DR. MIKE MORENO: Welcome back to Wellness Inc. I’m Dr. Mike Moreno, taking a deep dive into all thing’s wellness after over twenty five years of practicing medicine. I’m fascinated with anything and everything that can help you feel better, live healthier and become the best you possible. I’ll be interviewing the most cutting edge experts in the field of wellness and exploring new innovative technologies to help you live your best life. At the end of each episode I’ll give you my weekly Rx, my top tips for you to use right away. Remember to subscribe for free rate and review my podcast on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen.
We are living in a glorious world of possibilities and advancements, but we’re also living with uncertainty, loss, anger, deep social divisions and increasing talk of revenge and retribution for a wide range of grievances. The state of affairs has led me to think about our emotional well-being. I think this is like right on our minds constantly these last several months. According to Psychology Today, the definition of emotional well-being is this “the ability to practice stress management techniques, be resilient and generate the emotions that lead to good feelings”, sounds good. When stress and anger enter into our lives, they can have a severe effect on our health, and I think a lot of us would agree with that.
So, today we’re addressing the negative physical aspects that anger and revenge may have on the brain and this stuff is fascinating. Research says they are just as addictive as opioids, making them extremely difficult to release. Now more than ever, I mean, seriously, we need some tools and insights to bring back peace and balance. Today, we’re going to talk about what approach we can do to get rid of our brain grievances, anger and vengeance and restore that deep state of emotional well-being.
My guest today is James Kimmel Jr. He’s a lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine who focuses on intersections of law, neuroscience, psychology, spirituality, violence, and addiction. He’s a leader in integrating law and psychology to prevent violence, resolve conflicts, restore peace, and help individuals suffering with mental illness in the criminal justice system. James, welcome to Wellness Inc. thank you so much for being here.
JAMES KIMMEL: Dr. Mike, thanks for the opportunity to share this time with you and your listeners.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Now, more than ever, I can’t imagine that anybody ever thought that 2020 was going to be packed with the things that it was packed with, and I don’t mean that in a positive way. I mean, we’ve gone through it so I’m excited to kind of get your take on this because, I mean, what you’re doing is now more relevant and necessary than ever. Now, you’re a Pennsylvania guy.
JAMES KIMMEL: Yeah, that’s right, although I teach at Yale, but I actually practice law part of the time in Pennsylvania, so that’s where I live.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Right now, I think I read you were Penn State University and then the big gun, U Penn for law school, heavy duty stuff.
JAMES KIMMEL: Yes.
DR. MIKE MORENO: See, I knew I was going to like you because I’m a Philly guy once. Well, I say I’m a Philly guy, but I went to med school in Philly. So growing up in rural Pennsylvania, like, how did it lead you to integrating law and psychology and this whole idea of preventing violence and resolving conflicts? Like give me a little info on how that started.
JAMES KIMMEL: Yeah, that originated by being raised on a farm in central Pennsylvania and having a pretty intense experience when I was a teenager, young teen, through my middle and upper teens. Where I had a lot of conflicts and was the subject of a lot of bullying by really the farm kids who lived around me around the farm that I grew up on, but my folks weren’t really farmers, even though we lived on a farm. My dad was an insurance agent, so I didn’t really connect well with them. They were in their community and I was really very much an outsider who wanted to be part of the inside, but they weren’t going to allow me in.
Eventually that led to a lot of bullying, which started with words and then as bullying often does, started turning into minor violence, then more significant violence. Then one night they staged an attack on our house and shot and killed our dog. It was terrible. It was absolutely tragic.
DR. MIKE MORENO: That is terrible.
JAMES KIMMEL: You know, I woke up the next morning, didn’t know that the dog was shot. Went up to take care of our farm animals and the dog the next morning, and I found her in a pool of blood after having been, my entire family, woken up in the middle of the night with this sound of a gunshot ringing in our ears. Terrible stuff. Absolutely terrible.
DR. MIKE MORENO: You know, I think we’re going to get into this [00:05:00] more, but I mean, sometimes I wonder, and I’m one of the news watching guys I used to be until about 10 months ago, I stopped watching the news, but, you know, I’m one of these guys. I get up in the morning, I have my coffee, I turn the news on. What’s the weather going to be like this and that. I don’t get too deep into some of the stuff, but, you know, when you watch the news and you see stories of people doing stuff that people do, you just, you think to yourself, what on earth is going on with this world?
