Understood

Ep.6 | Dr. Dan Siegel: lessons from the world's best modern-day psychiatrist

August 10, 2020 Mitch Wallis
Understood
Ep.6 | Dr. Dan Siegel: lessons from the world's best modern-day psychiatrist
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Understood
Ep.6 | Dr. Dan Siegel: lessons from the world's best modern-day psychiatrist
Aug 10, 2020
Mitch Wallis

In this episode we cover:
- Parenting pitfalls and how to avoid passing on your insecurities to your children
- The science of presence and how it can be used to overcome trauma
- How being "real" is not just an ethical choice, but a psychological benefit

Dr Dan Siegel
https://www.drdansiegel.com/ 
Daniel J. Siegel received his medical degree from Harvard University and completed his postgraduate medical education at UCLA with training in pediatrics and child, adolescent and adult psychiatry.  He served as a National Institute of Mental Health Research Fellow at UCLA, studying family interactions with an emphasis on how attachment experiences influence emotions, behavior, autobiographical memory and narrative. Dr. Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. An award-winning educator, he is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and recipient of several honorary fellowships. Dr. Siegel is also the Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute, an educational organization, which offers online learning and in-person seminars that focus on how the development of mindsight in individuals, families and communities can be enhanced by examining the interface of human relationships and basic biological processes. His psychotherapy practice includes children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families. He serves as the Medical Director of the LifeSpan Learning Institute and on the Advisory Board of the Blue School in New York City, which has built its curriculum around Dr. Siegel’s Mindsight approach.

- Note: This episode was recorded in 2018 -

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Show Notes Transcript

In this episode we cover:
- Parenting pitfalls and how to avoid passing on your insecurities to your children
- The science of presence and how it can be used to overcome trauma
- How being "real" is not just an ethical choice, but a psychological benefit

Dr Dan Siegel
https://www.drdansiegel.com/ 
Daniel J. Siegel received his medical degree from Harvard University and completed his postgraduate medical education at UCLA with training in pediatrics and child, adolescent and adult psychiatry.  He served as a National Institute of Mental Health Research Fellow at UCLA, studying family interactions with an emphasis on how attachment experiences influence emotions, behavior, autobiographical memory and narrative. Dr. Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. An award-winning educator, he is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and recipient of several honorary fellowships. Dr. Siegel is also the Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute, an educational organization, which offers online learning and in-person seminars that focus on how the development of mindsight in individuals, families and communities can be enhanced by examining the interface of human relationships and basic biological processes. His psychotherapy practice includes children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families. He serves as the Medical Director of the LifeSpan Learning Institute and on the Advisory Board of the Blue School in New York City, which has built its curriculum around Dr. Siegel’s Mindsight approach.

- Note: This episode was recorded in 2018 -

- SUBSCRIBE, RATE & REVIEW THE SHOW  -
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/02aqR5aly0A7ZSiktQrA2X
Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/understood/id1522620849/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb35WjXg5PZG6ZfbNm1AaRA/

- Hotline phone number is -
+61419689311

- Website -
www.mitchwallis.com

- Find me on social media -
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mitch.wallis/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mitchwallism...
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mitchwallis/
TikTok: @mitch.wallis

- INTRO SONG CREDITS - 
What Happens Now - Fransancisco

Mitch Wallis:

In this episode I speak to Dr. Dan Siegel. I would say Dan's work and teachings is the single biggest influence to the way that I and heart on my sleeve approach mental health. that's a that's a big call. But it's true. No one has put words and research to things that I, I inherently knew to be true in my own experience, but I didn't know how to substantiate it. And he's unique ability to make very complicated scientific concepts, not only accessible to everyday people, but brings such a human approach to the work that he does, is second to none. Dan is one of the most well known and influential psychiatrists in the world. He isn't your traditional doctor by any means. And Dan's received his medical degree from Harvard University in the states and completed his post grad, medical education at UCLA in California, where he's currently a clinical professor of psychiatry, and founding co director of mindful awareness Research Centre. He's an award winning educator. He's a Distinguished Fellow at the American Psychiatric Association. Well, and he's the recipient of several honorary fellowships. And Dan is also the executive director of the mindsight Institute, which is something that he's founded. It's an education facility for therapists basically, training professionals on how to approach treatment. And his life's work has really been around championing how our ability to form healthy relationships significantly influences our emotional and behavioural state and your whole life narrative. And he's pioneered a field called interpersonal neurobiology, which again, refers back to how connections with other people affect the brain. I always use frameworks from his teachings across the real conversations curriculum, that heart on my sleeve offers as part of our E learning courses. In my opinion, this model of interpersonal neurobiology, or at least understanding how the therapeutic relationship and relationships in general play a part in our mental health is so key, I believe it should be in every treatment as a foundation. He pretty much damn pretty much came up with the first singularly exclusive, mutually agreed definition of the mind. You know, start small feet across kind of all different industries. He's published a tonne of books, I'd encourage you to read as many as you can. If you're a parent, you got to read his books. It's the closest thing you'll get to a manual for raising a happy and healthy child as a book called parenting from the inside out, which is a really, really, really highly recommended book. He's lectured for the king of Thailand, pope john paul, the second, the Dalai Lama, and London's Royal Society of arts. He lives in Southern California with his family. So in this chart, you'll hear kind of what it means to have a different perspective on mental illness and maybe it's not so ill after all, and how much power we have to transform our own mind using our own mind. You'll hear how refreshing it is to hear such an esteemed doctor talk so humbly and hopefully about our ability to live happy and healthy, integrated life. Welcome Dr. Dan Siegel to the podcast.

