Chapter 45 MINDS CREATE MINDS
“One of the basic forms of information that the mind constructs and processes is that of the sense of mind itself. The “mind-creating” module of the mind appears to be a function of the right hemisphere and develops early in life. Children during the first years of life are able to detect the difference between animate and inanimate objects and to attribute qualities of mind, such as intentions, attentions, and feelings, to the former ones. By their third year, they are able to engage in symbolic play, in which they can invest inanimate objects with animate qualities of intentionality and emotional response. This immersion in pretend play involves the creation of social interactions and stories that involve the subjective, mental lives of the interacting characters.” (siegel/tdm/199)”
(I was not allowed to play….I doubt anything like a normal development in this regard. I see from the photos in my baby book that I was given dolls…..also lots of rage by my mother that I did not ever play with them, they were always “sick” and that made her so mad….she grew up playing with dolls, had them until she married…and then got her “real dolls,” ha! She used to say every time she let me out to play in the neighborhood there was “trouble.” Was there, really? I don’t know. Was I displaying pre-RAD-like symptoms? I SHOULD have been!)
“The initial sharing of mental experiences therefore lays the groundwork for the rest of mental development, including the acquisition of complex cognitive abilities.” (siegel.tdm/200) [includes caregivers involvement in play with the child]
(I had no “mindsight” of my own or my mother’s mind. I don’t think she had it, either!)
(That’s part of what I so miss when I miss Ernie, sharing minds with him. I really really miss him and it makes me really really sad! But this ties with my belongingness problems – and “boundary” issues….is it about not knowing where my mind ends and another begins as much as it does with my neediness and inability to regulate?)
“The normal child’s brain is able to take in information about the subjective mental state of another person. [Not when their mind is madness, like my mother’s was! The only other mind available was my young brother, John’s] These signals are those of the nonverbal realm….eye contact, facial expression, tone of voice. [How horrifying hers were!] An important aspect of communication involves “joint referencing” signals (such as looking at a third object or pointing) which contains the information that the sender is focusing her attention in a certain direction or on a particular object. During the first year of life, joint referencing becomes a shared form of communication. It is during this phase that the child begins to sense the intention of another person; this permits jokes, such a pretending to jump in a sink or to eat a book, [this would be a form of play, which did not happen for me….and I do not understand humor or sarcasm…isn’t this left brain?] to be understood and enjoyed. During this phase of life and onward, the mind has the ability to detect that another person has a mind with a focus of attention, an intention, and an emotional state. To put it simply, the child has a concept of others’ minds. This is also referred to as the child’s “theory of mind.”…the theory-of-mind module is a component of the larger capacity of “reflective” functioning hypothesized to be an essential parental feature of secure attachments. (siegel/tdm/200)”
“In the pervasive developmental disorder of autism, one sees the dysfunction in this mind-creating mental module of the mind. Simon Baron-Cohen has used the term “mindblindness” to refer to (siegel/tdm/200) this inability to see others’ minds. We have used the opposite term, “mindsight,” to refer to this innate capacity for perceiving the minds of others. Baron-Cohen discusses the central role of the right orbitofrontal cortex in mediating this fundamental process, which is constitutionally abnormal in children with autism. (siegel/tdm/201)”
“We can also use the information-processing framework to suggest what mindsight means for the mind. We can create representations within our own minds of the elements of others’ subjective experiences: their intentions, emotions, focus of attention, beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, perceptions, and memories. Of course, these attributes exist in other persons without our creating them. But in a mind that does not have the capacity to process the signals from another person, or to create the mental representations of another’s mind, there is literally an absence of such a reality. In this case, the mind of the other does not exist. [This was the condition my mother raised me within] Within the perceiver’s mind, the other’s mind has not been created by the necessary representational machinery of the mind itself. It may also be that the perceiver lacks the ability to reflect upon her own mind because of this impairment in the ability to form representations of minds. (siegel/tdm/201)” [How could it be otherwise?] my spacing of next paragraphs
“How can a mind not be able to conceptualize a mind? If we view the mind as a processor of information, the answer is straightforward. Without the representations of mind within the neural symbols of the mind, there exists no information about the mind within the mind. Others’ subjective experiences, their minds, do not exist. (siegel/tdm/201) [I think this is crucial and central. It is brain control through deprivation. I have been trying to find the reason why I did not have a subjective reality….THIS IS IT! This is NOT a minor statement!]