You know, it’s like, I grew up, so I grew up in central California, San Joaquin Valley, very small, very rural community, a lot of farming. Like any city and you’re not immune to anything no matter where you grew up. I think anybody can relate to cliques and growing up, and that’s sort of the bullying that takes place, but when you think about what happens now and the things people go through, it’s like mind boggling to me. I scratch my head and I watch the news sometimes and I’m like, what are people doing? It’s shocking, it really is.
So revenge and the brain and imaging, and I know you’ve studied this extensively, so let’s talk a little bit about when we image, when we’re doing brain imaging studies and the idea of revenge, what does it look like? Or give us a little bit of a sort of a foundation for that?
JAMES KIMMEL: Yeah, sure, so let’s stick with my story for just a second, because after that, that attack and a week later they came back and blew up our mailbox, I went after those guys with a loaded gun that was in our house and being raised in the country, we had lots of guns. Everybody did in Central PA, but I went after them and confronted them but at the last second, they were unarmed. They didn’t know that I was armed, but I wanted revenge. I wanted finally, let’s talk about revenge honestly, it’s justice, right? I wanted justice. I just wanted some form of fairness to redress the unfairness that I had experienced, and I wanted it really badly. I mean, I was driven at a very powerful rate of speed to get there. When I got there, I really came very close to doing something that would have changed my life and many, many, many people experience this.
Unfortunately, too many take that final step. Some of us are able to bring ourselves back from that peak. That was the difference in my life, and I have dedicated my life to trying to understand what made that difference for me and why am I here now and not in a prison somewhere? Why are other people experiencing very different circumstances?
What we’ve learned by studying this at Yale University is that inside the brain, when you experience a grievance, which is some sense of feeling of unfairness or injustice, this triggers the same reward pleasure circuitry in the brain that is triggered by narcotics. In the triggering of this process, it sets up a craving to retaliate or inflict revenge against the perpetrator of your grievance or their proxy to make yourself feel better as a result of the pain you experience from the grievance. So it’s a very powerfully pleasurable and addictive process for some people that can lead you into multiple acts of vengeance seeking up through and including violence and ultimately even potentially murder. We know, for instance, now from research that virtually every form of violence that humans perpetrate and experience, including intimate partner violence, street violence, school bullying violence, lone actor attacks, mass shooters and terrorism; all of these are driven by the desire to retaliate in response to a grievance. Now we understand inside the brain what’s going on.
DR. MIKE MORENO: So, I want to be clear on this and I want everybody to have a clear understanding, I want to have a clear understanding. Listen, for everybody listening we’ve all been there. We’ve all been pushed to the moment and it doesn’t have to be an extreme thing like this. Or it could be as extreme as you hear about these acts of violence in terms of crimes of violence or passion. Right. Crimes of passion. You know, someone comes home, and they find their significant other with somebody else and they get a gun and boom.
Listen, we all go through things where, quite honestly, you’re pissed. You’re really pissed, and you can’t think of any other way than to retaliate. So I want to be clear. So the brain and, you know, we work with opioids and they’ve been in the news in a bad way for the last decade. You know, it’s just gone haywire. I think we’re starting to get a little bit better of a control of it, but it’s a real problem. [00:10:00] So you’re saying that the feeling that you get from sort of the revenge retaliation is the same in terms of the brain and the chemistry? It’s the same feeling you get when you take opioids?
JAMES KIMMEL: Right, you get a high and anybody who has experienced revenge getting, right, is experiencing a very delicious moment at that time of feeling a sense of pleasure. I finally got the justice I was seeking. I feel better now for a moment. It’s a brief moment. What we also know, like with other addictions, is this high doesn’t last. It usually produces enormous numbers of negative consequences, but once you start to get this taste, it can become a behavioral addiction similar to gambling and other forms of behavioral addiction.
DR. MIKE MORENO: I mean, to me, it’s fascinating. Imagine your life’s work now was brought on by an event that lasts seconds in your rearing, those formative years. I can’t imagine, you must go back and think to yourself, God, what if I would have gone the other direction? Unfortunately, quite honestly, a lot of people do, but to think that you had, I mean, I would have loved to image your brain at that point to see what was going on that made you say, wait a minute, get a hold of yourself. Don’t do this. You’re, I mean, there are so many things that have to be going through your mind in a matter of seconds and now this has become your life long, your career. I think that to me is amazing, but would you say that when you look at, you know, we have a tremendous amount of sort of psychiatric illness and mental illness in the world, which is another real problem that I think the country is trying to focus on.
Do you think with a lot of sort of mental illness and a lot of these things, do you think there is that inability to not stop oneself? When you think about perhaps people that are committing crimes and things like that, I remember when I was in Philly, I did a psychiatric rotation for medical school and I actually went and spent six weeks, every day, Monday through Friday at the state penitentiary in Philadelphia. It was hard core and I remember seeing a lot of it, and now we were sort of held sequestered to the people who were considered criminally insane, and we would literally get these individuals out and we would interview them, and we’d talk to them about their upbringing, and we would just, it was so fascinating.
So do you think a lot of this is just not having that ability to stop? You have the ability to say, wait a minute, what’s going on? With other people, do you think they just don’t have that ability, that roadblock to say this is a bad idea?
JAMES KIMMEL: So addiction scientists think in terms of people who have a vulnerable brain, right, so not everyone who takes a drink becomes an alcoholic and not every person who tries narcotics becomes an addict. In the spectrum of the human population, it’s the minority side who become addicted, but those who do become addicted are powerfully so, and it’s very difficult to undo.
So lots of scientists for many years have been trying to study what’s going on there and whether there are deficits in the control part, the frontal part of your brain that’s going to control your behaviors and going to resist the more primal, deeper regions, center and lower parts of the brain that are saying go, go, go. Right. So there are some imbalances there, chemical, but also thought to include things like genetic factors, environment, how you were raised, where you were raised, what resources you have available to bring to your cravings and your ability to stop. So for me, I was really very lucky at the time that I had just enough wherewithal.
Actually, it was for me it was a little bit more even spiritual than that. I had sort of a sudden realization in those final moments when I had my hand on the gun that I would essentially, I sort of saw this vision where if I killed these three guys that I was looking at, I would also be ending my life as I knew it at that time. That was just enough for me to understand that I wasn’t willing to pay the high cost of getting that very pleasurable revenge that I was hoping to have, but I didn’t give up on it because it’s really part of the powerful reason why I went on to go to law school and become a lawyer. I found out that in our society there are socially acceptable and even very lucrative and rewarding ways of becoming a revenge seeker, and that includes being a lawyer where you’re paid to get justice in the form of revenge for your client.
So this [00:15:00] is deeply part of the human experience back through recorded history is the idea of, how do we, and this is really, Dr. Mike what we’re coming up to, which is, what are we supposed to do when we experience, when we’re treated badly, when we’re treated unfairly, or we experience a grievance? How do we resolve that and restore our happiness? Our biology, our brain biology is saying get revenge. Inflict suffering upon the person who wronged you. That’s a powerful driving force, but it has so many negative consequences.
DR. MIKE MORENO: You don’t think of them, right? Let me tell you, I’m an animal lover, and at fifty three I have these two little cats and I hate seeing them suffer. I can’t imagine if someone were to do something like that to my animals, to any living thing. I mean, a living thing is a living thing, whether it’s a cat, a dog, a bird, an insect. You know, I can’t imagine being able to have the ability to just stop and say, OK, let me think about the consequences. I’m sure my listeners are thinking that would be pretty hard to do. So I wonder, and you look at socioeconomic, you look at how were you raised, you look at genetics. There’s all these things that just go, it’s this hodgepodge of things and you better hope it’s on your side to make you stop from doing something, but in the law, I just want to deviate just for a second, but when you talk about, let’s say, in the court of law, can you utilize brain imaging, in other words, to say here is the brain of an individual who would act with normal sort of retaliation? Here is the brain of my client, and I’m just going to say, your client who committed this horrific crime in retaliation, if you look at images, can you use that something like that in the court of law to say, hey, this is wired differently, this guy had no chance, and this is why he committed this crime.
JAMES KIMMEL: No, no, and we’re not there yet, and that certainly isn’t what my work is suggesting. The times when that has been attempted, probably most recently, are people who, let’s say are sociopaths, and you can really begin to see with a sociopath, as you would know being a doctor, that there are really different observable brain structures.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Correct.
JAMES KIMMEL: The desire for revenge, however, is not a mental illness. It’s not an indication of disease. It’s a natural part of our evolutionary modifications. It has served humans well to an extent when it’s not overindulged in terms of society protection, enforcing norms that society agrees upon for protection of home and property, things like that, to a degree, but self-defense, right? From a present threat, quickly becomes retaliation for something that happens in the past and that’s where the problem lies, when we are punishing in the present for things that happened days, months, years, decades ago that are infecting our present like a virus in our brain, that are making us suffer and other people suffer. That’s where this focus is and it’s not as a defense in any way for a criminal conduct whatsoever, but it’s a way of preventing criminal conduct. It can be used, and that’s where my focus is preventing criminal conduct or other forms of human suffering from occurring in the first place. That’s where our focus is.
