Our Intuitive Playbook Podcast Series
Why we think, feel and react to people the way we do.
Like an athletic team running plays out of their playbook, we become skilled at running plays out of ours. However, those plays are not running or passing plays. Rather, they are intuitions- feelings and thoughts about people and the circumstances that confront us. Our reactions to these situations are so automatic, they operate in our subconscious. In these three episodes of Breaking Bread, Physician Keyna Martinez helps bring our playbook into our conscious awareness so we can learn, adjust and even correct our plays to match more closely with Christ’s.
Definition: Our “playbook” is our subconscious intuition that launches judgment and reaction.
Importance: Our “playbook” is extremely important for life. Many of our decisions are made subconsciously. For example, we avoid danger by judging it as such and making necessary changes, often before we are fully aware of what is happening.
How the playbook is made: Experience largely has constructed our internal playbooks. More specifically, painful experiences have a larger effect than blissful experiences. These experiences construct our values, judgments, expectations, and reactions.
How the playbook is maintained: The playbook is maintained when its “plays” are reinforced by repeated or similarly interpreted experiences.
Reality: Our intuitive “playbook” is right a lot of the time. However, it can be and is often wrong.
The effect of an incorrect playbook: Our judgment is incorrect and therefore our words, feelings and actions are motivated from a place of falsehood. We will not respond like Christ would in the situation.
Changing the playbook: The playbook can be changed for the better.
- Identify your plays – Learn to identify the subconscious reactions you have to people and situations.
- Ask yourself, what am I feeling right now and what experiences in my past are my responses coming from?
- Learn the playbook of others – Be a student of how they think.
- Learn what their experiences have been. This will inform why they have certain values, priorities and behaviors.
- Conform your playbook to Christ –We need a standard outside of our experience to compare and correct our intuitions against. Christ is that outside standard.
- Conforming the playbook to Christ comes through intentional decisions and deliberate practice of Christ-like behaviors. Over time, new rules will be created and become our new subconscious intuition and automatic response – renewing our minds after Christ.
One of the main things I realized is I assumed until that moment that he would want the same things I would want in the same situation, which is not end up in the hospital all the time and not die from something that was preventable. And I realized that he must have some other motivation or needs or values that I was completely missing.
Greetings everyone and welcome to Breaking Bread, the podcast brought to you by Apostolic Christian Counseling and Family Service. Excellent to have you along as always. Today I’m excited to have a conversation with Keena Martinez
Welcome, Keyna, to the podcast. Please introduce yourself. Where do you live? Your family. What church do you attend? So, I attend the South Bend AC Church. That’s where I was born and raised. I married Brother Joshua and we have four boys ages 18 to 11. And Keyna, speak to your profession because your profession has a lot to do with the insights you’re going to be able to share with us here in this podcast. Yeah, so I’m a family physician. I take care of people from all ages, from birth all the way through, I think my oldest patient is in their late nineties right now. So, all ages, all stages of life.
And that has really taught me a lot about working with people, people who have sometimes desperate needs or are in really difficult situations. And also people from a variety of backgrounds, different socioeconomic levels, different cultural lenses, different ethnic groups, all of which they bring with them into the exam room with the doctor. One of the things I’ve discovered about being a family physician is that a big part of my work is maintaining a relationship with patients.
In medicine, we call it the therapeutic relationship. And the relationship is part of the therapy or the treatment by which we help to get patients better. So, if we have a good therapeutic relationship, I can push or lean on my patients to get them to do difficult things like lose weight or quit smoking or take medication.
And if the relationship is weak or poor or trust is broken, then I won’t be able to help them be healthy. So, one of the things I have learned in my job is the challenge of building and maintaining relationships with people who see the world differently than I do, who may have different expectations and values.
And who many times really don’t want to do what I’m going to have to ask them to do. People don’t like to come to the doctor. At the best they’re hoping to escape with no bad news, but they’re not really expecting a great experience. And so, learning how to connect with individuals and hear them and understand why they make some of the decisions that they do is really important to helping them achieve healthy outcomes.
Now for us as Christians, there’s a lot of similar lessons except in trying to help people be physically healthy, we should be trying to help them become spiritually healthy and that is part of discipleship and it’s got some of those same things. If we break the relationship, then it’s harder to get individuals to want to move forward with a relationship with Christ. If they lose trust in us, who are his representatives here on earth, then that makes a bigger barrier to overcome them following Jesus in the future or wanting to grow in Christ themselves.
And so, Keyna, this experience really has pressed you into a ton of introspection into the workings of the human mind, right? To say, how can I connect with this person because I want to be able to motivate them to do certain things that are going to be maybe unpleasant.
And so, it’s caused a lot of introspection and I would add to that I have appreciated the insights into even the way we operate as human beings and react to things.
And one word that you’ve used that I now use is playbook. Oh, this is what my playbook’s telling me. And we kind of know what that term is in the sense of maybe sports and that type of thing. It’s like, okay, this is how we respond in situations. And I’m going to ask you to really expand on this concept and help our listeners understand it and benefit it from as well. But I would like you to go back and give us a caricature of your doctor’s office where this concept really was given birth and it really became solidified in your mind to say, this is what’s going on and I need to plow some ground here in my own life and heart to connect with patients.
So, one thing that comes to mind is when I was in my training, so you finished medical school and then you do this intensive training that they call residency, which is where you get your specialty training. And so, you’re a doctor, but you still have a lot to learn. And you’re really starting to practice the skills that you learned in medical school.
So, we had a patient who was struggling with cocaine addiction. And one of the things that cocaine can do is it’ll raise people’s blood pressure to astronomical levels and they will have strokes and they will have heart failure. And so, this particular individual was getting admitted to the hospital because he’d go into heart failure after using cocaine and we’d have him in the hospital for a couple of days and then he would get better enough and he would leave and then the next week he’d be back in. Now as physicians, this is really frustrating. We’re admitting this patient in the middle of the night. We’re doing all of this care for him. We’re serving him. We’re pouring out for him. And the logic seems really obvious here. Why would you keep doing something that’s going to land you in the hospital every week?