Dr Dan Siegel:

Oh, it's a pleasure to be here with you. We're gonna get stuck into a bunch of things. But you you've written so many books on the brain relationships and stories, particularly the new one that you just launched called aware the science and practice of presence. And I want to sort of unpack that over The next little bit to see what parts people might not understand is truly in their capacity to change their brain. I think that's one of the biggest takeouts, that, that you have, and that you do so well is break down incredibly complicated things into concepts that people can grasp and then apply in their everyday life. Yeah, well, it's a, it's a pleasure to be here with you, Mitch and I, I got to say, meeting you back at our international annual meeting at UCLA was really fun. And it was great to, to connect with you and also have you connect with all the really the young people, the new generation who really need to be supported, and in thinking deeply about how we move our common humanity, how we move human culture, in a direction that is going to be constructive rather than destructive. And so, you know, part of the journey to understand relationships and the brain and to clarify that the mind is more than just what happens in your brain, that it's involving what happens in your whole body, and even in your relationships with other people and even the planet. But nature helps us really see that we can actually awaken the mind. That's what that book aware is all about, to develop this capacity to really see clearly what we need to do as we go forward in the future. So I'm really honoured to be here having this conversation with you.

Mitch Wallis:

Thank you. And I agree that this young generation is so interested in this because I think we've grown up in an age where mental health has always been an epidemic. And that is the norm. And that is such an unfortunate reality. And so many people are struggling with it, or they know firsthand someone who is that it is in not only the interest, but almost a duty to find out how they can best serve themselves and the people around them. And I want to talk about I want to start with a story about that articulates the importance of, of what you are doing, and, and how stories play a big part in that. So two years ago, I had the biggest breakdown of my entire life. My story is very public. And it's the reason what's what I do for a living now is I share some of my deepest, darkest moments so that other people don't feel alone. And I'd always been able to Band Aid my way through life. I'd had a successful outside life, but my internal world was a bit of a mess, suffering from OCD, and depersonalization for a very long time. Two years ago, I was in Seattle, I just started my masters of psychology at Columbia University in New York. And in the first day, I sort of had this overwhelming realisation that I love Microsoft, and I love this tech world. But what I'm put on this earth to do is to understand myself so that I can connect with other people and maybe shed some type of insight or help with their own mind. I returned to Seattle off to starting my last semester. And for whatever reason, my sort of coming to Jesus moment happened, my red button, the the earthquake started to explode. I think I answered the coal and was ready to see what light on the other side of that and all my defences and coping mechanisms that were working before were completely going away. And I found myself really contemplating if I had the ability to continue on whether life was not just worth living, but if I had the ability to do so. Now, the reason that I still exist, and the reason that hard on my sleeve exists is because in my darkest hour, I went on to the Internet, and I came across this guy's video on YouTube. And it was a complete miracle, I don't think I'd be able to do it again, because he's not someone famous or whatever. But he sat there and he told his story. For the first time in my life, I felt truly understood, because he got to such a level of vulnerability that was so rare and unique and sort of not common in the modern world, particularly with social media that I finally felt seen. What he also did was talk a lot about the importance of making sense of your life, and the importance of having a secure attachment, and a coherent narrative. And it was the first time I'd ever heard concepts like this, and it created a dramatic shift in my internal landscape and professional landscape to soon after that, I I was in therapy and sort of bouncing around to therapists that I never really felt clicked with me, and in turn, I felt like I was the problem. I finally landed in this therapist's office, her name was Kelly. And she is again a huge milestone to my story and how I got to this point, and she handed me a book and it was the neurobiology of way by Dan Siegel. Actually the audio book. And there, I opened up to a world of understanding trauma and suffering in a completely new way. Now, at this point, you were, again, just a smooth, sweet voice in my eardrums. Never did I thought think that I would ever get to meet someone like you who was such a huge influence in my life and an idol in a lot of ways. And hard on my sleeve launched and sort of, you know, fast forward, I saw the neurobiology conference, and I thought, I have to go over, I have to go over and try and see this guy in the flesh, because he's had such a big impact in my life. So I literally bought a ticket from Sydney to LA, paid the money for the conference attended. And I think it was at the end of day one, I saw you walking offstage. And I'm like, here's my chance. I'm going to shock him. So I ran up to you. And I said, Dan, I flown across the other side of the world see you, you're such an amazing influence. I just wanted to say hello. And you are such a great guy in real life that you could have been like, Who is this stalker? Get away from me. But you generously greeted me. And I told you a bit about what I do. And you immediately said, Come with me. I got people for you to meet. And I'm like, Oh, my God, what's happening? The next thing I know, you've got me in front of 10 interns who turned out to be amazing people. Say Mitch, tell them everything that you just told me about what you do. And then I'm backstage with all the speakers meeting people like Louis casalino. And I couldn't believe it. And so that, I guess, is just a bit of a personal story to how much you've already done for me, and how much the the ability and for me to connect with people like you and the teachings that you teach have impacted my life?