DR. MIKE MORENO: So, let’s get into it, because listen, I could have used your services for a lot of my life, and I’m not saying that I went out and did some horrific things, but there are a lot of times and listen it’s part of life. People are wronged, and I can think of something in my brain right now, and I think about this a lot, and I’ve actually semi acted on this.
I want to know how, and I think my listeners want to know how, how do we deal with this? What is your approach? Take me through this because I may be able to use this with a situation that I have with one of my best friends who I feel I was wronged by and continue to be wronged by and I’ve approached him in a very what I thought was very adult, a normal way and now I’m quite honestly just pissed at him. So take me through this.
Help me, help our listeners. What do I do? What is your approach to sort of control this desire to retaliate?
JAMES KIMMEL: Sure, so let’s understand really quickly what that desire to retaliate is. Think of your memory of your friend and what happened. This obviously something unfair and hurtful happened to you with your friend. Think of that memory, right, as a stored file, like a stored file on your computer. Right.
So your memory is in your brain, but this memory of your friend in this particularly painful experience is a memory essentially that’s been corrupted. Right. It’s [00:20:00] infected with a virus. The virus is grievance. It’s this present pain even though this wrong happened in the past. You think about that. The wrong happened potentially years ago, yet it’s still very real for you when you access the memory, the memory unloads with the grievance present and already starting to play forth it’s kind of malicious virus attack, like it’s a virus in your computer, in a corrupted file.
So what we really need to do is do something to, we need an antivirus program that can identify this virus, remove it safely from your memory, and then restore kind of normal functioning of your brain so that when you access this file in the future you’re not experiencing this pain and what could potentially be in revenge seeking a true ransomware hijacking of your entire brain in which your brain is put to one purpose only, and that is inflicting suffering perhaps up through and including violence on the person who harmed you.
So what do we do? What we want to do is we start with accessing your memory and we use a process called the Non Justice System or Miracle Court that we’ve studied at the Yale Medical School and what it allows you to do is put the person who wronged you on trial so that we can safely access your memory, quarantine that virus for a little while, allow you to safely release your desire for revenge, and then move you through a process of imagining what it might be like to forgive. So we could do this together right now.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Let’s do it.
JAMES KIMMEL: Let’s try it. So for the moment, let’s imagine that you’re in a courtroom and you’re looking around and you can see the judge’s bench, and a jury box, and the witness stand and the tables for the lawyers, and for now, let’s imagine that you are the prosecutor, and you are going to look over at the defendant, this is your friend in this case, and you’re going to charge him or her with the offenses that he’s committed against you. So what what’s your charge going to be?
DR. MIKE MORENO: Well, so let me relate this to you. This guy I’ve known for 30 years. I mean, we’ve been through it all together. Met him literally 30 years ago in medical school, and he got in a relationship and his significant other, and I approached him with this, his significant other is not a fan of me because I think, this is my own idea, I feel like she’s intimidated, not intimidated, but a little concerned that I may lead him in one way or another, which I don’t. I just want him to be happy. I approached him with this several months ago and I said, listen, you don’t call me. You don’t talk to me. We used to talk all the time.
He said, you’re right and I was wrong. So I guess what I’m accusing him is putting 30 years of friendship aside because of some false ideation that someone has put into his brain, someone who’s very relevant in his life.
Which is great, he’s happy. I’ve never said nor done anything to, and he said to me, you’re right. You never have, you never done. It’s just how I’m handling this because it makes it easier for me because I don’t want to have to deal with the fallout of, you know, maybe calling you to say hi, and that’s basically the conflict.
JAMES KIMMEL: Sure, and that sounds painful, and so tell me, tell us a little bit about how that has impacted you. What kind of pain have you experienced as a result?
DR. MIKE MORENO: You know, I think about it a lot, because when I go through things both good and bad. When I struggle with things. When I’m bummed out. When I’m happy. When I’m laughing, excited or when I’m bummed out about things, he was one of these go-to’s. Right? One of these guys you want to share with. Or when I’m struggling, you know. We’ve had a lot of heart to heart talks over the years and decades. We’ve been through some good times and bad together. He was there when I got a divorce. I was driving up to his house every weekend. Every single weekend, because I did not want to be in my house.