And I remember having a conversation with him. Where I basically said, you do realize why you end up in the hospital, you use cocaine and it does this to you every single time. And I remember the look on his face, especially and it was, he didn’t say anything and he took very graciously what was basically a lecture from someone who really had no understanding of the pain he had been through in his life, the difficulty of the situation and circumstances in which he was living. And at the time, all I saw was someone who is hearing me, but we’re really not connecting. We’re not really communicating. I don’t think he understands what I’m saying, even though the words would make sense. And I certainly do not understand where he’s coming from. And I think that was the point at which I began to realize I’m missing something.
I need something else to do my job well, to help me understand where people are coming from, because my assumptions about what’s logical and makes sense to them is not working. There has to be some other piece of information I’m missing here. And I think that started me on the path of introspection of saying, what don’t I know? What am I not picking up on that would help me communicate or connect or understand so that we can help people get out of these types of cycles of bad health or choices that impact them so negatively?
I think that’s an excellent example where you looked and said, okay, I’m drawing some very clear conclusions here and he’s drawing different conclusions.
Well, and I think one of the main things I realized is I assumed until that moment that he would want the same things I would want in the same situation, which is not end up in the hospital all the time and not die from something that was preventable. And I realized that he must have some other motivation or needs or values that I was completely missing because what I thought he should want clearly was not motivating enough for him.
And it made me realize not everyone wants or expects or needs the same things that I do. And if I can’t discover what those needs and wants and expectations are, then I’m going to give advice or recommendations or just misjudgments that will fall flat. Or be completely off or wrong.
Can you give another example of a misjudgment? There are so many. So, I’ll give another one and this one is less medical and more cultural but it’s something I found interesting. So, I started having our children during my medical training. And so, in my medical training, I was taking care of a lot of what we would call underserved individuals. So, people who are more materially poor, typically a little more on the margins of society. Many people who may be on food stamps or welfare or other forms of public aid. And I found a very interesting contrast between the ways that those individuals responded to my pregnancy and the kinds of questions that they would ask me and the types of questions that educated middle class individuals would ask.
So, for instance, educated middle class individuals tended to ask questions around things that we could talk about control or management of the pregnancy. For instance, was the pregnancy planned? Did we know the gender and those types of planning and order and management of the timing and all of those types of things.
Whereas my patients who did not come from a middle-class background, they never asked. It just wasn’t even on their radar anything about planning. It was more, what name are you going to name the baby? Things about are you excited about the baby? What other kids do you have at home? They were just completely different questions. And I thought they revealed interesting insights into values that different cultures or socioeconomic groups might have.
So, for instance, for many people living in a situation of material poverty, they often don’t have a concept that anything in their life is under their control. So, it wouldn’t make sense to them to ask if a pregnancy was planned. Because pregnancy is something that just happens to you, whereas the middle class focuses a lot on planning and control and future. People have different values in the way we visual where we understand time and the use of time and the importance of time for example.
That’s the example you gave. Yes. What are some other real tangibles like, I have found that people have different value systems on X, Y, or Z.
So, a common one I run into is death and what is the meaning of death in my work. So, I have a number of patients that their goal is not to live as long as possible. Their goal is to die before they become disabled or a burden on others or have to accept the help of others. So that’s a different perspective. They’re not necessarily interested in living as long as they can. They’re interested in their level of disability and quality of life as they age and especially not becoming a financial or a care burden on their family and friends. That’s a value that many of them have.
I had one patient who was an immigrant from Africa. Most of her children were well established here in the United States, but she had been a nurse in Africa for most of her adult life. And now in her retirement was living here so she could be close to her children. And she had some problems with heart failure. And was discharged from the hospital and heart failure is a chronic condition. It’s normally something that you take medication on a daily basis to keep things tuned up and functioning well. And in her mind, and she said this very clearly, medicine should not be taken daily for the rest of your life because she comes from a culture and environment where resources to be on medications indefinitely are simply not accessible or not available, and so in that culture and environment with the resources they have, medicine is used temporarily for salvageable things like an infection or a short course of treatment.
And this was a point of struggle even not just between her and her doctors, between her and her children who wanted her to continue to be healthy, continue to be the matriarch of the family and around. And she just had a very different value and felt that she would rather not be on medicine and die sooner than take medication because in her mind, there was just something wrong about living on medicine forever.
And just to pull back to the playbook, that’s a perfect example in her playbook. She didn’t have a play for medication every day for the rest of your life. Correct. We should maybe go back and define a little bit what the playbook is. So, different people who study neuropsychology, which is just the interplay between how our brain structurally and chemically works.
So, the things that we can measure and define precisely scientifically. That would be the neural part. And then the psychology part is how we think. The intangibles, feelings, emotions, thought processes, those types of things. And so, neuropsychology combines those different aspects to try to understand how our brains work.
And I think understanding these things is actually incredibly helpful and insightful because when you see this pattern and what we have been able to understand about how God designed our mind, some of his rules and instructions in Scripture start to make a lot more sense. And you see that he has set up things really, truly for us to thrive and do well because he knows how we work.
So, the playbook can be called different things, but the basic premise is we have two different ways our minds make decisions. We have the conscious, intentional side of our brain that we’re very aware of, and this is when you make a decision about what you’re going to cook for dinner, or you make a decision about where you’re going to go on vacation, or something where you’re weighing the options and you’re making a very deliberate, obvious choice.
