The Developing mind

The Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel (Book Summary)

“The Developing Mind” by Daniel J. Siegel is a fascinating exploration of how the mind uses the brain and relationships to create itself. In it, Dr. Siegal presents the exciting new field of Interpersonal Neurobiology which approaches the study of human development through a multidisciplinary lens. While the book is dense and at times repetitive it is one of the best I’ve come across for understanding the mind and mental health. 

*All sentences in quotations are direct quotes from “The Developing Mind” and are attributed to Daniel J. Siegal. Bold is added for skimmability. 

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What is Interpersonal Neurobiology?


“Interpersonal Neurobiology is the study of human development through the interactions of body, mind, and relationships.” 

“Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB) is organized around 3 ideas:

  1. A core aspect of the human mind is an embodied and relational self organizing process that regulates the flow of energy and information within the brain and its body, and in relationships between and among individuals and their connections with the broader natural world.
  2. The mind, as an emergent property of the body and relationships, is created within internal neurophysiological processes and external relational experiences. In other words, the mind is a process that emerges from the distributed nervous system extending throughout the entire body, and also from the connecting communication patterns that occur within relationships.
  3. The structure and function of the developing brain are determined by how experiences, especially within interpersonal relationships, shape the genetically programmed maturation of the nervous system.”  


“The mind uses the brain and relationships to create itself.”


The Brain and the Mind

  • We now know that mind can change brain as much as brain can change mind.
  • “We are not saying that the brain in mind are independent of one another. We are instead noting that it they are two facets of one reality.”
  • “Brain is the embodied mechanism through which energy and information flow; mind is the embodied and relational process that regulates and subjectively feels that flow; relationships are the sharing of that flow.” 
  • Four E Cognitive science states that “information processing is enacted and embodied (this can be seen as part of our inner mind); and it is extended and embedded (this is our inter mind).”
  • A “state of mind“ can be defined as the total pattern of activations in the brain at a particular moment in time.”
  • “Beyond shaping how we feel in the present, a state of mind also does two fundamental things: It coordinates activity in the moment, and it creates a pattern of brain activation that can become more likely in the future”.
  • “Each moment brings a combination of activations creating a unique state of mind. However, repeated patterns of activation may become “ingrained, “meaning that they are made more likely to be reactivated in the future.”
  • “The probability that a state of mind will be activated is determined by both history and present context or environmental conditions.”
  • “We can propose that in the brain, emotional responses constitute a primary value system that ingrains patterns of neuronal firing and shapes the emergent states of activation of the system.” 
  • “Historical patterns of states of mind, both within an individual and within a family system, may become characteristic traits. It is in this way that attractor states become ingrained within us and allow old interpersonal states to continue to influence our individual patterns of self organization. (* note how states become traits) 


Left and right brain differences

  • “Emotion exists on both sides of the brain.”
  • “The right hemisphere is more capable of having a sense of the body’s state.”
  • “The right hemisphere is dominant in its activity and development during the first three years of life.” 
  • “Emotions are directly influenced by the right brain’s representations of the body’s changing states.” 
  • “Right hemisphere “reality,” its constructed representational world, will contain the information derived from the internal states of others.” 
  • “The interoceptive sensations experienced as visceral representations in the right hemisphere may be quite difficult to translate into the words of the left hemisphere.”
  • “The right hemisphere, via the prefrontal cortex, also appears to be more capable than the left hemisphere of regulating states of bodily arousal.”
  • Social emotions — adaptations of emotional states to meet the needs of social situations — are thought to be functions of the left hemisphere.”
  • “Display rules — the culturally transmitted lessons about which, and how, emotions can be expressed in social settings — determine the social appropriateness of affective expression and are presumably mediated by the left hemisphere.”
  • “This view is consistent with the notion proposed earlier that the left hemisphere has an inherent external bias toward our focus of attention, whereas the right is biased toward reflecting on internal subjective experience.” 
  • “The left hemisphere appears not to be highly skilled at reading nonverbal social or emotional cues from others.”
  • “The developmental and experiential histories that have led to a lack of integration of the functioning of the two hemispheres may leave individuals vulnerable to emotional and social problems. Unresolved trauma and grief, histories of emotional neglect, and restrictive adaptations may each represent some form of constriction in the flow of information processing between the hemispheres.”


The Embodied Brain 

  • “The term for whole-brain interconnectivity is the “connectome.”
  • “When we consider the “brain” and its functions, we really mean an “embodied brain” in that the energy and information flow that streams through the interconnected connectome up in the head is influenced by streams of energy throughout the body and the information those streams confer.”
  • “The outcome of neural integration is optimal self-regulation with the balancing and coordination of disparate regions into a functional whole.”
  • “Researchers like Antonio Damasio suggest that the gut is actually the first brain, with the head-brain coming much later in evolution.”
  • “Relationships and the embodied brain are really part of one larger system.”


How relationships shape the brain

  • “Optimal relationships that honor differences and promote compassionate, respectful linkages — relationships that are integrative — are likely to stimulate the growth of integrative fibers in the brain of the young child, whereas adverse childhood experiences, including neglectful and abusive relationships — ones that lack differentiation and linkage — specifically inhibit the healthy growth of the brain in the form of neural integration and may negatively influence the capacity to deal effectively with stressors in the future.”
  • “Early in life, interpersonal relationships are a primary source of the experience that shapes how genes express themselves within the brain. Changes in epigenetic regulation of gene expression induced by experience can be long-lasting and may even be passed on to the next generation by the way of the alterations of epigenetic regulatory molecules in the sperm or egg. “
  • “The system of the brain becomes functionally linked to other systems especially to other brains.”
  • “The more intricate our social environments are, the more complex our cortical structures, perspective-taking ability, and memory capacity become.”
  • “The development of mind has been described as having “recursive “features. That is, what an individual’s mind presents to the world can reinforce the very things that are presented.”
  • “A typical environmental/parental response to a child’s behavioral output may reinforce that behavior. “


