Transcript for Dr. Dan Siegel on Stress, Irrational Fears, Mindfulness and more

this episode of the human experience is

brought to you by dot yoga the Internet

is a rapidly evolving place one of the

recent changes that you may not be aware

of are the new categories of domain

names that allow individuals and

industries a new choice in representing

their presences online have you heard

about yoga domains yoga is exactly like domain except they end in yoga

this gives yoga practitioners meditators

and people who enjoy having a choice in

the way their online identity is

displayed a new and easy way to

reference their online presence use your

yoga domain for your website your email

set it up so that your fans can access

your social media platforms through your

duygu domain it’s short easy to remember

and you Yogi’s out there will have an

instant connection between your services

and the yoga community by getting your

yoga domain today get 2ww get my yoga

use code hxp 2017 for 50% off don’t be

late to this party

bring your web presence into harmony by

upgrading to a dot yoga website and

email address today welcome to the human

experience podcast the only podcast

designed to fuse your left and right

brain hemispheres and feed it the most

entertaining and mentally engaging

topics on the planet as we approach our

ascent please make sure your frontal

temporal and occipital lobes are in

their full upright position as you take

your scenes consciousness

and allow us to take you on a gym we are

the intimate strangers thank you for

listening now I’m not saying if you’re

being you know tortured that you should

just try to reframe that as an

opportunity you know to learn how to

deal with torture although actually

that’s probably a good thing to do so

I’m stressed

if you said how you doing I say it’s

great I’m really stressed I’m leading a

meaningful life

I remember this in medical school I had

27 rejections young women I was trying

to answer that or what was wrong with

that they had to go through that smell

my breath what’s going on here you know

and in the end no and what dance with me

so I danced with him and when something

meaningful Zepa nning you want to have

stress now that’s what we’re gonna call

you stress EU means good it’s good

stress so a meaningful life is

absolutely going to be a stressful life

everybody should have an integrated

brain so they’re more regulated and how

they function it can embrace differences

and compassionately honor each other’s

different ways of being in the world

what’s up folks wow what an amazing

interview here with dr. dan Siegel if

you’re interested at all in the

neuroscience of mindfulness and what’s

going on in the brain as we have stress

responses as we experience fear or

social anxiety you’re going to want to

hear this interview this is a really

great listen and get into all of that

thank you very much for listening the

human experience is in session my guest

for today is dr. dan Siegel dr. Siegel

welcome to hxp thanks for having me it’s

a pleasure to be here so I really want

to get into your books mind and mine

site and everything mindfulness but I’d

like to get into your background first

please can you just give our audience a

little bit about your history and

yourself good I can say I’m a person on

the planet a little bit what about your

education can you get inside a little

bit oh sure

you know I did my undergraduate degree

in college in biochemistry I did my

medical degree and then went on to

pediatrics then I went from Pediatrics

initial training to general adult

psychiatry training Child and Adolescent

Psychiatry training that I was trained

as a researcher in attachment then I

became the training director in child

adolescent psychiatry UCLA then I’ve

been in private practice for 25 years

okay then I I work in a field called

interpersonal neurobiology where we

combine all the fields of science

together into one framework and I’m the

founding editor of a series where we

have over 50 textbooks for professionals

to kind of look at this way of

understanding the mind and mental health

and had a cultivate more well-being in

the world Wow so quite a hub of

experience that you have to kind of look

back on when did you get into

mindfulness as a practice and looking at

the mind specifically and it’s it’s

response to stress and behavior and

those things so those are two very

different timelines

I only heard about mindfulness pretty

recently okay

last ten years well almost by accident

actually I used the word mindfulness in

a book with a colleague of mine we were

writing on parenting and we said you

know gosh as a parent it’s important to

be mindful of your kids

people thought we were going to teach

them to meditate and I had never

meditated before so I thought it was a

strange question and weird they need to

ask me so I said what are you talking

about and they said well mindfulness

meditation and I said what’s that

and I was so out of it in terms of that

field because I was trying to avoid

things that weren’t too out there I was

already pretty out there with what I was

saying at the University so you know at

that time I learned about mindfulness

but the mind I became interested in in

the 1970s when I was in college and I

was taught to work on a suicide

prevention service thought that the way

you focus on the mind of another person

in a suicidal crisis would really make

the difference between life or death and

so for me the mind meaning our

subjective inner texture lived life that

part of the mind who was crucially

important and so I guess my interest

really started as a college student

I’m glad you brought up college because

when you were in medical school you

found that the environment the attitudes

there seemed to be less than ideal to

say the least huh how did that affect

you yeah well it’s a it’s a painful

story and you know written about it so

people know about it but I’ll just say

that when I went from college even those

about chemistry major I was trained in

these other things um I thought medicine

would be a great place to explore the

overlap between you know science the

empirical study of reality including the

study of the body and our subjective

reality the feelings we had the meaning

of life the stories that drove us to

make sense of who we are and how were

connected to each other all that stuff I

put in the word mind you know what was

so sad and so painful was that the

professor is I happened to get probably

