“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.”
Sunday, March 16, 2014 ~ Integrative Expression (& Mindsight)
“Attending to intentions may involve the mind attuning to its own state. Just as mindfulness permits us to sense the mind’s activities for what they are through discernment, intention becomes yet another activity of the mind — one that is more complex, perhaps, but of the realm of mental life as well… Awareness of one’s own intention may be the very route to a special form of internal attunement, a secure self-relationship that promotes neural integration.” Daniel Siegel from Chapter Nine – ‘Reflective Coherence: Neural Integration and Middle Prefrontal Function’ of his book: The Mindful Brain
During 2012 I took part in a BayNVC – November Fundraising Telesummit on Requests which meant that as a presenter, I had to give some thought to how I
used (or, too often, if I’m to be honest — did not use) as it was framed, ‘Requests from the Heart’. At the time, this is the blurb that I composed:
The Challenge of Shifting from Habitual Reactivity towards Choiceful Requests. Ever feel tongue tied with a gnawing sense of there being an elephant-in-the-room? Uncertain how to cut through the tension with a breath-of-fresh-air (instead of a knife)? It can seem daunting, especially when we’re in a reactive state of mind. In this call, we’ll explore the practice of a disarming kind of dialogue, crafting sentences that are: 1) rooted in self-connection, 2) open with empathic expression (that acknowledges another), 3) include our own honest transparency, and 4) end with a request, as a catalyst, towards mutual understanding.
Since that time, I’ve come to view this ‘rocking-back-n-forth’ process — cultivating a mindfulness or shift to needs consciousness of ‘what’s alive’ both in myself and another — as the practice of “integrative expression” (a skill we’ve explored before, see: March 31, 2013 ~ Expressing Integrated Honesty).
Of course, this is a bit of reinventing of a wheel that’s already in existence:
& Newt Bailey’s Connected Conversation
(as just two examples)
It’s worth noting a couple of things in the year and a half that has elapsed since the idea (and intention to employ it) initially sparked.
First, I’ve come to understand that (as with physical conditioning) it’s much easier to do — i.e. bending over backwards (communicatively-speaking) — especially in charged moments, when I’ve been routinely building muscle memory as a part of my ‘posthearsal’ barre work ritual.
If toned, being on tiptoes, even if its “Dancing Through the Minefield”, conversationally, can seem rather effortless; otherwise the requisite strength is elusive, particularly in the heat of the moment; if not ‘in practice’, the dance steps feel much more awkward (inaccessible even).
Similar to the notion of ‘skating dumb’ in competitive figure skating or (as Scott Hamilton once defined it) “just-letting-the-body-do-what-it-knows-how-to-do” through repetitive practice rather than overthinking things when it counts.
Or as Martha Graham once put it (paraphrasing), “by the time a dancer enters onto the stage, it should be like reading a laundry list”.
“Just like the dancer…” ~ Karen Armstrong
But religion is a practical discipline and in the 17th century in the West, we turned it onto a head trip. But it’s like dancing, or swimming, or driving, which you can’t learn by texts. You have to get into the car and learn how to manipulate the vehicle. You have to get into the water and learn against what seems to be the law gravity to float and dancing, or athletics takes you years before you develop a skill. But if you work at it, practicing daily, you can enable your body to do things that are utterly impossible to an untrained physic. And the religions have found that if you behave in a certain way, if you sort of perform certain rituals that expand your mind and make you realize that will make you realize and help you to segue into transcendence and perform certain acts, adopt a certain lifestyle, you develop new capacities of mind and heart, just like the dancer, or the athlete that make you into a whole human being and principle after one of these disciplines right across the board in all of the faiths is compassion, the ability to feel with the other person.
So, initially I considered “integrative expression” to be a phrasing that would include all three components of NVC communication: self-connection, empathy, and honesty.
However, and this addresses the second point as to how this practice has evolved over time, I’ve since come to more deeply connect-the-dots as to how “integrated expression” may relate to Daniel Siegel’s work on the neural integration of Mindsight (and Interpersonal Neurobiology).
