Years ago, I learned of some research that supports how the InterStrength Approach can evoke integrative processes in the brain and thereby strengthen neural integration and stimulate the growth of the middle pre-frontal structures in the brain. Neural integration is what is necessary for us to be more adaptable, balance our emotions, attune to others, have a greater sense of morality and empathy, regulate the body, eliminate fear, gain insights into oneself and more. So how did I make this link?
Mind, Relationships, and the Brain
I wasn’t able to attend the Wisdom2.0 conference this week, but I did catch some of the live streaming and am very grateful for being able to experience Dan Siegel’s talk on Mindfulness and the Brain. Dr. Siegel is a psychiatrist who studied “family interactions with an emphasis on how attachment experiences influence emotions, behavior, autobiographical memory and narrative.” His current field of research is interpersonal neurobiology, a term he coined in The Developing Mind, 1999. It is an “interdisciplinary field, which seeks to understand the mind and mental health.” He also coined the term, Mindsight, which is what led me to see a connection between HOW we introduce type lenses and increasing our health and well-being.
Dr. Siegel said that when we see another person’s mind, honor differences, and promote linkages we have an integrative relationship. When relationships are integrative, it stimulates growth of integrative processes in the middle pre-frontal cortex. (a nearly exact quote). He contends that relationships and the brain interact to create ‘mind.’ The mind is not the same thing as the activity of the brain. Mind is not defined clearly in psychology or psychiatry. His definition is,“Mind is an embodied and relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information.” It emerges as a self-organizing emergent property of a complex system (a system capable of open and chaotic behavior). Mind is the internal subjective self, our feelings, thoughts, memories, dreams, hopes and more.
The InterStrength Approach
It seems to me that the typologies of the InterStrength Approach give us a map of the territory of the mind. Type doesn’t exist just in the brain or in our behaviors. It is also in the subjective sense of self—our minds. Understanding type lenses helps us surface the meanings we tend to make of things and therefore our thoughts and feelings around those things. While we have evidence that the cognitive processes outlined by Jung show up in the brain in certain patterns and that Essential Motivators and Interaction Styles related behaviors show up in the body movements as well as the brain, until we can name the patterns and identify the organizing principles behind them we cannot be as mindful as we need to be to develop the integrative awareness required to operate in this complex world of today. And it will be harder to develop the compassion and empathy needed to keep us from going down the very destructive path we seem to be on at this time.
Dan Siegel describes mindfulness as attention to the present moment, suspending any prejudgment. Our type preferences and temperamental predispositions give us prejudgments. It is easier to let these go when we are aware of what they are and they are ‘just’ our type biases. So why is the ‘Approach’ so important? It is not just about getting a type label so we can better master ourselves or communicate with others. It is about . . .
- Holding the models lightly so we can step outside them when they are not useful.
- Presenting the patterns as maps, not the territory so we can shift our perspectives into territories different than our own to truly ‘see’ another person.
- Seeing the processes as dynamic, not as ‘fixed’ types so we can flex our behavior and better manage the polarities of human interaction.
- Understanding that we grow and develop within our type so that we transcend the narrow view of our innate preferences and develop capacities in the non-preferences.
This is a mindful and integral approach to type. The goal is not the type models or even type identification. We don’t want an obsession with the models even though that often happens at first. We want the understanding of self and others to lead to more mindfulness in our relationships. The InterStrength Approach is an integrative process that helps develop integrative relationships by helping us truly see the minds of others, honor those differences by making space for them and shifting to take their perspectives—my definition of truly integrative relationships.