it was the majority of him anyway but

really without exception told me that I

shouldn’t be focusing on the feelings of

my patients I shouldn’t be concerned

about the meaning of an illness in their

life and I was like I thought I was

gonna lose my mind and you know they

because they were ignoring the mind so

much that it was like a mind blind world

so I dropped out of school went on a

journey to try to figure out what I

wasn’t doing myself and after trying out

different things and thinking about

different things I altom utley decided

to go back and see if I could kind of

use this word mine sight the way we see

the mind as a kind of life preserver to

keep me from you know basically becoming

insane in that world that’s such an

interesting story so mine sight is a

method that you created that applies the

principles of interpersonal neurobiology

to improve a person’s well-being right


yep okay so let’s get into that a little

bit more can tell us more about mine

site so well mine site literally is a

word and it’s a word you know I made up

in 1980 when I made the decision to go

back to school and couldn’t imagine the

school changed after the year I was away

so I realized that for me to survive I

had to realize that human

have two kinds of perception they can

perceive the physical world and they can

perceive the subjective world of the

mind of others in the self so I just

made up that term mind site or sites the

seeing or perceiving and mind the

subjective world so that’s what the word

meant and then when I became a

psychiatrist I built on that experience

as a medical student to say you know

that mind site had three components it

had the way you feel and sense another

person’s inner life which is called

empathy that’s the gateway toward

compassion and kindness and you also

have you know way of sensing your inner

mental life something you might call

insight or self awareness and that self

awareness is a gateway to you know what

later became called emotional


so mindset was the mechanism that was

shared between social intelligence that

gives you you know these skills of

connecting with other people and

understanding them as well as emotional

intelligence this ability to sense your

own inner state and regulated and the

third component besides insight and

empathy is something called integration

and there’s a long line of reasoning

behind that but the bottom line is if

you take a deep look at science across

lots of disciplines you come up with is

really strange proposal that health

comes from integration

I know it’s simple but it’s incredibly

profound when you look at the empirical

studies to support that statement the

integration is the linking of

differentiated parts and whether that’s

in the brain or the whole body or a

relationship you have with another

person or a family or school or even a

nation you know how we honor each

other’s differences and promote

respectful compassionate communication

allows a nation or a culture to thrive

and when that doesn’t happen you tend to

go toward chaos or rigidity which said

that we’re seeing in our world today so

you know you can see in global climate

issues as a product of incredible

disregard human beings have had for


whether you’re looking at the global

system or just your own inner life

integration is an incredible guideline

for promoting well-being if it’s there

or for explaining and illuminating the

nature of unwell being in terms of chaos

or rigidity if integration is impaired

so to bring about this integration you

practice and teach a technique called

the wheel of awareness you know well you

know it’s so funny or you’re asking

about this today because my next book is

called the wheel of awareness and I’m

you know at the final stages of the

editing of it you know so I’m kind of

obsessed with it so much you like to

know about I I’ll just say this the

wheel of awareness put very simply came

from I mean it’s a practice and it’s an

image and that’s what it is but where it

came from was two scientific findings

one was that if people are gonna change

they need to use consciousness whether

it’s a school where the teacher is

trying to teach kids or a parent trying

to help kids grow well or psychotherapy

you know where you’re helping someone

change or even the process of you know

self transformation like writing in a

journal for example so that’s

interesting when you find a universal

pattern like consciousness is needed for

change and the second thing we already

mentioned is that integration the

linking of different parts seems to be

what’s necessary for health and

well-being so and then I said well my

patients I said well what if you

integrated consciousness you know what

would happen if you integrated

consciousness and that’s just a very

very interesting approach that I would

take people up from the chair or the

couch and walk them around a table we

had and I said okay

if consciousness can be defined as the

subjective experience of being aware of

basically knowing like I say hello and

you know I said hello that’s the knowing

of awareness right it also has the thing

that you

that’s the known is the word hello so at

a very minimum consciousness is the

knowing and the known is also a knower

which is kind of the company

the two so then you could say okay well

how would you symbolize this on the

table and I said okay well let’s put the

knowing in the hub of the table and

let’s put the knowns on the rim and

let’s imagine a spoke and no one wanted

to call the table of awareness so we

called the wheel of awareness and we

said okay the knowing is in the hub the

knowns are on the rim and let’s move

this spoke of attention systematically

around the rim so that we differentiate

you know sight from hearing from smell

from touch in the first segment then we

go through the inner sensations of the

body in the next segment and then we go

to the third segment which is mental

activities like feelings and thoughts

and memories and then there’s even a

fourth segment of the rim which is our

relational sensor sense of connectedness

to each other and what was so

interesting about it was people’s

anxiety and depression sometimes even

issues of trauma or even bodily pain

started resolving with this simple

practice and I was really puzzled by it

so I started teaching it to my students

they started feeling relief from those

issues in their own lives started doing

with their clients their patients and

they started reporting positive

