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Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation Paperback – December 28, 2010
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This groundbreaking book, from one of the global innovators in the integration of brain science with psychotherapy, offers an extraordinary guide to the practice of “mindsight,” the potent skill that is the basis for both emotional and social intelligence. From anxiety to depression and feelings of shame and inadequacy, from mood swings to addictions, OCD, and traumatic memories, most of us have a mental “trap” that causes recurring conflict in our lives and relationships. Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, shows us how to use mindsight to escape these traps. Through his synthesis of a broad range of scientific research with applications to everyday life, Dr. Siegel has developed novel approaches that have helped hundreds of patients free themselves from obstacles blocking their happiness. By cultivating mindsight, all of us can effect positive, lasting changes in our brainsâand our lives. A book as inspiring as it is profound, Mindsight can help us master our emotions, heal our relationships, and reach our fullest potential.
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The book synthesizes a lot of new research and inventively applies that very practically to how we can more effectively heal. It is complex, addressing several aspects of our minds from different angles, combining many disciplines, linking differentiated languages into a new language.
If that sounds overwhelming, it was for me! But it is also very personal, with the stories of Dr. Siegel and his patients and others being a main vehicle of expression, and it is very enjoyable to read. There is a heart of compassion and humanity at the center of the book, and the concept of mindsight.
I see myself and relationships utterly differently. I see how utterly dependent we are on each other and our cultures, for our own mental health (integration) and our own physical health, and for being able to express our potential in this world. Our brains can't develop in a vacuum and only develop to reflect the quality of our relationships. But the flip side is that it is possible to re-sculpt the brain in positive directions, in a therapeutic relationship, and in our relationships with ourselves and others.
I also see, from the chapter on a couple's therapy, that a crucial element of healing is to see your own, and (in this chapter) especially others', minds from a place of curiosity, openness, and acceptance, to respect each other's developmental history and how it has shaped each other's minds. I particularly feel this call for respect in how I have thought of my childhood and ancestral heritage, and the diagnostic labels that have helped me to make sense of it. A piece that I can see differently is that infantile rage (provoked by brakes and accelerator at the same time), an ancestral heritage, is something stuck in the brain, and it can be unstuck, but especially that it can be seen for what it is, without letting it cloud and muddy one's compassion toward family. The two can be separated.
I myself am struggling to heal from PTSD and severe environmental sensitivities. I feel more hope with these new mindsight approaches. A common theme (across chapters) is healing the implicit patterns from childhood, unconsciously driving our lives, so that we can become authors of our own story, as we come more into the present and move into our future. That said, I also have financial obstacles to getting access to these treatments. I aspire to reach the "transpirational" part of my journey (p. 256), an expansion of our care and concern, beyond ourselves and our immediate relationships, to identify with the world and its inhabitants at large, and seek their well-being -- a natural, incidental part of developing mindsight and integrating the disconnections in our brains.
In the meantime, I have turned a corner in developing my own mindsight with Dr. Siegel's books (building on graduate school, Jungian therapy, meditation, and ACA). Turning this corner has made so much difference in the day-to-day, moment-to-moment quality of my life. I had devised a new meditation based on Dr. Siegel's (with co-authors) 3 books on parenting, before I read Mindsight. Now I see that my 4 phrases are very related to mindsight, and I want to share them because they have meant so much to me on my journey (I use them frequently, like a lovingkindness practice):
I have a tender, open heart to [my current experience]
I am aware and accepting of [my current experience]
I an relaxed and soft [in my body as I hold my current experience]
I am quiet and calm [as I keep company with my current experience]
Developing mindsight "can give us access to [the] receptive self" (p. 209)..."an inner sanctuary...open to what is, ready to receive whatever arrives at the door, inviting all aspects of [one]self into the shelter of [one's] receptive mind" (p. 208).
Another view-altering insight I had is that while I myself am aware of at least 9 traumatic adulthood events that may have given rise to my PTSD, I would need to track the body sensations and images of my trauma-activated episodes, with an emotionally safe specialist, to find the actual moments in time where the situations overwhelmed me. I don't have any explicit memories of where the implicit trauma sensations are arising from, when I experience my almost-daily episodes. When we discovered the actual moments, then I would have to re-experience the actual moments, with the specialist, and with a dual focus (one foot in the past, one foot in the present), and connect them into a narrative and integrate them into explicit memory. After all these years of my studying PTSD, Dr. Siegel's understanding of the brain finally got that missing piece through to me. The implicit sensations are coming from specific moments of my past that I cannot as yet pinpoint.
I think psychoanalytic theories will have to keep evolving themselves to match the new neuroscience. Thankfully, there are people like Dr. Siegel, with the passion and ability and fortitude to synthesize large amounts of new research information and translate that into paradigm-altering new forms of more understandable and more effective psychotherapy. I know many are devoting their lives to this project, and it's exciting to be a part of it. Dr. Siegel's work is a very big gift to me and us.
I'm dying to have my very own copy on the shelves of my personal library so that I can highlight passages and make notes in the margin to my heart's content. I knew within the first chapter that this was a book I would be quoting and recommending to students and clients. Until my newly ordered book arrives, however, that library book goes NOWHERE!
Those who are familiar with Seigel know already that the book's title refers to his lifelong fascination with the distinction between "mind" and "brain." Reading some of the other reviews will allow those of you who are not already familiar with his work to understand that, while he certainly is an advocate of the use of mindfulness practices, this is NOT intended to be a book ABOUT mindfulness (despite what the publisher's "blurb" might suggest), nor is it a "how to" book. If that is what you are looking for, this is not your book. Likewise, if you have a library full of neuropsych, neurolinguistic, and psycho-social tomes, you will probably be happier with one of his other (more expensive) books.
For the rest of you - this book is already on its way to becoming a classic. It is an easy-to-comprehend, plain-language explantation of how biology, intellect and emotions combine with conscious and unconcious brain processes to create our experience of life and living. His points are illustrated through (and anchored by) case studies and personal experiences.
To quote another reviewer, "if you understand what is going on internally within you, often embedded in your subconscious from previous traumatic events, you can overcome it with MindSIGHT. So instead of reacting like an animal when someone enrages you, you exercise mindsight and utilise your executive control" [ . . . rising] "above the auto-response," [ . . . using] "neuroscience to help you have an insight into your mind when emotions overtake you."
THAT, I'd like to add, reframes your experience of the event -- part of the process of neuroplasticity, changing the very structure of your brain -- which ultimately transforms your experience of living.
While Seigel is certainly not the ONLY author (or scientist) to link brain, body and mind, the way in which he puts it all together and connects it to therapy is uniquely his own contribution, and of significant merit. For my money, this book comes about as close as it is possible to get attempting to condense a life's work into a single book written to be useful to "the general public" -- the many of us who don't have advanced degree's in the neuro-fields or the time to keep up with the latest research on oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells!
For what it's worth, it definitely made the shortlist of required resources for my upcoming brain-based coach training curriculum.
Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, SCAC, MCC - (blogging at ADDandSoMuchMore and on ADDerWorld - dot com!)
"It takes a village to transform a world!"