. There's actual medical trauma. Of course there's these days everybody's talking about emotional trauma and, and injuries and, and abuse and the things that happen in our lives that can create brain injuries on the psychiatric side and emotional side.

And then there's, you know, tragedies that you, the, the hurricane hits and there's, there's massive. Trauma and loss of life and loss of property and all that. The one we don't talk about as often are the more purely emotional things, like when you're, you've been chasing a dream your whole life. You know, we have a friend who's going to maybe play in the NFL and then he tears his ACL in his last game in college and he's not going to play in the NFL, right?

He's been chasing something his entire life and now it's gone. What does he do now? That's a massive thing. And so there, there are these big things that happen in our life, whether they're medical, whether they're environmental, we're told whether they're... emotional or just experiential that hurt us in ways that may be hard to understand.

And they challenge our faith. They make us question the things that we thought we knew. They make us doubt God sometimes, and they just, they hurt us. And so what do we do then? And I came just studying this as a neurosurgeon and also somebody is, we're going to talk about who's lost a child and has gone through war and done some.

other things that I came to realize that we have plans for what we're going to do if lots of things happen, even if they're not very likely, like all of us in America, when we were elementary school kids, we get taught what to do. If you catch on fire, right? You stop, drop and roll. We have a plan, but we don't usually catch on fire, but we know exactly what we're going to do.

If we catch on fire, we know how to change tires. We know how to do CPR. We know how to. You know, run defibrillators, but we don't really ever talk about it in advance. What are we going to do if my world gets rocked? What am I going to do if my spouse dies suddenly? What am I going to do if I get that phone call?

My son's been stabbed to death. And so we have to have a plan. And so that's that's what the title and subtitle really refer to.

[00:04:43] Cyd: Hmm. Okay. So you're actually talking about like planning ahead for knowing the big things that are inevitably going to come in this life.

[00:04:53] Dr. Lee Warren: Yeah, so Jesus made us two promises, then they seem impossible to reconcile on the surface. John 16, 33 said, This world's going to be hard for you. You know, Sid, got bad news for you. In this world, you're going to have trouble. John 10. 10, he says. He says, I came that you might have an abundant life. And so he says, you're going to have a hard life.

You also can have an abundant life. And how do you square those two things up? And they square up when you understand that there is a path that Christians especially, I think, anybody can find a path to hope. But I think especially Christians, there is a way that we can live where we can become more resilient to these hard things that happen.

And we can live in this abundance. Even when we get hurt by the world, because we set our, our hope thermometer on stuff that doesn't get blown up when circumstances change.

[00:05:43] Cyd: Yeah. I just really, the way that you're talking, I mean. I know we're going to have a lot of other conversation, but I want to hold on to this for just a second, because I think most often I know for me and for other people I've had conversation with, it's like we, we hesitate to go into the what if territory, right?

Cause it feels like a waste of time. It feels like an anxiety producing endeavor. And so that idea of like, if we do go into the what if territory, it's usually like a bracing ourselves against or preparing for the worst. But what you're talking about is actually a very hopeful preparation. Is that, am I getting that right?

[00:06:19] Dr. Lee Warren: Exactly. I mean, you know, in the, in the old Testament, um, when Joseph was in Egypt, God said, there's going to be surplus for a while. You're going to have some good years and lay aside, prepare, make plans for when it's not good. And I think that's a good analogy for us. Like knowing that. I mean, As wonderful and healthy as the three of us are, none of our ancestors lived to 200 years, right?

Somebody we love is going to die and we're going to have to deal with that. So something's going to happen in our physical bodies and we're going to have to deal with that. So, so it's not morbid to think ahead about the fact that life's going to get hard. And one of the people I took care of that I wrote about and hope is the first dose was this.

Crazy Wyoming rancher named Lucky Chuck. Everybody called him Lucky Chuck because he got struck by lightning three times and survived, so he's pretty lucky. But he said his wife got breast cancer and as she was dying, before she got the pathology back, she said, Hey, you need to make some decisions now.

about who God is and what He can do for you and what you believe about Him before I start really getting sick. Because if I get sick and die from this illness, that's not the time to be questioning God. That's the time to be relying on Him. And so I thought that was so brilliant. Think ahead and know who God is, know what his promises are, know, have some stuff in your heart that you can fall back on so that you're not just trying to crawl up out of the pit of the furnace of despair, furnace of suffering as Isaiah called it, uh, with no sort of reference points.

That's, that's really the idea.

[00:07:49] Geoff: So

[00:07:49] Cyd: And

[00:07:50] Geoff: go ahead, Sid.

[00:07:51] Cyd: Jeff and I both want, can you tell we both really want to have this conversation? Yeah.

Um, well I'm

just thinking, you know, and this is especially you know, for those of our listeners who have not experienced anything you know, incredibly tragic that this is a great exercise but How do you speak to the people?

