Welcome to Crazy and the King!!
Aug. 11, 2022

The CATK Interview: Dr. Jennifer Fraser

The CATK Interview: Dr. Jennifer Fraser

The CATK Summer Interview Series Continues with Dr. Jennifer Fraser.


The CATK Summer Interview Series Continues with Dr. Jennifer Fraser and the Bullied Brain. Dr. Jennifer Fraser, best-selling author and award-winning educator, has a PhD in Comparative Literature. Her online courses and workshops provide dynamic lessons in the impact neuroscience has on personal development and culture change. Her previous book, Teaching Bullies: Zero Tolerance on the Court or in the Classroom (Motion Press, Aug. 8, 2015), explores what happens when the bully is a teacher or coach. Her new book, The Bullied Brain: Heal Your Scars and Restore Your Health (Prometheus Books, April 1, 2022), delves into how bullying affects the brain and how the brain can heal.

Learn more at bulliedbrain.com

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Cred:

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Transcript

[music]

0:00:01.0 Torin: We've been about this work Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging, shared through the voices of a white woman, and a black man. We bring lived experiences. We have pursued DNI progress for most of our professional lives. We use Crazy and the King to cover news, tips from colleagues and hosts incredible guest listeners count on Julie and I to transparently drive the conversation. We thank you for rocking with us. Check it. Julie kick off the show.

[applause]

0:00:40.7 Julie: Welcome, welcome, welcome to Crazy and the King summer edition 2022.

0:00:41.3 Torin: Well, I got some surprises for you, you actually sound a real vibrant today, a little vivacious, you got a little bit of energy, I love that, love that, love that. But here's the deal, I do want you... And I'm not gonna tell you the surprises that I have, because you say summer of 2022. Crazy and the King summer of 2022, we have an incredible guest. But before we get to the guest, I got a question for you.

0:01:03.9 Julie: Okay.

0:01:07.7 Torin: I want you to touch your forehead. You remember when your mom would take your temperature when you were growing up, this of course is, if you have a loving and caring mother and not everyone... I don't take that for granted. Not everyone has a mother who loves them, cares for them and really understands while as a toddler, this is something that I need to do or... So I'm just... Treat it like your mom was doing it, she would tell you to put the back of your hand on your forehead.

0:01:40.1 Julie: Yes yes. Am I fainting.

0:01:46.3 Torin: How's it feel? How's it feel? No, you're not fainting we're just checking the cranium temperature.

0:01:47.6 Julie: It may... I run a little hot so it feels a little warm.

0:01:50.8 Torin: Your language suggests that all the time, every single episode, we catch you flying off a little bit with a bit of heat, but today we're going to see if we can keep that temperature at a level that is equivalent to the article that I read. The reason I had you do that J is because I read an article, and it said that women's brains tend to run about 0.4 degrees Celsius hotter than mens.

0:02:26.8 Julie: Hotter than men's.

0:02:27.2 Torin: Hotter than men's, which could be a sign of good health. Had you ever heard that before?

0:02:35.0 Julie: I have never heard of that and I never thought about my brain having a temperature. My body having a temperature, yes. But my brain, no. So why does that mean my brain is way more kick-ass than your brain?

0:02:52.4 Torin: See what I'm saying, so you just don't like to follow the rules, you just... We're two minutes in and you already have... I'm gonna start making you put some money in a cuss jar, but it's all right, we're good, we're good. So I don't know why it is, but I wanna go back to something you said. I don't wanna speed by that, you've never thought about your brain having a temperature, but you thought about your body having that... And I didn't think about that either. See, smarter, like I'd never thought about that. You said it, I typed it. But you said it. I've never thought about that. And I wonder if our guest later in the show will be able to add some insight around, is there a difference, is the brain's temperature different than the body's temperature... You actually asked an interesting question. So the study was actually published in the journal Brain, where they recruited, it was a really small sample size, but there were 40 volunteers, I don't exactly know what language you use, I don't know what the invitation looks like, I don't know what the social media post looks like to say, "Listen, I want you to be a volunteer for a brain study." Like if I would have read that shit I'd... Did I just do it too? I'm sorry.

0:04:13.1 Julie: Yes.