Dr Dan Siegel:

Well, Mitch, that's, that's so beautiful. Yeah, I mean, that's exactly what happened. And I, I think you're very, you're very eloquent in talking about what being real does, you know, that person you listen to on the internet, who is real, and you could really connect with that. And I think when there's this, this opportunity, it's a very emotional thing. But when there's this opportunity to really go beneath, all the, you know, socially constructed ways, we we are encouraged to try to appear on the outside, which just makes it worse, how we feel disconnected, because we're not really ourselves. And even if people see that, image of itself, doesn't really get deeply rewarding. So it's kind of like a lose lose situation. But instead, if you try to get in touch with what's really going on, and then try to be present, for who you are, and then communicate that to other people, then these things happen, that are really quite magnificent, and magical. And connecting, you know, and I think, I think that was the feeling I had, you know, when you introduced yourself to me, I could feel just your authentic presence and, and, you know, the genuine journey and expressing it that you did and, and it's also a lesson, you know, I think about what we do, socially in this, you know, common way we put up a face, that we try to present to the world to try to be accepted, that isn't actually who we are. And then we get kind of trapped in that Mirage that we're creating. And this is just intensified, of course, with social media. And, you know, there isn't the science to say this, but the feeling you get when you run around the world talking to people is, you know, ironically, while the internet seems to connect us in really wonderful, wonderful ways, it truly is able to connect so many people together, there is a another side to it, which is it makes people feel actually disconnected and lonely and isolated. And there's a kind of portrayal of an imagery that is so amplified from regular life. So that I'm going to curate, you know, only images and stories and, you know, videos that make me look like everything's Happy, happy, happy. And so to try to make it real, which means of course, being open to being hurt and to acknowledging needs that aren't met, and we generally use the term vulnerable for all that stuff. But when you're real and you're open to being hurt, you know, it's a risky thing and the Good news about the risk is the potential positive outcomes are huge. And you're not trapped in that prison of the impressions that you're inadvertently trying to try to make on other people. So being real, is really hard and really important.

Mitch Wallis:

I literally couldn't have asked you to summarise things in a better word. And then real real is we talk about our, you know, we have some programmes about to launch from heart on my sleeve. And the the concept of the framework is called real conversations. And it's ultimately how we can be our authentic self and connect with other people so that we can release some of the toxicity and stories we've been holding, by relating to other people and accepting who we are. And it's such an amazing thing that that that conversation is kind of the currency that we use to exchange emotion within a relationship. And that sort of is a great place for us to sort of jump in into the into the meat of things, because numerous studies like the ACE study have shown us that can the relationship is a container and not a romantic one, by the way, in this context, we're talking about our relationships, parents, friends, just for the listeners, it's the container where the greatest damage and greatest repair to our mental health can be done, it shapes a lot of our sense of our identity and our ability to regulate emotion. And you talk a lot about attachment research has shown that our parents narrative is sort of the single greatest predictor of our ability to thrive and find stability in our adult life. You've also talked about how this this integration being our ultimate goal, and you were the first person really to change my mindset that happiness isn't necessarily the outcome we're driving for. It's its integration, what is integration in your mind?