Like, so for myself, I, um, you know, I was in, I, I lost my birth father when I was only 15 months old and then

I, you know, lost my mom to a brain aneurysm when I was 27. And in both of those situations, I was, you know, either I was in the car when my dad was killed and I found my mom on the bathroom floor.

So, and I didn't have a chance to do all of that preparation work, right? When you're in your young twenties, you don't think about how am I going to handle the tragedies of life. You're just thinking about, Ooh, what am I going to do? Where am I going to go? Who do I want to be? Um, so how do you, How would you speak to the people who have already been through a big thing or maybe are in the middle of recovering from or like sort of still in the shock of a big thing?

Like, where is, what is their first step or what is the, what, how does, if they didn't have a plan, right?

[00:09:03] Dr. Lee Warren: Yeah, that's a great point. Excuse me. In, in two modes frequently I encounter people with elective problems. So you come into my office, your back hurts and make a diagnosis, you need back surgery and I send you for some prehab. I send you out to the physical therapist to get stronger and to learn some mechanical things to help yourself recover from surgery better.

So we've got some warning that this thing is coming and we've been prepared for it. But then I also deal with trauma a lot. The emergency. The beeper goes off at 2 in the morning. Somebody's had a car crash. We've got to go right now. It's not the time to be. Planning and reading journal articles, it's time to enact a plan and to get after it and to treat something acutely.

So that's a good point that oftentimes we're not prepared for these big things. I was not prepared when my son died. In the middle of the night, the phone rings, my son's been stabbed to death, he's 19. I wasn't ready for that. I didn't have a plan in place for what to do with when your son dies. And so I think the answer is this.

Number one, when you find yourself in that acute phase of trauma, that it's not the time to be asking yourself what stage of grief I'm in and, and putting yourself on some kind of clock. Of, I've got to progress through the stages of all this. The first thing is, just like in trauma, we let the swelling go down a lot of times before we do surgery because we can make things worse if we do certain things too early and so you need to have some plan to stop the bleeding.

So, so, so to speak, you know, don't don't grab a bottle and drink yourself into oblivion. Get yourself around some people who are going to help you process what's just happened and start to, to move through it in a, in a healthy and safe way. And there will come a time when it's, when it's a appropriate to start saying to yourself, Hey, maybe today's the day I should put my pants on and go check the mail and maybe today's the day I should start taking a walk again.

But there's going to be a period of time when that's not time to do those things. It's time to be stunned and it's time to sit and let people take care of you. And we had fortunately some people that came and showed up at our house and, and hugged us and said, you tell us when you need toilet paper and you tell us when you need water bottles and we're going to go do it.

And you just. You just sit here and let us take care of you and you need that. So don't feel pressure to have a plan or to feel like you can rationally put together a big thought process of what you're supposed to do. The first thing you're supposed to do is just not die, right? It's just Take a breath and recognize that you're still alive, and because you're still alive, God has a plan.

He's got a purpose. He's going to be kind to you. Psalm 34 18 kept coming to my mind. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and there's a period of time when you say, I am brokenhearted, and that's all I got today. And God will say, that's okay, just keep breathing and we'll nurse you through that. And so I think to really dial in on your point, like if you're that person who has had this massive thing happen and it feels impossible to even do anything other than listen to the words on this podcast, that's enough for today.

That's enough. Just let that medicine sort of soak in and that swelling will start going down in a few days. And, and we ought to talk about the stages of grief in a minute, by the way, because they don't apply most of the time to these things that we're talking about. But, but that's enough. Just find your ability to breathe and wait for some time to pass, and then you can start applying these more nuanced treatment plans.

[00:12:16] Cyd: Yeah.


[00:12:18] Geoff: that. Well, so you're talking about treatment plans, uh, and you have this kind of metaphor that hope is like an EpiPen, you know, for the soul or, um, but before, before we get to that, uh, You, you kind of talk about, um, these like four kind of types of people that you've run into in your faith journey, as well as your medical journey, when this trauma or tragedy, um, strikes and that start making you think, well, You know, how is it that some people, you know, recover and other people crash.

So, so you mentioned these four and I'll let you explain it. Is there's just the crashers, those who just crash and burn, they don't seem to recover from the tragedy, even if their bodies do recover their spirit in one sense, doesn't do you have those, uh, who kind of dip you have the climbers and then you have the untouchables, which I think are those usually full of faith who do prepare, they end up.

You know, not being shattered by faith, but can you just go through the, the crash, the dip and the climbers and just kind of what you've noticed and how that made you kind of start thinking about hope.

[00:13:16] Dr. Lee Warren: Absolutely, and this came out of my work with brain cancer patients. You know, we're always, we do what we call Kaplan Meier curves, and they're these diagrams of, you know, survival over time. It's the XY axis and, and if you look at this particular brain tumor called glial blastoma, for example, it's almost uniformly fatal and so you have, as time goes on, the curve kind of crashes towards the bottom and you get out to five years and there's almost no survivors and it gets really close to zero out to ten years, basically zero survivors.