0:04:13.6 Torin: If I would have read that I would have probably sped past that because I'm like thinking, "I don't really know if this is gonna work out too well for me, so I'm not necessarily volunteering to have somebody measure the temperature of my brain." But there were 40 volunteers aged 20 to 40, and they were to be scanned in the morning, the afternoon and the late evening over a one-day period at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Now here's the deal. I just think about when I've had CAT scans in the past, I've had a couple of body scans in the past, and that whole enclosure is like really something that's uncomfortable for me. So now that I'm even reading how they were scanned, unless they got some new fangled device, that's able... I got some dental work done a couple of months ago, and they had me stand up and they had me put my forehead on this little thing, and the X-ray machine rolled around me in a circle like real fancy stuff, but... This doctor's office was in one of the high-rise buildings in Baltimore overlooking downtown in the water. Good insurance J. Good insurance. Good insurance. But CAT scan machines caused me all types of angst, so I don't know if I would have... I just don't think that I would have done that.

0:05:49.5 Julie: Yeah, I've never been in a CAT scan, knock on wood, I'll delay it for as long as humanly possible. But yeah, I've never done that and definitely would not have volunteered. So does the article say, 'Why our brains run hotter.'

0:06:09.1 Torin: So let me look, I'm reading the article right now, and the article is over in science and tech, the one that I found... It's on the Daily Mail, as a matter of fact, in the science and tech column or category on the dailymail.com. It's titled, "Hotheads! Study suggests... " It's a long title, but I just gotta read it to you, "Hotheads! Study Suggests Women's Brain Temperatures Are Higher Than Men's and Are Likely to Top 40 C." I'm assuming that that means 40 degrees Celsius. But again, I'm gonna lean on our guest, I'm not gonna say the guest's name because I don't want you all running to your computer and googling before we hear her beautiful voice and her contribution, so I'm looking really quick, they suggest the difference is most likely driven by the menstrual cycle, since most women were scanned in the post-ovulation phase and their brain temperature was also around 0.4 degrees Celsius warmer than that of women who were scanned in their pre-ovulation phase, which reminds me.

[chuckle]

0:07:23.0 Julie: Tread lightly.

0:07:24.0 Torin: Off topic, I know, I know, I know, I know. Off topic, but sidebar, so you know, we went through this whole baby formula shortage, and then we experienced a shortage in women's feminine products. You saw that?

0:07:46.1 Julie: Yep.

0:07:46.9 Torin: And so, some of the news broadcasts that I saw, it's almost like they were low-key blaming women.

0:07:57.4 Julie: They always do.

0:08:00.5 Torin: Increased...

0:08:00.6 Julie: It's kinda their MO.

0:08:00.7 Torin: Like they said, increased demand.

[laughter]

0:08:04.0 Torin: How do you have incr... I'm trying my best to tread lightly, but how do you have increased demand, like women go through that process at a pretty consistent rate.

0:08:17.3 Julie: Same time every month, yeah.

0:08:18.8 Torin: Am I right? I mean it's a pretty consistent rate, some might be a bit heavier than others, but from what I know, as my man ears, my man ears. [chuckle] I'm a dog here, my man ears, we go through a pretty consistent process and also what is the increase in demand? Maybe there's more women. Anyway...

0:08:40.3 Julie: But I would think we're an aging population, so I would assumptively, apparently wrong that the demand would start to go down as more females go to do that thing that we should not speak of. So I have no idea. We are so out of my supply chain depth, no clue.

0:09:00.7 Torin: I got it. And the reason why I brought the article up is because I think about women that are in the workplace, and even though the article suggests that women have healthier brains and in some ways maybe a bit more in tune, connected, empathetic, smart, smarter, how women struggle with imposter syndrome and how women struggle with being a leader, their type of leader and not trying to lead like a man, if you will, not trying to emulate someone else's way of moving through the corporate corridor. Sashaying on their own frequency and their own beat. I think about how many women... I could say the same about men, but because we're talking about the article in women, how many women struggle with connecting who they really are to who they really are. It was an interesting read for me, which is why I'm looking forward to our conversation today with our guest.

0:10:08.8 Julie: Yes. And as my husband always tells me, Men are too dumb to worry about these things, and I always go, "Yeah, you're probably right," in his silly way. But I do think that the way that we think, and the way that we process, on top of the fact that the stereotypes that have been ingrained on us since our birth do drive those things, but I think that fundamentally, and again, not a brain scientist, our brains do function differently than men's. And that's not a bad thing. So, as you've said, super awesome guests this week, we are very excited to welcome someone who does know some things about our brains and how they function, so we will be back with our guest, Jennifer Fraser, right after this break.