Dr Dan Siegel:

it's the linkage of differentiated parts. So whether the system is you know, a cloud in the sky, or relationships in a classroom, or a one on one relationship with a close friend, or between a parent and a child, or even if you look at systems in the body, like let's say, the nervous system, or look at just one part of the nervous system in your head, there are lots of different, you know, dimensions of a system. So if you even look at just, let's say, your head, you know, there are different parts that can be distinguished and can grow and develop their own unique structure and function. So that's called differentiation making different. And then when you link them together, the crucial thing about these connections, these linkages is that they do not destroy the differences. So in this way, integration is more like you know, what you think of as a fruit salad where the individual pieces of fruit are still visible. But eating them together tastes quite different than eating each of the fruit, one by one, right. So now, that's also different from, let's say, a smoothie, where you just put something in a blender, and you grind it all up, and you lose the differentiated elements, it's all smooth into a homogenous liquid. So integration is not blending, it's retaining the different parts. And it's linking them together, so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And when you look at that process of linking differentiated parts, let's just call it integration. You see that complex systems, that's a it's a mathematical idea. But systems that are open and what's called chaos capable, they can be chaotic or nonlinear meaning small inputs lead to large and difficult to predict results. That is a complex system and has those three features open, chaos capable, nonlinear. So human beings are, I think, nonlinear, chaos capable open systems. And so we're complex systems. And one of the features of a complex system is that it has something called emergent properties, and of these emergent properties, which, by the way, an emergent phenomena are properties, where the elements, you know, interact with each other and give rise to something that emerges from it. One of those emergent properties is self organisation. That's just a fact of our universe. So the proposal is that the mind may be some emergent property of energy flow. Sometimes that energy is symbolic of something else, like if I say, ocean that symbolises a big body of water, not just the sound ocean, but it's a symbol for it. So it's information like energy information, and this information and energy then flow, they change. And so I think the mind is an emergent property of energy and information flow. Whether it's subjective experience, or consciousness or information processing. Those are, I think, emergent properties. That's a proposal. But the fourth facet of mind beyond these other three visit beyond the feeling of being alive, subjective experience, consciousness, the way we can know something, and information pressing, which doesn't need consciousness, there's a fourth facet of mind. And when you define it, as this self organising, emergent, embodied, and relational process, so it's not just in your head, it's in your whole body. And it's not just in case by your skin, or your scope. It's also relational. It's how you connect with other people, and even the planet, these relationships, and this flow of energy information flow between what goes on inside the body, and what happens in our relationships. That's a part of the mind. And the way we regulate this internal and relational flow is with what's called the mind. And if you see the mind this way, then what you say is that a healthy mind is a mind that's cultivating integration, within in between, and a mind that's challenged with health is not cultivating integration that is, is not differentiating, and linking. And therefore what it creates is chaos and rigidity, which basically explains the whole wide spectrum of human suffering.

Mitch Wallis:

So if OCD, and depersonalization is something that had been something that I personally struggled with, I also think that they're the same things that have gotten me to where I am, in my career, ironically, being that obsessional, being able to like numb out feelings of stress, blah, blah, blah, is the is the goal that I don't deny those parts of myself, but just keep them within a healthy spectrum. So that I can still be, you know, rigid and chaotic, but they need to be linked in harmonious in that I accept the whole sum of my parts, the good, bad and the ugly.

Dr Dan Siegel:

Yeah, I think that's a beautiful way of saying it. And it's a great way to start the journey of leading an integrative life. So let's take them one by one, you know, with the OCD, the, you know, people often call it obsessive compulsive disorder. But in my experience, and I write about this in a book called mind sight, you know, obsessive compulsive disorder can actually be thought of as an excessively differentiated, ancient, protective checker circuit, that is constantly checking for danger, and instituting a kind of Sam process, Sam has scans for danger, that's s alerts you that there's danger, a and it motivates you to do things. And this checker circuit when there's overactive checker deployment, which is one of my patients called it OCD, overactive checker deployment, you get to see this condition, not so much as a disorder, as an excessively differentiated protective circuit needs to be woven more into an integrative way of being in the world. So a lot of people fight this checker circuit until the Shut up, and it's no good and stop. Well, if you have a 300 million year old survivors based circuit telling, you know, and you're whether you're 20, or 40, or 60, whatever you are, you're a lot younger than 300 million years, you know, guess who's gonna win. So but people get in a fight with it, if you learn to do a process of differentiating this circuit, getting to conversation with the circuit, embracing that underneath the circuit is an effort to protect you, then the beautiful thing is, what people learn to do is integrate the circuit into their overall life. And in a sense, make it less excessively differentiated. So it's more in a balanced way woven into the whole fabric of who you are. So that's the OCD piece. And the dissociation piece is a whole nother story, but let me see if you have any thoughts about that way of interpreting overactive checker deployment? No, I

Mitch Wallis:

love that it is probably the most empathetic way I've ever heard of being explained. As in the non judgmental, I wish someone a psychologist told me that 20 years ago, all I heard when a psychologist told me about our CD was you're broken, you're sick, something's wrong with you. What I heard when you said it was you're not sick. There's a whole bunch of reasons why you are the way you are. It's about understanding context. And so that we let the parts of ourselves don't hurt us. We keep them there, but we understand them so that we can work with them.

