I added this page to the blog Monday, February 24, 2014. It contains the link to an article on attachment by Sroufe and Siegel on Siegel’s blog:
Saturday, February 22, 2014. I am listening to a YouTube recording of Dr. Daniel Siegel Discussing Mindsight at the Dalai Lama Centerin May 2011.
Here are some notes I have transcribed from this interview recorded on this video with Dr. Siegel:
Defining MINDSIGHT – says of his professors that some of them seemed to be missing some kind of gear in their heads in the way that their mind works that they don’t see see the mind so that they did not have mindsight and that he needed to find professors that did have mindsight. The word mindsight became very important to Siegel. It meant to him “How does a mind see the mind of someone else or even of yourself? In those days back in 1980, 1981, we didn’t have another term for something like that.”
“So the term has gotten a little more elaborate…. Since that time we now have other scientific concepts that are related to it like Theory of Mind, reflective function, mind mindedness, psychological mindedness, mentalization….”
Siegel said he kept that word mindsight in his personal thoughts to decide if he was going to take someone on as a role model or not.
The interviewer asks Siegel why mindsight is important and, “What does that mean – how does the mind see the mind?”
Siegel: “The way we shape cultures is by awakening the mind, and if we are going to survive as a species we need to understand deeply what the mind is…so that we can actually intentionally shape cultural evolution. So one of the research centers I help run at UCLA is called The Center for Culture, Brain and Development and we are studying the ways societal practices shape synaptic connections. So if you can do that intentionally, wisely…you can think about how you would like our species to survive or not. So whether you are working climate change issues or educational programs or mental health issues or whatever the mind is important for all those arenas of human experience.”
“For mental health it’s a really important thing because believe it or not our name is mental health practitioners and yet in my training I never had one lecture on what the mental was in mental health. Isn’t that strange? And yet no one seemed to be bothered by it.”
“It becomes a really important question because if you can define the mind then you can take the next step and say what a healthy mind is and then if you do that then you can actually not have a field of mental health that is actually a field totally defined around mental disorder even to the point in Scientific American Mind last year there was a lead cover story saying “Are you mentally healthy?” And then you look at the article and it basically goes through the criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual symptoms and if you don’t have enough of them it said ‘Oh you don’t have a disorder therefore you are healthy’. Which is mindless. Really.”
Mindsight – have versus have not –
“It’s not like being pregnant. It’s not all or nothing. There are degrees of it. And you can turn it off or turn it on….”
“We have learned…that the actual circuits in the brain that allow you to actually not just have a mind because everybody has a mind but actually see that you have a mind or actually see that someone else has a mind – those can be turned off…. When we are under threat we start treating people who are not similar to us in a much more hostile way and we literally shut off the mindsight map making circuits that allow me to say ‘I wonder what’s going on in that person’s mind. So you put a person in the gas chamber. Or you’re a part of genocide. So it isn’t an all or nothing thing. And the conditions we live in as human beings can create situations where we turn it off like a switch.”
[Personally I would add abuse of infants and children into that switched-off kind of loop. I saw this switching in Mother – and it was psychotic! She cared that we not step on mountain flowers as she insisted we walk only on certain pathways yet she could beat me mercilessly for nothing from my babyhood without a single qualm.]
“The idea is then – this might be a heady thing but the fact is it’s really useful – because if you start teaching mindsight skills in schools you can allow people to have a pathway in their life that isn’t just what evolution made them have a propensity for. So when you say the… phrase awakened mind you’re really talking about a way of allowing the mind to change the natural proclivities of the brain. And this is an incredible discovery really of the last few years, the science of it…the science of it is very clear. You can use the mind to change the brain.
“So if we’ve evolved as a species genetically in a certain way, and then…our cultures supported that, you can use awareness to actually change the route that we’re on as a species. All you have to do is look at the newspapers and realize that’s the kind of awakening we desperately need.
Interviewer mentions “our brains are being damaged” –
SIEGEL’S DEFINITION OF MIND
“I came up with a definition…. What’s communication? Communication is the way we share energy in an information flow between and among us. And then when you think about the fundamental way the nervous systems works its energy and information. It’s the same thing. So once you look at the level of energy realizing that energy – a physicist would say – is the potential to do stuff – sometimes work, sometimes not – but a potential to do stuff – that’s all they can say about it – And information is sometimes seen as a swirl of energy with symbolic value – So you can say, well, there’s a movement across time – you use the word flow – there’s a movement across time of energy and information – fine – and when you look at systems ….