And I started it. As I was looking at how people respond emotionally to these big injuries as I was trying to write my second book, I was before my son died, I thought I'm gonna try to write a book to help me take care of people I can't fix with surgery. So I was trying to learn how to be a good doctor to people when I can't cure them.

And I started noticing that that the thing that separates people over time really is this, how much hope and faith and peace of mind and all these quality of life type things that they can hold on to over time after these massive events occur. And I noticed that there was a group that if you, if you charted that out, it looked a whole lot like the glial blastoma curve.

Like there was a group of people who, They might've been Christians, they might've been people of faith, and then something happened, and it just wipes them out, and they are, they're hopeless, and they're wrecked, and some of those people survive, or sometimes it's not even them that has the cancer, it's their husband, or their wife, or, or their kid dies, or something happens, and, and those people are the ones that you know, and somebody listening today knows somebody that if, if you bump into them on the street, 25 years ago, their, their dad was murdered, or something, and if you see them today, and you ask them how they're doing, they're gonna bring that up.

Today, they're still living it. It's still the biggest 

[00:14:57] Cyd: Hmm. 

[00:14:57] Dr. Lee Warren: they can think about. It still defines what they, what they spend their day revolving around and in that sense it, it sort of becomes an idol almost in their life because it's, it's the biggest thing they can see and it's too big for God to move out of the way and it's too big for God to heal and it becomes the thing that their life revolves around.

And so that's that group that I call crashers. Like those people end up miserable and hopeless and bitter and Just unable to find joy again, even if they would say they're people of faith, and even if they're saved and they're going to go to heaven someday, their life is wrecked. And it doesn't look like John 10, 10.

It doesn't look like that abundance that Jesus said, I came here to give you. And then I noticed there's another group that seems to just plow right ahead and nothing ever seems to phase them almost. And that was a lucky Chuck guy that I told you about. Like he found out he had a brain tumor and he was like.

Yeah, I'm not really want, I don't want to have surgery. I don't want to have radiation. I want to go be with my wife and meet Jesus. And I just really, I'm just good to go. And I have a lot of faith and he never wavered. Like he just boom, he was okay. And so what separates those people? And so I started looking at that critically and I realized most of us are not crashers and most of us are not untouchable.

Most of us like me and like my wife and our family, when our son died. get wiped out for a while and we don't know what we believe for a little while and we don't know what we think and we're doubting God and we're mad at God and then somehow the bottom holds somewhere like we get down to this place where we say I really need there to be a resurrection.

Paul said if there's not a resurrection then we're to be pitied more than all men, right? Like there needs to be a resurrection because I need to believe I get to see my son again. I need to believe that. And so if that promise is true, and the Hebrew says that all the promises of God are true. So if that means if they're all true, that means that the Lord is close to the broken hearted is true also.

And it also means that Romans 8 28 is true that somehow God's going to work some good out of this. It's not going to become a good thing, but somehow he's going to make something happen in my life and I'm going to find meaning again and purpose again. And so. But those people that they just kind of dip down and they find their way back up.

And I think most of us are sort of in there. And then there's this surprising group that I would never saw coming if I hadn't done this work. And there's a, there's a guy named Joey that I wrote about in my second book. Joey was a guy whose dad died, or his mom died when he was born. His dad was a drug addict, alcoholic, in jail.

He was never around, he was abusive. And Joey grew up just hating his life, and hating everybody, and hating God, and ended up in jail. And then he got in a fight with a drug enforcement agent, and got his skull cracked in him with a billy club. And that's when I met him. He had a skull fracture, and it was bleeding in his brain.

I took him to surgery. And at surgery, discovered a funny spot that I, Didn't think looked like a blood clot and I ended up removing it turned out to be a brain tumor That Joey didn't know he had it turned out to be brain cancer So he found out he had brain cancer after getting assaulted by a police officer and he received in that amazing So he received this news in the recovery room.

I like Joey, you know, I took care of your blood clot We put your skull back together. You have brain cancer and he basically said Of course I do. Why wouldn't I have brain cancer? You know, my whole life's been miserable. Why wouldn't I have brain cancer? The surprising thing is, over the course of the next 12 months, as he was dying from brain cancer, a hospital chaplain came alongside him and taught him about Jesus.

His grandmother came alongside him and he kind of reconnected with his family. He fell in love with a girl from his high school. Came alive over the last 12 months of his life and right before he died. He said doc This has been the best year of my life Like so he's he's dying, but he's coming alive at the same time so these people are climbers and so you end up with this this chart that looks like most people kind of find their way back To something that looks like hope and happiness and peace and faith again And some people don't and I just wanted to know what separates them and I found this stunning verse in Romans Caught me off guard, but I think it's

[00:18:53] Geoff: It is. I, I was just going to bring the conversation there. So that's where Paul,

[00:18:57] Dr. Lee Warren: it 418?