“In most individuals without autism, the mind-creating or mindsight module is presumably neurologically intact. [Does he mean at birth, or that it remains intact even when not used….and doesn’t die as he said other things do if not used within their “window of opportunity? What does he mean, “most individuals?” Who are the exceptions? If we never got a mind, we didn’t get the module, and we don’t have it! That is US, over there in the disorganized category, or in the “cannot classify” category. It MATTERS!] We would be advised to remember that mindblindness, though, is not like being pregnant: There appear to be mild degrees of impairment in mindsight that may have neurologically constitutional underpinnings.” (siegel/tdm/201)
[This is a ridiculous statement? This is the professional MINDBLINDNESS in operation! Mild degrees of impairment? There was nothing MILD about my mother’s impairment, or is there anything MILD in the impairment she gave to me! This is the kind of example of where I think the experts cannot or will not let their own minds consider the true ramifications about severe infant abuse! What good are they doing us if they continue to deny the horrific impact that true infant abuse peritrauma creates! If the mild degrees of impairment appear to be neurologically related, then the severe degrees must also be rooted in the same mechanisms! Damn! And I wonder why I am trying to write this book! But mother’s blindness was absolute with me, far less so but still almost complete – figments of her imagination, virtual others of her mind’s unreality because she had no mind of her own — certainly, with the other kids. With Cindy, it was very operational, just on the other extreme than with me. I remember when I decided to go into treatment because I could feel that I could not feel my children – and I assumed it was from my using – but it wasn’t. It was from this – and still is. If we don’t attach as infants, we will not get mindsight. Not correctly. Not fully. Is this why we cannot attach? Is this a Catch 22? How can you love a child you cannot “see?”]
“Can impairments to mindsight be created by experience? [That’s a dumb question? Where else does it come from for the rest of us?] Fonagy and Target suggest that the answer is yes: Specific forms of insecure attachment [and what about NO ATTACHMENT?] in which the parent does not focus on the mental states of the child and in which parental states are intrusive or disorganizing can lead to an impairment in the acquisition of theory of mind. How are such impairments to mindsight mediated? Are the dulled mindsight abilities of a dismissing adult a form of such impairment? Are they established by their lack of activation during childhood? Do such developmental impediments respond to future interventions? These are questions that researchers of the future may attempt to answer. (siegel/tdm/201)”
ADAPTIVE IMPAIRMENT OF MINDSIGHT
“Relationship histories can impair the development of the integrative reflective function. This impairment can be pervasive and can lead to a child’s generalized inability to mentalize, as revealed in impaired symbolic play and joint referencing. (Siegel.tdm/202)”
This is not a minor statement, either. He is saying that the ability to mentalize is an ability to reflect-function – and is an integrative function. Makes me think of my mother’s play with dolls – and then with her children as her dolls. An extension of an extension of an extension. Nobody mindsighted my mother, and she played with dolls who were not real, who she could not mindsight with though she probably “played” that she did, and who could not mindsight her. Then she had her own babies who she “treated like adults” only they couldn’t mindsight with her – nor later with themselves – because she could never teach us to because she couldn’t do it herself. And then, in my baby book, there are the pictures of the dolls she gave to me. While she then was angry with me that I didn’t play with them. PLAY WHAT WITH THEM? Was she doing “symbolic play” with us? Does anybody do a form of play therapy with these kinds of adults? Maybe I chewed the toes off of Cindy’s doll to see if it would cry!!