Red: Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex
“Human beings, as they evolved, didn’t lose the fight or flight response; they just built on top of this “reptilian brain.” The new layer was the “cerebral cortex,” which allowed us to reflect on experiences and develop ideas rather than just act out instinctual responses.” ~ David Rickey
In effect, through this attempt to express integratively, by addressing various perspectives simultaneously (combining the three NVC modes), it may also have the correlative mindsight effect of fostering neural integration, a self-regulation and integration of all parts of the brain (both in oneself and another). Indeed, I’ve come to surmise that the moments of most consequential communicative breakdown arise when sufficient mindsight is occluded, whether within oneself or another (or both!).
This process of ‘rocking-back-n-forth’ intends to disarm the triggered reptilian brain of another by offering (hopefully) resonant insight into their experience — thereby soothing any reactive limbic system takeover (overriding the alarm system of the solitary lizard brain by engaging with the more communal mammalian capacity to stay in connection) — which then may keep their prefrontal cortex sufficiently online enough to engage with the more abstract thought required to entertain an alternate point-of-view (in this case, whatever is our own ‘scary honesty’ that we may opt to convey to our interlocutor).
“Compassion in this way is used for how we feel another person’s feelings, how you can feel felt by someone else, the most important part of our relationships with one another. Empathy is how you have a mindsight map, an image in your mind of what’s going on inside the mind of someone else.”
Mindfulness & Neural Integration:
Daniel Siegel, MD
“Mindsight” is a term coined by Dr. Dan Siegel to describe our human capacity to perceive the mind of the self and others. It is a powerful lens through which we can understand our inner lives with more clarity, integrate the brain, and enhance our relationships with others. Mindsight is a kind of focused attention that allows us to see the internal workings of our own minds. It helps us get ourselves off of the autopilot of ingrained behaviors and habitual responses. It lets us “name and tame” the emotions we are experiencing, rather than being overwhelmed by them… (continues)
(see Simon Sinek’s discussion of “why” and the brain at six minute mark)
1. Remember that Equanimity is Key.
2. Breathe, Recite an Equanimity Mantra, and Calmly Walk Away.
3. Visualize Your Vagus Nerve, Breathe, and Let It Go.
4. Physical Activity and Meditation are Pathways to Equanimity.
For more on the vagus nerve and tips for creating equanimity please check out Psychology Today’s blog: “The Neurobiology of Grace Under Pressure.”
Equanimity is a core tenet of many ancient philosophies and religions. Equanimity is defined as “Mental calmness, composure and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.” Equanimity has its biological roots in the vagus nerve and is synonymous with grace under pressure.
by Sarah Peyton
Excerpt (from concluding paragraph): “…My story of today is a story that happens to everyone. When we have experiences of helplessness, our nervous systems can enter the dorsal channel of the vagus nerve, the “freeze” channel. And when the experience is stressful enough, it can trigger a flow of cortisol that shuts down our hippocampus so that we don’t consciously remember the event. This can leave us in a dissociated state without access to any understanding of how we got there. Such states of dissociation can be mild and of short duration, as mine was today, or they can last for years and can even become our primary survival strategy for getting through life.”
Conversational ‘Spatial Disorientation’
(for more on the Vagus nerve/Polyvagal Theory)
March 13, 2014
…This evolutionary description has become the primary way we understand ourselves. Deep down we are mammals with unconscious instincts and drives. Up top there’s a relatively recent layer of rationality. Yet in conversation when we say someone is deep, that they have a deep mind or a deep heart, we don’t mean that they are animalistic or impulsive. We mean the opposite. When we say that someone is a deep person, we mean they have achieved a quiet, dependable mind by being rooted in something spiritual and permanent.
A person of deep character has certain qualities: in the realm of intellect, she has permanent convictions about fundamental things; in the realm of emotions, she has a web of unconditional loves; in the realm of action, she has permanent commitments to transcendent projects that cannot be completed in a single lifetime… (continues)
“What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization…It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.” ~ Abraham Maslow
Do you know when a jingle comes unbidden into your mind? Well, with ‘integrated expression’ this is the one that arises. In other words, how to convey ‘scary honesty’ with a dollop of empathic presence, such that — ideally — with a spoonful of sugar, the medicine might go down…