Understanding Attachment 

  • “Attachment” is considered by some to be an inborn system in the mammalian brain that has evolved in ways that influence and organize motivational, emotional, and memory processes with respect to significant caregiving figures.” 
  • “At the level of the embodied and relational aspects of the mind, attachment establishes an interpersonal relationship that helps the immature embodied brain to use the mature functions of the parent’s body and brain to organize its own processes.”
  • “Repeated experiences become encoded in implicit memory as expectations and then as mental models or schemata of attachment which serve to help a child feel an internal sense of what John Bowlby called a “secure base “in the world.” 
  • “It is imperative to view attachment patterns as adaptive, culturally sensitive ways in which children respond to their experience with caregivers.” 
  • “The attachment system is highly responsive to indications of danger.”
  • “For “full “emotional communication, one person needs to allow his State of mind to be influenced by that of the other.”
  • “Biosynchrony allows two individuals to be coupled as a We.”
  • “Collaborative communication allows minds to connect and resonate with each other. “Connect” means to have a direct linkage in communication; “resonate” means to have an influence on the state of the other while not becoming the other. In this way, we can maintain differentiation while becoming linked.”
  • ““Feeling felt” may be an essential ingredient in attachment relationships.” 
  • “Different attachment patterns involve the recruitment of unique patterns of neuronal group activations.”
  • “Studies of genetics reveal that in general, attachment categories are independent of genes or related issues, such as temperament of the child.”
  • “Genetic variants do not produce attachment patterns, but their presence may make the adaptation to certain experiences more difficult.
  • “If a child has different attachment patterns with different caregivers, how does this affect the child’s future adult attachment status? The most dominant experiences — for example, those with a primary caregiver — may be those that tend to exert the most influence on the adults narrative and attachment status.”
  • “Attachment relationships that offer children experience that provide them with emotional connection and safety, both in the home and in the community, may be able to confirm resilience and more flexible modes of adaptation in the face of adversity.”

Principles of attachment:

  1. The earliest attachments are usually formed by the age of 7 months.
  2. Nearly all infants become attached.
  3. Attachments are formed to only a few persons.
  4. These “selective attachments” appear to be derived from social interactions with the attachment figures.
  5. They lead to specific organizational changes in an infant’s behavior and brain function.” 

3 important broad neural systems are fundamental to the human attachment experience within a given individual.

  1. Reward-motivation System – attachments have intrinsic motivational value that combines hedonic response with approach motivation, goal-directed behavior, and learning.
  2. Embodied simulation/empathy network – critical for grounding a “shared world” in the brain and underpins the human capacity to build and maintain attachments.
  3. Mentalizing Processes — higher-order cognitive processes involving complex top-down inferences of others mental state by attributing beliefs, thoughts, and intentions to others to create a full sense of “togetherness”” 



  • “Attunement involves the alignment of states of mind in moments of engagement, during which affect is communicated with facial expressions, vocalizations, body gestures, and eye contact.”
  • “This attunement does not occur for every interaction. Rather, it is frequently present during intense moments of communication between infant and caregiver.”
  • “Alignment is one component of affect attunement, in which the state of one individual is altered to approximate that of the other member of the dyad.”
  • “Attunement is a broader concept than alignment: it includes sensitivity to times when alignment should not occur.” 
  • “Intimate relationships involve the circular dance of attuned communication, in which there are alternating moments of engaged alignment and distanced autonomy.”
  • “Adaptations to persistent patterns of misattunement without repair, into the subsequent states of shame and humiliation, shape our subjective experience of self, others, and the world. These patterns of relationships can lead to a large disparity between adaptive, public selves and our inner, private selves.” 
  • “Relationships are not perfect; they are messy and often nonaligned. Part of attunement is to recognize these moments of missed connections and engage in interactive repair to move the relationship back into the synergy of integration — honoring differences and promoting linkages.”


Discovering your Attachment Style

  • The AAI is a narrative assessment of an adults “state of mind with respect to attachment,” which reflects a particular organizational pattern or ingrained state of mind of that individual at the time of the interview.”
  • “The abilities to reflect upon one’s own childhood history, to conceptualize the mental states of one’s parents, and to describe the impact of these experiences on personal development are the essential elements of coherent adult attachment narratives.”
  • “Adults with a secure/autonomous state of mind may have a fluidity in their narratives, self-reflection, and access to memory.”
  • “When working models of attachment are secure, there is a little “leftover business” that interferes with parent’s narratives or, presumably, with their parenting approach to their children.”
  • “The use of the present tense to describe the past is a sign of disorientation.
  • “Dismissing adults insistence that they do not recall their childhood is often robust.”
  • “We can think of autobiographical memory as organized into three categories of recollection: general periods, general knowledge, and specific events.
  • “AAI narratives show that dismissing adults appear to lack recall for the details of specific relationship-related events in their lives.”
  • “If parents are uninterested in reflecting or unable to reflect upon their children’s minds, then we can hypothesize that they may also provide less elaboration via memory talk and co-construction of narrative, both of which appear to be important in making memories accessible.”
  • “Insecure attachment is not equivalent to mental disorder, but it creates a risk of psychological and social dysfunction.” 



Attachment Patterns/Styles

Secure Pattern

  • “Securely attached children seek proximity and quickly return to play in the strange situation.”
  • “In low-risk, non-clinical populations, security if attachment to parents is found in about fifty-five to sixty-five percent of infants.”
  • “Sensitivity requires that the caregiver perceive, make sense of, and then respond to the infant’s internal world in a timely and effective manner.”
  • “This important capacity to perceive the child’s mind is at the heart of secure attachment relationships.”


Avoidant Pattern

  • “Parents who are emotionally unavailable, imperceptive, rejecting, and unresponsive are associated with “avoidantly” attached infants.”
  • “These babies seem to ignore the return of their parents in the strange situation.”
  • “In low-risk samples, about twenty to thirty percent of infants are found to be avoidantly attached to their primary attachment figures.”
  • “Avoidant or dismissing attachment can be conceptualized as involving restrictions by the mind on the flow of energy and information.”
  • “in an avoidantly attached dyad, the parent is significantly lacking in the ability to conceptualize and respond to the mind of the child. This lack may be evident in the decreased tendency of the parent, and then of the child, to reflect on the mental states of others or of the self.
  • “Those with a history of avoidant attachment seem to have minimal access in their awareness to the nonverbal signals from others — or even themselves — that reflect primary emotional states.”
  • “Such an absence is seen in their frequent lack of awareness of others’ emotions, and of their own emotions as well.”
  • “With the experience of avoidant attachment, the mind learns to adapt to the barren psychological world by decreasing awareness of socially generated emotional states.”
  • “Avoidant attachment reveals an emotional impairment in the ability of two minds to communicate fully.”
  • “The avoidantly attached (dismissing) adult often comes to therapy at the insistence of his securely or ambivalently attached romantic partner. The partner feels that the relationship is too distant and emotionally barren to tolerate.”