Dr Dan Siegel:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And, you know, everyone does the best they can. And so far, you know, it looks like when things don't go so easily. I mean, there's usually impaired integration at the heart of it. So this is basically an integrative approach, in this case, to OCD, overactive checker deployment, and it does change the whole frame, when you say, look, this is what's going on. And you know, whether it's, you know, from exposure to a bacterial infection, like streptococcus, which can get the part of the brain that's the checker, overactive, or other issues that can be in your life, you know, the, the intervention can include, you know, kind of practices that develop more awareness, you know, so we can talk about the role of that. But in general, I think taking this positive stance towards it, a bigger challenge to integration allows you to learn integrative techniques, mind training, techniques that integrate your life can help with many of these causes of suffering.

Mitch Wallis:

That's exactly where I want to go, which is, which is awareness and mindfulness and how this plays out in the real world. Because our greatest weapon is really where we focus our attention. It has our ability, the ability to transform our perspective, allowing us really, I guess, to have a different conversation with ourselves and other people. And it allows us to move from from an automatic story, and I love your example around like, when you stub your toe, it's the difference between going You idiot, why did you just stub your toe to when you're mindful, you can see that conversation with more distance and go, Oh, I just stubbed my toe. That hurts without the nest without that second layer that wraps around that, which is the judgement and the and the toxicity. And I think a lot. Yeah, and I love your just simple definition of that. And because a lot of people in the modern age think there's so much Whoo, surrounding mindfulness, you know, it's hippie, there's, it's just kind of cool, but it's very cool. It is an incredibly good psychological tool based in neuroscience, where a lot of the stories that we tell ourselves out of our control is the and it gets stored in the right hemisphere, you know, amygdala, or via orbital, medial part of our brain, etc. And the primitive structures as children. So largely, the way that our parents have treated us is determining things that we don't even know of, or consent to, and it influences us every day. But a lot of what your new book talks about, and your previous writings to talks about where attention goes, neural firing flows, and neural connection grows. And to put that in the Australian vernacular, we like to call that snag like you'd like to call it. And I don't know if you know this damn, but in Australia, a snag is a sausage.

Dr Dan Siegel:

Yeah, well, we have the acronym snagged, stimulate neuronal activation and growth, you know

Mitch Wallis:

exactly, exactly. Which is what what I was getti g to. So can you talk us a litt e bit about the snag concept an this neural firing where att ntion

Dr Dan Siegel:

Yeah, I mean, it's really the fascinating moment read in science and its application, and just general life and parenting and education and politics and government and thinking about culture, everything is, if you see the mind as an emergent property of energy, which I think there's a lot of reasons to think that's just that's the way it is, even though no one really defines the mind. But if we define the mind that way, the great news is, then you can say, well, attention is that process, which directs energy flow. So in this phrase, where attention goes, neural firing flows, so literally, your mind can get your brain to become active to fire in new ways. Now, where attention goes, neural firing flows, and then neural connection grows. This is the field of neuro plasticity, that is, when you get neurons to fire together, they wire together. And when they do that, you're actually changing the structure of the brain. So as you do this in an integrative way, you can actually learn to, you know, make systems more differentiated and linked. So that might mean, you know, cultivating some areas that are not differentiated and growing them up, or creating linkages among areas. There's all sorts of ways and what I discuss in the book, where the science and practice of presence is what research shows are the ways you can create literally a more integrated brain, which means you create more well being in your life and if you're stuck in chaos, rigidity, you can learn how to do this with these mind training practices. And that book in particular, you know, looks at the idea of presence. So when you say, well, what's presence, what is actually with attention? What presence is, is a state of receptive awareness. It's a way of if you think about a wheel, and I talk about this practice, called the wheel of awareness in the book, but if you think about a wheel with the centre of the wheel being the hub, the outer part of the wheel being the rim, and a singular spoke, that is a metaphor for attention. The spoke is the rim are all the things we can be aware of, from sounds and sights to thoughts and memories to our feelings inside of our body. And you can say then, well, what's the hub? Well, this is the idea that really changes everything, the hub is awareness itself. So Mitch, if I say, Hello, Mitch, did you know that I said, Hello, Mitch?

Mitch Wallis:

Yes, I hope so.

Dr Dan Siegel:

Yeah, so So there's two things going on there. There's the knowing let's put that in the hub. And then there's the sounds. Hello, Mitch. And so as you begin to think about integrating consciousness, what you do is you differentiate the knowing of the hub that's being aware, from the nose of the rim, those are sights and sounds and thoughts and feelings and things like that. Now, the way you direct those energy patterns from the rim into the hub is with this metaphoric spoke of attention, which is the process that the mind can direct. And when you learn to do this in a systematic way, this wheel of awareness practice, you cover these fundamental pillars of mind treatment, which include focusing attention, so you strengthen the attention, ability, opening awareness, so you're open and receptive, distinguishing the hub from the rim even more, and then developing kind intention, which includes caring and kindness and compassion, towards one's inner experience, and towards our inter experiments, what is usually called other or self and other. But here, we realise that we're all really deeply interconnected. And so this is where we come back to where we started our conversation. When you develop presence, you shift the nature of your relatedness. Because from presence, integration naturally arises, so you can be differentiated from others, but then linked to them in authentic, respectful, caring ways. And what's been so exciting in doing the wheel practice for literally 10s of 1000s of people. And I think I think we did it at the conference you were at? Didn't we do it there? Yeah. And you can see people's response, even in a large room, you know, there's this opening up when people begin to differentiate the knowing from the knowns and learn to integrate consciousness in some really fascinating ways where when you drop into that hub of the wheel, when you drop into presence, really, you're opening yourself up to being real, to being authentic, to having the strength to be vulnerable. And then allowing whatever comes up in the room, oh, my God, I shouldn't have said that. Or I did say it or when you allow you, yourself to develop this source of inner strength, the hub. And in the aware book I talk about, okay, well, that's the practice is how you do it fine, you learn how to do it. But then I go deeply into what's the science of presence, so that we can understand why it's so important for being vulnerable for dealing with dissociation is a case in the book, as you know, you know, a young person who had dissociation after some really big challenges in her life. And it shows how the wheel of awareness can be used for all these different things, to really help integrate consciousness and strengthen the mind.

Mitch Wallis:

There's so much there that I want to just grab on to and unpacks, like infinitely. And one of the main points I want to pick on here is plasticity. Because ultimately, what we're talking about is attention allows our brain to be changed. And that change comes from a foundation that the brain is malleable, it is changeable. And the context that allows the brain to be more plastic is often through the through a healthy, safe relationship, because that stimulates the metabolic processes for plasticity to increase. And so awareness, the right awareness and the right presence and the ability to sit with uncomfortable emotions, which a lot of people aren't taught. A lot of people are taught to change what they feel, you know, it's a very Western way of thinking as opposed to building resilience and tolerance for uncomfortable things. It is our ability to do that in the context of a safe relationship which may have the greatest potential to Allow us to feel good. Would you agree with that?

Dr Dan Siegel:

Yeah, I mean, and I would just urge people to think that, you know, Mitch, when you're saying relationship, it is with other people. And it's mirrored in the kind of relationship we have with ourselves as well.

Mitch Wallis:

Right? That's a big one. That's a big one. Because the Yeah, a lot of this is out in left, right. There's this. There's this balancing process that, you know, Buddhists have been talking about for a long time that we're just starting to wrap our head around, which is, how do we change the year not just the conversation we have with others, but the conversation that we have with ourselves, and that that judgement process? And the best way to stop rewire and or change that conversation is by bringing awareness and presence to what's going on?

Dr Dan Siegel:

Exactly. Yeah, and you know, credit, is great in relationships with, you know, our interpersonal relationships, and they're great for inner relationships to many aspects of ourselves. Totally.

Mitch Wallis:

When we think about this, the application of this is particularly relevant to people who might have had traumatic backgrounds. Because there is a sense of constant instability, I guess. And when we think about trauma, I'm really passionate about this concept, because there's this myth that you're only entitled to feel bad, or that something has happened to you in your past, if you've been to a war, or something of that extent, versus the complex trauma that I think underlies so many experiences of suffering that people particularly my generation experience, due to the subtle chipping away of self worth, through things like neglect, emotional guilt, tripping, bullying, reinstated sense of not feeling good enough against your peers, or anything that threatens our sense of feeling attuned or mirrored by other people and by ourselves. And that can have devastating effects to people in their long term. What's your perspective on that type of trauma? Well, you

Dr Dan Siegel:

