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Book Review: Mindsight

Mindsight: Transform Your Brain with the New Science of Kindness by Daniel Siegel is about the “kind of focused attention that allows us to see the internal workings of our own minds” (p.xi). The book is based on “three fundamental principles” (p.xiv): (1) mindsight is a “learnable skill” (p.xiv), (2) developing mindsight changes “the physical structure of the brain” (p.xiv), and (3) mindsight helps “the brain achieve and maintain integration, a process by which separate elements are linked together into a working whole” (p.xv).

Daniel Siegel has come to believe that “integration is the key mechanism beneath both the absence of illness and the presence of well-being” (p.64). He goes even further and says that “perhaps—looking even deeper—integration might be the principle underlying health at all levels of our experience, from the microcosm of our inner world to our interpersonal relationships and life in our communities” (p.68). I think he is right! “This notion of the central role of integration” makes it possible to promote well-being in “powerful new ways” (p.69).

Siegel describes how integration can be applied to real life challenges to “help regulate mood and emotion, calm internal storms, and cultivate a more flexible and stable mind” (p.72). He covers several domains of integration in the book: Consciousness, horizontal, vertical, memory, narrative, state, interpersonal, temporal, and transpirational. There is within each of us “an inherent drive towards health – a push towards integration” (p.75). But integration is sometimes blocked. This blockage can come from impairments to “linkage” and/or “differentiation” (p.76).

The essence of mindsight is that as “we grow in our ability to know ourselves, we become receptive to knowing each other” (p.231). And as we become more integrated our “sense of identity” expands (p.256). Daniel Siegel calls this phenomenon “transpiration”, which means spire (breath) trans (across) all the domains of integration (p.256). In a way, this is integration of integration.

Mindsight is an amazing book! I particularly liked the real life cases. It was very helpful to see how Daniel Siegel’s patients used mindsight to remove their personal blockages to integration. And it was very interesting to see how Siegel used mindsight as a therapist meeting his patients. As he says, “it is never too late to heal the mind and to bring to ourselves and to those around us the compassion and kindness that arise from that healing and integration” (p.188).

By Jan Höglund

I share my reading, book reviews, and learning in my blog.

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