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Embrace Possibility Mindsight by Daniel Siegel
/Mindsight by Daniel Siegel

Mindsight by Daniel Siegel

(click on book cover for more details)

Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation

  • Published: December 2010
  • ISBN-10: 0553386395
  • EP Rating: 5 out of 5 (must read)

EP Main Takeaway: Our brain is an anticipation machine that continually prepares itself for the future based on what has happened in the past. We can change our experiences and our brain by directing our attention and creating new neural pathways. Perception is always a blend of what we are sensing now (feeling) and what we've learned previously (shortcut). Understanding what impacts our perception allows us to manage our perceptions and respond as opposed to react to what happens to us.

Our notes:

Your experience is not your identity; meaning is both feelings and your story (Mindsight)

  • It's not what happens but how you make sense of it that matters; take time to help others come up with alternative stories for their life
  • When you do not value yourself, the positive appraisal of others can become a painful source of discomfort; sometimes easier to think we are defective than the people we look up to

Brain is malleable - brain changes physically in response to experience; acquire new mental skill with focused awareness; neuroplasticity enhanced by aerobic exercise, novelty and emotional arousal (sleep and diet);

  • Expand your potential by nurturing underdeveloped set of circuits; awareness is the scalpel for resculpting neural pathways
  • Don't let useful adaptations in the past imprison you in the future when the context is different (What got you here won't get you there)

Sometimes, letting things be allows for change; remove judgments and preconceptions

Grief allows you to let go of something but only if you accept what you now have in its place; clinging to familiar expectations leads to disappointment, confusion, and anger

When minds meet, there is resonance; allow others to feel felt

  • When we feel felt, it helps develop our own self-regulation: this is important to have attuned relationships

We take the low road when our prefrontal cortex is too tired or stressed to control our limbic system - remember to get enough sleep and to exercise to relieve stress

An emotional response that creates anxiety or fear initiates a defense that builds a fence around our awareness; defenses include rationalization, skewed perception, projection on others

  • When we are threatened, we focus on self-defense and may distort what we hear to fit what we fear
  • Sometimes attempts at control are simply efforts to avoid reality and uncertainty

Memory is the way an experience at one time influences us at a future time; our brain is an anticipation machine that continually prepares itself for the future based on what has happened in the past

  • Implicit memory is the memory to do something and is made up of perception, emotion, bodily sensation, behavior, mental models and priming; may not realize we are being biased by our past; may seem like reasoned decisions or gut insights but they are not
  • Explicit memory is our autobiographical memory as organized by our hippocampus; it is what we can remember of the past; stress, rage, alcohol, and drugs can impair hippocampus and lead to loss memories; memories are not always accurate

Healthy development is not about creating a single self that is uniform

  • Involves acknowledging, accepting and integrating one's various states; link states and collaborate as unified whole
  • State is a cluster of neural firing patterns; can accept new info to adjust firing

With any activity, we can be receptive or we can be reactive

Basic biological drives: exploration, mastery, play, reproduction, resource allocation, executive control, sexuality and affiliation

Perception is always a blend of what we are sensing now (feeling) and what we've learned previously (shortcut); be aware when you are being reactive to the past as opposed to being receptive in the present

  • Past experiences color how our mirror neurons react to current stimulus
  • Feeling is not a fact; accept as activity of the mind

Mindsight Tripod of Reflection*:

  1. Openness: release preconceptions of what should be and don't try to make things how you want them to be
  2. Observation: perceive ourselves experiencing an event
  3. Objectivity: resist being swept away by thought or feeling; all just mental activity, not reality - awareness of awareness

Cooling off is essential before repair process can be initiated; reflection requires being supportive and kind to self and not judgmental or derogatory **

Neural activity is controlled by blood flow; more blood flows to limbic center, less to the prefrontal cortex; power to direct attention has the power to shape firing patterns and architecture of brain ***

  • Chemicals we ingest and hormones all affect the signals sent on neural routes.
  • "Human mind is a relational and embodied process that regulates the flow of energy and information”

Mirror neurons figure out what people will do based on the actions they see - our awareness of another person’s state of mind depends on how well we know our own (Mindsight)

Integration is the balance between rigidity and chaos. Domains of integration include:

  1. Integration of Consciousness - see things as they are to stabilize mind
  2. Horizontal and Vertical Integration - left and right brain activities and sensing bodily sensations
  3. Memory Integration - mental models we create from experience
  4. Narrative Integration - what is the story that we tell ourselves
  5. State Integration - mastering different states we find ourselves in
  6. Interpersonal Integration - how we deal with others stems from our previous relationships
  7. Temporal Integration - handling uncertainty

Prefrontal functions:

  1. Bodily regulation
  2. Attuned communication
  3. Emotional balance
  4. Response flexibility
  5. Fear modulation
  6. Empathy
  7. Insight
  8. Moral awareness
  9. 9. Intuition

Mindsight Exercises:

1. Mindfulness awareness: breathing

  • Sit with back straight, feet planted
  • Focus attention on center of room, far wall, few inches from face; note how attention can go to different places
  • Sense inside yourself of your body, be aware of sounds around you
  • Let awareness find breath where it is most prominent and follow in breath and out breath
  • When mind wanders, find prominence of breath again and follow it; there is a place deep within us that is observant, objective and open; sea, wheel of awareness
  • Move to a body scan; separate quality of awareness with where you put your attention
  • Try walking meditation: focus on soles of feet and lower body

2. Balancing both sides of the brain

  • Scan body one side at a time then both
  • Watch nonverbals by mimicking emotions and watching videos without sound
  • Describe rather than explain the experience: appeal to senses
  • Name it to tame it (emotions)

3. Connecting mind and body

  • Scan body and systematically tense and release individual muscle groups
  • Widen the window of tolerance; within window, we are receptive, outside we are reactive

4. Changing the Past

  • Memories are malleable and you can revisit memories and reshape them by creating a safe place to view them in your mind
5. Making sense of our lives
  • Adult attachment interview: set of questions to see how you make sense of life (find online)

6. Integrating multiple selves

  • Inter: acceptance and collaboration of heterogenous collection of states
  • Intra: internal coherence within a state; set your identity
  • Change from I to We Mindset knowing that you don't lose the I
  • Self-soothe: hand over heart and arm around abdomen
  • Expand the receptive core to see all activity as activity and conclusions as our interpretation

7. Advocate for each other

  • Build awareness by saying no seven times then yes seven times; reactive vs receptive
  • Become an advocate of the internal world of another person
  • Tune into how people feel and don't just react to them

Robert Chen

Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. He specializes in working with high performers get to the next level. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.

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