And that side we’re very aware of and we understand its workings pretty well because it only functions if we choose to engage it. But there is another side to our minds where we make decisions all the time. And that is our intuition or our instinct. It’s an automatic process and it just flows in the background of our mind. Without this, we would die. We would make foolish errors. We would run into danger. We would have all kinds of problems. We would forget where the food is and literally we would not be able to survive. So, it’s a very important part of our brain, but it operates completely in the background of our mind automatically.
Now the conscious part of our brain, we can use abstract information. I can give you a sheet of data with information on it, and it’s very external to ourselves in evaluating pros and cons and the different merits of different things. So, it’s very concrete in that way. Whereas the playbook is basically using the sum of all our lived experiences plus a little bit of our own, maybe genetics or personality and biology, and it is using what we have experienced in the past as sort of a master reference for how we should respond to situations.
So, for instance, a parent, when all of a sudden you have young children and you realize it’s silent and you go, I better go find out what’s going on. That’s your playbook saying wait a minute. Something doesn’t line up here. Based on my experience, when the children are quiet, something’s happening and I better check it out because maybe they’re in the markers or in something worse. So, the playbook uses what we’ve experienced before, especially if there are strong feelings associated with it to help guide our future decisions.
So, a really good example or an easy one for us to understand would be a toddler and a hot stove. So, a toddler can learn to never touch a hot stove by simply touching it once. Or if they go to touch it and their mother cries out with enough fear and surprise and fright in her voice, “No,” that little bit of her emotion will actually transfer to the child.
So, whether he’s physically burned or he feels her distress through her voice, which is something we call mirroring. And without this, we would not be able to empathize or relate to people. So, it’s an important aspect of how God has designed us. So, either through his own pain and distress in touching the stove or experiencing his mother’s distress at the thought that her child will be burned in the expression and tone in her voice, the child will have a very negative, painful, either physically or emotionally, experience with that stove. He won’t be able to explain it because he can’t talk yet and he won’t be able to describe it to anybody, but if he gets close to that stove, he will get a bad feeling from his playbook telling him bad things happen when you get close to that. You should stay away.
And so, the playbook is formed. And that is how the playbook is formed, and it is especially formed with things that are highly emotional, especially if they’re very negative emotions. So, we are wired much more strongly to avoid pain and suffering and distress than we are motivated to seek pleasure and reward.
So, you may have an experience with someone which is mostly average and okay or even beneficial if you added up all the different moments and interactions and encounters. But if you have one or two very strong negative experiences, you may never trust that person. You may never get over the hurt that they caused and you can forgive them and you can move on but this is one of the reasons that we say, for instance, that trust is very easy to destroy and very hard to build back up again, because we remember in our playbooks the pain much more readily than the pleasure and the joy. This is not a bad thing. God designed it this way to help keep us alive. But it also means that it can influence us towards people in situations in ways that we may not be aware of or even acknowledge are playing a role, sometimes even to the point of misjudging or mischaracterizing people.
So, one of the challenges or problems with our playbook is that it’s right a lot of the time, and it makes life easy. We don’t have to really think through things. We get this impulse to do something, and it feels right, and it seems right, and we just go with it. We don’t even think too much about it, and most of the time things work out okay. So, we trust our instinct. We trust our intuition. But it’s not always right.
Sometimes it’s completely wrong, and when that happens, we either deflect and justify what we felt was right, or we feel a lot of distress because it is harder when we cannot trust or rely on our playbook. We all feel very comfortable in our own playbooks, and it feels right to us. And it usually works for us because our playbook is usually formed by the environment in which we live.
And the reality is very few of us leave the environment or culture in which we grew up. And staying in that environment or culture makes our playbook more helpful, more useful, more effective. We’ll feel more confident about the decisions that we make. Even if we can’t explain them and reinforced.
And so, one of the things is when we work with individuals who come from a different background than we do, we often start by assuming that they will want the things that we want. Or that they will want the things that we think are valuable or important based on our playbook or background or culture.
And we misunderstand just how much work it takes to transplant yourself out of an environment where your playbook can be relied upon most of the time into an environment where none of its rules are helpful anymore. And this is why so few people do make huge cultural shifts, because it’s hard. And it’s very disorienting, and it’s very challenging to us, and it makes people extremely uncomfortable.
So, that’s one thing, is just to realize how big of a step it is for someone, for instance, to move from poverty into the middle class. The other thing to realize is that just because we’re used to something doesn’t mean it’s best for everyone. And so, we get used to this particular lifestyle or this socioeconomic group that we’re in, and we have these great reasons and justifications for why these particular choices are the best ones.
But since that’s all we know, it’s not really a balanced perspective. It’s very limited in scope. An individual from a different background or culture who has grown up in a very different way may look at our lifestyle and see problems. They may see stress. They may see relationships that superficially appear, um, good, but are not strong underneath.
They may see consumerism or pursuit after wealth or status. And, even from a Christian standpoint, they can look at what we might consider to be just middle-class values that everybody wants and go, that’s not Christian. That’s not God honoring. Look at the things that you say you’re espousing.
We do the same thing to other cultures. We look at the way they live and we say, wow, you’re failing on this aspect or that aspect. And some of those criticisms are just as valid as the ones that others may notice about our culture or lifestyle. But recognizing that there’s not one universal best outside of Jesus is an important step for us to make.
So, one of the wonderful things about Jesus and his ministry is that people from all walks of life found his message compelling and wanted to be part of his kingdom. He didn’t just appeal to the poor or to what we would consider a stable middle class, the tradesmen and those people who had a farm or something like that.
And he also didn’t just appeal to the ruling elites and those who had a place and a position in society. There were people from all walks who came and said, I want to make you my Lord and Savior. And the church early on carried that same tradition forward, where you have examples of house churches in Acts where they’re meeting in a very wealthy home with people of status in the community and slaves, also part of the church, meeting together. And in Jesus, they found their common culture and strength, but it wasn’t about conforming to a human or cultural idea. It was about in Jesus we can find the unity that we seek. And so there was a rewriting of playbook, correct? Part of the conversion experience was a rewriting of playbook, right?