0:11:03.4 Torin: So our guest writer, educator, speaker Dr. Jennifer Fraser, after 20 plus years of formal teaching and a few life events, Dr. Fraser turned to a pen, paper and a keyboard at some point, becoming a multi-author and founder of The Bullied Brain. I'm looking forward to our exchange because I have some questions that I believe Dr. Fraser just might have a few of the answers, her latest book, 'The Bullied Brain: Heal Your Scars and Restore Your Health', hit shelves just this past April. Julie, let's welcome Dr. Fraser to Crazy and the King.

0:11:43.8 Julie: Hello. Hello. Thank you, Dr. Fraser for joining us.

0:11:47.3 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: I'm super happy to be here. Please call me Jennifer.

0:11:52.2 Torin: So you told us a story off mic, I want that story to be on record, and I want you to play Crazy and the King for mom, hit it. Tell us a story about mom, and the first time she heard someone call the home and asked for her. Just tell us the story.

0:12:10.2 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: Well, I was living in Toronto and I was lecturing at University of Toronto, and my mother was visiting from Vancouver, and the phone rang and I said, "Oh, can you get that?" So she went over and she picked up the phone and she listened very meaningfully, she said, "No, no, I'm so sorry you've got the wrong number." She hangs up and I'm like, "Oh, who were they asking for?" She goes, "They're asking for this Dr. Fraser."

[laughter]

0:12:33.0 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: I'm like, "Mom that's me, I'm Dr. Fraser." And it's kinda crazy too 'cause I've got two grown-up boys and they always tell me they go, "You're not a real doctor, you know that. Right?"

0:12:44.0 Torin: Okay. Wait a minute, wait a minute. Let's stay there for a second. So why do they say you're not a real doctor because I think about some of the politicians that are sitting in our halls of power and they have doctor in front of their name, they're arguing with other doctors, a whole circus going on right there. But why do the young kings say, "You're not a real doctor?"

0:13:06.5 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: Well, I think they associate doctors with people who can heal and diagnose and do surgery if required, whereas I just do a lot of researching and writing and talking, and it's not quite the same thing in their regard, so, yeah. [chuckle] My doctorate is in comparative literature, which means I'm pretty good at story telling, I might not be able to save your life. [laughter]

0:13:33.9 Torin: Oh. Quite the contrary, I actually think that if you tell enough good stories, you will change and save a whole bunch of lives. So let's get right to it. You, Jen, you wanna design a world with the brain in mind. What in the world does that mean?

0:13:54.1 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: So what I'm thinking is, the new world I wanna create is one where we don't ignore our brains, we're really a species that is so visual that we constantly look at things and we make judgments and we make decisions, and we put some people in the out group only based on our vision, and it's so limited because in actual fact, because we can't see our own brain, we literally forget about it, we don't operate in the world knowing about our brains, thinking about our brains, we live in a world where we talk endlessly about people's sculpted bodies. If I hear of another celebrity woman's sculpted legs or arms or abdomen, I'm going to just lose my mind, I wanna hear about a sculpted brain, I wanna hear that they have the most amazing sculpted brains because that means brain health, and it goes back to the conversation you're having at the beginning, it's like, "How is it possible that none of us talk about our brains, we don't know how they function, we don't teach it to kids in school, it's the most important part of our bodies."

0:15:08.8 Julie: You will get an instant round of applause for me as a person who has struggled with mental illness and cognitive differences her entire adult life, how often we are shamed for starting to treat our brains in a way that helps us be healthy human beings and not ignoring or in an American term, kinda sucking it up and moving up forward, and that's what we're starting to talk about all the time in the disability roles, how do we talk about... It's okay to think about how to create a healthy brain and to prioritize a healthy brain, and also recognize when the brain health needs a professional diagnosis versus meditating and those kind of things. So, how did you land here? How did you decide that this is the stuff that I wanna talk about and pursue, and in my career.

0:16:10.5 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: My first introduction to exactly what you're talking about, where I actually started to shift my language from mental health, I never use that phrase anymore. I say brain health. So when I started to look at brain health in a deep dive way was when my eight-year-old... Just as you say, Julie had an assessment, the assessment came back saying he had zero, less than 0.01% to retain visual information. I was like, "Oh my god", 'cause our school system is constructed on visual information, if you can't process through vision, and that's not how his brain works, he was born with the brain that doesn't process that way. So we ended up putting him in this school called Eaton Arrowsmith School, and it was for cognitive rewiring.

