I recently completed the audiobook version of Mindsight by Dr. Dan Siegel. He provided the reading and, fortunately, possesses a wonderfully soothing and engaging speaking voice. Dr. Siegel is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, neurobiologist, researcher, lecturer, author, and professor at the UCLA School of Medicine. I’ve seen Dr. Siegel present a number of times and, along with the rest of the audience, was really impressed by both the information that he conveyed and how he presented it. On the two separate occasions I saw him give multiple lectures at a very large psychotherapy conference, he stood out among the other many eminent scholars, psychologists, and authors who were also presenting.
Dr. Siegel’s “mindsight” is basically the term he uses to describe “mindfulness” – the way that we can observe our thoughts, feelings, and behavior nonjudgmentally in the present moment. He elegantly explains how different areas of the brain affect the way we think, feel, and behave. By practicing mindfulness, we can actually alter and improve both the functioning and structure of our brains. This enables us to calm the sea of emotions inside and transform our brains and lives in powerful ways.
Of the many insights that Dr. Siegel eloquently explains, he describes neural integration as a key to a healthy, well-functioning brain and mind. Thus, different parts of our brain need to communicate with one another effectively and harmoniously in order for us to achieve this type of integration. Dr. Siegel proposes that mindsight can be used to increase neural integration. Through the practice of mindsight, we can learn to focus our awareness on internal (e.g., the breath, sensations, emotions, thoughts) and external (e.g., sights, sounds, scents) stimuli. Learning to adeptly focus conscious awareness (i.e., mindsight or mindfulness) enhances neural integration. With a more integrated mind, we are able to find a balance between chaos and rigidity in the way we respond to experiences. This will allow us to achieve a greater sense of peace and well-being and to more effectively enter relationships and manage challenges.
Dr. Siegel has founded a field of study that he calls “interpersonal neurobiology,” which examines the way that social relationships affect neurological development. Dr. Siegel, along with many others, recognizes the importance of positive relationships to our overall sense of well-being. Mindsight enables us to more effectively develop, grow, and maintain our interpersonal relationships, which is essential to the healthy development of our brains, minds, our happiness, and the happiness of others as well.
Although Mindsight can sometimes be a bit technical because of the nature of the material, Dr. Siegel does an excellent job of making complex information accessible and useful. At times, his writing could even be described as poetic. He offers plenty of examples from his work with clients and his personal life to engage the reader (or listener). I found this book to be quite helpful in both my practice and my personal life. If this sort of topic interests you at all, I’d say this is a “must-read.”