And that’s what our conversion experience should be is we should say, okay, I have these values or these ideas or these ways of thinking or doing things. But Jesus says, be like me. And so, part of becoming a Christian and part of the process of growing, or as Paul says, you know, work out your own salvation, he’s not saying through work we can be saved, but he is saying that God does expect us to bear fruit. And there are ways that we can work on that. And that is rewriting our playbook to bring it closer and closer into conformity with Jesus.
I’m going to cut in now on my conversation with Keyna. The power of the playbook has been made evident. And when we return, we’re going to look at how we can rewrite those playbooks and the wonderful hope that lies there.
And thanks each one for being on.
But Jesus says, be like me. And so part of becoming a Christian and part of the process of growing, God does expect us to bear fruit. And there are ways that we can work on that. And that is rewriting our playbook to bring it closer and closer into conformity with Jesus.
Greetings and welcome everyone to Breaking Bread, the podcast brought to you by Apostolic Christian Counseling and Family Services. Excellent to have you along. Keyna Martinez and I are having a conversation, so I’m looking forward to getting back into that conversation for part two as we talk about rewriting the playbook. And I would love to go into that point, Keyna. What does that rewriting process look like? What activity should we take responsibility for in that rewriting process?
We’ve already explained that the playbook is an automatic thing. It develops automatically. It runs automatically. It prompts us to behave and respond or view situations automatically. It takes absolutely none of our conscious control and effort. Which I just want to say, I want to acknowledge how difficult it is because of all of what you just said.
We don’t notice where we’re running the play. That’s what you’re saying. We don’t notice when we’re running the play, but we’re running the play. Because it feels right. And we need to realize we’re running a play. So, this is the conundrum. So, the wonderful thing is that God created our minds with also the deliberate or intentional path for decision making.
So, we are not just slaves to how we feel. Feelings are important. Sensations are clues. If I feel hungry, that’s a clue that my body needs nourishment. So, God gave us feelings and emotions for a purpose, and they are designed to be tools for our aid, but we cannot and should not be a slave to them.
If we were, we are no better than animals. And can I ask for a little clarification? So, this commentary right here on feelings, feelings are a clue that we’re running a play? Is that how I should pick through that our playbook is influencing us or making a suggestion about what we should do.
Now, whether we follow through on that suggestion or not gets over to this other side of our brain that God has given us the ability to make deliberate intentional choices, and that does not appear to be something he’s given animals the power to do so animals mostly operate off of the playbook. That’s all they know.
That is their instinct. We have the ability to make conscious, intentional decisions. And so, one of the things that we can do is we can use our conscious decision making to first of all, identify that we’re, as you say, running a play that our instinct or our natural inclination is prompting us toward a certain action or behavior.
And we have a choice whether to just go with that instinct and follow through on whatever it’s telling us, whether that’s saying angry words at someone or eating the whole bag of donuts or, whatever unhealthy or un–Christlike behavior it might be. Or we can choose to say, wait a minute, where is this impulse coming from? What am I really feeling?
So, an example of that would be someone who maybe struggles with overeating. We would say, okay, you want to eat. You get this urge to go and eat. Stop and think about it. What am I really feeling? Am I really hungry? Or am I lonely? Am I feeling tired? Because the playbook will say, food fixes all these things.
Because when we eat, we do get a little bit of pleasurable hormones in our brain and it can solve, in terms of the playbook’s needs, several different problems. But the only healthy reason to eat would be that we need nourishment. And so, being able to stop and evaluate and say, wait a minute, before I follow through on this. Where is it coming from? What is the feeling that I’m having? And what’s driving that feeling? And is the action I’m about to take really the best way to manage this particular need that my brain is saying that I have?
Once we’ve evaluated that and decided whether the impulse is healthy, unhealthy, good, whatever, then we need to start comparing it to Scripture. We need an external standard. We need something outside of ourselves to check our playbook against, to verify that the plays are right, that what my instinct tells me to do is, in fact, going to honor God, bring forth fruit in my life, serve his kingdom, not shame the name of Christ, all of those things that God asks us to be aware of.
So, once we’ve evaluated what am I feeling, where is it coming from, then we compare what do I feel like doing with what does God want me to do, what are his instructions, what is the standard that he lays out for me? And once we’ve done that, now we can make a choice and we can choose to practice the behavior that God asks us to do.
So, I feel provoked. And I want to lash back in anger. I want to say that snarky, mean comment and just drive it home. Now, if I’ve done that a lot, hopefully prior to my conversion and not practicing it after, but if I’ve done that a lot in my life, the impulse to do that is going to be very strong. And it will take a lot of… first identifying that I have this as a problem that I need to work on in my life and then intentional practice of biting my tongue, swallowing my pride, giving a gracious answer. It may include intentional, deliberate things like I’m going to write out responses that are God honoring and I’m going to look at them and I’m going to put them on my mirror and I’m going to practice saying them because every time we practice the response that God asks of us, we actually create new rules in the playbook. And it is a practice over time that gradually rewrites the rules in our playbook from ones that are from the flesh, we could say from our selfish human nature and starts to transition them over to the same rules that drove Jesus and that informed his behavior and his choices.
So, we become like Christ. We edit the playbook, but it’s through practice in much the same way as we learn muscle memory. A pianist, for example, with that difficult piece of music, practicing hours and hours, but the muscle memory takes over and it’s become a part of themselves that now they can play that piece without much thought.
And really, you’re casting this incredibly beautiful vision towards the life of a believer who comes into conformity with Christ’s playbook with the hope that we might sometime have muscle memory where that is automatic.