0:16:57.8 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: Well, I'd never heard the term, I was like, "What is cognitive rewiring?" And basically, it's where you work hard to strengthen a part of the brain. In his case, they worked him for four years, we're gonna strengthen the visual wiring in your brain, and after four years, you've never seen a kid read more in your life. He reads and retains every single detail in the most remarkable way. So that was my introduction to Neuroscience, I was like, "Wow, that's crazy that I'm a teacher, but I don't know anything about my brain, I don't... It's never been talked about. I went to university for 800 years and no one mentioned the brain... How is that even possible?" So that's when I started looking at it. And then when I got pulled into an abuse crisis, that's why I turned to the science, I was like, "They're telling me a lot of platitudes about this. They're telling me that it's okay. It's old school coaching. It's this, it's that. It's discipline, it's motivation." I'm like, "None of those words work for me. What does the science say?" And when I looked at the science, I was shocked.

0:17:56.8 Torin: So I gotta do it this way, Dr. Fraser, first of all, say that phrase that your son experienced again, the phrase, I've never heard it before.

0:18:07.2 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: Cognitive rewiring.

0:18:11.2 Torin: Cognitive rewiring. Okay, got it. That sounds real fancy. It sounds expensive and or that you too have good insurance. So here's my question, cognitive rewiring sounds to me... And trust me, where I'm about to go, cognitive rewiring sounds to me, like something that every black child should experience, every child, period. But when I think about the data, when I think about how certain inner city environments, poor neighborhoods actually... Let me say it differently. Cognitive rewiring is something every black child and poor child should experience. When I think about the conditions that they are growing up in, why is this something that is not a part of school learning, school function, like a school resource officer. Why don't we have this there instead of this jacked up ass history that they are teaching us, that's false in... Jay, you remember when we were doing that study? I should have... I meant to research this, when we were talking about the school up in Canada and their lack of awareness around certain historical points. Remember when we we were talking about that?

0:19:32.9 Julie: Yeah.

0:19:34.2 Torin: Why Dr. Fraser is this cognitive rewiring not a part of everyone's educational journey.

0:19:41.0 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: Well, you've just tapped into my big battle because that's what I spend my days, doing. I am fighting tooth and nail, and I'll tell you in all honesty, it's a losing battle so far. I mean, I have been meeting with the Canadian Mental Health Association. I'm totally black-listed. In terms of belonging... One of the most important things for the brain is belonging, it's more important than food, it's more important than sleep, the brain needs to belong, 'cause that's how the brain survives, it knows that it doesn't have sharp teeth, it doesn't have big claws, it's got this feeble skin, no fur, it's doomed. It only can survive and flourish if it's connected to other human beings, and it's in the human cave. So I very consciously chose not to belong. As a whistle blower in a school, I set myself up to be essentially ousted. I got thrown into that out group and I knew it was gonna happen to me. I did it anyways. I haven't worked since 2017. I will not be hired to be an educator in this country probably. Because I went against the government and I said exactly what you're saying right now.

0:20:57.9 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: I said, how is it possible? Even these kids that are super privileged, these are kids whose families have so much money to send them to private school, but if they're getting abused by teachers in private school, they are gonna go out there and be the next person that does harmful stuff. It is a cycle and it has to be broken. And so this is the big question, why don't we teach kids that they actually have the most amazing amount of power within their own skull, their brains are miraculous at healing, at repair, at getting stronger. That's why the US military pays for every veteran, every active serviceman or woman, every reserve, they all get free access to brain training. Because it makes them safer. It makes them smarter. It helps them heal from PTSD when they've been exposed to atrocities. Why doesn't every kid have it? It's not expensive even, it costs $7 a month for every single kid in America to have brain training, which is shown by neuroscientists to strengthen their brains, to keep their mental health way more on equilibrium. It's just appalling to me and I'm working hard, you guys are helping by being a platform for this kind of a message, there's lots of people that don't wanna hear it.

0:22:19.5 Torin: Julie, we've been recording for four years. I promise, you got the next question. We've been recording for four years, rarely do I hit the mute button on my screen. Rarely. Because normally I'm able to be live, in the moment, I can grab certain things on my desk and I'm good, I'm ready to hop in. I literally had to hit the mute button, because Dr. Fraser said, one of the most important things to the brain is belonging, I purposefully chose not to belong.