Resistant or Ambivalent Pattern

  • “Those parents who are inconsistently available, perceptive, and responsive, and who tend to intrude their own states of mind onto those of their children, tend to have children with “resistant” or “ambivalent” attachments.”
  • “These infants seem anxious, are not easily soothed, and do not readily return to play in the strange situation at the time of reunion with the parent who they are ambivalently attached.”
  • “The relationship with the parent is not able to turn the attachment behavior “off” after reunion, and the child remains with an overactivating or maximizing strategy toward attachment filled with a sense of anxiety.”
  • “Mental state resonance or alignment does occur in these dyads, but it is unpredictably available and is at times dominated by the parents’ intrusion of their own states into those of the children.”
  • “Knowing when to go toward a child (or adult) in an effort to communicate, versus knowing when to “back off” and give emotional space to another person, is a fundamental part of attunement. In ambivalent attachments, there appears to be a significantly inconsistency in the parents ability to perceive and respect these natural cycles.”
  • “For an individual with a history of ambivalent attachment, inconsistency and the intrusion of parental emotional states have led to an intense sense of vulnerability and a loss of a clear sense of boundaries”
  • “In ambivalently attached children and their preoccupied parents, mental models of the self with others are full of leaky boundaries between past and present.”
  • “Fears of annihilation and abandonment are the origins of the desperate withdrawal and anxious approach common in ambivalently attached individuals.” 


Disorganized/Disoriented Pattern

  • “Parents who show frightened, fightening, or disoriented communications during the first year of life tend to have infants who are disorganized/disoriented in their attachments.”
  • “During the strange situation, such an infant appears disorganized and disoriented during the return of the parent.”
  • “In nonclinical populations, disorganized attachments are found in twenty to forty percent of infants studied. In parentally maltreated infants, disorganized attachment is found in an average of seventy percent.” 
  • “Disorganized attachment is seen in many situations that do not involve abuse or maltreatment, but in which parents do exhibit frightened, dissociated, or disoriented behavior.”
  • “Children with disorganized attachments are predisposed to develop clinical symptoms of dissociation later in life.” 
  • “Children with disorganized/disoriented attachment have been found to have the most difficulty later in life with emotional, social, and cognitive impairments.”
  • “A child with a disorganized attachment indeed often has a parent with an AAI classification of unresolved (trauma or grief)/disorganized.”


Repairing Attachment 

  • “Repair after disconnection is vital for healthy relationships.
  • “Ruptures in our communication that enables us to feel felt and be connected with one another create emotional distress. Repair of these important relational bonds leads to a deep sense of relief and clarity, a feeling of emotional well-being.” 
  • “An informal subset of secure/autonomous adults consist of those with “earned” secure/autonomous status. These are individuals whose described experiences would have been likely to produce some form of insecure attachment (avoidant, ambivalent, or disorganized).”
  • “These individuals often appear to had a significant emotional relationship with a close friend, romantic partner, or therapist, which has allowed them to develop out of an insecure status and into a secure/autonomous AAI status.”
  • “The attachment of children to parents in “earned” and “continuous” secure/autonomous categories appears to be indistinguishable.”


Understanding emotions 


What are emotions?

  • “Emotion can be seen as an integrating process that links the internal and interpersonal worlds of the human mind.”
  • ““Emotion” is a process that helps focus attention and creates the neurochemical conditions that heighten neuroplastic changes in the brain.”
  • “Emotion reflects the fundamental way in which the mind assigns value to external and internal events and then directs the allocation of potential resources to further the processing of these representations.”
  • “Emotions involve “a subjective reaction to a salient event, characterized by physiological, experiential and overt behavioral change.” 
  • “Emotions represent dynamic processes created within the socially influenced, value-appraising processes of the brain and the interaction of the individual with the environment.
  • “Emotions” are proposed to be “changes in the state of integration.” 
  • “Emotions are primarily nonconscious processes.”
  • “Our emotions are clearly both innate and shaped by experience. It is not either – or; it is both.”
  • “Emotions are what create meaning in our lives, whether we are aware of them or not.”

Emotion vs Cognition 

  • “Kenneth Dodge states that ”all information processing is emotional, in that emotion is the energy that drives, organizes, amplifies, and attenuates cognitive activity and in turn is the experience and expression of this activity.”
  • “The common distinction between cognition and emotion is artificial and potentially harmful to our understanding of mental processes.”
  • “Creating artificial or didactic boundaries between thought and emotion obscures the experiential and neurobiological reality of the innately interwoven nature.” 
  • “Because emotions are fundamentally linked to appraisal-arousal mechanisms in both the right and left hemispheres, they influence all aspects of cognition, from perception to rational decision making.”


Primary vs Categorical Emotions

  • “Primary emotions directly reflect the changes in states of mind — that is, changes in how a range of differentiated processes become linked.”
  • Primary emotions are expressed as the vitality affects described as the profiles of activation, including “crescendo” (increasing energy) and “decrescendo” (decreasing energy) states”
  • “They are not discrete packets of sensation, but rather are fluctuations in the integration of the energy and informational flow of the mind.” 
  • “More often our primary emotions may ebb and flow without necessarily becoming intense, entering consciousness, or becoming further differentiated into categorical emotional states.”
  • The differentiation of primary emotional states into specific classifications of emotions, such as fear, brings us to the more familiar yet debated theory of “categorical emotions.”
  • “Categorical emotions can be thought of as differentiated states of mind that have evolved into specific, engrained patterns of activation.”
  • “By clarifying the distinction between primary emotions and the more familiar idea of categorical emotions, we can become more sensitive to the early stages of meaning-making interactions with others.”