[00:18:58] Geoff: uh, against all

[00:19:01] Dr. Lee Warren: all hope,

[00:19:01] Geoff: still believed in hope. I was wondering if you could kind of, or in hope, right. I was hoping you could kind of unpack that. Cause that's, that's our, I think most of us live is in that dip of like, well, against all hope, like we just, you know, the life just, the wheels came off, you know, but 

[00:19:16] Cyd: Yeah. That's certainly where I lived after losing my mom. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:19:21] Dr. Lee Warren: you just validated my theology, y'all.


[00:19:25] Geoff: come, like, how did that start functioning and why did that kind of help you zero in on hope there?

[00:19:31] Dr. Lee Warren: So I called it, um, Warren's Law in the book, just as a joke, because everything in medicine is named after somebody that we all name everything after ourselves. So So against all hope, Abraham in hope believed, Paul said, and this story, if you're, if you're not familiar with the Old Testament story, Abraham is a million years old, is a hundred years old.

And God, the angel comes and says, Hey, you're going to be the father of this great nation. And you and your wife are going to have a child and he's a hundred years old, right? And it's ridiculous that that doesn't happen. So, so he had a promise. That by all of his experience and by all of his past knowledge was impossible, and he decided to believe it anyway.

So he, he decided to have hope that God was going to be true to his general character of being a promise keeper, in spite of the impossible nature of the promise that he was given specifically. And Paul, you know, a thousand years later, however many thousand years later, Paul says, Against all hope, Abraham just decided to believe in hope.

He's just going to believe in it. And so I looked at those people on the graph and I said, that's where faith lies. So faith lies in that gap between against and hope. Like if you can, if you can find some way to just believe, even when it's impossible, like how can I find you, your mom dies, you find her, your dad dies in the car with you, your son stabbed to death.

That's impossible. Like it's impossible. Like a normal person would say, that's devastating. And what would I have to hold on to after something like that happens? And God says. I can give you an abundant life in spite of that hard circumstance happening. And the quantum physicists talk about this thing, so in, I'm gonna really nerd

out for a second, but you guys are smart and we love being nerds and that's why we're here talking together, is, is the quantum physicists talk about this phenomenon that happens down at the really sub atomic level where an electron can be in two places at the same time.

And they do these experiments to see if electrons behave like waves or like... Particles and it turns out they're both at the same time. And so in our world, you can't be in two places at one time, but electrons can, and in this quantum faith world, you can have a hard life and an abundant life at the same time.

Like those, because our God is a God who makes electrons that can be. able to do impossible things. He also can make it where we can live an impossible life, where you can have an abundant life that's also hard. And so that's the promise that we have to accept. We have to accept and have faith in the fact that we can fill that gap with things that seem impossible and He's going to come through for us.

And that's really where we landed after we lost Mitch. Like, it's not going to be possible for me as a bereaved father. To ever think I can be happy again and yet I'm still alive and I have four other children and I've got four grandkids and a beautiful wife and a career and I'm happy. I mean, I'm basically a happy guy.

How is that possible? It's possible because of faith.

[00:22:25] Cyd: Yeah. 

[00:22:26] Geoff: Excellent.

[00:22:27] Cyd: Uh, yeah, I, it kind of reminds me of, and I don't remember who said this or where this comes from, but I will talk like if people are really struggling in their faith, sometimes I'll say, well, what if you lived as if it's all true for a little while and just see what happens. Right. Like,

you know, even if you don't feel it right now, even if it doesn't seem like it right now, what if you lift as if it was true and, you know, just notice what happens.

And so I, I kind of hear that as like an expression of the, of the hope that I sure hope it's all true. Right. And so I'm just going to live as if it is all true, even though I'm not sure right now.


[00:23:06] Geoff: Hmm.

[00:23:07] Cyd: yeah.

[00:23:08] Geoff: So part, part of that, I think living as if it is true, uh, Um, you, uh, the, you talk about lamentations three 21, but this I call the mind. Therefore I have hope. Um, and you start calling that kind of like your, you know, your self surgery, your self brain surgery. So could you kind of unpack that a little bit?

What is it about the remembering or calling things to mind? Or maybe that's the living as if that Sid just mentioned that kind of helps us. Cultivate hope or live in hope in that against hope against hope and things like that.

[00:23:41] Dr. Lee Warren: Well, I started looking for examples of people and, you know, if you're not a scripture person is presumably everybody listening here is, is kind of a scriptural podcast, but, but I've had a lot of conversations with people that aren't, and I'll say, just look at literature, look at history, look someplace where you can see how other people have lived because you're not the first person that's had a hard experience in your life. Lots of people have. And lots of people have survived them. And lots of people have managed to survive them and still have a high quality life. So I started looking for examples of that. And my basic upbringing and background is to go to the Bible to find ways to look at your life and understand things.

And I started noticing all throughout the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, there's these stories of people like the guy in Lamentations 3. We can argue about whether it's Jeremiah or not. You guys are theologians. So maybe it's Jeremiah. But so we're in Lamentations and the first two chapters are horrible, right?