responses so then I started doing in a

workshops and I did it systematically

with 10,000 people face to face recorded

the results and now I’m writing a book

about him because it’s kind of

phenomenal I mean I can tell you the

results next but that’s what the wheel

is of the wheel is both an idea you know

how do you integrate consciousness by

differentiating the hub of knowing from

the knowns on the rim and linking them

systematically with the spoke of

attention but it’s also you know a

practice that people can do it’s about

24 minutes you can do it and we’ve had

over a million people stream it from our

website yeah that’s that’s absolutely

fascinating I’ve never heard it quite

put that way I want to talk about when a

person is going through a stress

response and when they’re having this

sort of flight-or-fight

reaction what is happening in the brain

when when this is happening

well you know the word stress I remember

reading about it in medical school from

the work of hans selye and since that

time in the 50s when he wrote about it

the word stress has been misinterpreted

so I want to just give a little push

back on your asking the question about

stress and and the threat response okay

because it is a classic way people think

about it absolutely I would say 99% of

people do think about that way but

here’s the deal the word stress really

means how your body is readying itself

to deal with a meaningful situation hmm

so what it means is your heart starts

pumping a little faster you know your

breathe a little more deeply and maybe

more rapidly maybe your muscles get a

little tense maybe a little sweating

and if you measured in your blood you

find the hormone cortisol is sometimes

called the stress hormone it’s being

secreted in such a way to metabolize

sugar so you can respond to this

meaningful thing that’s happening so

it’s actually a good thing when

something meaningful is happening you

want to have stress now that’s what

we’re gonna call you stress EU means

good it’s good stress so a meaningful

life is absolutely gonna be a stressful

life here’s what the research done the

last few years demonstrates if you

interpret your body’s reaction to a

meaningful event happening with

increased heart rate and breathing and

all that stuff as a negative thing the

result will be negative now I’m not

saying if you’re being you know tortured

that you should just try to reframe that

as an opportunity you know to learn how

to deal with torture although actually

it’s probably a good thing to do but the

issue here is that our minds

interpretation of the meaning of our

body’s response is incredibly important

so I want your listeners to imagine that

the mind is a bigger role to play in the

physiological outcome of stress than

we’ve ever understood so you’re saying

that stresses can be or is actually a

good thing it can be a good thing if

you’re helpless it can become a bad

thing so

stress is mobilizing yourself to deal

with a meaningful moment in your life it

isn’t by itself good or bad okay the

stress response is a helpful response

now when you’re threatened that’s a

different thing than just when you’re

stressed when you’re threatened and

you’re bringing up a different mechanism

in the brain the fight flight freeze and

faint response you know then what’s

happening is as Steve Porges calls it an

area of the brain that’s involved in

something he’s named neuro ception

that’s always looking for safety or

danger has assessed danger so what I

would call that and maybe reframing your

question I would call that threat so we

have a threat reaction which shuts off

our social engagement system you know

which is when we’re relaxed and open and

receptive and want to connect with

people and even ourselves and instead

you’re turning on the reactive State I

wouldn’t call it a stress state so that

in the threat response the neuro ception

that perceiving danger says hey this is

super bad I better fight back

I better flee I better freeze this

accelerating branch gets all activated

even the freeze response is like a

tightening of the muscles with a lot of

energy you have a fourth F which is

either feigning death or fainting which

is when you feel completely helpless and

you collapse your heart rate goes down

your blood pressure goes down so these

threat states when their stay for

extended periods of time that’s not so


I mean I’m turning in a book soon so I

have stress it’s good stress I’m so

grateful that I get to write a book and

I love this particular book you know and

I love all my books but I love this book

and it’s really exciting to try to put

it in words all the experience of having

these 10,000 people so I’m stressed

if you said how you doing I’d say it’s

great I’m really stressed I’m leading a

meeting right now do I feel threatened

no I don’t feel threatened yeah yeah

that makes so much sense that I love the

way that you sort of elucidate these

meanings and these terms and the way you

speak about them is very clear it

promotes understanding which I really


okay okay thank you because I sometimes

I feel like I’m a little bit of a nut

when it comes to just making sure the

words we use have clearly shared

meanings whatever meaning we want to

make of them let’s make sure we at least

share yeah yeah okay so dr. Siegel so I

want to throw an example out there homey

Dan is I don’t I don’t know what to do

when you say okay Dan you know something

that I hear a lot is people who want to

be more social but they aren’t or

they’re having a stress response that

prevents them from being as outgoing as

they want to be or a guy sees a girl

that he’s attracted to and he has a

stress response that prevents him from

talking to her what area of stress is

this in that I’m referring to you’re

describing people who are having a

reactive state to social situations that

involves the fight like freeze and faint

response in some cases so their behavior

is being disabled by the state of their

brain in their head basically which

involves the whole body so they’re not

able to engage the way they want to

engage put simply they’re entering a

reactive state which makes you leave the

receptive state and it’s really hard to

do anything’s you’re saying like meet

people or whatever when you’re reactive

you may ask me you know well what can

they do about it you know what’s so

interesting is in the wheel of awareness

practice people basically learn to

distinguish reactive states that are on

the rim from what ultimately for most

