The Power of Mindsight: How can we free ourselves from prisons of the past?







The Power of Mindsight: How can we free ourselves from prisons of the past?






When you were young, which of these did you feel more often?




a) No matter what I do, my parents love me;


b) I can’t seem to please my parents, no matter what I do;


c) My parents don’t really notice me.




The answers to such questions don’t just reveal truths about our childhood. They also tend to predict how we act in our closest relationships as adults.




Our childhood shapes our brain in many ways—and so it determines our most basic ways of reacting to others, for better and for worse. When parents consistently practice empathy toward a child—that is, they tune in to the way that child views and feels about her world—they help instill in that child a sense of security and an ability to empathize with others later in life. But when parents act dismissively toward a child, they can make it harder for that child to be in touch with her emotions and connect with other people.




Daniel Siegel has done years of research to support these conclusions. Siegel, a psychiatrist at the University of California, Los Angeles, founded the field of “interpersonal neurobiology,” which explains the brain basis for our habits of bonding with others. His research shows how we can overcome emotional disadvantages that might have arisen from difficult childhoods.




“Let’s say a child’s angry and is starting to throw something,” says Siegel. A dismissive parent focuses on stopping the behavior, instead of acknowledging the emotion that might have caused the child to throw that object. “The emotion behind the behavior is not recognized. It’s not seen.”




If parents consistently fail to acknowledge and discuss the connections between a child’s behavior and her emotions, says Siegel, the child won’t gain any insight into her own thoughts and feelings, nor will she appreciate other people’s emotional states. Siegel calls this ability “mindsight,” and he argues that it serves as the basis of self-awareness and empathy, while also predicting what kind of parent that child will grow up to be. However, Siegel points out that actual childhood experiences are less important than how we make sense of those experiences. In other words, we can learn to


think about our experiences in ways that can help us overcome them. This is good news for parents who had miserable childhoods. In fact, it’s never too late for adults to develop mindsight, because we can always rethink our childhoods, gain a new understanding of them, and thus avoid repeating the mistakes of the past with our own children.




Dan Siegel recently described how he watched a 90-year-old woman in therapy learn ways of talking about her own and others’ emotions, after a lifetime of denying them. The process, he says, started by revisiting her childhood, when “she would come home sad and she would be punished for not being more upbeat,” which created a person who was good at focusing on behavior and bad at perceiving feelings. But when Siegel helped this woman see how her habits of mind were shaped in childhood, she was able to free herself from their grip. “You can make sense of what has happened to you,” says Siegel, “and become freer from these prisons of the past that really constrain so many people.”




Other scientists have conducted research that validates Siegel’s ideas. For example, Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist at New York University and perhaps the world’s leading expert on emotional memory, has found that whenever we bring to mind a strong emotional memory and think about it differently than we had before, it actually gets chemically recorded in the brain in a whole new way. A process of introspection can actually change the way that memory is imprinted on our brains, providing a neural basis to lasting changes in our behaviors and habits of mind. And just as our relationships with our parents shape our neural circuitry, so too can our adult relationships help rewire us for connection and security.




Siegel points out that our relationships as adults can “reparent” us. For example, if someone who was not given a secure base in childhood marries someone who was, research shows that that shaky person will gradually become more






“Research absolutely demonstrates that if you take the time to make sense of what happened to you, then you can free yourself up to develop your own sense of security inside of you, and also have children who have a secure attachment to you,” says Siegel. It’s a hopeful message: No matter what happened to us in childhood, we never stop growing.

Posted on February 5, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. My brother recommended I would possibly like this web site.
    He was once totally right. This submit actually made my day.
    Yoou cann’t consider simply how a lot time I had spent for this information!
    Thank you!

  2. Hello mates, fastidious piece of writing and nice urging commented
    at this place, I am in fact enjoying by these.

  3. Hi there, You have done a great job. I will certainly digg
    it and personally suggest to my friends. I’m sure they’ll be benefited from this site.

  4. I am sure this paragraph has touched all the internet users,
    its really really fastidious post on building up new

  5. This text is worth everyone’s attention. How can
    I find out more?

  6. This is the perfect site for everyone who hopes to understand this topic.
    You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that
    I really will need to…HaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a
    subject that’s been discussed for decades. Excellent
    stuff, just excellent!

  7. Can I just say what a comfort to find somebody that truly
    understands what they’re talking about online. You
    definitely know how to bring a problem to light and
    make it important. A lot more people need to look at this and
    understand this side of the story. It’s surprising you are not more popular given that you certainly have the gift.

  8. These are genuinely wonderful ideas in about blogging.
    You have touched some fastidious things here. Any way keep up wrinting.

  9. Hello, i think that i saw you visited my blog thus i came to “return the
    favor”.I am attempting to find things to improve my website!I suppose its ok to use
    a few of your ideas!

  10. Hello there, You’ve done an excellent job. I will definitely digg it and personally recommend to my friends.
    I’m confident they will be benefited from this website.

  11. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as
    I provide credit and sources back to your weblog?
    My website is in the very same area of interest as yours and my users would genuinely benefit from a lot of the information you present here.
    Please let me know if this okay with you. Regards!

  12. Heya i am for the first time here. I found this
    board and I find It really useful & it helped me out a lot.
    I hope to give something back and help others like you
    aided me.

  13. The Way Green Tea Diet plan Functions to Give You a Fit and Healthy Body.
    Some supplements are comprised of low strengths of the active polyphones, whereas others go as far as using un-standardized
    green tea leaf powder. Black tea is the new green for those in the know,
    ” said Dr Catherine Hood from the Tea Advisory Panel.

  14. What’s up, I read your blog regularly. Your story-telling
    style is witty, keep it up!

  15. Excellent article. I absolutely love this website.

  16. I visited multiple websites however the audio feature for audio songs existing
    at this web page is genuinely wonderful.

  17. Fabulous, what a weblog it is! This webpage presents helpful
    data to us, keep it up.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: