Mindsight

Mindsight

Mindsight is an interesting book because it has a very interdisciplinary approach which opens up many new ways of seeing how human relationships work and how we depend on each other. At the same time, the author sometimes makes claims just because they seem to fit his framework without providing solid studies to back those claims up. Other than that, I think this book can offer value to the reader. I will try to summarize the parts that were most interesting to me personally and skip the parts that I find less useful to the reader.

The triangle of well being

The author describes three essential aspects of our lives, relationships, mind and brain. These three mutually influencing points of the triangle of well-being for a dynamic system. Mindsight is a process to skillfully direct energy or information flow within that triangle.

The monitoring aspect of mindsight involves sensing and sharing information flow through various means of communication. The key is to modify this flow in a way to maximize awareness and intention, shaping the path to create the best outcome, an outcome that results in well-being through our interactions with others.

Self-awareness and empathy

Self-awareness and empathy are along with self-mastery and social skills domains of human ability essential for success in life. They help people flourish in their relationships, work and in leadership. Self-awareness lays the foundation for the rest. (I like how Gary V. always emphazises the importance of self-awareness).

If we lack the capacity to monitor our emotions, for example, we will be poorly suited to manage or learn from them. Tuned out of a range of our experience, we will find it all the harder to attune to that same range in others.

How to manage mental breakdowns

It is true, we do occasionally lose our minds. Resulting in explosive episodes that can damage our relationships and happiness. But with the right mindsight, we can learn to manage our emotions more skillfully and to repair , damage that already happened.

Let’s take as an example a situation in which we lose our patience with someone and say or do something to someone we wouldn’t have done normally. This happens when the limbic area below the cortex which forms the emotional centers explodes out of control. The middle prefrontal-cortex which calms the emotionally reactive lower limbic and brainstem layers cannot regulate all the energy being stirred up and the balance of our brain is interrupted. We can’t think rationally in those situations and just tend to be reactive. These situations happen due to all sorts of factors, lack of sleep, hunger, stress etc.

Without the prefrontal cortex being able to create meaningful maps out of our interactions (maps of how the other person might feel or think) we cannot see the situation clearly.

Attunement

The ability to resonate with the inner world of another person sometimes called “feeling felt” is crucial for good communication. Children need attunement to feel secure and to develop well. When we lose the control of our minds, this attunement is interrupted. When we lose attunement, we can regain it with the power of reflection.

Reflection

Reflection involves openness, observation and objectivity. These three activities give us a stable platform to check the situation in detail, resulting in insight, acuity, keenness and wisdom.

For example, after a situation you could ge the insight that the urge and accompanying sensations were just activities of your mind, not the totallity of who you are. They didn’t represent what the other person means to you. This would be a use of objectivity. If you open up to the other party they will likely understand.

A mindful brain

The author explains how he taught mindfulness to one of his patients, a sixteen-year-old boy named Jonathan. Jonathan struggled with emotional dysregulation. He had worsening explosions of rage and they were beginning to scare him. How could mindfulness help? Mindfulness is the practice of intentionally paying attention to the present moment without being judgemental. Mindfulness helps people by focusing the mind to a moment-to-moment experience. Controlled studies have shown that mindfulness can successfully threat conditions as drug addiction, borderline personality disorder, and chronic dysregulation. A study of obsessive-compulsive disorder done at UCLA showed that mindfulness training was highly effective for adults and teens who had trouble paying attention at work or school. Would mindfulness help Jonathan’s extreme mood disorder? Turns out it did with great success as later, one of his journal entries revealed: “My father told me to stop playing my music so loud and I blew up. He’s so mean and doesn’t know how to get off my back… . But tonight I could see my explosion at him like from a watchtower, sitting watching it fume, and it felt bad and I couldn’t stop it.” The next day Jonathan said he calmed down and still felt betrayed by his mind, only this time he could see it instead of just being lost in it.

The observational distance Jonathan experienced is the first step towards regulating and stabilizing our mind. Mindfulness practice helps us to make use of our prefrontal cortex to not get swept up by the emotional reactivity of the other parts of our brain when we get reactive.

Jonathan became more and more confident of his ability to look inward and to change what was going on. “I am beginning to see how my own way of paying attention to my feelings changes what they do to me. They used to explode and last for hours. Now after a few minutes, I can see how they can crash around and then, as I don’t take them so personally, they just melt away. It’s strange but I’m starting to believe in myself, maybe for the first time.”

This was the gist of this book for me but there is obviously a lot more. If you are interested, get the book by clicking here.

Cheers


Also published on Medium.