people comes a sanctuary in the hub

and by harnessing the power of the hub

to be a source of tranquility and

clarity and stability and peace then

what you do is you say okay here’s a

person who usually when they go in a

social situation they get a standard I’m

scared I’m scared I’m scared but when

they do the wheel of awareness practice

instead of that anxiety which is a rim

point flooding them and they get the way

people use terminology they’ll say I get

lost on my rim they’ve developed the

clarity of the hub which is not in a

reactor state it’s the source of we can

call presence and even though those

neural pathways in the brain may still

be activated as a rim point because of

the wheel of awareness practice they’re

now having the sanctuary of the hub to

just look from a bit of a distance at

the rim point of oh my god oh my god

this is not gonna work out and they go

hello fear thank you for sharing with me

you know I see that you’re so intense

and for millions of years you’ve

probably activated yourself and my

ancestors and kept them safe so of

course there’s a feeling of life and

death about your message and I deeply

deeply appreciate you I’m grateful that

for all of us in the past your fear has

kept us alive here’s the deal for

whatever reason this reaction of fear

and a life threat is being activated

when I want to meet this young woman or

man or whatever I’m gonna be and you

know I don’t know if that’s helpful so

let me ask you fear what exactly do you

think is the life-endangering situation

of saying hello to this person right

yeah oh oh she’s gonna reject you this

is the worst thing of the world and what

people learn to do is this from the hub

they go I see you are realizing that in

the anterior cingulate of the limbic

area of the brain the feeling of social

rejection is equivalent to physical

attack so you’re activating your

anterior cingulate sense that if this

young woman says I don’t want to dance

with you then it’s like being stabbed

with a knife and you’re gonna die yeah

that’s it

Seagal thank you for sharing and by the

way we are such social creatures that

social rejection does feel like it’s

gonna be our death because if we don’t

belong somewhere we’re gonna be

somebody’s lunch

so you go I get it thank you oh I love

you so much thank you and then you go

out on the dance floor I remember I did

this in medical school I had 27

rejections okay young women I was trying

to answer it I don’t know what was

roaming that they had to go smell my

breath what’s going on here you know and

in the end no one would dance with me so

I danced with him and then we got kicked

out of the Boston thing wasn’t the thing

to do there but but I thought it was

hilarious you know like rejection number

10 I was just going let me see how high

this number can go and I literally went

up to 27 i I didn’t even know there that

many women in the play that’s great like

what’s gonna happen you know was I

stress of course I was stressed I wanted

to find a day that was lonely so it was

meaningful but it didn’t have to be

threatening you see that’s the

difference being the threat reaction of

fight flight freeze insane vs. yeah I’m

stress my heart is going faster and my

blood pressure is higher and they’re

fine and then you interpret I said this

is fun I’m having a meaningful evening

so we went a little bit through the

wheel of awareness and I kind of want to

go back there and teach people how to

use the wheel of awareness but I also

want to ask what’s going on inside the

brain are we changing the way that the

pathways are firing inside the brain

with the wheel of awareness you know the

wheel has three major components to it

that just I don’t know it’s coincidence

or just by logic or scientific reasoning

or I don’t know whatever but they are

completely consistent with the three

pillars of mind training practices

called mindfulness practices that have

been scientifically proven to change the

brain in ways I’ll describe so to answer

your question very specifically because

the wheel of awareness has these three

components and because research has

shown these are the three essential

components of any mindfulness practice

that has been proven to work

then my colleagues say hey Dan your

wheel of awareness practice you may have

made it as an integration of

consciousness practice but it meets all

of our criteria for a mindfulness

practice so I go yeah if I’m beautiful

and I’m talking about that as good I’m

not trying to be different I just want

it to be useful so based on that I would

say this what the mindfulness studies

show is that if you have these three

pillars of practice strengthening the

focus of attention cultivating the

capacity for open awareness and

strengthening your ability to have kind

intention so kind intention open

awareness and focused attention are the

three ways you train basically your

training intention awareness and

attention those are all you know mental

functions so you’re really training the

mind in very specific ways it’s

incredibly exciting and what do you do

number one you make the brain more

integrated and what an integrated brain

means is you grow areas that link

differentiated areas to each other these

are the corpus callosum that links the

differentiated left and right side of

the brain it’s the hippocampus that

links widely-separated

memory areas to each other it’s the

prefrontal cortex behind your forehead

that links the higher areas to the

middle to the lower areas of the body

and to the social world and there are

other studies even called the connectome

connect and then letters ome the

connectome studies are a new way

neuroscientists are more in a more

refined way able to look at like the

smaller if you know if the big areas I

just mentioned are like you know how New

York connects to Chicago and LA and you

say well look at these highways look at

those big cities that’s cool I mean

that’s really cool but it connectome

then would say you know let’s look at

the smaller cities and the smaller towns

and the villages and let’s look at the

smaller roads and highways and hiking

trails that connect the whole shebang

you know and that’s the connectome but

the bottom line is this mindfulness

makes you connect ohm or interconnect

and the absolutely cool thing about the

whole business of everything I just said

is that a more integrated brain means a

more regulated set of processes like

regulating emotion like your fear of

saying a little that girl like