know, it's a really important question, you're asking Mitch, and let me just start by saying, I really appreciate you and your openness to sharing your experience, but also, you know, how articulate you are about it. What I would say, and I have a, an example, in the aware book of this, is, if you get into the deep nature of presence, you know, exploring with the wheel of awareness, what that hub is really all about. What comes up, as you'll see in the book, and as you know, you know, is a deep understanding of the nature of consciousness, that you'll be a little too long to describe here, but I'll just give you kind of aspects of it that relate to this question. I think the origin of being aware, comes from a spaciousness of energy, where energy comes from basically what in these diagrams in the book is called a plane of possibility. And, and just to give you a feeling for it, it's, it's kind of a formless source from which all form arises. And in the view of energy that physicists talk about, they talk about as the movement from possibility to actuality. And if you think about a vertical aspect of a graph, or Y axis, the top of it is 100%. The bottom is really near zero, it's very uncertain at the bottom. I think that uncertain space, which when you make it a three dimensional graph, for various reasons, it's, it's in the shape of a plane, so we call the plane of possibility. Now, having done the wheel of awareness with 10,000 people, getting the reports for those who take the microphone and talk about it, I think the hub of awareness is the plane of possibility. And what that means for someone who's experienced trauma is that the uncertainty of abuse or neglect is so terrifying and so potentially life threatening, let alone soul crushing, that you develop what I call a plateau, which is above the plane but but before a peak and this plateau is it kind of filter of consciousness, that is trying to organise the energy flow patterns in a way that protect the person protect their psyche. with trauma, what happens is you get these certain kinds of plateaus, that can make a person prone to dissociation, it can make them get disconnected from their bodies, their feeling of the real of memory, all sorts of ways dissociation manifests itself. These are plateaus, I believe. And one of the ways of understanding trauma then, and you know, I'm an attachment researcher, and my colleagues and I have shown that terrifying experiences with parents like abuse or neglect, are an actual cause of dissociation. we've, we've established that in our research. And what this tells us from the aware point of view, the consciousness point of view, I think, is that no matter what has happened to a person, those early years of life, that plane of possibility can never be taken away. But the plateaus that are adaptive learning neural structures, if you will, that filter, our experiences in life, are keeping us away from presence, they're actually protecting us from the uncertainty of that plane of possibility. So part of the journey. And even this week, I'm teaching here at a big conference centre, where we just went through this exact thing with a number of people, where they their big history of trauma, they work through the wheel of awareness practice. But what they do initially is have a feeling of panic and fear that they're falling apart. But as one person said, You know, I was in pieces at the One moment, but at the same time I was in peace. And the plane of possibility that she now you should see are now glowing all over this place. And people are just amazed at the transformation in her because she could go through those protective plateaus. And as they fell in pieces, she got access to the plane of possibility, which in a 10,000 person study is this deep source of tranquillity of joy of all of connection of love. For some, it's God. For some, it's this incredible sense of peace, the sense of eternity. And think about someone who's been traumatised either abuse or neglect, who is now by their own minds attempt to protect them, keeping them from all those states have really well being in presence. And so if you can support them through something like therapy and the wheel of awareness alongside it, where they move down into that plane of possibility, realise that plateaus are keeping that them from diving into it, here's what that means. The plane of possibility gives them that sense of peace, that's awesome. It gives them a pause between impulse and action that's really useful. It gives them this deep sense of knowing That's fantastic. But also, if this hypothesis is correct, the plane of possibility is actually the source for all new options to arise. So not only is the person feeling tranquil, but now they're ready to tap into other options that before seemed impossible, they couldn't even dream of a way of being. And so when people do the wheel practice, drop into the hub, they're actually accessing the plane, and liberating this whole new way to live.

Mitch Wallis:

So to cultivate as much as we can, our ability to transcend the plateau, and to access this realm of possibility for those of us who have experienced any type of pain, particularly complex or, or direct trauma. What is the what is the most powerful tools, you know, very tactically speaking, that we have at our disposal to cultivate that I'm assuming that its presence and mindful awareness.

Dr Dan Siegel:

Yeah, and the wheel is one example of that it integrates consciousness. But, you know, often we've experienced trauma, and we under the relational troubles of a person we were supposed to rely on. So having really excellent psychotherapy, where the therapists knows how to cultivate secure attachment with you, as a client, the patient is essential, you know, to really develop these more integrative ways of living in connection with other people. So while the wheel is really helpful in itself, and in workshop here, it's working beautifully. You know, often, you know a person needs really top notch therapy where they can grow in relationship to a caring, compassionate other.

Mitch Wallis:

So why does the traumatised mind protect us from something that's so peaceful?

Dr Dan Siegel:

I think because it's really and this is where the plane of possibility hypothesis is so useful. That tranquillity comes along with uncertainty and uncertainty. It was dangerous for people who have been abused or neglected.

Mitch Wallis:

Um, so you're sort of diving into a wound, but it's within that diving into the painful space that we actually, ironically find the salvation and the peace that we're after.

Dr Dan Siegel:

Yeah, you learn that nothing could take this place of peace away. And you have usually a plateau that's telling you No, no, I have to be certain I have to be certain I have to be certain. Even if I'm certain of my own imprisonment, I'd rather be in prison than in the uncertainty of the open plane of possibility. So that's a journey that you know, the wheel helps you go on. And as you do, you come to realise what you used to have a plateau telling you was a bad thing, you come to experience it with incredible relief. So instead of trying to control your whole life, and being desperate to be in control all the time, you actually drop into the plane. And you let integration arise, because the plane is a natural portal through which integration arises. And then, when people talk about something called the ease of well being, you come to feel this incredibly relaxed and rewarding state of being open to letting integration just happen. And that's a whole different way of living.

