Dan Siegel on integration

Dan Siegel, author of ‘Mindsight’, here offers a scientifically precise take on integration, and on the kind of view of the mind that is needed to make sense of integration. This is well worth a view if you are interested in understanding the working of integration more clearly.  We’re not just talking vague psychobabble here, but something that can be understood quite precisely both in terms of brains and in terms of experience. There is also an interesting transcribed interview with him here.

About Robert M Ellis

Robert M Ellis is the founder and chair of the Middle Way Society, and author of a number of books on Middle Way Philosophy, including the introductory 'Migglism' and the more in-depth 'Middle Way Philosophy' series. He has a Christian background, and about 20 years' past experience of practising Buddhism, but it was his Ph.D. studies in Philosophy that set him on the track of developing a systematic account of the Middle Way beyond any specific tradition. He has earned his living mainly by teaching, and more recently by online tutoring.

4 thoughts on “Dan Siegel on integration

  1. I found this a very interesting and persuasive talk. Lots of it made good sense to me, although I found Dan’s introductory assertions about no-one (teachers, mental health professionals) having a proper definition of mind rather condescending. I for one have almost never thought that ‘the mind is produced or contained within the brain’, and I’m certainly not the only mental health professional or teacher to hold that view.

    I’m discouraged from commenting further, Robert, by your use of the word “psychobabble” over integration. You’ve used this term (integration) before and I’ve used it too in discussions, but if you’re going to set such a very high standard of precision over the use of such terms, and describe less than perfect attempts at describing what I or others think as “babble”, I’m not going to want to discuss anything with you, in person or in writing. I don’t want to be made to feel small or stupid, or to introduce others to membership if they’re going to feel the same.

    1. Hi Peter,
      I’m glad you found Siegel’s talk helpful. However, you seem to have completely misinterpreted my use of the term ‘psychobabble’, which was not intended to make anyone feel small or stupid, but on the contrary to indicate to those who might find my own use of the term ‘integration’ rather vague, that there are more rigorous ways of describing it scientifically. It was an attempt to address a particular kind of critic, rather than in any way to belittle mental health professionals – or anyone else who has gallantly tried to engage with these issues in practice. My whole point was that talking about integration is **not** necessarily vague or unhelpful psychobabble, contrary to what some critics may assume.

      Such responses in turn make me feel frustrated, because my attempts to get inside the heads of critics and address their perspective are so prone to upsetting people on the other side of the spectrum. So I get this over-familiar Catch-22 sensation of being constantly misinterpreted by somebody no matter what I say. Perhaps ‘psychobabble’ is a trigger word for you that you have encountered in past negative contexts? But the mere mention of the word does not necessarily imply the attitudes of any such context, especially given that I was mentioning it in order not to accuse anyone of psychobabbling, but on the contrary to argue that we are not psychobabbling.

      1. Yes, Robert, you are right on several levels, and my over-reaction to the ‘psychobabble’ reference was – as you suggested – conditioned by the criticisms I’ve encountered over the years in my professional mental health roles from other professionals. Some of these practice from narrowly reductionist ideological positions, positions of power and authority, and tolerate no dissent.

        But that doesn’t excuse my assault on you, and I apologise for impugning your motives. In mitigation, I’m feeling a bit fragile at times (robust and confident at others) as a result, I think, of the practice pathway I’ve developed since signing up to the Middle Way, and your own remarkable equanimity.

        Although I expected to be caught unawares by old patterns, it goes without saying that being caught unawares is “what it says on the tin”, it happens before I know it’s happened, and dawns a little later.

        Perhaps I should draft my comments and save them, reviewing them before posting. I’ll think about it.

        The more I think about Dan Siegel’s definition of mind the more appealing it seems, and I get a good sense of fit (in Gendlin’s terms) of the felt experience of mind as an integrative movement, or organising process, involving subtle energies, and between polarities (such as the hemispheres, and the cortical/limbic/brainstem structures/systems etc). Babbling a bit here, but the mapping is taking some sort of valuable form and will, I think, repay further attention.

        Best wishes, Peter

        1. Hi Peter and Robert,

          Dan Siegel’s comment about “nobody having a good definition of mind” emerged from his experience talking to several thousand mental health professionals (he actually kept precise count) over more than 20 years, around the world, including counselors, psychologists, psychiatrist, nurses, etc).

          As far as integration is concerned, we’ve tried to make a very simple (hopefully not too simplistic or psychobabbly:>)) presentation of Dan’s different forms of integration (we’ve condensed his 9 into 6 kinds ) on our site, http://www.remember-to-breathe.org.

          Just this morning I’m working on some audio for our guided practices, and we have several dozen videos we hope to have up on the site within the next half year.

          Very best,

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