regulating attention like getting

distracted easily

like regulating your memory like being

flooded by an intrusive memories like

regulating your behavior and your

relationships and your morality you know

so we want everybody in every walk of

our life from our spouses you know to

our principals of our schools to our

presidents to young people at the UN

everybody should have an integrated

brain so they’re more regulated and how

they function and can embrace

differences and compassionately honor

each other’s different ways of being in

the world that would be an integrated

way being regulated you see so

regulation comes from integration so the

bottom line about the brain is

mindfulness practices integrate the

brain do I think the wheel of awareness

practice does it absolutely because all

those things I just mentioned change

when people do the wheel of awareness

practice and the things that I haven’t

mentioned are likely to come out too

which are you improve your immune system

functioning you improve your

cardiovascular variables like heart rate

and blood pressure and cholesterol

levels you raise the level of an enzyme

called telomerase to optimal amounts so

that you can repair the ends of your

chromosomes and keep yourselves healthy

and you alter the non DNA molecules

sitting on top of the genome called

epi that means on top genetic the genes

your DNA epigenetic regulators to help

reduce inflammation so in all these ways

mindfulness practices have been shown to

demonstrate all of those improvements

making more integrative brains your more

regulating your mind and your

relationships and improving the

molecules of the body that cultivate

Medical Health

really truly admire the work and the

wheel of awareness seamless something

I’m going to apply and use myself well

you know it’s a little about it is like

having the most fun writing this book I

can’t even tell you I mean my only

problem this book is it’s uh I mean I

have a lot to say it’s long I wanted it

to be like two pages long so you know

these days with the internet the way it

is nobody’s reading books anymore they

don’t want to read like these two

paragraph blogs we have a 36 hour

training program you know that it made

for all sorts of people to watch and

then we get these people saying no you

have to do a two-minute video and I go

what and they go yeah people’s attention

spans they read two paragraph blogs and

they watch two minute videos yeah you

can’t do a 36 hour thing and a 300 page

book so that’s my only problem with I’m

doing is you know I don’t think anyone’s

read it because it’s got all these

information we’re talking about in it

people just want to hear like tell me

what to do okay do this all right done

goodbye yeah you know there’s also I

don’t want to jump forward a little bit

that’s hilarious what you said about

writing the book you have an excellent

hand model of the brain that you used to

you know teach people where their

various regions of the brain are and

just to give people the visual it’s the

thumb inside the hand to kind of made

into a fist right exact yeah

it’s not funny you’re saying this

because this morning you know I welcome

really relieved continue the editing and

ahead I came to the hand model part and

I said god I put this in other books I

probably should take it out I said oh

gosh you know someone reading this book

may not have read the other books I’ve

better leave it in so I left it in so

I’m so glad you’re now making you feel


thank you so here’s here’s the deal I

mean before I get to the details of the

hand model thank you for bringing it up

and let me just say this about the hand

model the reason people should know

about the hand model I mean people like

adults adolescents and kids is this you

can use your mind to take what you’re

about to learn about the anatomy of the


and get your brain to change the way it

fires based on your understanding of the

brain and then as you change the way the

brain fires you change the wave rewires

that is it’s gonna change its structural

anatomic connections based on what you

do with your minds attention and how you

focus attention is shaped by your

knowledge and your understanding which

is why I bother writing these books no

um so because when you get insights

here’s the story Oliver Wendell Holmes

says I start the book out with this you

know a mind stretched to a new idea and

never returns to its own dammit yes yeah

so this is the idea of the hand model of

the brain is when you start learning

that you are not passive you are

actively changing the structure of your

brain every day of your life so the

question is why not learn about your

brain so you can do it in an integrated

way that’s the idea so if you take your

thumb and put it in the middle of your

palm just as you said and fold your

fingers over the top of your thumb then

my daughter says never say this so

please don’t tell her I said this is a

handy model of the brain she thinks this

don’t know I don’t know if she still

thinks it’s dumb she said this when she

was a teenager she’s not a teenager off

the ass correction this year though um

so it’s a handy model the brain it’s a

model in your hand and

if you get to know this model very well

it really guides your life and a

beautiful beautiful way so here’s how it

works if you lift up your fingers and

lift up your thumb let’s look at the

parts there are four areas we’re just

going to name briefly the wrist area of

your hand model is your spinal cord it

also represents your tenth cranial nerve

your vagus nerve but basically it’s the

pathways from which signals of the body

like heart signals intestinal signals

muscles bone stuff like that they’re

gonna stream up that area which is

called the spinal cord so it reminds us

this is brain is fundamentally in body

you know it’s a part of a body it’s not

just a transport vehicle the body for

this head the brain effect is in service

of the body not the other way around as

Antonio Damasio a wonderful

neuroscientist tells us second part if

you look in your your brain stem palm

this brain stem area is the oldest part

of our brain it’s 300 million years old

and evolutionary terms but it also

developed first in utero and essentially

it’s responsible for making sure the

organs of the body work well you know

digestion respiration the heart system

but it’s also involved in the fight

flight freeze and faint response so it’s

really old it’s an old reptilian part of