So the city's been pillaged and the king's been murdered and the women are being abused and the children are starving to death and the, and all the artifacts and the temple good stuff has been stolen and dragged off to another place. And things are genuinely horrible, but the writer is not. out on the street.

He's somewhere safe, writing on a scroll, describing these events in chapter three. And he says, I am the man who's tasted affliction, and I'm the man who's seen all these horrible things. So he's individualizing the suffering, which is a natural human, um, account of things to do. We make things about ourselves.

And he's recounting how God is breaking his teeth with gravel and God is, you know, breaking his bones to dust. And God is just pounding him and punishing him and abusing him and he's dying. He's losing all hope and then he's turns on a dime and he says, but this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.

So the way that he had hope was to make himself change his thinking. And the most important part of that is It happens in the middle of the problem because if you're familiar with lamentations, there's two more chapters after that that are still terrible. So he didn't wait for the problem to be over with and then say, yeah, it worked out.

God must've been on my side. He decided in the middle of it to change his mind about it because he knew God to be capable of getting him out of the thing, right? So he goes on. Steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They're new every morning. calling these things to mind.

And that's when I came upon this idea that hope is a verb. It's an action word. It's something that you take, you call, you pursue, you choose. And then I started noticing in Psalms, there's a 143. David's like in the middle of some problem. He can't sleep. He gets up, he plays his lyre. He's having all kinds of trouble.

And then he decides to take hope. And then Asaph does the same thing in 77. He's like in the middle of some problem. He can't focus. He's all stressed out. And he says, I'm going to remember what God's done in the past that'll help me remember what he's going to do in the future. And so it's, it's always a decision that we make to call hope, take hope, choose hope, fight for hope, flex for hope.

So I said, it's like a muscle. It's a, it's a verb. It's, it's memory. We remember something God's done and then we change our posture. We change our mind and move towards something that we believe to be true. So it's memory and movement are the components of hope in that regard. And it turns out. There's a lot of research in the sociology research literature where people are looking at what makes somebody hopeful, what makes somebody not hopeful, and it turns out the, the sociologists describe it as two words that they call agency and pathways.

So, agency is this, you have some ability to do something about the thing that you're hoping for. So, if you're in prison and you physically can't Go do anything. Somebody's got you locked up. You don't have agency to go be hopeful about the thing that you're thinking. But if you're not in prison and you actually could take some sort of action, then you have agency.

And then there has to be a pathway, which is a mental construct where you can put some bricks on a path to walk. Between where you are now and where you believe hope can take you. So they said that the hope researchers say hope is the belief that you can get there from here, right? So to get there from here, you have to have agency and you have to have a pathway.

In the Bible it just shows up all over the place as remembering things that God has done. For you or for somebody else. And the Israelites were great about it. They would go back in history. If God hadn't been on our side this time, we would have been really hosed. If God hadn't done this, we would have been messed up.

If God hadn't done this, we would have... And they're good about that. Remembering. And then they weren't so great about the moving part sometimes. But that's what we have to have if we're going to choose hope as a

[00:28:16] Geoff: And I love 

[00:28:17] Cyd: So you brought up. 

[00:28:18] Geoff: Well, hold on one sec, Sid, just to stick with the Bible for a little bit, because I love that because, um, a lot of times we can individualize the memory, but when we read scripture, lamentations, and especially the Psalms, it's actually a corporate, it's, it's a. As a generational memory, remember that you were taken out of Israel, but most of the people weren't the ones are taken out of Egypt, rather, most of those people weren't the ones taken out of slavery in Egypt, right?

These are the descendants, but they're supposed to remember that God is the God who has freed you from slavery, that he has part of the waters that he, you know, led you through the Jordan and fed you in the wilderness and all these different things. Uh, and so that remembering, so I think a lot of times we, we feel like, you know, I have to remember, um, you know, Uh, 10 months ago or 10 years ago when God did that one special thing for me, and that's supposed to carry me.

And that's true. You should, you know, we should make journals and remember these things, but how about remembering, uh, your grandparents and your great grandparents and how God, you know, worked with them and then remember all the lives of the saints and, uh, other missionaries that have been delivered at doing God's work and going all the way back to the Bible.

This is what we, you know, we raised our kids with on missionary stories. Partly for this. We wanted to give them that, like a grand memory of how God has worked in and through and, you know, um, saved his people, you know, all throughout. And so I just wanted to put a little thing that it's not just our memory.

It's, you know, it can be, you know, the collective memory that we live in. So that's so important. All right. So what were you about to say too?