I mean, this guy and I are thick and to suddenly I mean, never call, never do anything for something I didn’t do. I’m like and I think about it. It wears on me; I would almost say daily, and I actually told my girlfriend about this. I said, you know, this is really wearing on me. I wrote him a very nice, wasn’t a nasty email, really nice thought out email several months ago. He’s like, you’re right. We came down, we visited. Things went back to how they are still and I’m like, I give up and I’m just kind of like, I want to call him and just say, you’re this, you’re that, you’re this and you know what I mean?
JAMES KIMMEL: Yep.
DR. MIKE MORENO: But I’m never going to do that. I filled up my mind with this, and I think, you’re bigger than that. You’re better than that. In a sense, the same thing you went through when you have that gun, and you were going to retaliate, but it pisses me off. It really does.
JAMES KIMMEL: Sure. All right, now we’re going to change roles for you. OK, so you were the prosecutor in this trial against your friend and now you’re [00:25:00] going to become the defendant. In other words, your friend. So I’m going to put you on the stand and I’m going to ask you to explain your side of the case as the defendant, your friend. What’s he going to say about all of this. All these accusations you just made against it.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Well, I prefer to be the prosecutor. Well, you know what he’s going to say, and it’s what I would say is that this person in my life is very important. She gives me a lot of comfort and gives me the things that I need to be happy and for whatever reason and I’ve tried to talk to her about her issues with you, it’s not clicking, and it creates this conflict. I’m not saying it’s right because it’s not, but I’ve taken this way out to where I don’t want to have that conflict in my life because God knows, we all got a lot of problems in our lives right now as of this past year. I’m sorry, but I’m just trying to do what’s better for me at this moment. Maybe it’ll change or maybe it won’t. I don’t know. That’s kind of what he told me. I guess I would probably respond in that same way, but I disagree with it. I guess that’s why.
JAMES KIMMEL: Sure. So are you, do you plead guilty or are you pleading innocent?
DR. MIKE MORENO: Guilty. I am guilty as charged and, yeah, I mean, what I’m doing is not probably the right thing to do, but I’m doing it for reasons that I think are right. You know, in the grand scheme of things, maybe others would look at this differently. Maybe others would agree with me. Others would be like; you can’t do that. I don’t know. I guess for me, this feels right.
JAMES KIMMEL: Ok, now I’m going to put you into the role of being the juror. So you’ve heard both sides of the case just now and you’re going to decide whether your friend is guilty or innocent. So what are the best arguments in favor of guilt and what are the best arguments in favor of innocence?
DR. MIKE MORENO: Yeah, I guess in in the favor of guilt, that he’s guilty or that I’m guilty, I guess, is that I’ve acknowledged that, you know, the things that you’ve said I’ve done, I’ve done and, yeah, I do agree to some extent that they’re not right and it’s not right, but right now it is making my life better and as a process, I kind of get it. You know, I of course, now I’m sort of being hypocritical and saying, hey, I want you to be happy, but you can’t possibly be happy without me in your life, you know, how is that possible? Right. So it’s a conundrum. I get it. Of course, I want him to be happy, but at the cost of me not being in his life, it’s a bit hurtful. I would say that.
JAMES KIMMEL: Sure.
DR. MIKE MORENO: But I get it.
JAMES KIMMEL: Let’s put you in the role of the judge now. So you’ve found your friend guilty. I think that’s your verdict. Now you’re the judge and you have to come up with the appropriate sentence to punish your friend for his misbehavior. So what would your sentence be? It can be anything. So in our system, we call again, call this the Non Justice System or the Miracle Court. It can be a sentence that doesn’t have to include jail time or a fine. It could be any punishment you want. What should be his sentence?
DR. MIKE MORENO: Wow, that’s a tough question. You know, I wouldn’t want to punish him. He’s my friend and at the end of the day, I want him to be happy. I just have to recognize that what he’s doing in the grand scheme of things is not some horrific thing. It’s just what he feels he needs to do for himself and his situation that he lives every single day. Yeah, I see where you’re going with this. I don’t like this game.
JAMES KIMMEL: Well, we’re going to have another twist or turn or two here, so we’ll see how it ends.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Ok, yeah, I guess I would find him not guilty in a sense.
JAMES KIMMEL: Ok, so now you’re changing your verdict.