the brain and it’s involved in a threat

response so that’s the second major

function of the brain stem so bodily

functions and threat response now if we

then put the thumb over the top ideally

you would have two thumbs to be a

perfect model most of us just have one

because there’s a left and right limbic

area this is the old mammalian part of

the brain so it’s 200 million years old

and it develops only let’s say halfway

in utero

so it’s half-baked if you will but by

the time we’re out of the womb and this

area has five major functions that are

worth committing to memory because it’s

fascinating how these five things work

together so number one is emotion the

limbic area and your thumb works with

the brain

Steff pong and then your wrist body to

create a motion so some people say oh

emotions creating limbic area no emotion

is the way the body brain stem and the

big area work together and ultimately it

also involves the cortex so you don’t

just put emotion and Limburger that a

lot of people do that is just not bread

number two the limbic area works with

the brainstem to motivate our behavior

drives us to do certain things and it

changes a lot in adolescence so the

emotional life we have and the

motivations we have in adolescence

compared to our child is very different

that’s because the limbic areas

remodeling itself that’s number two

number three is the limbic area by

itself has what are called a praise

Allah centers or evaluative centers

these are centers that are finding out

what’s going on and saying hey is this

thing happening now meaningful or not if

it’s meaningful you know something I’m

gonna pay attention to it if it’s not

meaningful I’m gonna ignore it so that’s

the first layer of appraisal meaningful

or not

number two is it says hey you know this

meaningful thing that’s happening it’s

really good I want more of it like dark

chocolate or something or you know it’s

terrible someone’s threatening me you

know so it’s still meaningful but now I

have to figure out what’s called its

hedonic tone is it good or bad and if

it’s good how do I get more of it if

it’s bad how do I get away from it so

this hedonic tone thing is really

individually set up you know so some

people can have a different appraisal of

one event and it’s very different from

other people’s so that’s appraisal

number four is memory this amygdala and

the hippocampus are here in limbic area

and they mediate different kinds of

memory we won’t get into it now but the

layers of kinds of things we can

remember and then access with recall are

shaped in part by these limbic memory

areas and then number five is the limbic

area is extremely important for

something called attachment which in

this case we’re using the word

attachment to mean the close

relationship we have with caring others

the limbic area is about attachment it’s

about memory it’s about you know

appraisal motivation and emotion so you

can see the sensuality of it in our

lives and it communicates if you put the

figures on the top with the cortex and

basically the cortex is more elaborated

area in our mammalian history so it’s

called the neomammalian cortex and the

front of it which would be basically

your fingernails would be just behind

your forehead and so your eyes would be

in front of where your fingernails are

that’s to orient your soup with the

brain and the cortex overall is

basically if you said what does it do it

it’s making max it makes maps of stuff

like if we were physically together and

I was waving my hands in front of your

eyes the back of your cortex maps out

site effect if you’re blind and feeling

what’s going on the three-dimensional

world with your fingers your fingers

would actually take over that same back

here and really maps out 3-dimensional

world the side maps out sound areas on

the side also map out parts of the body

in its physical position space and the

front most part where your second and

last knuckles go forward is the frontal

lobe and that’s where we have

associations of thoughts and stuff like

that but it also has the motor strip

that drives our movement of our muscles

ahead of that is the promoter area and

then ahead of that from your last

knuckles forward it’s called your

prefrontal cortex which has a very

important role if you look at your hand

model put your fingers back over their

thumb go see it it connects cortex

limbic area brainstem body and even the

social world together so this prefrontal

region is extremely integrative meaning

there’s differentiated sources of energy

and information flow social world

somatic world brainstem limbic and

cortical areas all are coordinated and

balanced by the integration of the

prefrontal cortex

such a great way to visualize and having

literally in her hand brain only moment

at it so something that I practice a lot

is just using binaural beats hemispheric

simcha synchronization have you have you

found in your research that the left and

right brain hemispheres operate

differently over certain activities or

can get into that place you know just to

put a plug in for my neuroscience

colleagues when it comes to left and

right side of the brain discussion for

whatever reason and there’s probably

many many reasons there’s a kind of war

going on between classic neuroscience

folks and people in my field of mental


so my friends who are neuroscientists

will say to you don’t look at the

differences being the left and right

it’s overdone okay I actually want to

honor that now I don’t agree with it

like at all but it’s gonna honor it

because you know they have their own

ways of studying things than their own

opinions and perspectives and what’s

important to know what that is and

really honor it and I do write but when

I look at the research literature of

myself as a trained scientist and I

apply that science of what’s called

laterality meaning there’s a difference

between the left and the right and I

applied my own life I played with my

friends I play it with my patients my

students then here’s what I think is

going on there are different ways of

studying the structure and function of

the left versus the right hemisphere and

classic ways we may have generalized the

difference between left and right

turn out not to be accurate but other

ways of understanding the differences

appear to be even more illuminating so

there’s a great book by a colleague of

mine and Ian McGill Chris called the

master his emissary so the way I

summarized it is a kind of alliteration