“OK, if you’re staying at the level of systems, systems have what’s called an emergent property which is something that arises from the interactions of the elements of a system – and it’s called self organizing. That is, you don’t have to have a programmer. It’s just the interactions of the elements of the system….
“A core aspect of the mind is that it is a relational and embodied process. So it’s not just in the skull. It’s relational and it’s embodied. That’s the system you’re looking at. It’s energy and information flow patterns that are both relational and embodied and It is – the long way of saying it is: It’s an emergent self organizing process– but you can just drop emergent and self organizing. That just scientifically defines it. Just call it a process…that regulates the flow of energy and information.
“So relationships would be the sharing. The nervous system, let’s just call it the brain, would be the mechanism, the embodied mechanism. And the mind is an emergent process that self organizes energy and information flow in a way that basically regulates that flow.
“…That changes everything. Once you have that definition of regulates…. Anything that regulates monitors and modifies so…you can teach people how …to have a stronger mind. If you can monitor energy and information flow in your body and in your connection with others with more stability … You can teach people to stabilize the mindsight lens and then you can teach them to modify toward health.
Mindsight in medicine: “Studies have shown your immune system will improve if you’re in an empathic connection with somebody and you’ll get over your cold a day sooner.”
“So the question is ‘What is empathy?” What is compassion?” My view is that there is a fundamental process where when two people feel felt by each other the system that’s created is called integrated. You literally honor each other’s differences but then we become linked. So that’s called integration. So what we say in this work I do is that we say we can define the mind – and we actually define a healthy mind – which is a system whether it’s a culture or a classroom or a family or a one-to-one relationship or even a relationship with yourself that we call mindfulness – those are all examples of integrative functioning.
“In my field of attachment research you can basically go and study a parent-child relationship…. Integration always requires the differentiation of two entities and their linkage…. You can look at any relationship, put the lens of integration on it, and can see relationships that thrive …not like ones where people are too differentiated [or too fused] …so it’s really honoring and thriving on differences, nurturing differences, but then promoting compassionate connections with people.
“What I try to do is I try to find universal principles among many different scientific disciplines. So let’s take integration from an attachment point of view. I’m an attachment researcher. I can reinterpret all of the findings of attachment research to the simple statement – communication that is integrative promotes health. Period. And you can just basically predict the outcome from almost any attachment study. And it holds true.
“The reason mindsight promotes integration – and the way you cultivate mindsight is by actually allowing people to experience an inner kind of sense of themselves …. You have this kind of time-in to sense energy flow in your own body and promote integration there and there are ways of doing that – and then there’s time-between you know where you really can see how it is. Can I really put myself in your perspective? Can I really imagine what it’s like to sit there being you and be communicating with me?
“And when you do that literally there are three kinds of what are called mindsight maps that you can help people develop.
“One is a mindsight map of me. So I want to know – Where have I been in the past? Where am I right now? Where am I going in the future? ….mental time travel where you link past, present and future.
“Then there’s a you map…. I can show you where it is in the brain, too. You make these maps of another person’s mental experiences. Called empathy. So it’s different from compassion where you’re kind of feeling with a person.
“But you make a mindsight map of you. Very important. But then there’s a third kind of mindsight map which I think is the key to our future as a species. It’s a mindsight map of we. And it’s the basis of morality.
“And you realize that I am more than me. I am connected to you. But I’m really a part of we. And that way you are really embracing all three kinds of maps that if they are absent from a person’s life then all you say is well, you know, I may as well acquire a lot of stuff, I may as well do this, do that and you act like my professor’s in medical school who said “Sorry you’re diagnosed with cancer. Next patient.” Because you don’t have a map inside your own map-making ability that realizes another person as a subjective experience, which is profoundly important.
PARENTING AND MINDSIGHT
“So let’s look at the science first…. The science tells us that secure attachments which are basically relationships that are integrated the parents have mindsight. They’re able to look at themselves and know where they were in their past and how their past has influenced them, where they are in the present and where they’d like to go in the future. [He mentions his book Parenting from the Inside Out and says it teaches parents how to develop mindsight.] That whole book is about that.