DR. MIKE MORENO: I should say yeah, I find him guilty, but I don’t want to punish him, you know. I just want him to you know; his punishment is knowing how I feel. That’s the punishment. Him understanding that, hey, this sucks for me and I think about this. Maybe it’ll affect him or not, I don’t know, but my punishment, I guess, would be for him to think about how this affects me and for that to weigh on him in some way moving forward. Does that make sense?
JAMES KIMMEL: Absolutely, and it’s perfectly fair. Each person’s punishment that they [00:30:00] come up with in the non-justice system is unique to the situation and you’re struggling, and we’ve had many people in the middle of this process find the perpetrator not guilty and feel relief just from doing that. Other people sort of do what you’re doing, he’s guilty, but I don’t really feel like I need him to suffer. It just feels better for me that I’ve been hurt. He heard me. He understands my pain and that is helping me feel better, but there’s a little bit more that I want to do.
So in this last step, which we call the final judgment step, you’re going to now imagine that you are in this really amazingly huge courtroom. Very different from the standard courtroom that you were imagining before and that we’ve all seen on television or in our real lives, but this is a big courtroom where there’s this huge, enormous judge’s bench. You can’t even see the judge sitting way up there at the top and you’re way down below here sort of looking up and you’re now on trial. Somebody who’s a judge is sitting up there, but you don’t know their identity, and this judge is going to now begin to ask you a couple of questions, and the first question that the judge is going to pose to you is this.
Can you, Dr. Mike, experience this with any of your bodily senses, any of the actions that your friends did in the past today, are they present for you? Can you experience these with your bodily senses? Can anybody outside of you experience this?
DR. MIKE MORENO: I mean, I would say no.
JAMES KIMMEL: Correct, because it’s their memories, right?
DR. MIKE MORENO: Correct.
JAMES KIMMEL: I mean, here we are today, this is something that happened in the past and it only exists now for you right?
DR. MIKE MORENO: Right.
JAMES KIMMEL: In your head. It’s only in your head. It’s not even in your friend’s head. It’s not in your girlfriend’s head. It’s not in his girlfriend’s head or fiancés. It’s not anywhere other than in your head. So you can’t experience any of this anymore. It’s just a memory. Right.
OK, so now I want you to imagine what it would feel like, and just as an experiment, just imagine what it might feel like for you if you were to forgive your friend. You don’t have to forgive him in order to complete this process, but you do just need to imagine what would that feel like for you if you actually forgave him? How would you feel?
DR. MIKE MORENO: Well, I think it would just clear my mind. It would just be like, OK, it’s in the past. It’s done. Moving forward, as long as he’s happy, he’s happy. It would give me a sense of, like, put my mind on other things that are more relevant, more present, more, I don’t want to say meaningful, but more in the present, right? Just write that off as you know, you’ll always be friends and that it is what it is, but yeah, I think you just have to move on in a sense. Really move on to the current, the present, the future and whatever that may hold. You know, in my life, in his you know. As long as everybody’s happy, I guess.
JAMES KIMMEL: Right, and do you feel any relief from no longer having to get this justice. To try and get this right or get any form of retaliation or even a punishment from him? Just the relief of not having to do that work, of kind of bringing him to some form of an apology even let alone punishing, which you’ve already wisely given up on that clearly, but do you feel any sense of relief as a result of this?
DR. MIKE MORENO: No, you do, and I get it. I think there is a part of you that just, part of me that just says, you know, in the grand scheme of things, yeah, it’s unfortunate but you got to move on. Like, I can’t harbor these kinds of things and I get it. I totally get what you’re saying.
JAMES KIMMEL: So what that’s showing you, right, is that completely the opposite of what we’re taught really from childhood beyond, and what’s most common in popular culture is to think that forgiveness is a gift for your friend, the person who wronged you. It’s not. It has nothing to do with that.
DR. MIKE MORENO: It’s for me.
JAMES KIMMEL: If forgiveness was for you, it is the, it is when I was talking about this brain antivirus system to clean the virus out of your brain like a computer, forgiveness is the part that takes away this corrupted grievance code and eliminates it. It’s the healing process that you use to heal yourself and take back control from the person who took your happiness away from you.
