In our overwhelmingly “prizing of individuality” world, I think we have isolated ourselves too much and the price is nothing less than our actual selves. Our brains are made of many different parts that have unique functions on their own all the while being linked to other parts of the brain. The linking of the different parts of the brain allows for a sort of beautiful work together that enhances each part. When you experience childhood trauma, distressful situations that are not resolved or simple day to day disappointments, there can be a breakage in the linkage between the parts in your brain. This breakage needs repair for the system to function wholly again. Repair requires a connection from one part to another.
We are the same socially. The greatest diversity in the world is the individual human and this human is developed through time while connected to other humans, healthy humans. Healthy connections help us develop healthy senses of self and vice versa. But we all know that perfectly healthy humans do not exist and so it is safe to say that most of us have experienced some sort of pain or disappointment within a relationship… causing a breakage. Specifically in our childhoods. If we want to be healthy as selves, we must be connected to others in healthy relationships. There is no other way. As we create healthy connections, we will actually experience ourselves in a greater capacity.
So, how can we identify what healthy actually means? What makes a healthy me and what makes a healthy relationship? Daniel Siegel, MD, an Interpersonal Neurobiologist, identified nine skills that individuals can mindfully pursue within themselves and in between relationships to create healthy connections.
1. Being able to tune into your body and regulate yourself.
2. Attuned communication: being able to tune into the internal subjective world of another and having people in your life who can tune into your own subjective internal world.
3. Emotional balance: bring meaning to your emotional life without being too rigid or chaotic about it.
4. Response flexibility: the ability to pause and think before making decisions.
5. Ability to calm fear: learn to face scary situations with a calm body with self and others.
6. Insight: mental time travel- being able to sit in the present, reflect on the past and imagine the future… write a great narrative story of your life.
7. Empathy: mindsight map of someone else… put yourself in someone else’s perspective.
8. Morality: mindsight map of we… what is the big story of us in the world? …we are all connected.
9. Intuition: wisdom.
Healthy people help others become healthier. How? By practicing the above skills. Well that is a lot of skills! How do I practice them? Pick a skill that you may lack in and consider focusing on it mindfully. For example: If I need to learn to regulate my body, I will spend 7 minutes a day practicing mindfulness exercises and learn to listen to my body and regulate my body through my breath. Or if I lack insight, I may need to sit down and spend some time reflecting on my life, how the past has contributed to it, and how I want the future to look like. Pick a skill and practice it with yourself and with someone in your life. And then repeat forever 🙂
The healthiest and happiest people are the ones who have a clear differentiated sense of self while being connected and linked to others.
To paraphrase Dr. Siegel… Connection is synonymous with integration and integration is health. And we all need a lot more health in our lives.
As always, a note: If you know that you have traumatic or distressful memories and experiences to face and feel ill-equipped to do this, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to guide you through this process.
Another note: For more information on the incredible work by Dr. Daniel Siegel, MD and Interpersonal Neurobiology, check out mindsightinstiture.com. The notes in this post were taken from his Lecture on “The Mindful Brain: Teaching with the Bain in Mind”