Yeah. And, it works. It actually works. You know, as an example, I used to early in my practice get frustrated when, when people didn’t seem to appreciate how much I was doing for them. Especially if they, you know, you work so hard for someone and you do all of this stuff and then you get a complaint or you hear just criticism and you’re like, seriously, you don’t know how much I was on the phone trying to set that up for you. Or, I worked late and I followed, I checked in from home, and all you can do is complain about it.
And in our flesh, it feels unfair. And in our playbook says, how dare they? Don’t they know what I gave up? And the answer is no, they don’t. They’re responding from their playbook out of their hurt and fear and mistrust. And they don’t feel good and they just want to feel better. And, they don’t know what we’ve given or how it appears to us and so getting to the point where I could see that side of it that you don’t see all the pieces that I see and I don’t see all the pieces that they see. I’m not walking in their shoes They are they’re probably hurting. They’re probably scared. And, being able to remind myself of that when you feel unfairly attacked or criticized, it taught me a lot about Jesus and God who experienced the exact same thing.
And understanding that, so getting to the point where I could say, okay, let me examine my playbook. I’m feeling frustrated. Why is that? Well, it’s because people aren’t responding the way my playbook says they should. In my playbook, if I serve you, you should be grateful, right? We’re taught that as small children. You should say thank you. You should appreciate it. Write grandma a note. And if people don’t respond that way, we get upset. We get offended. And so being able to examine myself and say, oh, this is what’s going on. And I have this expectation and then going, wait a minute. God has that same experience. How does my response compare to his?
And overwhelmingly when I read Scripture, what I see is that God is far more patient. He is far more kind and gracious and forgiving and tolerant of us taking him for granted and all of those other things. And then I can say, okay, you know what? He’s God. He asks me to be like him, but if he who is God can do this, if he can put up with human pettiness and selfishness and just missing the point or not seeing or just running off our own way, even though someone’s trying to help us, then I can practice that too.
And as you do, it gets easier. So, the more you practice it, that starts to become your new instinct. So, another story here. In the last couple of months, I got what I think is to me has been the greatest compliment from a patient I’ve ever had. So, when people leave the office, they get these customer surveys that’s sent to them as a text and they fill out what their, rate their experience, right?
And one patient said, thanks to Dr. Martinez, I didn’t feel judged for my poor health. And I thought, wow. God, look how far you’ve brought me, keeping in mind what Christ has suffered for us, not just on the cross, but just putting up with the people who wouldn’t listen to him.
The people who said, you’re asking too much. The people who said, who are you to tell us how we should follow God. You’re just Joseph’s son. What do you know? So, looking at his example and saying, he asks us to practice being like him and as you do that, it gets easier.
So, my first thought was, wow, I wasn’t even aware of anything in particular in that patient interaction. And the other thing I thought of was how like Christ. Because God doesn’t say clean yourself up of all your messes before you come to me. He says, come as you are sick, wounded, weary, messed up sinner that you are and let me help you become spiritually healthy. And, that was a joy to see that as a comment from one of my patients.
What a beautiful thing. And perhaps it was becoming muscle memory that that was your playbook to engage with her on a nonjudgmental basis. I think you’ve so well articulated what a playbook is, how it operates, what it operates on, how it’s formed, and then how our playbook can be changed into Christ’s and what the conversion looks like and muscle memory and all of those types of things.
You tipped your hat to something I would like to go into, and that is understanding another person’s playbook, understanding them on the basis that they are running plays. You tipped your hat in that in the sense of a person not being thankful and while our playbook immediately judges that at some character level, I’m guessing that you see more hues than most on that particular topic because you’ve thought deeply about other people’s playbooks. What can you teach us, tell us about what it looks like to be thoughtful and to learn?
I have found that learning about people’s experiences is in a lot of ways more helpful than trying to ask them what they think. So, when you ask someone what they think, you may get sort of a more abstract, logical, or apparently rational argument. Which you would immediately engage with at that same rational level.
Correct. And so now it becomes my logic is superior to yours in this point and that point and it becomes a debate. The problem with that is that most of the time, we are not making decisions purely on the rational level. Often what we do is we take the things out of our playbook, which are heavily influenced by emotional content, and then we look for logic and reasoning in the external world to justify what we feel.
So, focusing on the logical, external arguments does not help you understand why that person feels or thinks what they do, especially if they seem to have a very strong emotional reaction to something or a very strong feeling about something being right or wrong. To understand the feeling, you have to understand their experiences, because what we feel emotionally comes out of what we have lived through in the past, and either how it has affected us personally emotionally or the emotions of other people that we’ve been exposed to.
So, an example of this would be emotional propaganda. So, if you go back and you look at some of the things that were public service announcements or statements here in the U. S. or in different countries in the world that were published during war, they present the enemy in a certain caricature and often with very strong emotional content, things that are intended to provoke an emotion.
So, I don’t know specifically that this one exists, but you’ll understand the idea if you’ve ever looked at these in a history book or something, here’s Hitler eating babies, right? Like that is repulsive. It is an image that brings up a lot of emotional revulsion and it links in our mind that this person and this evil repulsion are the same.
So, without experiencing someone of, for instance, a different ethnic group, if that type of emotional content is all that I’m exposed to, and I have no actual real-life interactions with that person or people from that group, then I will develop a strong emotional reaction, whether that is justified or not.
So, this is the basis of biases and stereotypes. Once we start to interact with people from the group, it doesn’t take very long before those stereotypes start to be challenged. We start to realize not everybody fits the caricature. Not everybody behaves the way this particular teaching I had from childhood or these comments that I was exposed to in the past, or this commentator that I’m listening to says, and we have two choices when that happens.
One is we either again, justify our playbook. So, we assume the emotions must be correct and we double down, or we start to say, maybe my playbook could be wrong here. And we start to look more objectively at the situation than before. So, in this case, you might, for instance, have a rule in your playbook that people of a certain group or type are a certain way.
And examining first your own experiences and saying, okay, is that true or not is very helpful, but also listening to their experiences. So maybe they have a certain stance on or a position and finding out why do they feel that way? How do they see the issue? What experiences have they had? And when you understand like, oh, this person grew up in this area of the country where this or that was a problem.
And they had this experience in childhood where they were homeless and that’s why they see this particular social program in a positive or negative light. It makes a lot more sense and you start to understand why someone has the particular perspective and emotional reaction or expectations that they do.
And how illogical to you they might seem until you know what they’ve experienced. So, I’ve got another story, okay? And then you unpack it with what’s really going on here. I had a student who had failed my class the year before, and he needed my class to pass. Not only pass, but graduate. Okay.
And I made it my year project, like I am going to get this young man through my class and graduate, and this will be great. Surely, he wants that. Keyna, it came down to the final exam and you had to attend the final exam to pass the class. I got him to the place where all you needed to do is show up for the final exam. And this is a slam dunk. And guess who didn’t show for the final exam? And here was my logic. My logic is you surely want to graduate because graduation means a certain lifestyle and certain opportunities. And I came to find out later that nobody in his family has graduated.
I would have probably done more work in my year if I could have reversed some of those experiences and helped him understand and maybe some misnomers of what a graduation looks like than getting the grade to pass. Does that make sense? Yeah. And, I would say even, a lot of this doesn’t come down to, you used an interesting term, you said reverse the experiences and that’s not really the goal.
The goal is to understand the experiences so you can understand what matters to that person and how they perceive it. So, what we don’t know, and there’s a couple of different ways this could have played out in his life. He could have had family saying, oh, you’re going to be the big man who graduates. You’re going to be too good for the rest of us. You know? And if the example is no one else has had to graduate to survive in a lifestyle that while hard is what they know and therefore they’re used to it and I’m not saying they’re happy in that situation, but you know, there are tradeoffs. You move up the social ladder or the socioeconomic ladder and there’s different pressures and challenges.
And a lot of times, the struggles that we know and are familiar to us, we at least know how to manage. Whereas if you move into a different level where you have different struggles and challenges, how do you learn to manage those things? So, we don’t know, was that young man experiencing pressure from his family that hey, none of the rest of us need a graduation to survive. So why are you putting all this effort in? Another one is people can be insecure themselves. And I have heard of instances where family members are pressuring a student not to graduate because they say, hey, you’re going to be too big for your britches. You’re going to get proud and arrogant.
You think you’re going to be better than the rest of us, and they will drag each other down. And I’ve heard and seen of instances where that happens. So, was he experiencing that kind of pressure? There can be social pressures where if you do well in school, then something’s wrong with you or you’re too much of a nerd or that book learning is just a waste of time.
So, we don’t know without knowing his experiences and what voices were speaking into him. We don’t know where the pressure is coming from, but these are all intuitions. Yes. And so, we can make assumptions based on what makes sense to us. So, your assumption was he’s going to want to graduate because that’s the key to the better life.
Right? It made logical sense to me. But we don’t know what his experiences were. And so, the starting point is simply to understand. There could be for some people experiences in, especially for some minorities in our country, there’s a feeling that it doesn’t matter how hard I work because the system is against me or the world is against me or it’s unfair.
The deck is stacked against me. So, I could work as hard as possible and everything will be taken away. And that really kills initiative and drive because if you feel like your efforts won’t be rewarded, it’s really hard to persevere and keep trying. So, when we find that we don’t understand someone, the first thing is simply to acknowledge, you know, I don’t think I understand this person, or maybe I should verify what I’m assuming that they want or perceive or need. And then it’s just simply hearing the story. Where are they coming from? What have their experiences been? And getting that information out is far more helpful in understanding why that person is motivated to act or respond in a certain way than asking for a debate set of points to argue over, which misses understanding or hearing the heart of the person.
I really appreciate that and you unpacking that particular example. Because I think you’re absolutely right and that would’ve been very helpful for me 20 years ago. And here again, I’m gonna bring today’s episode to a close as we’ve discussed how to rewrite playbooks as well as learning how to listen to the playbooks of others by way of their experience.
When we return, we’re going to find out that there’s some surprising places that playbooks are at a premium. Please join us when we return.
God describes himself as merciful and slow to anger, and the reason he’s merciful and slow to anger is he understands the baggage that we’re struggling under, and he knows what’s in our playbook and what’s in our heart, and that allows him to be patient and merciful and gracious.
Welcome back, everyone, to Breaking Bread, the podcast brought to you by Apostolic Christian Counseling and Family Services. I’m so delighted to have you along as we finish up my conversation with Keyna Martinez. We’ve been discussing the playbook, how impactful that playbook is for our interaction and understanding of people. In this episode, we’re going to expand that use to relationships and nearer to us than what we first imagined.
Now, Keyna, some of the examples we’ve used, I think it’s very easy for us to say, okay, yes, that is a very different culture or that person is very different than my world. But this can play out underneath the same roof, can’t it? Absolutely. It can play out in our generational differences, with our own churches. Speak to the surprising places we might find this to be relevant.
So, really everywhere where you have two people interacting, you can have the playbook either aiding or distracting or confusing. So, marriage is one that’s an easier place to maybe start this next part of the conversation.
Different families are their own subculture. They have their own ways of doing things, their own methods, their own expectations. You know, is dinner on the table precisely at 5:30 when dad gets home and it’s always going to be a meat and a vegetable and there’s going to be dessert? Or is dinner come and go as the kids get done from different activities and everybody kind of feeds themselves except maybe on Sunday or Saturday or some odd night of the week.
And we grow up with these different things and we assume that that’s how everybody is. Now we might experience slight variations if we go visit a friend’s house or stay over with relatives or something like that. But we may think that those are just sort of one off or the occasional variation that we experience maybe in our own, in our own family.