Universal vs Constructivist view of emotions 

  • “The cross-cultural similarities in a manifestation of categorical emotion suggest that the human brain and body may have characteristic, inborn, physiologically mediated pathways for the elaboration of the states of mind.” 
  • Ekman has suggested that throughout the world, human beings share common pathways to the expression of categorical emotions.” 
  • “An opposing constructivist view to the universality of emotion across cultures, as articulated by Barrett and supported by others, is that there are actually no essential patterns innate to how we express particular emotions. Our emotions and their outward expression are shaped by experiences we have — with our families and within the larger culture.
  • “Acknowledging the contribution of genetics and experience as well as the distributed role of different brain regions in shaping the physiologic and neural correlates of our experience of emotion may help bridge these two seemingly contradictory perspectives on the nature of experienced and expressed emotional states.”


How emotions work 

  • “Value systems in the brain function by shaping states of arousal.”
  • “The appraisal of stimuli and the creation of meaning are central functions that occur with the arousal process of emotion.” 
  • “Discrepancy occurs when the external features of a stimulus do not match internal expectations.”
  • “The Appraisal system has a genetic basis and is also responsive to experience; it learns. Emotional engagement enhances learning.” 
  • “Each of us has “threshold of response, “or the minimum amount of stimulation needed in order to activate our appraisal system.”
  • “Those with a hair-trigger response mechanism will find life filled with challenging situations. Their brains will frequently fire off messages of “this is important – pay attention!”
  • Those with “tougher skins” will not readily respond with arousal and will be less emotionally sensitive to the same stimuli.” 
  • “By increasing the amount of stimulation the value center needs to become activated, the brain can directly decrease its sensitivity to the environment.”
  • “Recent experience primes the mind for a context-specific change in sensitivity.
  • “The appraisal and arousal processes creates a neural net activation profile – a state of mind – whose characteristics in turn directly shape subsequent appraisal and arousal processes. This intricate feedback mechanism helps to see why patterns of emotional response can be so tenacious in a given individual. The elements of continuity in specificity are self reinforcing.”
  • Each of us has a “window of tolerance quote in which various intensities of emotional arousal can be processed without disrupting the functioning of the system.” 
  • “Extreme rigidity may be present in both low and high arousal states. Likewise, chaos can emerge in low or high arousal conditions.”
  • “One’s thinking or behavior can become disrupted if arousal moves beyond the boundaries of the window of tolerance.”
  • “The weight of a given individual’s window of tolerance may vary, depending upon the state of mind at a given time, the particular emotional valance, and the social context in which the motion is being generated.”
  • The way an internal emotional state is externally revealed is called “affective expression” or simply “affect.””
  • “The purpose of the expression of emotion is considered to be social communication, as supported by the general findings that individuals reveal more affective displays in social settings than they do when alone.”
  • “Affective expressions reveal the profile or energy level of the state of mind at a particular moment.”
  • “Examining the three phases of emotional response — states of initial orientation, elaborative appraisal and arousal, and then categorical emotions — yields a new way of thinking about how to respond to the question “How are you feeling?”” 
  • “The term “feeling” can be used to describe the conscious awareness of either an emotion or an affect.”
  • ““Feelings” can therefore involve energy, meaning, behavioral impulses, or the discrete categories of emotion.”
  • “The mental state active at a given time may shape the elaboration of arousal and meaning from primary to categorical emotions.”
  • The term “mood” refers to the general tone of emotions across time. Mood can be thought of as a bias of the system toward certain categorical emotions.

Eight basic emotion systems:

  1. Seeking/desire
  2. Fear/anxiety
  3. Rage/Anger
  4. Lust/Sex
  5. Care/maternal nurturance
  6. Panic/separation
  7. Distress/grief
  8. Playfulness/physical social engagement 


Emotions in relationships and society

  • “When two people feel “emotionally close,” both often feel honored for their differences at the same time that compassionate communication cultivates their connection. 
  • “Shared emotion is the fabric of social relationships” and “provides the rhythm or punctuation in human interaction and communication.”
  • ”The absence of shared emotion produces a severe restriction in the level of interpersonal connection that parent and child are able to achieve.”
  • “The ability to be aware of our own internal bodily states and affective arousal — our emotions — directly influences the ability to be in a relationship to another.”
  • “The perception of another’s predictable emotions is used to create an image of the mental state of another person.”
  • “This image of the other’s intentional state is then used to initiate behavioral imitation and internal simulation.” 
  • “Mirror properties in our brains enable us to imagine empathetically what is going on inside another person.”
  • “Somatosensory data from the face are registered in the brain and directly influence its state of activation, so that information processing is shaped by the facts of these data.”
  • “Nonverbal behavior is a primary mode in which emotion is communicated.”
  • “Seeing what a person does, rather than asking them how they feel, can often be a more direct road into the persons emotional state.”
  • “The left hemisphere plays a more significant role in the external communication of emotions that conform to social rules.”
  • “By the second year of life, the infant has learned the adaptive behavior of not showing how she might be feeling. The social context in which an intense emotion is experienced may motivate the child to “hide” her inner experience.”
  • “Shame is the emotion evoked when a parent does not attune to a child’s aroused state”
  • “Complex social situations repeatedly teach us the essential ability to mask our inner states from the criticism and harsh reactions from others. Culture and family play a central role in a child’s experiential acquisition of these often unspoken laws of emotional expression, called “display rules.””
  • “Socially, masking internal states can permit the individual to avoid an experience of interpersonal resonance, in which the response of the receiver at times can amplify or distort the initial state of the sender.” 
  • “Masking inner states can also enable an individual to avoid being misunderstood, and so avoid the painful state of shame that would be induced.”
  • “In both the individual and social feedback processes, regulating external expression of an internal state can help to keep the state of arousal from breaking through the window of tolerance.”
  • “If there are no contexts available in a growing child’s life when the inner, private self can be fully engaged in interactions with others, then the adaptive, external, public self  may perpetually mask internal states even from the individual.”
  • “The danger of chronically blocking general affective expression is that it may also repeatedly inhibit the access of emotions to an individual’s consciousness.