“So starting from one’s own inner life as a parent that’s one of the most important things we can do. So that’s the first thing. When you look of studies of kids you could say ‘So what’s the secret in the sauce?’ …so what actually is a kid experiencing. If you look at the studies of deaf children there’s a really powerful finding. Deaf children who are born to deaf parents turn out to have normal mindsight abilities. Deaf children born to hearing parents have an almost virtual absence of mindsight abilities and they look like they’re autistic. And autism is a lack of cultivation of this mindsight ability. You see you have a mind but you don’t have a sense you have a mind or of other people’s minds. [deaf children who have parents who don’t do sign language]
“…you would use what’s called ‘mentaleese’, language with embedded in the structure of the words the mental experience. You’re sad. You’re frightened. … So when a parent has mindsight they say Whoa! My child just fell. She’s really upset. You must be really upset. That must have been really frightening. So when a child has that day after day after day just as a natural part of the world not as something super special, “I’m going to give you a lecture on mindsight right now young lady” …It’s a part of the weaving together
“You can see families where that’s absent…. I think it’s an innate capacity of every human being for the most part unless there’s some serious neurological impairment, but for the most part certain attachment categories – and this is about 20% or 25% of the nonclinical population – actually has this deficit to various degrees…. But basically if you’re raised — See, here’s the thing to realize. There’s a way of seeing the physical aspect of things and there’s a way of seeing the mental aspect of things …there’s these two things.
“So if you’re raised in a world where there’s just the physical aspect of things you become a professor of medicine and then when you diagnose somebody you say Sorry you have cancer. Bye. Next one…. Because you literally have been reinforced over and over in your family perhaps, in your school, in your graduate school, to just deal with the physical.
[people can “be missing some circuitry”]
“Where is the mind? The mind is in your body and it’s in your relationships. It’s not nowhere. It’s not a mystery…. The mind is in your body and in your relationships….. Our minds are created by our relationships.
“The body is the physical mechanism through which energy and information flows. Relationships are the sharing of energy and information flow…. And the mind is the emergent self organizing process that’s arising from both the body and our relationships including the relationship we have with the planet but let’s just stick with social relationships here – that’s arising from that.
[Time on video here – right around 54 minutes]
“And, you know…what’s so fascinating about this is first of all … you can have people graduate from prestigious universities in cognitive neuroscience and psychology – I’ve seen this happen so much it’s crazy – and I’ll say How many lectures did you have on the mind – and you are a double major in cognitive neuroscience and psychology – none. You just had four years in those two majors and none.
“…The people who study in various fields often don’t talk to each other so the work I do is called concilience …where we look for universal principles across disciplines. So the field I work in is called interpersonal neurobiology and we have we have almost two dozen textbooks now and I’ve edited a bunch of them and we try to do is create a field where all sciences are represented. So that’s interpersonal neurobiology.
“So then what we do is say “How do we apply this in the real world so that people in education or parenting or mental health or whatever can benefit from the science?” We do those two things. Integrate all the sciences and translate for making the world a better place if we can.
“So that’s what we do. In doing that we say, “so if you define the mind as this process that’s embodied it makes many neuroscientists uncomfortable because they say No, the mind is just the activity in the skull part.
“No no no no. It’s in the whole body.” That gets them agitated. Then once you say the mind is relational – for anyone who wants to own their own mind this really pisses them off.
“…The mind is born from relationships. So if you’re a neuroscientist of course, and some of my dearest friends are neuroscientists and I really feel for them, they have to be really limited in what they study or they won’t get grants and they won’t get publications and they have to do that…. That work is so important but someone has to take a step back from that and say the mind is not just the activity of the brain for God’s sake.
“Just see how you live. The mind is a relational process and it’s an embodied process, both.
“If you say that a teacher K-12…his or her job is to develop a strong mind but you don’t have a definition of mind and you’re just teaching reading, writing and arithmetic there’s something not right there. So what if we actually define the mind, a working definition of one aspect of the mind as a process that regulates the flow of energy and information that’s embodied and relational – you need to teach your students to monitor energy and information flow in their bodies – which you can do – and in their relationships – which you can do – and then modify it toward integration.
“These are teachable skills. So for the longest time I’ve been looking for a phrase that we can all use …so far this is the one I’ve been throwing around and so far I’ve been getting a positive response – TIME IN – where you take time in and you then say look, in schools you have to take time in to develop literally the parts of the brain that make these mindsight maps that regulate attention, so you can stabilize attention, that actually balance your emotions, that build compassion and empathy, that allow you to actually know yourself in a deeper kind of way.