0:22:53.5 Julie: Yeah, we're getting great quotes out of this podcast already. I can tell you that. So I love what you just said in terms of... And bear with me while I kinda get this into Julie speak, but what you're saying in my brain is very paradigm-shifting. So too often what we're hearing right now is that kids today are too soft, they're two baby they're too needy. We need to go back to that harsh coach, leader, father figure way of raising our children so we can toughen them up. And really, if I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying, that absolutely does not work. And what we need to do is instead of focusing on mental health, which is a stigmatized word in and of itself, we focus on brain health and brain training, which is not just the physical aspect of processing better, but processing differently. Is that a fair statement?

0:24:07.2 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: It's definitely a fair statement. And it's exactly what I found when I was writing my book, The Bullied Brain, is that business about grit and resilience and toughen up, and the reason I started to write that book and work on it and go to the science, was because my son was called, "Fucking soft," by his teacher, and he was called a, "Fucking pussy." And for me, I was like, "Yeah, you don't... First of all, you don't talk to my kid that way, you don't talk to any kid that way. And if you really wanna be doing that kind of stuff, don't do it to the kid of a writer, because I haven't stopped for 10 years writing about that, and I won't stop." And the government covered it up, the private school covered it out, the community covered it up, it's incredible.

0:24:54.0 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: But I'll tell you this, when I went and looked at the science. And science is the best way to debunk a bunch of myth, and everything you just said about, "Oh, toughen kids up and they have to get stronger and we're gonna be really harsh with them and that's the way to give them grit, we wanna protect them in a dangerous world," it doesn't work. What makes kids have incredibly powerful, healthy brains is having adults that they can trust, is knowing that the brain learns by making mistakes, you never shame a kid for making a mistake, not even a big mistake when they're a teenager, because that's how their brain learns. You create an arena around that brain and give it safety and belonging and unconditional love and guidance and wisdom and empathy, that kid's gonna grow up, no matter where they are to be someone with a healthy brain. And we're not seeing kids with healthy brains. Since 2000 to 2018 suicide increased by 57%.

0:25:55.9 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: Well I just pitched to Edutopia and said, "Look, let me write an article, that tells teachers we have to educate kids early about suicide. Just like we do sex education, we need them to know what it is, that it's actually a brain malfunction, that it's a medical issue, that it's nothing to be embarrassed about, that they can get the help they need if they use the right language, and they understand that as their brain matures, they're not gonna feel that way anymore." Well, they don't want the article, I'm like...

0:26:22.2 Torin: Yeah. Yeah, I knew you were gonna say that. I absolutely knew it. And before we get into the book, which I promise we are going to do just quickly, because I rather for people to go out and purchase the book and absorb it and live with it in their own space and time, if you will. But a very quick question, when you think about the cognitive re-wiring, I don't want you to take us through the entire process, but in a Twitter-style response, two minutes, unless Dr. Fraser, is it possible for you to maybe touch on some of the high points that your son may be experienced, because I think that this is fascinating.

0:27:01.0 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: So cognitive rewiring is... The best way to explain it is a phrase that neuroscientists say all the time, and what they say is, "What fires together, wires together. What fires together in the brain, wires together." In other words, it lays down pathways in the brain, so let's take two different scenarios. Let's say, I get up every single morning and I eat a piece of chocolate cake. What I'm doing every single morning is I'm firing at my brain's desire for sugar and fat and chocolate cake, I love the caffeine in it, it's my go-to, it's my default, it's what I do every day. But let's say, the doctor says, "You know what, that's really unhealthy, you're gonna get diabetes. You can't do it." I'm gonna have to rewire my brain, so what I do is I get up every morning and when I wanna reach for the chocolate cake, I say to myself, "Do you want that cake? You might get diabetes," and then I go, "I'm not gonna have it, I'm gonna go for a jog." It's really hard at the beginning. It's called activation energy. I don't wanna minimize this, it's not easy. Being the guy that goes from having the cake to being the guy that goes for a jog is really hard, and we all know it, it's as hard as doing any exercise program when you've been watching too much Netflix. It's as hard as doing mindfulness, it's hard. But once your brain gets going and starts going, "Oh, you mean you're firing up the neural network for jogging."

0:28:25.2 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: "Wow, I'm actually starting to feel good doing this six months in, I love it, it's my default, it's the pathway that I've laid down on the brain." Here's another important piece, the brain has limited cortical real estate, what that means is, if I lay down the neural network for jogging, I don't have room in my brain for the neural network for cake. So if I wanna get up every day and bully people and hurt them and put them down and destroy them, I don't have enough neural space, I don't have real estate in my brain for empathy and compassion and kindness. And that's why what you practice, what you fire up every day in your brain actually matters a huge amount, you wanna fire up the neural network for being intelligent then do it. You wanna fire up the neural network for kindness, do it. Only you can do it, you have incredible power within your own head to be who you wanna be.