Working with emotions 

  • “Awareness of bodily states may be the gateway to becoming conscious of our emotions.”
  • “Consciousness is necessary for an intentional alteration in behavior patterns beyond “reflexive” responses.” 
  • “Identifying and naming the emotional experience by integrating left and right processes reflects how emotion is made more positive and freed up to be shared with others.”
  • “Emotional regulation can be seen at the center of the self-organization of the mind”
  • “Impaired input of the right-sided sources of somatic representations would functionally lead such individuals to be consciously unaware of their bodies’ responses. They would therefore not be able to know easily how they feel”.
  • “Emotion is central to our well-being, internally and interpersonally.”
  • “The process of creating and listening to music is a form of emotional experience an affective communication that is profoundly integrative.”
  • “It is important to realize that temperament, attachment history, and other experiential factors each contribute to the marked differences we see between individuals and their ability to regulate their emotions.”
  • “The minds ability to regulate emotional processes is dependent in part on the brains ability to monitor and modify the flow of arousal and activation throughout its circuits.”
  • Recovery means decreasing disorganizing effects of a particular episode of emotional arousal.”
  • “Some individuals have extreme difficulty recovering from emotional flooding of any sort. For these people, life may become a series of efforts to avoid situations that evokes strong emotional reactions.”
  • “These avoidance maneuvers are defensive, and in that they are attempts to keep the individual’s system in balance. For those whose windows are quite narrow for certain emotions, such avoidance behaviors can shape the structure of their personalities in their ways of dealing with others and the world.”
  • “Recovery allows the mind’s self-organizational processes to return the flow states toward a balance to maximize its complexity — that is, to move the system between the extremes of complete predictability or rigidity on the one side and excessive randomness or chaos on the other.” 


7 components of emotion regulation:

  1. Intensity
  2. Sensitivity
  3. Specificity
  4. Windows of tolerance
  5. Recovery processes
  6. Access to consciousness
  7. External expression 


Representations and construction of experience

  • “Energy flow that presents as a category, concept, or symbol is “re-presenting” the world as it is and in this way is a “representation” of our world.”
  • Our conception is shaped by our perception, which is constructed from our sensation.”
  • “The mind has distinct information that it symbolizes, as well as different modes of processing these specific forms of representations.”
  • “A “sensory representation” contains information signifying sensations, including input from the outside world, from the body, and from the brain itself. External sensory data include sight, hearing, olfaction, taste, and touch”. 
  • “Sensory Representation is thought to have a minimal amount of categorization.”
  • “A “perceptual” representation is a more complexly processed unit of information than a sensory one. In contrast to a “basic” sensation, a perception is “symbolized”; it represents a constructed bit of information created from the synthesis of present sensory experience with past memory and generalizations contained within experientially derived mental models.”
  • “Conceptual representation is encoding that carries information about more highly processed entities, such as the gist of an idea, “reading between the lines” of a story, or notions of freedom and justice.”
  • ““Linguistic” representations contain information about sensations, perceptions, concepts, and categories within the socially shared packets called “words.””
  • “Words can move us beyond the physical world and link mental representational worlds of separate people.”
  • “We experience desires and beliefs that emanate from the meaning of mental representations.”
  • “Goal-based concepts are super flexible and adaptable to the situation.”
  • “By examining which representational processes are utilized to perceive such states in others and in the self, we can begin to understand what may be missing or impaired in these individuals.”
  • “Internal subjective experience may vary, depending upon which systems of representation are activated at a particular time and which if those access consciousness.”
  • “Our nervous system needs to make “maps” of other minds in order to represent the mental experience of those with whom we are relating.” 


Understanding Memory

  • “The structure of memory as a part of our overall information processing is quite complex: it constructs the past, the present, and the anticipated future, and it’s sensitive to both external and internal factors.”
  • “Memory storage occurs through the change and probability of activating a particular neural network pattern in the future.” 
  • “Implicit memories when retrieved, are not thought to carry with them the internal sensation that something is being recalled.” (*Note – Implicit memories are unconscious memories) 
  • Mental models are basic components of implicit memory. Our minds use mental models of the world in order to assess the situation more rapidly and determine what the next moment in time is most likely to offer.”
  • “The patterns of particular states of mind in an infant can be seen as an implicit form of memory. Repeated experiences of terror and fear can be ingrained within the circuits of the brain as states of mind. With chronic recurrence, these states can become more readily activated in the future, so they become characteristic traits of the individual. And this way, our lives can become shaped by reactivation of implicit memories, without the sense that something is being recalled.”
  • “The notion of implicit memory as influencing our experiences with others is one way of understanding the complex feelings and perceptions that arise within interpersonal relationships. Each of us filters our interactions with others through the lenses of mental models created from patterns of experiences in the past.” 
  • “Memories of emotional experiences evoke automatic, implicit activations, which can feel as real as direct bodily responses and can deeply enliven the associated imagery of the recollection.”
  • “Our relationships not only shape what we remember, but how we remember and the very sense of self that remembers.” 
  • “Interpersonal experiences appear to have a direct effect on the development of explicit memory.”
  • “The encoding process for both forms of explicit memory (somatic and episodic) appears to require a focal, conscious, direct attention to activate the hippocampus.”
  • “Experiences that involve little emotional intensity seem to do little to arouse focal attention, and have a higher likelihood of being registered as “unimportant” and therefore of not being easily recalled later on.”
  • “If events are overwhelming and filled with terror, a number of factors may inhibit the hippocampal processing of explicit memory, and therefore they block explicit encoding and subsequent retrieval.”
  • “If the brain appraises an event as “meaningful, “it will be more likely to be recalled in the future.”
  • “Highly emotional stimulation may well, as William James suggested, “almost ….leave a scar on the cerebral tissue” in the form of lasting changes in synaptic connectivity. 
  • “While we want to give our working memory a work out regularly, if working memory persisted and was not transient, we would be bombarded by irrelevant information from the past. In other words, letting irrelevant information be forgetting is an important part of our memory system.”
  • “Reconsolidation refers to the process by which an encoded memory can be reactivated and, in the presence of conflictual incoming data, may then be in a state of retrieval in which it’s re-storage can be influenced by certain factors, such that it is prone to being removed from this original form in subsequent storage during this“re-consolidation process.”
  • “The process of reactivating representations from explicit memory is often depending on the context, that is, the features of the internal and external environment. When there is a match between retrieval cue and memory representation, the process is called “ecphory.”
  • “Retrieval is enhanced when conditions at the time of recall are similar to those in the initial encoding.”
  • “Grave stress will have a direct effect on memory: small amounts have a neutral effect; moderate amounts facilitate memory, and large amounts impair memory.
  • “The effects of stress appear to be mediated by the characteristic neuroendocrine responses involving the immediate transient effects (lasting seconds to minutes) of noradrenaline release and the more sustained effects (lasting minutes to hours) of glucocorticoids such as cortisol, also known as “stress hormones.“
  • “Excessive and chronic exposure to stress hormones may lead to neuronal death in this region — possibly producing decreased hippocampal volume, as found in patients with chronic PTSD.” 
  • “Bilateral cooperation of the hemispheres may be necessary for the consolidation of memory in general — and that failure to consolidate memories of traumatic events may be at the core of unresolved trauma. Such a view also points to the generalization that impairment in lateral integration of information (the flow of energy and representations across the hemispheres) may be proposed as a marker of psychological impairment following traumatic experiences.”
  • “Recounting the elements of explicit autobiographical memory is a social experience that is profoundly influenced by social interaction. What is recounted is not the same as what is initially remembered, and it is not necessarily completely accurate in detail.”
  • “Actual events can be forgotten, and not experienced “recollections “can be deeply felt to be true memories.
  • “Patients are vulnerable to the suggestive conditions of psychotherapy. Clinicians must be careful to take a neutral stance with respect to the accuracy of a patient’s recollections.”