Mitch Wallis:

It really, really, really is. And it's a super important point. And my biggest take out from what you've said, is a reminder that feeling good, getting better. Getting stable, isn't necessarily a path, that is all those things. I think a lot of people think that when they're ready to sort of accept who they are, and they go through a process of saying, you know what, I'm not okay, like, that's a huge step for people. And I think the once I've made that decision, they sort of expect because of, you know, spiritual reasons, or just personal beliefs that now it's time for me to get better, because I've just released a whole bunch of pain and ego by just accepting something. But the point is, that often, then the process starts where the real healing happens, you've just finally allowed the gateway to unlock. And although the outcome is a much better quality state of mind, the way to get there is through what you've just mentioned, our ability to sit with uncertainty, our ability to feel emotions, that might be painful, in a way that is nurturing and building a secure attachment to yourself. All these things are the right process, but they can be very painful. And but that's not necessarily a sign that something's going wrong. It's the same as when we work out, we're actually tearing a muscle to grow in, it's whether we tear it too much that it becomes an injury. And so a lot of people who have experienced pain in their life, they start a healing journey, and they feel pain and nothing says to them, I'm doing something wrong, this is bad, I can't handle this. But it's the actual ability to hold that thought, and go, this is pain, but I am safe. I have the structures and the people around me to allow me to hold part of this. I don't need to hold all of it right now. But I'm going to hold what I can and push through that plane of possibility. And I love that. And so what would your tips be for someone who's a parent, there's so much pressure to knowing how much influence and power you have over your child's well being in the long term, probably the most influential thing? What are some tips for parents to make sure they're growing happy, healthy children?

Dr Dan Siegel:

Well, you know, I wrote several books on this topic. So I would just say briefly that the first step that science suggest is, you know, make sense of your life create a, you know, what in our field of attachment is called a coherent, autobiographical narrative, which means making sense of how your childhood has shaped you is the best predictor of how your children become attached to you. So I would say the first thing is to look inward. Parenting from the inside out that I wrote with Mary hartsville is a guide to doing just that. And then if you want to cultivate more integration in your child's life, you know, there's a whole series of books, you know, whole brainchild, no drama discipline, yes, brain showing up is coming out soon. A brainstorm is for adolescence. There are all these, you know, parenting guides, or guides for kids themselves that you know, even teach kids how to do the wheel of awareness. You know, whether it's adolescence or you know, younger children. So, you know, I think that as a parent, when you take on the integration, parenting approach, you you embrace the deep science of parenting in a way that becomes fun and effective and effective, meaning you heal yourself from the inside out. But you also know exactly the kind of behaviours and mental stances that you need to create an optimal life for your child. And Mitch, it's not about being a perfect parent, either. I think the thing that always surprised my kids, when they were younger, you know, I would mess up as a parent and want to illustrate that the most important thing about parenting, besides trying to make sense of your life is repairing ruptures, you know, nobody gets it, right. And I would put in the books times when I really messed up, and my kids would read it, they say, yeah, it's accurate. Sure, but why are you showing that you look like such a jerk, you know, and, and I said to them, you know, because there is no such thing as perfect parenting, and I, I appreciate what you're saying about your parents and reading the book on it. The reason I talk about my mistakes, is to really point out, we're all human, you know, and if we can be kind to ourselves, we can be a role model for how we can be showing our kids to be kind to themselves and kind to each other. So ultimately, you know, it's about just as you're saying, having your heart on your sleeve, being authentic, be real. And that's really, really important, not just for when we raise kids, but just for every moment when you're, you know, talking to people on the street, or, you know, looking in the mirror at yourself, or thinking about how you're going to direct your life's work, you know, we're all in this together. And I think the more we can be real, the more we become integrated, like that have presence, develop our awareness to the extent that you can make repairs and ruptures happen and realise, you know, we're all in this together. And, you know, as I always say, you know, it's a, it's an integrated self we're trying to create to me in a week was, um, we, you know, and we're like, we're not like solo candles, we're not just the wax, we're the light that the candle generates. And we together is a movie. And we can make this a brighter world, when we do live with authenticity, and being real. And I thank you, Mitch, for, you know, being a guiding light in that world, too. It's very, very important for all of us to do.

Mitch Wallis:

Thank you so much, Dan. You just wrapped us up incredibly well. And I just want to reiterate the importance of repair. It's less about what happens, it's more about the way that you deal with it. And I think that is true, not only in our parenting style, but in our day to day relationships with friends, colleagues, family, that is where the growth happens. But also with ourself, it's less about our failures, and our disappointments and all of our insecurities, but our willingness to see them, accept them, and truly let them in so that we can heal and grow as humans because as you said so eloquently, we are all in this together, we're just giving it our best shot. And with people like you in the world, I know that we have every chance of improving and building a better world. So, Dan Siegel, thank you so much for your time today and for writing your book aware. I'm sure there'll be many listeners out there who are eager to go and grab it.

Dr Dan Siegel:

Thanks, Mitch. It's an honour to be here with you. Keep up the fabulous work.