What does Siegel mean by
“Psychosocial context can permit the activation or deactivation of reflective function. To mediate this context-specific use of the reflective, mentalizing function, we can propose here that the mind may be capable of dis-associating component modules by impairing the integrative function of essential associate neural pathways. (siegel/tdm/202)”
It sounds like the “they can turn it on and off” thing depending on who the infant is interacting with. Only there was nobody else for me to interact with – only John. So I guess the “reflective function” I had operated with John? Is that the only reason I survived at all? How did he get to be “real” considering mother’s impairments? Did he get a lot more time – as a boy – with father? Mother didn’t think he was the devil’s child, so was she able to tune into him at all? Or did the fairy tale picture she had of him run close enough to reality that it provided something of a solid secure base for him?
Is there such a thing as “close enough” parenting – different from “good enough?” That mother’s twisted world ran “close enough” to good parenting of fairy tales to at least allow my siblings to survive more intact than I am? Her parenting of me was ‘far from reality” parenting! She didn’t rely on a fairy tale with me. She relied on the worst nightmare!
I would certainly say that I have an impairment of “the integrative function of essential associate neural pathways.” It makes me a very unhappy person! More so every day, it seems. This is what I have been saying about the bubbles: “the mind may be capable of dis-associating component modules.” I think his way of putting it is misleading. They are just NOT associated! They are formed and kept as distinct modules – packets of information — that don’t fit together, can’t fit together. Associating things together might work for “normals” but for infant abuse survivors this NOT associating things together is adaptive and life prolonging. How else do you make sense in a world that makes no sense, and out of a world that makes no sense? It’s like putting a picture puzzle together….starting with small areas of the puzzle that match, making the “clusters” of the bigger picture, but never being able to get them all together in the end.
This is really nasty stuff to have to be taking a close look at. Maybe like the reaction when someone comes across a carcass full of maggots. It is dark stuff – but very real. And very unsettling. It makes a person FEEL something of what a disorganized person HAS TO LIVE WITH all of the time! From their birth!
Where nothing is put together as a whole – therefore is not healthy, does not promote well-being. The work is “membering” what should have developed in the beginning into wholeness – now only the “re-membering” can help us. And I know it has to do with left- right-brain stuff! I wish he had included the trauma part of that processing in this chapter with the other hemisphere stuff. I will have to go back and find it and integrate it!!
Self-reflect = integrate = bring into conscious thought = put words to/with it all!
I so long for the soothing comfort of Ernie’s voice! Lack of soothing or of an ability to self-sooth is such a part of all of this. Such a part of a lack of safety when it isn’t there!
And nobody really understands the nature of the suffering infant abuse survivors have. Not like Darlene just told me, “Stand in front of the mirror everyday and say something nice about yourself” kind of thing….for reasons Allen acknowledges. Perhaps on some surface level it can help form some new neuronal pathways, probably in the left hemisphere initially, but the real damage is so huge and so deep and so old and so pervasive! We have to know and understand the bigger picture, and the details, about this malady. It does not give us the same world, or the same playing field as those people have who were NOT abused as INFANTS!!
“We can also suggest that an impairment to mindsight may be state-dependent. That is, under specific conditions, a child (or adult) may be able to disengage the components essential for reflective function, shutting down this important capacity. How does the mind achieve this? In this instance, we can propose that blockage of the corpus callosal fibers interconnecting the two hemispheres, and of interconnections within the right hemisphere itself, may be a mechanism that allows mindsight to be impaired as an adaptation to certain overwhelming situations. Developmentally, this may be the situation in avoidant or disorganized attachment, in which communications are emotionally empty or terrorizing, respectively. In either of these situations, a child adapts to a particular relationship context with the inhibition of reflective function. (siegel/tdm/202)”
This finding may help explain why some individuals, such as those who commit war crimes or genocide, are capable of empathic relationships with their family and friends but can enter cold, disconnected states when involved in crimes against individuals or humanity. This ability to dis-associate thinking and behavior from the creation of the subjective mental experiences of others within our own minds may help us to understand various aspects of antisocial behavior. The fact that such state-dependent impairment or more pervasive lack of development of mindsight exists is too often revealed in the increasingly violent society in which we live. (siegel/tdm/202)”
“This impairment in reflective functioning in the setting of limited but functioning logical language-based thinking [my mother did not have this] reveals how the separation of the hemispheres can allow for the dis-association of normally associated modes of processing information [because she never had any normally associated modes of processing information] (siegel/tdm/202) ….under certain conditions it may be prudent to develop at least partial impairment of one’s mindsight abilities. Working for the first time with acutely ill patients in a medical setting may call for a medical student to use a nonmentalizing mode of processing – an adaptive inhibition of empathic, interpersonal connecting processing. This allows the student access to the linear, logical sequences of factual knowledge and the ability to focus on the details of patient care, while avoiding the multilayered emotional meaning of a patient’s illness. At the oversimplified level, this could be explained by a shutting down of the right hemisphere’s capacity to reflect on mental experience, while at the same time maintaining the syllogistic reasoning of the left hemisphere’s mode of cognition. (siegel/tdm/203)” [Is this what happens when someone can keep a “cool head about them” in the midst of a trauma? Is this what my father did, especially because he learned to do this as a child ? Siegel is talking here about disconnecting from others’ minds and one’s own reflective function?]
