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Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain Paperback – August 4, 2015
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"Brainstorm is a must read book for every parent if they want to avoid emotional turbulence in their own lives as their children go through adolescence. It's lifesaving for the whole family."
—Deepak Chopra, MD
“Brainstorm is eye-opening and inspiring, a great gift to us all—teens, parents of teens, and anyone who wants a full and rich life on this planet. Daniel Siegel shows how the supposed downsides of the teen years all have upsides, and that the lessons for living that await teens are ones any of us, at any age, can learn from.”
—Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
"Siegel emerges as a bighearted writer, fully convinced that we all possess the fundamental virtues to navigate the choppy waters of adolescence, and he is eager for us to set them loose, working with adolescents to cultivate the positive aspects—and he is hugely convincing of the intense engagement and creativity that often accompany this time period in a person’s life. Smart advice...on providing the most supportive and brain-healthy environment during the tumultuous years of adolescence."
“This book is chock-full of cutting-edge knowledge as well as a deep compassion for teenagers, the adults they will become, and the teenagers in all of us.”
“Brainstorm is a necessary look at why adolescents do what they do that can put parents in an emotional frenzy. The information that Dr. Dan Siegel shares is not only invaluable for understanding your growing child's brain, but helps build more compassion and patience. A gift for us all.”
"By the end of this book, the teenager has been transformed from a monstrous force into a thinking, feeling, and entirely approachable human being."
“I strongly recommend Brainstorm to teens and those who care for them.”
—Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia
“‘You just don’t get me’ is a common refrain from teenagers to their parents and teachers. Adolescents who read this book will discover that Daniel Siegel gets them . . . This respectfulness is why the book works so well as a manual for adolescents, as well as for their parents and mentors.”
—Lawrence Cohen, author of The Opposite of Worry
About the Author
Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., is clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, founding codirector of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, and executive director of the Mindsight Institute. He is also coauthor of Parenting from the Inside Out and The Whole-Brain Child, and the proud father of two children in their twenties.
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(1) It's always good to remind oneself of the positive aspects of the developmental phase of the adolescent. Siegel lists these strengths as: intense and spontaneous emotions, intense and powerful peer and social connections, a spark of uniqueness and originality, and a profound search for one's identity and place in the universe. Frustrated parents can easily fall into the trap of seeing only your teenager's faults and negative behaviors. Remembering to see the upside (which is really only discussed in the first chapter of the book) is a good thing.
(2) Somehow Siegel wanders into the topic of healing your brain from trauma. During the course of this digression, he reviews an intriguing theory of psychological trauma (p. 176ff) that painful memories that are 'locked up' in the right hemisphere - the seat of emotion, imagery, and "implicit" (timeless and voiceless) memories - cause intense pain, fear, and flashbacks. When the right and left (verbal, analytic, logical and chronological) brain are integrated, the left side of the brain can give a coherent narrative to the trauma story and place it into a past perspective. Healing from trauma then occurs when what was formerly intense, limitless, and present danger, is transformed into more comprehensible, limited, and coherent past experience. This is a powerful theory of trauma and healing and helps to explain why social connections and social supports aid in the prevention and healing of PTSD. Note: the theory is not presented here for the first time, but Siegel's review of it is interesting.
(1) In contrast to "Brain-Based Parenting", I found the book haphazardly organized and the writing style surprisingly poor. Siegel's sentences were run-on, off topic, and varied irritatingly between medicalese and schmaltzy sentimentality. His topics were all over the map, too: from the title topic, to attachment theory, to general advice for getting enough sleep and eating well, to "Mindsight" exercises for meditation and raising awareness. I was disappointed; I felt the book didn't stick to any consistent theme and was probably a hastily put together collection of blog posts. Search "teenage brain fitness" or "the adolescent brain" on Amazon.com and one will find many appealing titles on the topic that look more propitious than this one.
(2) Siegel's stated intention is to write a book intdended to be read by both parents and their teenagers, perhaps even read aloud from one to another. Despite a number of cute cartoons, I can hardly imagine a teenager in modern America today who could make it successfully through this meandering, poorly written volume. I have one teenager and one pre-teen, and I am involved in volunteering and in contact with many of my daughters' friends (and, well, I also happen to be a psychiatrist and have seen hundreds of teens in crisis through a psychiatric emergency center in Fairfax County, Virginia). The only thing I can say in response to the idea of an American teenager finding this book readable would be "fuggedaboudit." Or maybe "you must be Cray-Cray."
I found the following books infinitely more useful, readable, and enjoyable than Brainstorm: (1) Haim Ginot's "Between Parent and Teenager", (2) Thoms Phelan's "surviving your teenager", (3) Anything by Gershen Kaufman, Ph.D., especially "personal power for teens", (4) "Brain-Based Parenting" (see above), and (5)Ginsburg's "Roots and Wings." I tried hard to find the positives in this book; I read around five books per month so I am not averse to working hard to get something from a read, so I don't give out the dreaded "2 star" rating casually. I had to put this one down for long stretches and really force myself to punch on through, however. There are any number of other books on teenagers and their development I would encourage readers to turn to before, or instead of, this one.
This is not to say I didn’t find anything of value in “Brainstorm.” In Part III, Dr. Siegel describes various forms of “attachment,” which is “in effect the way in which our brains remember the attachment relationship(s) we have had, or still have, and how we adapted to these formative attachment experiences.” The more “secure” our early attachments the more “integrated” our brains develop; the more “avoidant” our early attachments, the more likely it is that our brains have encoded a response to relationships that can lead to lasting problems. Not only was there some science in this section of the book, but it also made me think about what the signs of secure and avoidant attachments revealed about me and my upbringing. It did make some things make more sense.
There were also some interesting sections on how teen moodiness and poor risk assessment is the result of the development of the brain and not “raging hormones.” Ultimately, maturity comes as a result of the various parts of the brain learning to be more “integrated.”
That said, the rest of the book is full of acronyms and mnemonics to help us build health relationships and self-awareness that, while perhaps being useful in the therapist’s office (I’m sure Dr. Siegel has a successful practice), as self-help tools that seemed a little hokey. Most of these are found in “Mindsight” practice sections of the book. There’s the “inner mental sea,” the “metaphoric lens” on a “tripod” with openness, objectivity, and observation as the “three legs,” cultivating relationships by being “PART” (present, attune, resonate, and trust), “SNAG” (stimulate neuronal activation and growth), and the seven activities on “the healthy mind platter.” I didn’t go into this looking looking for yoga-like exercises on how to be a better father, so those chapters were a bit of slog.
So, be forewarned: you might ultimately find that this book has useful advice on how to deal with your teen, but it's not a scientific text.