[00:29:45] Cyd: Well, I was going to talk about the individual memory thing, but now that you said that, I'm thinking about something else. So I'm thinking about,

um, you know, 

[00:29:53] Geoff: It's our hive mind. It's just going 

[00:29:55] Cyd: Yeah, that's right. Um, Ignatius of Loyola, when he put together the spiritual exercises, um, one of the exercises that he puts in there is to contemplate the history of your life and not just your life, but all the way back through your ancestors about how God was creating you. even before you were born, right? Like that God is creating your past, your heritage, your people, um, that God is particularly placing you in this time, in this place. Um, and so that just kind of

makes me think too about that long heritage, remembering all of that and how you

all, how you got here today. Um, but then also I'm thinking about, and this is something I say all the time, so I'm just going to check and make sure it's true because you're a neurologist.

So, I have heard and I tell people all the time that remembering something is almost as powerful as actually experiencing it. Because I remember reading somewhere about like, um, doing brain scans of someone actually doing something and then doing a brain scan of them remembering doing that and the same parts of the brain were active.

So, I would love to get that actually confirmed by someone who's, who actually works with brains. Is that true?

[00:31:10] Dr. Lee Warren: It is true. There's a whole fascinating, um, neural science of memory and even mimicking other people. There's this whole mirror neuron, uh, system where you can watch somebody else doing something and you're in the parts of your brain light up as if you were doing that thing yourself and also the parts of your brain that attach meaning of why you would be doing that thing.

It was really fascinating. One little correction though, I'm not a neurologist. So neurosurgeons and neurologists are slightly different and And no, I'm just, I'm saying it because it's this, this is a critical distinction here and how we would approach that. So as a, as a neurosurgeon, I'm always thinking about how do I cut that thing or chop that thing out to make it different than it was.

And, and the setting of thinking about our thinking, that phrase you used while ago, Jeff, was self possession. brain surgery, which we talk about sounds hokey, but, but what we know now is when you change how you think about something, Sid, you actually sever old synaptic connections and create new ones. And within just a few minutes, less than an hour of directed mental energy down a different pathway of thought, you can create new synapses that will turn into different neurotransmitters and different hormones and different, even epigenetic changes in your DNA.

So we can literally do what Paul talked about in Romans 12 too, which is we can change our mind. We can transform our mind by thinking about different things. That's fascinating to me to specifically answer your question. When you remember something, you fire a complex set of neuronal connections and networks that It calls back the neurotransmitter environment that you felt when you experienced that thing.

And it's the neurotransmitters that make you attach emotion and meaning to something, a remembered experience. That's important because I'm always telling my listeners that feelings are not facts, right? So we have. A limited palette, if you imagine like Bob Ross or somebody standing in front of an easel with a palette of paint in front of them and there's seven or eight colors on there.

We have a limited palette of neurotransmitters and those combine to create every emotion and feeling that you have. They are chemicals in your brain, right? And when you feel something. You attach a meaning to it, and you have to decide if it's true or not, if it's actually happening or not. And that's what we're good about with memories.

We remember something, we have a feeling, you can remember what your grandmother's peanut butter cookies smelled like, and you have this whole set of emotional responses to what you remember, right? But what happens then in trauma, and when we have things that trigger old memories and experiences, is we feel something That is akin to something that we experienced before because it has the same neurotransmitter milieu and that triggers all these feelings and emotions and thoughts and before we know it we're behaving as if that thing is really happening now or really true, but the problem is that the.

The palate is fairly limited, so your brain physiologically doesn't know the difference between you stepping into your garage tomorrow morning and there's a grizzly bear in there and you're terrified because there's real physical danger and you hearing a noise tonight in your bed and being afraid that there might be a grizzly bear, right?

The same exact chemical thing is happening in your brain when one's real and one 

[00:34:23] Cyd: Yeah. Yeah. And that's such a good distinction. Yeah.

And uh, 

[00:34:28] Dr. Lee Warren: can even do the same thing by anticipating future, like you think about your job tomorrow and your boss is a jerk and you're going to get in trouble because you're going to be late.

You have the same emotional neurotransmitter event happening from real or perceived or anticipated events and that's responsibility right 

[00:34:45] Cyd: Yeah. Well, and

that makes me think of, you know, I'm horrible with Bible references, so I'm not going to know what this is. Right. But set your mind, right. Set your mind on whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is, you know,

noble, whatever's okay. Thank you. And, uh, so that idea of setting your mind. And, uh, you know, that, that actually creates new synapses when you're dwelling on the things that are true and hopeful. And then I'm also thinking about, you know, when you brought up the mirror neurons that made me think about the reality that being around hopeful people can actually be somewhat contagious. Uh,

because you're actually seeing hope in other people and that that has a physiological impact on you as an embodied person around these other bodies that are carrying hope. So yeah.

[00:35:35] Dr. Lee Warren: You really want to nerd out on that. Like you, we can talk about the, you guys had an episode recently about limbic resonance, which was awesome. So limbic resonance is that thing where you line up what's happening in your, in your deep emotional core with the way other people are feeling and the, and the way that you feel.

Married people can look at each other and know exactly what they're thinking or feeling or experiencing or about to say, and it's true, but that happens because those neurotransmitter events in our brain affect our electromagnetic field, and each of us has about a five yard electromagnetic field, and there's incredible research now to suggest that you can change somebody else's heart rate and blood pressure by changing what you're thinking

[00:36:15] Geoff: For five yards?

