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This is the "we" of well-being. At best, our resonance circuits enable us to feel the internal world within others, while they in turn weave us into their inner world and carry us with them even when we are not together. Mindsight can help us to see how past adaptations are restricting current relationships and then allows us to open ourselves safely to others. Then we can connect more intimately in relationships while still retaining our own sense of identity and freedom. We can love and be loved without giving up our selves.
Couples lost in confusion and misunderstanding, struggling with rigid patterns of defense or prone to chaotic outbursts of disillusionment, can be taught how to detect their own brainstem-driven states of reactivity and move their nervous systems toward the receptive state necessary for true and lasting connection. Knowing how the past has shaped the present through synaptic changes early in life, couples can then ease the hostility that often surrounds their dysfunctional relationships. People can use mindsight to guide their way back to a life of passion and compassion as they promote integration within and between themselves.
Uncertainty, impermanence, mortality: These are the profound challenges presented to us by the prefrontal cortex, which gives us both our sense of time and our ability, apparently unique among animals, to foresee that death will undo us and those we love. Obsessive-compulsive disorder reveals how our hardwired survival drive seeks control—sometimes to the point of paralyzing and terrorizing us. Temporal integration enables us to live with more ease and to find comforting connections in the face of uncertainty.
Even young people afflicted with anxiety about death and uncertainty—manifested in obsessions or in existential dread—can find a way to integrate these temporal prefrontal issues into their lives and grow stronger because of them.
Mindsight and Freedom
Within each of us is an inherent drive toward health—a push toward integration. But life happens, and we may sometimes find that integration is blocked. This blockage can come from impairments to linkage, as in unresolved trauma. Blockage can also arise from impairments to differentiation, whether as a fallout from childhood neglect or as a result of various learning disabilities and developmental difficulties. Or both differentiation and linkage may be impaired.
Mindsight is the skill that can lead us back to integration. Michelangelo is supposed to have said that his great task as a sculptor was to liberate the figure from the stone. Just so, our task is to find the impediments to the eight domains of integration and liberate the mind's natural drive to heal—to integrate mind, brain, and relationships in the triangle of well-being.
As these eight domains of integration are created and developed, a new dimension of interconnection, which I have come to describe as "transpiration," or "breathing across," seems to emerge. I have seen this happen time and again in patients who have done the work of mindsight. Their identity expands; they become aware that they are part of a much larger whole. In various research explorations of happiness and wisdom, this sense of interconnection seems to be at the heart of living a life of meaning and purpose. This is the promise of mindsight and integration.
Excerpted from Mindsight by Daniel Siegel, M.D. Copyright © 2010 by Mind Your Brain, Inc. Reprinted by arrangement with The Random House Publishing Group. Tell us what you think about this article by e-mail at email@example.com, or at www.psychotherapynetworker.org. Log in and you'll find the comment section on every page of the online Magazine section.