The exciting thing about being in the field of clinical work, whether you’re working directly in the psychotherapy field, or even in various aspects of mental health related to psychotherapy, or even in the medical world, we’re in a moment now of making one if the most revolutionary findings from science, in particular from neuroscience, which is the study of neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is the way we can study how the connections in the brain, the literal physical connection with the substance of the brain’s architecture, how those connections continually change throughout the life span. Experience drives those changes by activating the firing of neurons, and then as neurons fire, they can rewire their connections to one another.
That’s the basic finding from neuroplasticity and what we’re now learning is that the brain doesn’t stop growing after childhood or adolescence; it continues to grow throughout the entire life span. So whether that’s from new synaptic connections or stimulating these cells called neurostem cells to differentiate and become specialized neurons or even the growth of myelin, which is the sheath that allows the conduction speed between neurons to be increased even in the resting time after a neuron fires, and it has to rest. But when you have myelin, you actually rest about thirty times less and your speed is about one hundred times more. So basically, you’ve not only added synaptic connection, or grown new synapses by stimulating neurons to grow from stem cells, but you’ve also added myelin, and you’ve basically increased connectivity of a circuit by three thousand times.
So, when you’re asking the question, – how mindsight changes the structure of the brain – we’ll get into exactly what it means, but you can focus attention, which is basically harnessing the power of the mind to focus energy and information flow through the substance of the
brain. As you do that, you can change synaptic connections, you can likely stimulate the growth of new neurons, and you are likely developing a mindsight skill. Skill development, different from just memory, is based on myelin growth. So in all those ways, we can change the physical structure of the brain to the focus of the mind.
“You’ve not only grown new synapses by stimulating neurons to grow from stem cells, but you’ve also added myelin and increased connectivity by three thousand times.” “Neuroplasticity is the way we can study how the literal physical connections with the substance of the brain’s architecture, continually change throughout life.” Well, here’s the thing on the simplest level… All of us have a mind of course, but not all of us have well developed mindsight skills. So having thoughts and feelings, having consciousness and unconscious processes, having images in your mind’s eye, having dreams and hopes, and attitudes and intentions and beliefs…all of these are mental activities and all of these you can have without having mindsight.
Mindsight is the capacity to sense that those mental activities are, in fact, not the totality of who you are. So in that sense, it overlaps with mindfulness when you have discernment, but it goes beyond mindfulness because once you have this ability to sense that these mental activities are just part of your identity, you then specifically can move the way your energy and information flow is happening in your mental life, in your relational life, or even in your neuronal life.
So if we look at these three elements – mind, relationships, and brain – with mindsight, you then use your skill of tracking energy flow and information flow of the mind, the brain, and relationships, and you drive these three aspects of one reality toward differentiating elements and then link them, which is the basis of integration. What our experience is, mine and my students, is that when you develop these mindsight skills in both yourself and your clients, you can actually teach people how to take a life that’s filled with chaos and rigidity, which are signs if impaired integration, and you can specifically identify where integration is impaired. That is, an area of the brain that hasn’t been differentiated, and therefore if it’s not differentiated it can’t be linked.
Sometimes there is differentiation, like in trauma, but there’s no linkage. And then you use the focus of your attention with these mindsight skills to actually promote differentiation and linkage of these specialized parts and what results, which is unbelievably rewarding, is that people who’ve been stuck in chaos and rigidity in their lives, can find liberation from that as they move into more integrated neuronal states. Literally, it is a form of neuronal integration.
So, mindsight is a very useful clinical construct. Obviously it’s a word, but it allows us to develop what I believe is a physiological skill where you allow yourself to move from being on automatic pilot, and the brain is basically yanking you around into states of chaos or rigidity.