Brains, minds and relationships: the good news is that our brains are wired for relationships!
Over the weekend I attended a wonderfully stimulating and informative workshop by the American expert in the field of interpersonal neurobiologyy, Dr Daniel Siegel. I had read a number of his books which I have found extremely relevant to my clinical work as a psychologist in the field of health and positive psychology. I was, however, quite bowled over by his one day presentation of his concept of "Mindsight".
Mindsight refers to our ability to become aware of our awareness and our ability to be present with ourselves and with one another in our relationships. Dr Siegel has developed a mindfulness technique called "The Wheel of Awareness" to help anyone who wishes to deepen and stengthen their ability to relate and connect with themselves and with others. This is a hugely worthwhile practice as it underpins both social and emotional intelligence and hence our success in relating to our nearest and dearest but also with people in a variety of social situations, including the workplace.
Dr Siegel defines the human mnd as "the emergent self-organising embodied and relational process that regulates the energy flow within and between us". This may seem to be pretty complex, and it is of course, however, what is interesting from a relationship point of view is that our brains are wired for relationships with other people, for being able to empathise and resonate with the emotions of others. We are therefore "built" for being in relationship with others and from an early age our attachment with significant others in our lives builds up neural circuits for interpersonal relationships.
How I see the implications of Dr Siegel's cocept of Mindsight for relationships and for couple counselling:
* We each have the potential to relate meaningfully with others as our minds are designed for relationships. However, if we as individuals are not self-aware and in a state of inner harmony, we will probably find it difficult to access the parts of our mind which allow us to empathise with our partner. This begs the question: Can we maintain good relationships if we as individuals are in a bad space and/or we are functioning largely on auto-pilot?
* Sometimes our early experiences as a child with our primary attachment figures are less than optimal and may negatively affect our ability to develop deep and meaningful relationships. If you think that this may be the case and you are finding that your relationships are suffering as a result, the optimistic message is that it is possible to make positive changes to your brain through mindfulness training, meditation and psychotherapy and by doing so, you could in all likelihood improve your ability to relate meaningfully in all areas of your life.
Reference: Mindsight; Transform your brain with the new science of kindness. Daniel Siegel.
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