of elves which goes like this the left

develops later the right developed

earlier it’s the first Dale the left

dominant for language of a linguistic

sort the right is dominant or

communication in the nonverbal realm

like eye contact facial expression tone

of voice gestures posture timing and

intensity of response those are all

nonverbal signals that the right is

super great at doing the left is not

good at all at doing it then you come to

the left has a way of because of the way

attention works in the left it basically

looks for the details of things and in

doing that it has a tendency to break

things down when the word for that is an

a’ which means down and lies which is

break it applies ‘as things into their

component parts which is cool really

useful and that propensity to focus on

detail and look at them in linear ways

makes it so the left hemisphere is great

super great at looking for cause-effect

relationships like why did this happen

that led to that and then a 1/2 B that

lets us see the led to deep awesome

fantastic can be very creative when

linear thinking

nothing wrong with it it’s all good in

contrast the right instead of taking

things down into their component parts

tends to because of attention the way

attention is in the right it’s different

there’s a different stream of attention

that is dominant in the structural

connections of the right hemisphere that

make it see the big picture so if the

left is looking for the literal meaning

of the law the right is looking for

intention of the law what’s the spirit

of the law you know

if the left is looking for the text the

right is looking for the context you

know and it does this because it’s

attentional systems are quite different

and that that’s been documented and so

both sides are important for creativity

both sides are important for living a

full life you don’t have to play

favorites to understand the asymmetry so

what gets me people mad in the

neuroscience world is when you’ll say

things like

the right is creative and the left is

just scientific that’s just so not true

still say it it’s just wrong okay so

this is the problem is that we have all

generalizations that turned out not to

be true and this should be corrected but

the reality is the input of the body

from the heart and the intestines as an

integrated map almost exclusively in the

right hemisphere and what that does for

the stream of information taking in

signals from the body is it means

intuition and you the feeling of your

body is registered primarily in the

right hemisphere

now emotion is on both sides but since

the body plays a key role in emotional

life raw emotions are felt more readily

in the right hemisphere and what that

means is if you want to get in touch

with an internal compass within yourself

or within others you got to be ready to

give up what schools reinforcing us like

mad that were linear thinkers were given

a good grade for right and wrong answers

you know I’ve heard the right answers

and there’s the wrong answers whereas

the right is more into poetry and the

meaning of things and the subtle things

about how we feel all the things that

were missing in medical school for me so

you know I actually came back alive when

I did a book called drawing on the right

side of the brain in 1980 when I dropped

out of school because my girlfriend’s

neighbours teacher was Betty Edwards and

she was her first assistant teacher for

that book and she said what are you

doing I said oh I’ve dropped out of

medical school she goes oh here I’m just

starting this teaching this book that

was just released why don’t you do it

and I didn’t change my life because I

realized you can run a medical school

just from your left hemisphere and you

can completely diagnose people with

diseases and get your Nobel prizes for

all your kind of scientific studies but

you can be completely blind to the mind

which airs that you feel the feelings of

others not just logically look at lab

debt is this also why people say you

know go with your gut because your body

is connecting into that feeling in your

in your brain

you know you’re not gonna believe this

but I was giving a lecture in London and

one of my heroes of neuroscience Antonio

Damasio said the most beautiful thing he

said look the gut is the first brain

because we evolved this head brain much

later and in fact it’s all about

physiology and the brain is the servant

of the body you know and it was such a

beautiful way said it I wrote down the

quote and you know it’s um it’s just to

reinforce this notion that we’re kind of

head brain arrogant when we say oh it’s

all about the head bring that brain

brain so what you’re saying has complete

physiological backup that is is a

network of neurons around the intestines

and around the heart that send their

signals up to the head brain and the way

we take those signals and use it as

wisdom and intuition is not a matter of

its absolute true or absolutely false

but it’s a part of an internal compass

that lets us get guided by important

symptoms that were never taught in

school we’re usually at home to pay

attention to so the answer to your very

simple question is yes

talk about modern technology and where

we are today

the Internet’s Twitter social media do

you feel that technology has fed into

this feeling of separateness even though

it might be up here that you know we are

being social when we’re on our email and

we’re checking our email or posting on

Twitter or we’re we’re checking our

Facebook feed or something like that I

mean do you think that technology has

created this separateness within our

society today

you know it’s such an important question

and each year I teach at a program

called wisdom 2.0 we addressed that

exact question and it’s available for

free you can just go to wisdom 2.0 and

org and you know watch it or you know

you go there you can be there in person

but you don’t need to be mute all

streamed live free so so it’s a really

really important question we ask over a

three-day conference and it’s hard to

summarize the easy answer so I’ll say it

in a broad way and if you actually go to

my website dr. dan Siegel com you’ll

find the talk I gave at wisdom 2.0 last

year what I’ll just say is this I think

before there was the internet there was

a lot of isolation and part of it you

know is from Sciences view I think of

the mind being a synonym for brain

activity so we think the mind just comes

from the head not just from the whole

body where we’d have an intuition that