“…These adaptations can be seen as a function of the student’s present hemispheric adaptations, but they may be shaped in part by the patterns from an earlier attachment history. That is, these learned adaptations [ I would add, built into the brain itself in infancy] may result in part from patterns of disconnection that may have been established and made readily accessible by prior experience. For the student, the present disconnection may lead to a loss of readily accessible autobiographical memory and of intense primary emotional states whose appraisals create a sense of meaning in life. Personal relationships may become strained as communication becomes dominated by context-independent details and logical, linguistically based talk, rather than also including emotional messages between two relatives or friends. For this medical student, or for others engaged in emotionally challenging work, [or, like my father, living in the emotionally challenging world with my mother –she overwhelmed everyone – or he let her overwhelm him? Siegel is talking here about disconnecting from others’ minds and one’s own reflective function ] shutting down the right hemisphere temporarily may be a needed adaptation in order to perform a job efficiently. Living in an isolated, left-hemisphere-dominated internal world, however, can be experienced as filled with highly categorized routines or top-down processes that lack a feeling of spontaneity and vitality. If the right hemisphere does not become integrated with the left later on, then such adaptations may prove to be dysfunctional and lead to serious problems outside, or even inside, the workplace. The medical student, and others learning to cope with overwhelming experiences, may be aided by understanding this adaptive dis-association of integrative processes. (siegel.tdm/203)”
“In this example, the adaptive need under stress to diminish (at (siegel/tdm/203) least conscious) access to the representations of others’ minds may lead to the isolated restriction of the mindsight module of the right hemisphere. As with any form of dis-association, anatomically dispersed processes can become functionally isolated if the integrating neural pathways making associations becomes blocked. Such a process may occur either at the level of the interhemispheric transfer of information or in the form of dis-associations within the information processing of one hemisphere – in this case, that of the right. As with other forms of dis-association, blockage of certain modes may also involve the impairment of related functions. In this example, the orbitofrontal cortex is the primary site for integrating a wide range of fundamental processes, including mindsight, stimulus appraisal, somatic representation, autonomic activity, affect regulation, and autonoetic consciousness. The adaptive blockage of mindsight representations may tend to be associated with the unintentional impairment of a number of these anatomically and functionally related orbitofrontally mediated processes. (siegel/tdm/204)” [Does this blockage occur as a result of conscious decision, or is it automatic? Is he talking about rigidity vs. flexibility?]
You can’t dis-associate integrative functions that were never associated in the first place!
It’s not “dis-“ this and “non-“ that! Let’s just say it like it is: Things NOT connected, NOT dissociated that were never together properly. Then we can look for causes, consequences and cures! And it makes the idea of brain “plasticity” even more important! As it does, also, ideas about windows of opportunity. Peritrauma in infancy prevents proper development of the brain and mind and self. Period.
Part of what we do is “borrow” through borrowed attachments aspects of other people’s minds that we have not been able to develop within our own. This must be some alteration of “mindsight.” My mother borrowed my father’s and vice versa. I borrow from Darlene, from my kids, from Cindy, from my sister, from Ernie. Nothing like running next door to borrow a cup of sugar – or your mind!
In some ways I think that I could allow my children to develop because my mind was borrowing theirs all along!