Narrative, Identity & Sense of Self 

  • By the third year of life, a “narrative” function emerges in children and allows them to create stories about the events they encounter during their lives.
  • “Adolescents whose mothers used a great a ratio of elaborations to repetitions during the early childhood conversations had earlier memories than adults and whose mothers used a smaller ratio of elaborations to repetitions.”
  • ““Memory talk “is a common process in which parents focus their attention of the contents of a child’s memories. A similar observation is that parents will participate in an “elaborative” form of communication have children with a richer sense of autobiographical recall.”
  • “Elaborative parents talk with their children about what they, the children, think about the stories they read together. In contrast, “factual “parents — the classification designating parents are found to talk only about the facts of stories, not a child’s imagination or response — have children with less developed ability for recall of shared experiences.”
  • “As new experiences are compared to old ones, similarities are noted in creating generalized rules, and differences are highlighted as memorable exceptions to these rules.”
  • “The stories are about making sense of events and the mental experiences of the characters.” 
  • “The narrative process in this way attempts to make sense of the world and of one’s own mind and its various states. In some individuals, however, one sees narratives that reflect upon a particular self-state without creating a more global coherence of the mind as a whole. The narrative may be cohesive in its logical consistencies, but incoherent in its lack of flexibility across time and states.”
  • “If an aspect of the individual is isolated — from other self-states, or from the social or natural world surrounding the individual — then the autobiographical story will be one of separation.”
  • “The experience of separation and the distress of disconnection likely create in us a “sense of self” in which we are isolated and alone.”
  • “Linking self across time is one integrative function of narratives”
  • “Making sense means trying to understand cause — effect relationships — what is happening and why it happened. Why does the mind try to do this?”
  • “Individuals whose brains were able to understand cause-effect relationships were more likely to survive and to pass on their genetic material.”
  • “Storytelling may be a primary way in which we can linguistically communicate to others — as well as to ourselves — the sometimes hidden contents of our implicitly remembering minds.” 
  • “Stories make available perspectives on the emotional themes of our implicit memory that may otherwise be consciously unavailable to us as remnants of prior experiences. This may be one reason why journal writing and intimate communication with others, which are so often narrative processes, have such powerful organizing effects on the mind.”
  • “In the co-construction of stories, parent and child enter into a dyadic form of bilateral resonance.”
  • “Could it be that children’s early relationship experiences with contingent communication and reflective dialogue facilitate the development of an “internal voice” that addresses the self from a third person perspective and helps integrate a sense of coherence?”
  • “If we have only one narrative that persists without change, we may find ourselves in a fixed, rigid state that reflects our difficulty with integration in our lives.”
  • “As a present state of mind reflects the social context in which our narrative is being told, we weave together a tapestry of selected recollections and imagined details to create a story driven by past events as well as the need to engage our listeners. Thus, expectations of the audience play a major role in the tone of storytelling. This social nature of narrative means that the remembering self is perpetually in the process of creating itself within the new social contexts.”
  • “In many ways, this journey toward living life within the narrative of being more like a verb means embracing the subjectivity, perspective, an agency of something as an ever-unfolding way of being rather than noun-like ownership quality of “self as separate” associated with living life like an isolated entity, unchanging and solid in its nature across time.”
  • “Living like a verb may entail embracing the freedom of uncertainty, letting go of the fear of the unknown, and releasing a tendency to cling to an illusion of certainty we may have constructed in an understandable attempt to survive life’s unpredictable challenges. 
  • “The Experience of self may be more plural than singular, more an interconnected verb-like unfolding as events than as an isolated noun-like entity.”
  • “Self can be seen as related to the mind, perhaps an outcome of it, perhaps a synonym for it.”
  • “Culture shapes how we remember our own lives and develop a narrative sense of self.”
  • “Facing the need to integrate multiple cultures into this sense of identity presents important developmental challenges.” 
  • ““Cultural integration” involves maintaining aspects of the self within varied cultural backgrounds, while also linking these sometimes disparate ways of being.”


Understanding self through the concept of SIBLING:

“Who “we are” is both a me and a we, an us, a set of interconnected, interdependent, interrelationships that involve our body and its brain, yes, and also our being interconnected with something broader than the brain and bigger than the body.”

S: Self – is the sense of who we are that can be experienced as a noun-like entity or a verb-like sense of unfolding events. When the DMV is excessively activated, when it is overly differentiated from the rest of the brain, it is associated with self-preoccupation, isolation, anxiety, and depression.“I, me, and mine” are the focus of an overactive DMN.

I: Identity. -If the self is not an absolute, our sense of identity is also something we can see as a constructed mental process. Our identity is deeply rooted in the communication we receive from the world around us.