“In the United States we have this policy called No Child Left Behind which is really a strange term for let’s test you like crazy and drive the teachers mad. So what I say is in the U.S. – I don’t know if this would go over in Canada – but what I say is we need a policy of no prefrontal cortex left behind…. This is where the mindsight maps are made.
“The Mind Up is an example. The social-emotional programs are examples. And we need to make this where it’s a practice where every student knows they have to take ‘time in’ every day. Where you do this just like you brush your teeth every day, you take time in. And you can show – there are a bunch of studies now that look at this … when you allow people to basically focus on the mind – and we have this practice called The Wheel of Awareness Practice that’s kind of does it all in one sitting – from our website…
“But you can actually have a systematic practice where you strengthen the capacity to at once monitor energy and information flow within yourself and between yourself and others AND move that flow toward integration….
DIFFERENTIATION OF AWARENESS TOWARD INTEGRATION
“…Things that can be differentiated from each other…. What with an awareness can you make distinct from within the phenomena, the experience, the subjective experience of being aware?
“…Just the concept of awareness. If you said Let’s help students promote integration of consciousness. – How they feel. Emotions. Moods. Their energy. So you could differentiate those from what other things?
“Their senses. So they have the five senses coming from the outside world. And intuition which often is thought of as the wisdom of the body. So you have the outside world through the five senses. What’s called in science the 6th sense, intuition. The 7th sense would be feelings, thoughts, memories, images, beliefs, attitudes, hopes, dreams, wishes, all that kind of stuff of mental activities.
“And then there’s even an 8th sense you could differentiate – our sense of connection to each other. The 8th sense. A relational sense which is so underdeveloped in modern culture that we’re killing ourselves as a species.
“Many people have [these abilities] but what’s fascinating as a concept and a process is – let’s take integration of awareness as an example. You can take students, and we do this in a couple of schools I work in, where you do this thing called Wheel of Awareness where you have a central hub, an outer rim and around the rim you have all the things we just mentioned: The five senses that bring in the outside world, the sense of the interior of the body, the sense of your mental activities, and even a relational sense.
“But the other thing you can differentiate besides those from each other – and this is really really really powerful – is the hub is the experience of awareness and the rim represents that which you are aware of.
“When you teach kids or teenagers or adults the experience of knowing – that is awareness – from the known – which is what you are aware of – HUGE changes happen.
“People who are prone to anxiety… Let’s take anxiety for an example. When you can train a person to integrate consciousness – and it doesn’t take long – what you do is you allow them to develop this hub of their mind and they’re able to experience what before was an anxiety – let’s say a worry – that before they were “stuck on the rim” – they were lost in their worry – when they strengthen the hub they pull back from the rim – they see that this anxiety that is just a point on the rim is just a point that’s just going to come and go.
“Instead of being imprisoned by the rim they’re liberated in the hub.
OPEN PLANE OF POSSIBILITY
“Now we’re not talking deep science here but … you can show how awareness is in fact like an energy pattern. Energy moves by means of degrees of probability. And this is a whole field of science…. The bottom line is once you say the mind is a process that regulates energy flow and some energy patterns are information, then you have to look at the science of energy.
“The simplest thing you can say is that energy can move from 100% certainty … can drop down to 0% [where anything can happen} and that’s infinite possibility. So here’s the deal. Thoughts have a quality of absolute certainty…. So like if I am stuck on the rim [like in a worry] I’m stuck in the certainty of that.
“When you give people the power to do what the mind really does – which is to shift degrees of probability of energy flow – and bring them down to this open space which we call awareness you actually strengthen the capacity of the mind so that not only can you see things clearly but literally to integrate experience so that these various – what I call peaks and plateaus… I can drop down to this open plane where anything is possible.
“I know it sounds a little whacko but here’s the amazing thing once you do that. You can try the Wheel of Awareness for yourself and when you do this, in a very rapid fashion, kids, teenagers and adults experience this empowerment of their own mind so that, say they are in a relationship with someone, and something is really upsetting, the upsetting experience they have – they can hold that within the space of awareness and stay present with it. So instead of getting flooded by it they actually stay fully there .
“This is the way you stay fully present for another person, and even fully present for yourself…. And you can learn it. It’s amazing but it’s very, very learnable.