[00:36:16] Dr. Lee Warren: we all know that

[00:36:17] Geoff: I didn't realize it was that far.

[00:36:19] Cyd: That's

a long ways. 

[00:36:22] Dr. Lee Warren: it is. So there's some really cool research where they showed, they had people in, in separate rooms that were divided and they would have one person get in a really bad mood and think about something extraordinary or whatever, and the other person's heart rate goes up. 

[00:36:35] Cyd: Wow. 

[00:36:36] Dr. Lee Warren: they're perceiving this shift in the electromagnetic field. So that has a lot to do with the basis for how we affect one another and the responsibility that we have to be kind to one another. And if somebody is hurting or somebody is in a really fragile state, that's a really good time to check ourselves when we're going to go try to care, give to them, right?

Like I need to get myself in a little bit of a careful space so I don't make what they're feeling worse. 

[00:36:59] Cyd: Wow. That is really, I haven't heard that research from that distance and that really does ramp it up several notches when you think about the things that I dwell on in my mind have an impact on the people all around

[00:37:14] Geoff: In a different room. 

[00:37:15] Cyd: That's yeah. 

[00:37:16] Geoff: Well, and then on a practical note, that would be, you know, why we're told not to give up fellowshipping with one another. When you're in that dark space, you know, you don't want to go and be with your friends. You don't want to go to church and worship. You just like, you want to be by yourself.

You know, no judgment, right? No judgment. But there is that like, when you can get to a space to really kind of push yourself just to like, go, you know, you are picking up those positive vibes, as people would say, you know, and that helps just, that just helps us, even if you're grumpy and, um, not full of faith when you're there, like that still is sustaining you in a.

Uh, in a physiological way, as well as a spiritual way. And I, and we don't need to make great distinctions between those things anyways. Right. Um, so that's just a word of encouragement for people, you know, like you don't have to go there and be all joyful and happy with all the praise songs, but just being there, well, it'll be a slight dose of.

Of, of hope for you. Well, just to, just to round up, you know, we're about finished. Cause you know, you use this kind of three language of like prehab brains, uh, self brain surgery and then rehab. And the prehab is the kind of in advance of a tough moment, like dwelling on the truth, you know, learning scripture, having that vibrant kind of, uh, life with Jesus in the spirit, you know, and the brain surgery is, um, you know, some of what we were just talking about, like our thought patterns, um, but.

But you finished by talking about rehab, the hard work of wellness, like how do you fight then for if we could just kind of finish, maybe land the plane and there's so much more we could talk about, but how do you continue that kind of fighting for you mentioned that like the false sense of moving through tragedy is, is this hope that you have this false hope of like, well, you have loss, then you move to pain, then thankfully that'll be healed and then you'll go and be happy.

Uh, that's what we hope happens, but that's not. Yeah. The pain and it doesn't go away and we're not just automatically happy. Like, so can you just talk about that hard work of, you know, seeking wellness and wholeness again, just to finish off

[00:39:11] Dr. Lee Warren: Yeah, absolutely, and I say it's hard work because I see so many people have spinal cord injuries and different kinds of physical injuries and they will not get well. Unless they push themselves through the pain to get up and start moving and working with the rehab specialist and all of that. It just won't get well.

Because what happens when you're still for too long, is you begin to atrophy and develop muscle spasm and tendons contract and it becomes more and more physically painful to move. So literally, it becomes harder to get better. by not moving through the pain and sometimes eventually becomes impossible to get better because you were unwilling to engage with that pain of wellness and fighting for it.

So I just like to remind people that you can't wait for the pain to recede for it to get better before you start trying to heal because it just won't like you've got to break through that wall and be willing to go through some hard days to get to that place where it starts feeling. Something akin to hope again, and then you keep walking towards that and eventually start seeing these promises come true and I'll give you an example for us like somebody The worst thing that somebody says to you after your child dies, but Christians have this horrible habit of saying Scripture y sounding things some of which are terrible theology.

It's a whole nother show, but But somebody says something like, you know, God works all things together for good, you know for those that love the Lord This is gonna work out for good right after your son stabbed to death Like what do you want to do? You want to kill that guy? You want to choke him, right?

You just you Get so enraged when somebody says something like that to you and you, and you don't understand how it can be true. And sometimes those things. Sort of puts you down in a hole and you sit for a long time and you and you don't think there's any possible way That God can keep that promise or that anything can turn out to be good And you just want to recede and you do your temptation is to treat a bad feeling with a bad operation So that's when people start drinking or you know doing things they ought not to do eating inappropriately spending money They ought not to spend trying to numb themselves from feeling the thing that they don't want to feel But the problem with that is, is you end up paying this, Lisa, my wife calls it the tomorrow tax, like you wake up tomorrow and your son is still dead and now you have a hangover and you've spent all your money on Amazon and all this stuff and you've got more problems because you treated the real problem with the wrong operation, right?