This is the process for restoring your happiness, not for making him feel better, but for making you as the victim feel better. That’s [00:35:00] really the deepest teaching of this non justice system process and it’s the thing that we have used. We have used this with very recently a woman who was abducted and raped as a teenager and who’s now 40 plus years old and hasn’t been able to move on from that. We were able to free her of that experience by going through this process of imagining. Now, she had some serious punishments to inflict on these guys.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Sure
JAMES KIMMEL: It was multiple men. It was a horrific experience. She punished them. She experienced getting the revenge, but she did it safely inside of our process. So it was quarantined inside of the non-justice system, but then when we finally got her through to the point where she could experience, just imagine, because she wasn’t at all ready to forgive any of this, but she was willing to imagine what that would feel like and she suddenly got it. She suddenly experienced this, an enormous amount of relief that all of this pain could lift from her if she was able to forgive, to heal herself. Not to enable them to do anything more, but to just save her own life.
DR. MIKE MORENO: This is fascinating because it’s like a light just clicked in my head, but I think when you look at social media like I didn’t grow up with this stuff, you know, and when I was 18, we didn’t have computers and stuff like that. If we did, I didn’t have one, but when you look at the impact of social media and I think what you do is pretty critical because there is such an infection out there and, you know, social media can be used in a positive way. Like anything else, right. My mom always said there’s good and bad in everybody, but this is something.
What would you tell somebody who is listening right now and who’s, like, easier said than done? You know, how can you get people to go through this process? Where do you get someone to start? How do you get them to stop? How do you take that young guy that you are with the gun about ready to retaliate and say, stop for a second, think about what you’re going to do? What is the first step?
JAMES KIMMEL: So the first step is I work with their grievance and I acknowledge their pain and their desire for revenge, and I say to you, look, how would you like to put the person who wronged you on court right here, right now. Put them on trial right here, right now? Most everybody that’s really what they’re looking for. They’re looking for some form of way to be heard. They’re looking for some way of holding other people accountable for the pain that they’ve inflicted, and this process gives you all of that, and even more so, you control it.
Now, you might go, well, look, this is all happening inside my head. It’s imagination. How could this possibly be relevant or helpful?
Well, the very reason that you and I discussed. Your grievance is only in your mind. It is only a thought formation inside your head. Therefore, it makes perfect sense, and it is.
We’ve been able to show that it’s true that a counter thought process, which is the non-justice system that comes in and confronts that existing grievance thought, is able to modify, change and ultimately eliminate it from your life. So what we offer is the actual craving that you want to gratify, the desire for revenge.
Let’s imagine it, experience it, let’s voice it. Put them through as much suffering as you want. You can be the executioner and imagine administering capital punishment if you want in this system, but then let’s move beyond that and erase the grievance once and for all.
Because what we also know in the “real” criminal justice system in our world is that ninety eight percent of all cases plead to guilty. That very few trials actually ever happen. That if you’re a victim of crime, almost for sure you won’t be part of a trial, and even if you were and your assailant were incarcerated, you won’t experience what it’s like for them. You won’t see them suffering. You won’t get that gratification at all. It all is largely virtual anyway.
Why not take complete control of that very hard to access, very expensive and very slow moving criminal justice system and let’s use it ourselves right here, right now or wherever you are listening to heal yourself today.
DR. MIKE MORENO: I mean, I love it and I want to, I don’t want people to be listening, thinking, oh, well, that was a trivial thing, but you know what? Whether it’s something that you experienced, change, or what I just shared with or other people probably listening, all of these things, however big or small they may be, affect our lives and they mold us. They create who we are and who we will be, and I think it’s important and I hope people can sort of just [00:40:00] take a moment and be mindful about things that we do or, you know, these things, maybe I hope people have a process in their head and, you know, what we like to do is just stimulate thought process, right. This is your story and my story and maybe someone listening can say, gosh, this is going on in my head. I think this is fascinating and I think a lot of people can really benefit. I’m in a different place. I got to admit.
It’s weird, I wouldn’t say that I would have been where I am. Here we are, you know, after talking to you, but most importantly, where can people find you? Because I think a lot of people can get a lot from this process. How can we find you on social media?
JAMES KIMMEL: Yeah, so you can access this non justice system miracle court on a website called www.nonjustice.org. You will find there, it’s a nine step process. It’s downloadable and you can go through it yourself. It was actually designed so that it would be a self-help tool, although now we use it with trained facilitators. It makes it even more powerful if you have somebody opposite you to enable you to do this. You can also find me if you just Google “James Kimmel at the Yale School of Medicine”, you’ll find me at that location and or my website.