there’s something more or not from our

relationships so that’s one thing as a

physician I’ll say this you know

Hippocrates said 2,500 years ago that

the mind only comes from the brain in

the head when Epocrates said that it set

a tone for medicine of our separateness

now those things along with all sorts of

other factors that got modern culture to

believe we’re separate has made for

tremendous pressures on isolation now

ironically you know you have the

internet which supposedly is connecting

us but if you look at the work of sherry

Turkle you’ll see so sadly you know even

though there’s more like digital

connection there’s more interpersonal

isolation and her work is just fabulous

and when you build on that and say look

even if the intention of you know social

media platforms is to connect people

what people have done based on an area

of the brain probably called the default

mode Network which we’re learning a lot

about now is and this is just a guess

but you know basically if I throw up

like a bunch of photos of how great my

life is and then you’re feeling

normal aspects of life somes good somes

not so good and you look at my social

media platform page and you go whoa

Dan’s life is like fantastic mine sucks

already you are feeling inadequate and

and what happens is this incredible

comparative you versus me you versus me

you versus me and once we get into the

you know you versus me or us versus them

modality it draws on this really painful

threat response we have that these

things called mortality salience studies

show that when you’re threatened you

start treating people not like you and

more hostility and you just make your

in-group the ones you focus on so what I

think is happening then ironically is

yes we’re getting more isolated not

because I think the people who you know

run these you know platforms have that

intention but it’s one of the you know

the sad downsides of these incredibly

potentially useful platforms and so we

shouldn’t generalize and say it’s bad I

think what we need to do realize that

part of the problem is we think the self

is a singular noun that we call I or me

but instead it’s really like a verb

if you had to say it would be like a

plural verb so that you and I right now

here talking to each other

we’re just manifestations of the same

essence yes we have bodies that make us

distinct and that’s beautiful that’s the

differentiated nature we are you can

call that meat I haven’t made you of a

meat but we also have a we and the way

of an integrated life is you live as a

we M W e you realize that every person

you encounter maybe every living being

let’s just start with people every

person you encounter

just a manifestation of you

and Azzam we you don’t have to say I

don’t have a body of course you have a

body you should feed your body exercise

your body sleep your body enjoy your

body all those things are me great but

equally important just different is a we

identity and it’s kind of like

candlelight you know we we raise young

children to think oh it’s all about your

wax and it’s all about how cool your

your candle structure is in your wax

truck hey you should be the best candle

around so if someone else is light is

lit blow it out so you’ll get into the

good college you know and instead we

need to we need to cultivate the kind of

Society kind of culture

which drawing on the candle analogy you

know where we realized that if you see

someone next to you as a candle is not

lit and your flame is lit leaned over

light them up and then you see someone

else in your other side lean over and

light them up because what does it do to

your wick to the flame on your wick if

you light up someone else’s wick doesn’t

take anything away from you but it makes

the whole world brighter we are the

light we are the light we’re not just

these bodily candles we live in and

that’s the kind of world we need to

create the Internet can help us do it

you know the Internet is our tool it’s

not our tormentor we need to really

empower people to realize we are these

plural verbs we are these candles we are

the light that emanates from all of us

and if we start living like that we can

make this a healthier and more

meaningful place for all of us

absolutely love it

dan thank you so much sir I just I’m

taken aback by your words and just all

the science that we’ve covered and also

what you just did at the end here

connecting it all together and I think

it’s it’s especially important to

mention this and I mean what are we if

if we aren’t helping others or at least

giving something else to someone else

that may be making their day a little

bit brighter by doing that absolutely

that’s absolutely right dan I wanted to

ask you about one thing I’m so glad I

remembered this I was taking a shower

this morning and I thought of this I

wanted to ask you about some of these

other these plant medicines that exist

such as ayahuasca DMT if you want to get

into like cell siphon or LSD how do you

feel that connects in with the work

you’re doing have you studied it at all

no my heavens no there’s some

interesting studies coming out I think

it’s really intriguing and we should be

open to it but I haven’t done those

studies or I’m not that familiar with

them to comment on them but it’s very


dan where can people find your work

where can people get a copy of mind and

mind site is it dr. dan Siegel calm yeah

dr da n SI e GTL calm and you can do the

wheel from there you know anywhere where

things are sold you can get books you

know and yeah we have this great new 36

hour training program that’s available

for anyone if you really want to dive

into this in this super exciting way

that’s just being released now we have

all sorts of training programs and live

events and online things and all sorts

of things so were you just over at the

Omega Institute I’m gonna be at Omega

the beginning of September it was just

at the Esalen Institute oh cool yeah

Elizabeth lesser amazing person we’ve

had her on the show oh great she and

I’ll be having lunch very soon cool very

cool guys this is the human experience

please check out dr. Dan Siegel’s work

mine site mind a journey to the heart of

being human it’s such amazing reading I

feel like we just scratched the surface

with this interview so yeah dr. dan

Siegel comm is the website a huge thank

you to my guest

thank you guys so much for listening

this is the human experience we are

going to get out of here

thank you so

Share Button