Professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, Daniel Siegel has coined the term mindsight to describe an integration of neuro-science findings with the practice of psychotherapy. Those familiar with mindfulness will find his ideas easy to follow, as well as those who know of the brilliant pioneering work of Fonagy and Batemen on attachment and mentalisation. Although not groundbreaking stuff, it is an engaging read and Siegel emerges from the pages as a compassionate therapist – he’s far from aloof, despite a rigorous academic background.
Mindsight (put crudely) involves the cultivation of an inner awareness of our mind’s activities, with the aim of compassionately accepting and observing them. We tend to engage with our mind when it disturbs us, it’s counter-intuitive to ‘sit back’ and observe. But, if we can learn to do this, we are best placed not to ‘buy into’ what our mind can ‘do’ to us – ie make us feel bad. So, the thinking goes, if we don’t fight our inner critic (by talking back to it), it will ultimately get bored of being ignored and ruining our lives.
Siegel’s book engages most through his case studies, as most books on psychotherapy do, and he shows how mindsight can be practiced to help with a range of psychological distress – OCD and dysfunctional relationships included. He walks through how we can observe the working of our minds (in a meditative way), allowing us to understand why we think, feel, and act the way we do. He also posits – with evidence – how we can ‘re-wire’ our brains for the better. It’s a very optimistic read.
Daniel Siegel occasionally comes to the UK to share his tireless work.