Link: Mindfulness and Neural Integration: Daniel Siegel, MD at TEDxStudioCityED

Relationships, the mind, the brain and neural integration.

Dan Siegel describes the brain in such a way that most of us can understand it and while doing so explains integration. Integration meaning the process of combining the parts of the brain to work together and form a whole. He clarifies how all the different parts of the brain are integrated so they do not operate separately or in an isolated way but relate to each other.

In the same way all the parts of the brain are integrated in order to function properly – the brain stem, body, limbic area, the cortex – all the other psychological parts of a person also need to be integrated in order to work together or function comfortably.

Furthermore, as Dan Siegel points out, integration occurs as a result of relationships.

The different parts of the brain and the personality relate to each other because one part sends energy to another part and so integration involves pulling together all the separate parts and in this way contributes to what we call the mind which emerges from the substance of the brain and underpins how we relate not only to others but ourselves as well.

Think on the times that we say or feel ‘I’m all over the place’ and become aware that it feels as though our thoughts are not sensibly integrated and therefore we might feel scattered or unintegrated. This would be the opposite of feeling that our psychological parts are united into a whole as a united, living and breathing organism.

There are parts of us that as humans most of us don’t like, or don’t acknowledge, find threatening, and in general judge harshly as being unacceptable. Many of these uncomfortable parts are out of awareness; they are not immediately available to the conscious part of our selves. This is the usual state of affairs for many of us when faced with a difficult situation or an emotional challenge and as soon as it becomes possible to think and face all the different aspects of what one is being challenged with there is a certain acceptance. However it is incredibly difficult for us as individuals to accept all the parts of ourselves when no one else has done so. As babies and children we quickly pick up what our parents, grandparents and other adults close to us don’t approve of. We read their expressions, their silent withdrawal, their discomfort perhaps, and without specific deliberation, banish those parts of ourselves that trigger that reaction and it is those parts that we describe as being ‘out of awareness’. In a relationship with someone else, and sometimes that someone else has to be a professional who isn’t affected by those disowned parts, slowly but surely those hidden parts are drawn back into awareness and are seen as just thoughts, just feelings, and may not be threatening after all. If they are threatening to someone else it doesn’t mean they have to be threatening to you.

To recap: integration is about bringing all of the different parts of the brain – the angry parts, the frustrated parts, the surprised parts, the soft parts, the judging parts, the doubting parts,the congenial parts, the hating parts, the sad parts, the self loathing parts, the joyful parts, the satisfied parts, the parts about which you feel embarrassment or more strongly, shame – and ergo, you, together. Slowly but surely all of these parts can be brought to awareness and accepted, and allowed to find a home in your internal world.

It is incredibly difficult to bring all the psychological parts of ourselves together on your own.

That ultimately is why therapy works: it enables the development and formation of a relationship with someone who is entirely accepting and welcomes and facilitates the integration of all of the parts of an individual. This cannot be done in one session or even ten, but it can be achieved. That sense of integration results in a deep, comfortable, sense of well being.