0:29:22.7 Julie: It's just worth pausing for a second to just hear that. And again, I think the approach is not just make the change, but recognize that the change is difficult and that it takes time, but that it is possible. And I'm curious as to... If we have kids who've been bullied, if we've been bullied ourselves, how do we take the magic of the brain that you're talking about and start to replace some of that negative networks, pathways, whatever, with ones that are capable of harnessing empathy, of building trust. How does that... How do I as an adult or as a parent kind of start to tackle that?

0:30:16.9 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: Well that, in the book, I basically lay out my own plan for how I was gonna fix my own brain because I suffered a very profound trauma and it resulted in me feeling powerless, and it's referred to in the literature, in psychological literature as, "Learned helplessness." And I learned from the trauma that I went through that I was helpless and powerless. And what I had to do is get that activation energy going to say, "No, I'm not going to let them knock me off my feet and destroy me," even though you feel so terrible when you don't belong anymore, it's the most terrible feeling that you can imagine. The isolation of it and the rejection and the shame is just profound, but you do have to make that decision at certain points in your life, and I was in a place where I couldn't belong because it meant I had to look the other way when child abuse was occurring, that was the ticket to belong, and I couldn't buy that ticket. And so I got caught in this sort of space. And what I did was I went to the science, and I looked at the medicine, I looked at the psychiatry, I looked at the psychology, and most of all, I looked at the brain science. And the brain science taught me just what we talked about, that idea that I can sculpt my own brain, I can make my brain be what I want it to be, no one can tell me. They can't tell me I don't belong because belonging is my own choice, in my own brain, I'll find my own community.

0:31:47.7 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: I'd rather be in a community with neuroscientists than be at a school where child abuse is being covered up. That's a choice, and my brain doesn't have cognitive dissonance with that, that's not a clashing thing for me. I can do that. And I don't build community based on people that are like me, I base community on people that share values and excitement about doing things differently, like Torin was saying before that idea of... I have a different vision, a neuro paradigm, a framework where we put the brain first. And when we start to choose community based on healthy brains, not people that look like us or have the same background as us I think we create a far better, stronger community. So a quick answer to your question is, the whole book is full of action steps, the action steps that I took to heal my brain. Now, I give them as a model and as an example, and you could use some of them... Some of them you might be like, "It doesn't work for me." Because you have a unique brain, as unique as your fingerprints. No one can tell you what your brain needs 'cause it's that unique, and that's why we all have something so amazing to bring to the world, 'cause we have a unique brain.

0:33:10.3 Torin: Dr Fraser you said on one of the other podcasts that I listened to, that the book, The Bullied Brain is a tough read. And in that podcast, you made reference to the central chapter of the book. Talk to our listeners about that central chapter, because I'm assuming, having not read the book, I'm assuming it is there that you began to move over the threshold of, okay, here's the problem, or the scenario, the circumstances as they are, let's begin this journey towards, what you call, learned helplessness and some of the other remedies towards a better, stronger brain, if you will. Talk about that central chapter and what people will learn after that.

0:34:06.7 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: From the very beginning of the book, at the end of each chapter and yes, the chapters are... They're pretty tough. At the end of every chapter, I give the healing action plan, that practice that you need to do. If you've got the courage to go through the hard path, then you come to the place where healing can begin, but you can't... You can't skip it because then you're not motivated. Like I use the really disturbing brain science on how much bullying and all forms of abuse, damage brains, they do a lot of damage, like really serious damage to very specific parts of the brain. But if you don't know that, if you don't know what the neuroscientists are seeing in their labs and on the scans, you can't do the healing part, you're not motivated. You don't know how serious it is. So that's one of my big... Right from the beginning, there is that healing part with every single chapter. But the reason why the center of the book is a tough one is because what I found was... So I resigned in protest, from a private school that was covering up child abuse. And I went and started working at another private school. I can only work at private schools in Canada because I don't have a teaching degree.

0:35:23.1 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: I have a PhD, so the public school won't hire me. So I had to go to another private school, which I did. In my third year at that school, a girl came up to me, was 17 and told me she was being sexually harassed by the teacher. And I was put in the cross-hairs of this problem because I had already exposed the teacher regulation branch, I had sent all their documentation to the Ombuds person's office here in Canada to say they're corrupt, they're not protecting kids, they're protecting abusive adults. It's gotta stop. And the Ombuds person's office was doing nothing. As per usual. I was writing them every day, practically every week, I was saying how serious this is, it's urgent, you've gotta save these kids. So what am I supposed to do now? I've got a kid at the new school, comes up and says this. And like I did at the other school, I did everything by the book. Which is what I always do. It's just being hammered into you as a kid, you obey the laws, you obey the rules. So that's what I did. Anyhow, I had to watch the system mentally unravel this girl in the most terrible way I've ever seen in my life, and this is why I talk about the bullying abuse paradigm.

0:36:36.8 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: We are trapped in a world full of bullying and abuse that's normalized. We even, we tell parents to bully their kids, and then we say, really, it's motivation what you're doing, you're toughening them up. You're making them strong. When in actual fact, there's no evidence that backs that up, that's a myth and it's a dangerous one. And we still just trot this garbage out. It's amazing. This is why I wanna create a new framework. So I've watched this girl. They did, oh, restorative justice, oh, they had the teacher who had to retire early, which is private school code word for he's fired, the police investigation wrapped up. No, they weren't gonna charge him. Nobody ever gets charged in Canada for hurting kids as far as I can see, it's considered... It's acceptable, basically. They... Anyway, so they had a big celebration of this guy right in front of this girl at her own graduation, they didn't tell her it was gonna happen, "Oh, he's 18 years of service, and he's retiring early, oh, kind of stress leave," like all of these lies basically right in front of her face. And this is two weeks after they knew she had attempted suicide. And so by that point, I wasn't even able to go to the ceremony, I was like...

0:37:53.5 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: I was on stress leave, I couldn't stop crying. I just was like, "I can't belong to this. I'm going crazy." So I just knew that if we could get her off to university, she'd be fine. She goes off to university, the kid was absolutely brilliant, so so so smart. She joined the synchronized swim team. She's hilarious kid. I mean, I just loved her. Anyways, she kept writing me though, she was struggling with all the self-loathing, "I think I did something wrong. He wants to meet with me." I'm like, "Wants to meet with you? How is he allowed to have any access to you at all, he's an abuser." This is... Where are the restrictions? Where are the No Contact Orders? Oh, it's just all covered up, at the government level.

0:38:40.3 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: And so she... I have all these emails and basically I just tried as best I could, I wrote to the police and said, "Am I answering these emails correctly? I'm not a professional, I don't know how to help her." They're like, "Yes, just keep saying what you're saying." I just kept reminding her that she did the right thing, that it wasn't her fault, that she was just a kid, that he manipulated a position of trust, it was wrong, blah, blah. Anyway, she wrote me in November, in 2019. She wrote me in the summer, I didn't have time to see her, I heard from a friend of hers that she killed herself.

0:39:16.2 Torin: Let me just say this to you before I even let that sit in, because that is such a moving and powerful story in the moment you said that about what she was experiencing, that whole celebration piece, it immediately took me back to a story in May where a pastor quit over adultery, and the person that he had sexually assaulted was 16. And she actually walked up with her then husband or now husband, and confronted the pastor and said, "What you did was wrong," and even in the midst of her and her husband standing there and confronting that pastor in that church, he is still receiving a standing ovation from the congregation. This is happening on Facebook Live, and for you to say that the end result of that story is that, she is no longer here, it's just another resounding example of why you should be fortified in your fight. It should have a platform and access and I'm gonna do everything that I can. Julie knows where I'm going with this. I am going to do everything that I can to get your voice in front of a couple of million more people. Here's what I wanna ask you, closing thoughts for our listeners in this episode.

0:40:52.8 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: I think the most important phrase in all of this is hurt brains, hurt. So there's no blaming shaming in my book, people that hurt other people, I see them as having hurt brains. People who do harm to kids, they've got really damaged brains, and if we could rehabilitate their brains, if we let them self-identify early and say, "You know what, I have these compulsions, I have this really destructive behavior I wanna do. I need your help." We help people when they have a torn ACL or if they break a bone, why can't we help people when they have a broken brain. You know, it shouldn't be... Going back to what Julie was saying about the stigma. What's the stigma? Like a brain is an organic functioning part of the body, it's like the heart. And you know what's so interesting is, what's good for the heart is good for the brain. And if we just keep that in mind, if we let ourselves off the hook and say, "I did something destructive today, I... " Like me, for example, I love my kids more than life, but I've yelled at them before. And that's not good for their brains, and I've gone and apologized, and I've said, "I'm gonna try not to ever do that again."