Now when you bring those two people together in a marriage, there are all kinds of assumptions that they bring in about what family life is supposed to be. And they are going to have to work through those assumptions. And some will be easy to identify and some will be very hard because what may happen is that someone simply feels discouraged or frustrated or upset and they may not necessarily be able to say why.
In that moment until they go back and look at, okay, what am I feeling? What are my past experiences and how does that apply to my life or this situation? So, I’ll give you an example here. Early in my marriage, I had read a book where the author made a comment. He said, the first five years of your marriage, speaking to men. He said the first five years of your marriage, your wife will be responding to you based on how other men in her life have treated her, her father, her brothers, prior maybe romantic relationships or just male friends that she has had. So, when she hears or sees you as a man, other men in her life and her experiences with them are going to basically, we would say, be informing her playbook on how to react to you.
And he said, after five years, how she responds is based on you and you alone, because over that time, the playbook will rewrite, it will adjust based on the interactions with that one individual. And so, his caution to men was the first several years, you know, she may not really be responding to you. It may be to someone else.
And I’ve had that myself where my husband makes a comment and I am just angry or hurt or just really strongly emotionally reacting. And when I stop and I make myself think, okay, where is this coming from? I realize it wasn’t him. It wasn’t what he said. The tone of his voice made me think of this other experience that had some strong emotional content in the past, and my brain just lumped them all together and said, they’re the same thing. And it started to respond based on not this moment, but on that moment from 10 years ago that my husband had nothing to do with.
And so, these things happen all the time in our marriages. They happen in our interactions at work, bosses, subordinates, coworkers. They can happen with our friends. Really, any time we are interacting with another person, we’re going to find that we are sometimes being triggered in our playbook or basically our playbook is choosing a response based on a prior experience that may or may not actually be relevant in this particular situation.
And I think that’s so helpful to bear in mind as we live in community with one another. So, we can expect this to be at play whenever we’re engaging with somebody. And it sounds to me the hard work involved is going to really be to linger with a person long enough to learn experiences and learn story.
Some of this cannot be remedied with brevity but does require some lingering with people. It really does. And I have an advantage. In the doctor’s exam room, patients come in with a certain level of belief that, what I say, what they tell me is going to be confidential. And the doctors are still mostly trustworthy.
It’s not everybody who has that perspective, but in general, they come in with those assumptions. And so, I find that I can get very deep and very personal with my patients because in that setting, it’s expected and it’s part of normal interactions.
It’s actually really hard for me to connect emotionally with a lot of people. For instance, just at church or in social interactions, some of it is I’m more naturally introverted. And I’m always like, am I going to say the wrong thing? Am I going to be, am I prying? Cuz I’m kind of a private person myself. And so, I don’t want to ever pry into somebody else’s life. And then I can make the mistake running off of my playbook and what’s comfortable to me of giving people the impression that I’m indifferent to how they feel or that I don’t care because I don’t ask, and I don’t ask because I don’t want to pry because that’s what my playbook says is the respectful thing to do when you see somebody struggling. And other people say, well, if you see someone hurting, of course you should go and comfort them and ask them what’s wrong.
And so, if you’re in a relationship with those different expectations in your playbook, um, yeah. One person may be extremely hurt, and then we’ll make assumptions about your character, you’re cold and unfeeling, which maybe aren’t really fair. And so, you do have to take time, and it does take building trust.
Another reason, though, it’s helpful to focus on experiences is experiences are a little bit easier for people to relate, so it gives them a little control over how deep they share so I can share the facts of this happened to me, and that’s not quite so revealing or like opening of my heart or vulnerable than saying it. This is how I feel, or I was hurt or wounded by this, which is a much more vulnerable position to be in, but you do have to stay and listen, and it can be really hard.
So as an example. Recently, I had a patient who was in the hospital and did not have a very good experience. And this was a hospital that I’m affiliated with, that I have had patients go to for over a decade, that I feel very confident in the care that they provide. But this patient did not have a good experience.
And the visit that they came to see me after their hospital stay and everything’s better. They’re healed up. Things are good, continuing to move along. Most of the visit was spent with me listening to her husband and her daughter talk about how their bad experience was and what they felt and how they perceived it.
And it is hard sometimes to hear those things. In this case, I’m hearing it about an institution that I respect, which I know is not perfect, but I know a lot of good work happens there. It’s even harder when somebody is saying those things about ourselves personally or a group that we feel strongly emotionally attached to, but there is something incredibly powerful in letting people say what their experience was and be heard.
So, in this particular situation, my patient, her husband, her daughter, they didn’t need me to do anything but hear them out. And say, I’m sorry that was your experience. That’s not what I want for my patients to have. They didn’t need anything else. They didn’t need me to solve anything. They didn’t need me to get on the phone and get somebody fired.
They didn’t want revenge. They just wanted somebody to acknowledge the way they were treated and how it made the situation that was already scary and difficult, even more frustrating and difficult for them. To just say, you know what? Your instinctive response in this situation is not crazy. Basically, your playbook’s not off on this. It was understandable that you felt the way you felt. And many times, when people are upset, that’s really all they need. They need to be heard and they need to be validated.
Now, validated doesn’t mean I agree with you. Validated doesn’t mean I think your perspective is correct. Validated is just saying, if that’s what you experienced, I understand now the emotion that comes out of that. It is simply an acknowledgment that what they feel or felt was real to them based on what they went through.
You know, Keyna, a word that we’ve said a lot over this podcast and the clinicians have brought up is empathy. And what I hear you say is this is a real tool that we can use to become more empathetic and see really the value that empathy brings in terms of understanding another person’s playbook. Realizing I have a playbook so that I might walk with people, real close relationships, church relationships, work relationships, and neighborhood relationships, cultural relationships, in an understanding way that will allow me to be more winsome in this world.