B: Belonging.In many ways, the longing to be in connection is what belonging is about; the experience of feeling as though one’s life is intricately woven within a system gives us the sensation of belonging and it expands the sense of “who we are.”

L: Love – Love and interconnection repeatedly arise as an essence of reality in our human experience.Love is the energy of belonging.

I: Interconnection. -The between-ness of the mind, of the self, of our identity, is the “inter” of the terms interconnection, interrelational, interbeing, interwoven, interlinked, interdependent, interlaced. Humans have a magnificent capacity to sense and perceive beyond light and sound, to use mindsight to sense energy and information flow that our eyes and ears so not detect. This energy is real; it is just not explicitly perceivable by our first five senses.

N: Noesis – This Greek term broadly signifies intellectual understanding, our cognitive faculty for thinking and reasoning.We can intentionally nudge cultural evolution by collectively shaping the ideas we consider, the language we use to express those ideas, and the ways we come to live with each other and the natural world.

G: Gnosis – Generally means knowledge of spiritual mysteries.Linguistic terms are symbols, sharable representations that approximate but never fully capture what we are trying to convey or understand.


Understanding Integration 

  • “We are defining integration as a balance in what we are calling differentiation: being specialized, segregated perhaps in function and structure, and unique on the one hand, and then linked — being coupled, joined, connected on the other hand. This balance of differentiation and linkage is what we are calling “integration.”
  • “Differentiation is how parts of a system can become specialized, unique in their growth, and individualized in their development.”
  • “Differentiation comes from segregation and specialization.”
  • Linkage involves the connection of separate aspects of a system to each other; for the mind, this often involves the internal associations and interpersonal sharing of energy and information flow.”
  • “Linkage enables the resultant integration of these segregated, differentiated elements”
  • “The movement toward complexity is achieved by balancing differentiation and linkage.”
  • Integration involves maintaining differentiation while also achieving linkage, creating a synergy that enables the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.”
  • “Integration can be seen as a deep mechanism that enables us to gain insight into both synaptic and societal connections and how they impede or promote development of a healthy mind.” 
  • “Integration is postulated to be the central mechanism by which health is created in mind, brain, body, and relationships.” 
  • “Integration creates coherence by enabling the mind’s flow of information and energy to achieve a balance in its movement toward maximizing complexity.
  • “Integration is the Natural outcome of self-organization in a complex system.”
  • “Excessive amounts of either one of these two components of integration — too much differentiation without linkage, or linkage without differentiation— moves a complex system away from the flexible and adaptive states of optimal self-organization.” 
  • “A positive emotion can be seen as arising with increases in integration, whereas a negative emotion could be proposed to occur with decreases in integration.”
  • Interpersonal integration stimulates the growth of neural integration that permits optimal regulation.”
  • “When integration is enhanced, our state of well-being is improved, and we move toward a more harmonious way of living.”
  • “In contrast, if we’ve had an emotionally disturbing experience, the degree of integration has shifted downward, and instead of harmony, we have moved toward either chaos or rigidity.”
  • “If we invite new networks of integrative complexity to become engaged, activating both left and right hemispheres in both modes, where in perhaps those modes were quite isolated before, then that would help create a more integrated process.”
  • “Reflective dialogues, in which language is used to focus attention on the mental states of others (including the two members of the dyad), may foster bilateral integration between the two hemispheres of both child and parent.”
  • “Interpersonal processes can facilitate integration by altering the restrictive ways in which the mind may have come to organize itself.”
  • “When a person, dyad, family, group, organization, or community experiences chaos and/or rigidity, then we know that integration is impaired. The key to moving the system toward well-being is to identify which elements are not differentiated and/or linked.”
  • “When our relationships are integrated, they are the most flexible and adaptive – and the most rewarding and meaningful.”
  • “Kindness and compassion are integration made visible.”
  • “Systems thinking is the mental process in which we realize the profound ways in which we are connected to a larger whole, rather than simply an individual body or a small group of people.”
  • “Integration reminds us to honor differences before creating the linkages that connect.
  • “Contemporary culture has overemphasized the differentiation of the individual without truly honoring those differences, while at the same time it has de-emphasized the belonging that could come with our linkages to one another, and to the natural world.” 


Nine Domains of Integration

1. Integration of consciousness

  • “Various objects of awareness can be differentiated from one another — the five sense from sight to touch; the sixth sense of the interior of the body; the “seventh sense” of our inter connections with others and the world, our intra connection with nature.”
  • When these aspects of consciousness are not differentiated, the experience of being aware can have a blurry quality.”

 2.  Bilateral Integration  

  • “Linkage of the left and right hemispheres happens naturally in most people, so that we can say the brain generally works as an integrated whole. But for some, this does not occur.”
  • “In avoidant attachment, the hypothesis is that the left hemisphere is excessively differentiated and the right is under-differentiated.”
  • “We can see impaired bilateral integration with incoherent narratives, with dysfunctional interpersonal interactions, and with blocked access to an internal awareness of emotions and bodily sensations.”
  • “Protecting the sometimes timid right in the face of the sometimes overly certain (and dogmatic) left is important in promoting bilateral integration.”
  • “At other times and for other people, an excessively flooding right mode needs the clear and rational and soothing of the more somatically distant left mode.”

3.Vertical Integration

  • “Vertical Integration entails the awareness of subcortical input.”
  • “This means focusing conscious attention on the data from the body proper, the brainstem, and the limbic regions.”

4. Memory Integration

  • “When differentiated implicit memory remains in pure form, it can tend to arise as the flooding of emotion and images, automatic and sometimes rigidly dysfunctional behavioral habits, and intrusive bodily sensations.”
  • Memory integration is the linkage of differentiated implicit memory into the explicit forms of factual and autobiographical memory with which we can exercise intention and choice.”

5. Narrative Integration

  • Narrative integration is the way we harness the power of the left and the storage of the right to make sense of our lived experience. The emergence of coherent narratives thus arises from bilateral integration and from intra-hemisphere integration.”

6. State Integration

  • “Recognizing and then respecting the differing and often conflictual needs of distinct self-states is a part of “inter-state” integration.”