But I wanted to say Dr. Mike, because you’re a physician, I wanted to ask you what you thought of the intersection of this process with physical healing. So at least in my experience, in the experience of some people that I’ve spoken to about this, that part of physical illness is, let me put it this way. Somebody that’s ill often is very resentful towards the illness, right?
DR. MIKE MORENO: Correct.
JAMES KIMMEL: It’s disrupted their life. They’re in pain. They’re miserable. They really have a grievance toward the illness, and they have a grievance toward their body that’s now broken down. It’s not bringing me joy. It’s bringing me suffering. So you’re angry towards your body. You want to be resentful and maybe retaliate against the illness, whether it’s a cancer, for instance, or some other form of malady, but you want to retaliate against the illness and maybe you want to retaliate against the body and this is just a theory, but I wanted to know as a physician what you thought the process of forgiving that illness and forgiving your body has to be, at least in my mind, part of the overall healing process, because you’re taking away that energy and that attack mode on your body and the illness and you’re unable to heal yourself, but I just wondered what your thoughts were on that.
DR. MIKE MORENO: No, I agree, I think without a doubt, when you have these negative thoughts, when you harbor these negative things, I think it impedes your ability to heal. Not entirely, but I really, I agree with you, 100 percent. You know, when you have these bad so much of these bad things and you see this all the time, when people who are just dealing with unfortunate illness and there’s something that happens where some people do better than others.
You could take the two same individuals, same age, same sex, same disease, same medication, same everything, right? But if I feel like if people are able to really come to peace in a sense with what is going on, I think that strength, that really sort of mental strength will aid you in healing the process. I think that that’s a good point and for a lot of people out there who may be dealing with something like this, whether it is trivial as the story I told or something that you dealt with as a child, whatever people are dealing with out there, I think putting that good, that bad stuff to work for you rather than against you is the way to look at this. I think it’s a very valid point, and I absolutely agree with you.
JAMES KIMMEL: If I had, and this is purely anecdotally, but I’ve different illnesses that I’ve experienced, I’ve tried this again, purely anecdotally to sort of forgive that illness and forgive my body for potentially letting me down and wanting my body to forgive me, let’s say, for asking maybe more of it than I should have, and I do find a sense of, first of all, an immediate sense of calm. Then it seems to me that whatever was bothering me goes away more quickly. Now, I’m not saying it’s a substitute at all for, my daughters in med school, actually now, so third year in med school at Yale, actually and she’s experimented with this just a little bit. She’s very young yet on it, but we sort of both think that there’s something to this, but I don’t know if it’s been [00:45:00] studied.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Fascinating stuff. Thank you. Thank you so much. Listen, I got a lot out of this and I hope people listening can put some of these things to work but thank you so much for your expertise and your time. Great stuff. Really great stuff.
JAMES KIMMEL: You’re so welcome. Thank you and I really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you today.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Well, that’s it for today, and, you know, gosh, a lot of self-healing for me, but now for today’s weekly RX and you know, I thought about this throughout, as I always do.
One of the big takeaways here is forgiveness is for you and it’s a process, but at the end of the day, the ability to forgive somebody is probably more of a gift to yourself and I think that’s important. These things in terms of retaliation and getting back at people for things that were in the past. They’re memories, but at the end of the day, I think the main thing to keep in mind is to heal mentally and physically. Forgiveness is a great way to begin the process.
That’s it for today. Don’t forget to subscribe for free. Download and listen to Wellness Inc. with me, Dr. Mike Moreno on Apple podcast, or wherever you listen.
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About This Episode:
James Kimmel, Jr., a Lecturer in Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, focuses on the intersections of law, neuroscience, psychology, spirituality, violence, and addiction. He is a leader in integrating law and psychology to prevent violence, resolve conflicts, restore peace, and help individuals suffering from mental illness in the criminal justice system.
We are living in a glorious world of possibilities and advancements, but we are also living with uncertainty, loss, anger, deep social divisions and increasing talk of revenge and retribution for a wide range of grievances. This situation led Dr. Mike to think about our emotional well-being.
When stress and anger enter our lives, they can have a severe effect on our health. James and Dr. Mike address the negative physical effects that anger, and revenge have on the brain. Research says they are just as addictive as opioids, making them extremely difficult to release. Now more than ever we need tools and insights to bring back peace and balance. We talk about what approach we can take to rid our brain of grievances, anger and vengeance and restore a deep state of emotional well-being.
Then James takes Dr. Mike through the steps for the non-justice system to help him release the pain he feels from the loss of a friendship.
Connect with James Kimmel, Jr.