Right. And I know that’s your heart. Keyna, you introed by talking about the clients you serve, a wide variety as you have done the deep work that this has required in your own life and in your own practice. How has it formed how you view and see people? Is that a fair question?
It is a fair question. I think it’s a good question. So, I’m gonna respond with a story first. So, there was a time early in my training where I had cut out a quote, it was actually out of a Gateway Woods newsletter. And the quote was from an author, and he said something to the effect of, it is a good thing in life to be a force of nature, not a sniveling clod of ailments complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
And at the time I first read that, that is exactly how, not all, but some of my patients felt to me, nothing was good enough. I would make suggestions they wouldn’t follow through. They just came in and complained about everything but didn’t seem to take any initiative themselves. And so, I kind of, at that moment, saw myself as the force of nature taking charge, like action and forward progress.
And I’m fighting back against things. I’m not just letting life happen to me. And there was a time a couple of years later, as I continued to have that little quote by my desk, where I started to feel a lot of conviction and realized that I was also a sniveling clot of ailments. So, you know, we want the world to conform to our playbook.
We want other people to behave the way our playbook says they should because that makes life easy for me as an individual. And it’s natural that we would feel that way, but it’s selfish and it is not how God would want us to behave. And so, I think what I have learned from listening to other people’s stories is that I am no better than anybody else.
My sin is not better smelling, my failings in God’s eyes are not a couple notches better because we as humans really like to rank things. And what I have learned is, yeah, sin is just ugly in everyone. And while someone looking at my life might not be able to identify my sins as easily as looking at maybe somebody else’s life, I know now what’s in my heart.
And more importantly, God knows what’s there. And so, I think the great gift that I have been allowed to receive from the work I do and the way the Spirit has used that in my life is to realize that, I’m not really better than anybody else. I am subject to the whims of my playbook. I like it when I can rely on it and just sort of do what it tells me to do.
And other people who have maybe lifestyles or choices that we would judge or condemn are also following their playbook in the reason their playbook is different than their than mine is because they grew up in a different environment. So truly, when Scripture says to whom much has been given, much will be required.
If we grew up in a Christian home or we have obtained a certain semblance of right and wrong that is roughly Judeo Christian, we really can’t take credit for that. That is a gift. That is an advantage that our playbook has that other people’s do not have and understanding that I cannot take credit for a lot of what I have become.
Because my instinct comes out of my playbook and my playbook has been shaped by the culture, the environment, the experiences that I have had allows me to see other people with a lot more compassion and empathy because I realize if I had been born differently, I may not be any better off than that person is, or I may not make different choices.
Now we do have the ability to make choices. But in order to do so, we have to realize that there is even a choice we can choose. And we have to be willing to do the work of confronting the playbook and wanting to change and wanting to conform it to Christ. And growing up in an environment where I see people making those choices and living out Christian faith around me in church community makes it easier for me to believe that that is both possible and also good. Not everyone has that advantage.
And so, I think how I see people is hopefully how God sees us. Broken, struggling individuals doing the best we can with what we’ve been given or what we’ve been dealt and in a heart which says, I see your struggle and I see your suffering and I want to reach you in that and enter into the mess of it and help you if you want me to.
Because God allows us to choose to accept him or reject him. And so, I can look on individuals with really messy things in their lives and I really don’t feel condemnation anymore. And I don’t want people to hear me taking credit for that. That is the work of the Spirit in my life as I try to conform my playbook to Christ and act out his love for others.
So, I can look on them with not condemnation or really even pity, but with love and a desire that says, okay, if you want, I can help you with this. And if they don’t want, that is also okay because God, the omniscient, omnipotent, perfect, perfectly good, perfectly loving God lets us reject him. So, if someone doesn’t want my help or they don’t like my solution, I’m a human, if God can say, I’m going to keep loving you in spite of that, then how can I not try also?
By understanding just a measure more of other people’s playbooks, you are moved to compassion. And to me, that’s real exciting. And this is exciting work. God describes himself as merciful and slow to anger, and the reason he’s merciful and slow to anger is he understands the baggage that we’re struggling under, and he knows what’s in our playbook and what’s in our heart, and that allows him to be patient and merciful and gracious.
And when we keep those same things in mind, I have found that it is easier for us to respond like God does patiently, compassionately, mercifully, giving grace, allowing second chances and 20th chances and 770th chances and helping people see that.
The bigger picture, in the end, is conformity with God, not some other social or personal or temporal agenda. Keyna, I know a lot of this work has been put together in a Bible study. Say a little bit about that Bible study, and it is available through our bookstore and through the Apostolic Christian Bookstore.
So, I have been part of a team with HarvestCall, and there have actually been several teams of us that have worked on putting these thoughts into a Bible study specifically around cross cultural relationships. It was intended to be especially helpful for our missionaries or those who are going to be doing mission or evangelical work or discipleship work with those who come from maybe different ethnic or socioeconomic backgrounds. But as we’ve discussed, it’s really applicable to all of us, our marriages, our work relationships, our family relationships. And that study has now been completed. It’s published and is available for purchase and download on the AC Bookstore.
And it’s titled, All Nations: Nurturing Cross Cultural Relationships. Keyna, thanks for being on. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you. Really, really appreciate it. And to our listeners, I think the content here today is very instructive at so many levels in our families, in our marriages, in our churches, in our neighborhoods, in our communities, as we have the privilege of conforming to Christ’s playbook and developing his muscle memory and responding to people as he would, to win them.
So, thanks, each one, for listening.
All Nations Bible Study (acbookstore.org)
This Bible Study is designed to promote understanding of diverse people and perspectives. This content in this study may challenge your preconceptions. We encourage you to take this experience to the Lord and his Word.