7. Interpersonal Integration

  • “Moving from being not only “me” but also a “we” involves the differentiation of a personal, individual self and then the linkage of this self to another.”
  • “Interpersonal integration involves the honoring and relishing of differences while cultivating compassionate connections with others.”
  • “Interpersonal integration can be seen in spontaneous, resonant communication that flows freely and is balanced between continuity, familiarity, and predictability on one side and flexibility, novelty, and uncertainty on the other. “
  • “Repair, with the re-establishment of connection after inevitable misalignments or more intense ruptures, is an important part of healthy relationships.”
  • “One of the challenges of making interpersonal integrative changes is that people can fear being engulfed by another’s needs, or having their own needs for closeness, once acknowledged, go unmet.”
  • “The retreat into isolation can sometimes feel more controllable than being flooded with the awareness of a sense of needing another person for comfort and connection.”

8. Temporal Integration

  • “Temporal integration is the way we differentiate our longings for certainty, permanence, and immortality from — and link them with — the reality of life’s uncertainty, transience, and mortality. When people deny one or the other side of this temporal slate, rigidity or chaos can ensue.”
  • “Temporal integration is also a way to appreciate time-bound and time-less realms of our one reality, our one life.”

9. Identity Integration

  • “Identity integration signifies states of “breathing across” other domains of integration — something that feels akin to an “integration of integration.””
  • “This form of integration involves a person’s sense of coming to feel connected to a larger whole. The “larger” here refers to a sense of belonging to something bigger than merely a bodily defined sense of self (as in vertical integration), or even to friends and family, as in interpersonal integration.”


Practices for integration 

  • ‘The influence of negative internal experiences is revealed most dramatically in dreams, guided imagery, and journal writing. The myriad representations in each of these processes may often surprise the conscious mind. Dreams weave elaborate stories incorporating a wide array of images from various points in time. Guided imagery brings to forth sets of vivid experiences that contain active reflections in themes about an individual‘s priorities and present life challenges. Journal writing can often reveal concerns and perspectives about life that have been unavailable to simple introspection.”
  • “Guided imagery provides direct access to prelinguistic symbolic imagination and processes driven by implicit memory. The results can be deeply moving, though often initially derided by some avoidance/dismissing patients as “weird “and useless.”
  • “As time goes on, emotional states become accessible to these patients in the form of images that they can come to respect. These nonverbal, nonrational, right – sided processes begin to influence the patient’s behavior and make them more aware of similar states of others around them.”
  • “Hypnosis reveals how “social exchange and intrapsychic functioning interpenetrate, that self and other, cognitive and social, individual and culture are intimately enmeshed.””
  • “The study of mindfulness explores both inherent traits and intentionally created states. Mindful traits include being aware of what is happening as it is happening, being non-judgemental (not being taken over by prior expectations) and non-reactive (coming back to emotional baseline readily), being able to label describe the  internal world, and being able to engage in self observation.” 
  • ““Attention monitoring skills are only associated with beneficial mental and physical health outcomes when accompanied by acceptance skills.“
  • “Differentiating knowing from knowns — may be the integrative process at the heart of the positive benefits of mindfulness training, including the cultivation of acceptance.”
  • “Mindsight is the innate capacity for perceiving the minds of others and of the self.” 
  • “Feeling the inner experience of another and imagining what it is like to take the other’s perspective are two core components of empathy that serve as gateways to compassion — how we feel suffering of others and, with kindness, find ways to alleviate that pain.”
  • “Compassion is a systemic property of mind: to cultivate compassion is to be able to appreciate the systemic forces that influence people’s actions.”
  • “Compassion goes beyond seeing a system from the outside — a kind of intellectual exercise — but actually feeling what it is like to be an actor within the system.”


Understanding mental health & mental illness

  • “Chaos and rigidity can then be seen as the “red flags” of blocked integration and impaired development of a mind.”
  • “The signs, symptoms, and syndromes described in the DSM can be interpreted as actually describing chaos, rigidity, or both.”
  • “Impediments to mental health may also be seen as blockages in information processing and energy flow.”
  • “The question about well-being and resilience may not be whether there is a sense of unifying continuity, but rather how the mind integrates a sense of coherence – of effective functioning across self states through time.”
  • “Coherence emerges across time with increasing complexity – an outcome of integration and mental health.
  • “We have an inner mind made up of many aspects, facets, self-states, or parts. The more we can differentiate and link such internal states, the more internal coherence we will experience.”
  • “The coherence of one’s own states of mind permits a form of relationship with others — especially one’s own children, friends, or intimate partners — that fosters integration, reflective processes, and emotional well-being within the relationship and within the emerging minds of each person.”
  • ““Flexibility” Indicates the systems degree of sensitivity to environmental conditions; it involves the capacity for responding adaptively to variability, novelty, and uncertainty.”
  • “Flexibility is based on the generation of a diversity of responses and variation in the flow of states; it allows for a degree of uncertainty that leaves room for novel adaptations to changing environmental conditions. In contrast, continuity emerges from the system’s learning processes, which establishes a degree of certainty and response patterns as determined by an ingrained set of constraints.”
  • “An organization of the mind that excludes emotion and interpersonal relationships is quite inflexible.
  • “Being around caregivers early in life who are attuned to our young internal worlds in a reliable way will provide us with the “mirror experiences” that enable us to have a coherent flexible sense of both our inner and interpersonal selves in the world. This coherence maybe the integrative heart of a Resilient Mind.”
  • “Response flexibility is likely to be state dependent: internal and interpersonal contacts can promote or inhibit the integrative mechanisms in which they are created.
  • An individual may exhibit this adaptive flexibility in certain situations and not in others.”
  • “The digital world of social media may intensify these challenges to living an authentic life with meaning and purpose, one that maintains a coherent sense of self in the face of the longing to belong and be accepted.”
  • “Harmony is the flexible, adaptive, coherent, energized, and stable (FACES) flow of the integrative complex system of the choir.”
  • “In some cases of engrained patterns of dysregulation, psychiatric medications may be needed to help the brain achieve the capacity to regulate the flow of states of mind.”
  • “Therapy reflects the challenge of all human relationships: understanding and accepting people as they are, and yet nurturing further integration and growth.”
  • “Understanding how unresolved trauma or loss relates to the dis-association of various processes from one another, including explicit from implicit memory, is essential to gain insight into what later may become terrifying parental behaviors.”