So, the fix for that. It's when it's, when it's time, when that bleeding has stopped and the acute phase has started to fade a little bit, it's to start moving and it's going to hurt to start moving. But once you do, God honors it and he shows up and he comes alongside you in the brokenness and the pain.

And I started a few months after Mitch died, I started writing this email to my kids and sort of trying to encourage them to recognize, Hey, they're keying on me. I'm the dad here. They're keying on me to see how we're going to move forward after losing their brother. And so that starts getting forwarded to aunts and cousins and other people.

And before long, it's like a, it's a thing and people are reading the emails and it turns into a blog and it turns into a podcast and it turns into books and, and all of that. This work that has come out of losing my son, that was really hard to be that vulnerable. But two different times y'all over the last 10 years, somebody has reached out to me and said, today was the day, Dr.

Warren, that I was going to commit suicide. And I didn't because of something you talked about today on your podcast or you wrote about in your blog to two different people who said that. And when the first time that that happened to me, Sid, God, in his kindness said, that's Romans 8, 28 showing up for you.


true. That's a good thing that has come out of losing your son. It's not good that Mitch is 

[00:42:53] Cyd: Yeah. 

[00:42:54] Dr. Lee Warren: This goodness has come out of it to redeem that pain in some way so you can hold on to the fact that I'm telling you the truth when I tell you that I'm close to you when you're brokenhearted. And all these puzzle pieces start coming together.

It's quantum faith. It's never okay or good. that he's gone, that your mom and dad are gone. It's never okay. But good has come of it because we've walked through it and that painful process of trying to heal that never would happen if you just drink yourself into oblivion or, or, you know, just give up. It just doesn't happen that way.

You become this contracted person who's. Fixated on that one thing that happened all those years ago, and it's never going to be any more than that. Your life becomes about the thing that happened instead of it becoming a thing that happened in a life full of other things that happened. And somehow, God makes it all work out.

[00:43:44] Cyd: Yeah. Wow. 

[00:43:46] Geoff: yeah, that's thank you for sharing that gave me chills there

[00:43:50] Cyd: Yeah. I just want to, you know, you said this is a quote from your book that, you know, you can, so the good news for all of our listeners, right, is that you can survive. Find your feet, find your faith, and even find your happiness again. And then I love that you added, it won't look the same, but you can find it,

 you know, and just that sort of that.

That like. Like, your life doesn't look like it would have if Mitch was still alive. My life doesn't look like

it would have if I hadn't lost my parents. But there is a happiness that is still there. It's not the same happiness, but it's still a happiness, a goodness. And

so, yeah, I just really appreciate that perspective. Yeah.

[00:44:33] Dr. Lee Warren: Thank you. I'll give you one more, one more thing. It's something you said reminded me that shortly after Mitch died, this guy walked up to me right after I went back to work. He's an orthopedic surgeon who's not a friend. He was just a guy that we both worked in the same hospital. And he's one of these, um, I don't know, jock kind of guys, you know, orthopedic surgeons are kind of muscle y kind of guys that hit things with hammers, and he's this big guy, and he walks right up to me, and he, and he put his hands on my shoulders, and he just braced me like, like a, like a football player might do.

And he said, Lee, I don't know what to say to you, but I know that your son wouldn't want you to die too.

[00:45:08] Cyd: Oh,

[00:45:09] Dr. Lee Warren: He would want you to live. And he just walked away, like left me with that thought. Don't let his death cause your death. And I think that's what your parents want. It's what Mitch wanted. Like, like they wouldn't, if you could talk to them today in that great cloud of witnesses, they wouldn't want our lives to be defined by their loss.

They wouldn't want us to trip and fall and have it. And destroy us, they would want us to somehow redeem their memory and tell a story with our lives that makes them still live in some way, but also helps other people to find their feet and find their faith and all that. So that, that was a really helpful thing that somebody said,

[00:45:43] Cyd: Amen. Yeah, 

[00:45:44] Geoff: hopefully the Lord will just pass that advice on to someone who really needs to hear it today. We've been talking with Dr. Lee Warren, uh, he has recently written a book that we've been talking about. Hope is the First Dose, a treatment plan for recovering from trauma, tragedy, and other massive things.

Where can people, um, follow you, keep up with you, you have a podcast, you have other things you're doing. Excellent.

[00:46:07] Dr. Lee Warren: The Dr. Lee Warren podcast, super easy to remember. Um, and my website, Dr. Lee, the Dr. Lee warren And then, uh, the book is everywhere books are sold. And, um, love to connect to people. Love to hear from

[00:46:20] Geoff: check it out. Those, all those things will be, uh, in the show notes and thank you so much for being on with us.

[00:46:26] Dr. Lee Warren: It's been a real privilege, guys. I really appreciate your time today. Thank you.

[00:46:30] Cyd: Thank you.