0:42:06.2 Dr. Jennifer Fraser: But am I a terrible person? We didn't used to know that concussions damage brains, we pat the kid on... The athlete on the back and go get back out there and show the team what you can do, show some grit. Well, that kid's going back onto the field with a traumatic brain injury, 'cause we couldn't see it, those invisible brain injuries, we don't treat them, we don't heal them and get them better. So hurt brains hurt, they feel pain, they hurt other people and they hurt themselves. And the big picture of this is, let's start healing brains. They're remarkable at healing.

0:42:41.2 Julie: Dr. Jennifer Fraser, the book is, The Bullied Brain. You can buy it at her website, bulliedbrain.com, follow her on Twitter @teachingbullies10.

0:43:02.2 Torin: Dr. Fraser I absolutely wanna just say thank you for having joined us on this episode. We really, really, really appreciate the contribution that you gave, so incredibly much. I actually think J, that this is one of those guests that we probably would want to have to come back in another episode. So our Her Voice segment is where we amplify women making moves. In the spirit of our conversation with Dr. Fraser, author of The Bullied Brain, we are amplifying incredible women in the neuroscience space, and the first person that we have up under Her Voice is Dr. Lisa Mosconi, she is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience in neurology and radiology at Weill Cornell Medicine, and the director of the Alzheimer's prevention program at WCM New York Presbyterian Hospital, which happens to be the first Alzheimer's prevention clinic in the United States. A fun fact, or not necessarily a fun fact, but a fact is 2/3 of all Alzheimer's patients are women. More than 3.5 million of whom are in the United States. Dr. Mosconi says that if a solution is not found or things do not rapidly change, then the disease is going to triple by the year 2050 with a projected 15 million Alzheimer's patients in the US.

0:44:28.5 Julie: Incredible. And then we have Dr. Monique Mendes, who became the first black woman to receive a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester, the Jamaican-born first-gen college grad says the announcement came as a shock to her back in 2020. Not even realizing she had done so until she was informed.

0:44:48.4 Torin: And finally, Odette Harris and Maheen Adamson, two PhD researchers at the Veterans Administration determined to better understand how and why women experience head trauma differently than men. And how healthcare teams and policy makers can support the specific needs of women after these traumatic injuries. For disability Twitter, we wanted to focus this week, it's real simple, we wanted to provide a resource, and this one right here is about securing benefits, if one experiences a traumatic injury. Now I'm not an aficionado, this is not a space that I am steeped deep in, but we wanted to make sure that we... On the hills of this incredible conversation, all of the information that Dr. Fraser shared, of course, purchasing her book, sharing her book with other people who wanted to also give you a complementary resource, something that you can click on and you can share with others in your social and digital tribes. The article comes from benefits.com it's titled, "How to get disability benefits after a traumatic brain injury," it's dated from October of 2020, but it does cover eight steps, eight things that you can do.

0:46:06.3 Torin: And so if you are experiencing a traumatic or you know someone in your family, know a possible friend or just simply wanna put something positive in the digital ecosystem, just grab the link and share it on one of your social feeds. J, great show. Awesome show.

0:46:23.4 Julie: Great show.

0:46:25.2 Torin: Yeah, yeah, awesome. [0:46:27.2] ____ reminding each and everyone of you to share the pod with your digital tribe, Find Your Voice. It's real simple, be a better human, build better teams, better workplaces, better culture, just be better, that's really all J and I want to do, even in the summer of 2020, all we want is for you to be better. For now, J and I are ghost.

 

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Dr. Jennifer Fraser

Bestselling Author

The CATK Summer Interview Series Continues with Dr. Jennifer Fraser and the Bullied Brain. Dr. Jennifer Fraser, best-selling author and award-winning educator, has a PhD in Comparative Literature. Her online courses and workshops provide dynamic lessons in the impact neuroscience has on personal development and culture change. Her previous book, Teaching Bullies: Zero Tolerance on the Court or in the Classroom (Motion Press, Aug. 8, 2015), explores what happens when the bully is a teacher or coach. Her new book, The Bullied Brain: Heal Your Scars and Restore Your Health (Prometheus Books, April 1, 2022), delves into how bullying affects the brain and how the brain can heal.