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What is the mind and how does it work, in comfort and in discomfort? Is the subjective reality of the mind real and how do we quiet our minds in crisis situations? Is the mind limited to our psychological structures or does it transcend their invisible boundaries? These are just some of the questions that Daniel Siegel and Caroline Welch seek to answer by combining science with ancient traditions and spiritual practice. Daniel Siegel, UCLA professor and prolific author, is now among the world’s foremost experts on the study of mind and relationships. Caroline Welch is the co-founder of the Mindsight Institute and recently published the bestseller The Gift of Mindfulness, a mindfulness guide for women. The collaboration between Pagina de Psihologie and the Siegel-Welch began in 2014, when we invited them to a conference in Romania. Since then, we have remained close friends, becoming part of the community that promotes the #RevolutionRelationshipInRomania. They told us about their relationship, both at home and on the professional scene, but also about their current interests in an exclusive interview for the Psychology Page.

Dear Caroline and Daniel, it is a real joy to have the opportunity for this interview and we are grateful for your time. Thank you.

You have been life partners for more than three decades and have been working together at the Mindsight Institute for about 15 years. What are the main pillars of your collaboration both at home and at work? 

Dan: Integration is a fundamental way we make this work and personal life partnership work: Honoring differences while promoting compassionate linkages. 

Caroline: The three main pillars – which are applicable both at home and at work – for our collaboration are: respect for the other’s approach, work and contributions, sharing the joy of living consistent with our purpose in offering impactful work and supporting family, and finally honoring boundaries between work and personal. 

The psychology of relationships tells us that security and friendship are the building blocks of a happy marriage. What are the habits by which you cultivate safety in your relationship as a couple? 

Dan: Again, integration is a key–realizing we are not only different individuals but may have differing expectations that sometimes filter how we see and respond to our partner. By linking with open communication and reconnecting after misunderstandings and rupture to our connection, we can make a repair a cornerstone for moving forward. 

Caroline: The habits by which we strive to cultivate safety as a couple are: mutual respect, curiosity about the other, and an on-going effort to be open, flexible and adaptive to what life brings our way, as well as the ways in which we each are continuing to evolve. 

Questions for Caroline Welch

Your book The Gift of Presence gathered, upon its launch in Romania, several hundred people eager to understand themselves better. What benefits has practicing mindfulness brought to your life, and what has been your greatest reward? 

CW: The benefits having a mindful awareness practice has brought to my life include: (1) living as many moments as possible in the present each day, (2) cultivating the confidence that I can handle whatever life brings my way, and (3) enjoying a “buffer” of even a split second to respond skillfully to a given situation or statement that may be triggering. 

Your first profession that you have practiced for a long time is law. What made you make this conversion to well-being and how did the process go? 

CW: I still consider law to be my profession, but unlike before when I worked in the very adversarial atmosphere of corporate litigation, or trial work, I now practice a more „proactive“ version of the law whereby I’m keeping our intellectual property safe and enjoying the reward of being able to provide through our online learning offerings the principles of and science underpinning well-being to so many mental health professionals and others, who in turn. share the work with their clients, organizations, and families. 


To write the book, you interviewed dozens of women between the ages of 23 and 90. What are the steps by which a woman can achieve favorable changes in her life? 

CW: The steps are summarized in the 3 Ps: Purpose, Pivoting and Pacing. Purpose, as in figuring out what matters most to us, and living aligned with that. Pivoting as in making proactive changes, when we still have options available – before we are forced to make changes. And finally, Pacing, as in determining what is the priority for this given chapter of my life – knowing that hopefully our health spans are much longer than at any previous time in our human history. 

Mindfulness and compassion are two practices that are closely related. How do they help us manage stress and tame anxiety?

CW: Compassion is an essential part of our mindful awareness practices. As we manage our daily stress and anxiety, it’s helpful to recognize that we are part of a common humanity and that each of us has struggles. It’s also helpful to be kind to ourselves. That’s so challenging for us – we need to come to a place where we can be as supportive and understanding of ourselves as we are of our good friends. 

Questions for Daniel Siegel

Your new book, IntraConnected is an exciting read and shows us how complex human existence is. What exactly does the term intraconnect mean, and why is it important to introduce it into our vocabulary?

DS: In modern cultures, there is often an emphasis on the individual being the fundamental unit of the “self”. Yet if that word, “self”, is a term for a center of experience, lodging this identity as a center only in the skin-encased body would mean that you are there, I am here, and we may be “interconnected” as two separate entities connected to one another. In contrast, if we sense into a “center of experience” that is not defined or confined to the skin-encased individual body, then we can see how there is a connectivity within the whole that is the sensation, perspective, and agency of a self of the inner and the relational centers of experience that are a wider identity. Yet what word do we have that symbolizes this center of connectivity within the whole? The term, “intraconnected” emerged to attempt to name that important way we sense, perceive, and act on behalf of the larger whole of existence. 

Neuroscience, spirituality, and quantum physics are increasingly finding their place together in your books and interviews. What is the link between the three areas and how do you manage to integrate them into a coherent vision?

DS: There is a natural emergence of both experience and conceptualization when a foundation in reality as being energy and its flow being the fundamental essence of experience. The approach of consilience is to explore how independent disciplines study and conceptualize the nature of reality, and a consilience becomes revealed from areas such as science, linking neuroscience to quantum physics, and human explorations of truth, such as the arts, music, dance, and spirituality. It is then a natural journey in which the direct experience of tens of thousands of individuals doing an integrative practice, like the Wheel of Awareness, have a common finding that fits with both quantum views of energy and neuroscience insights into energy flow in the nervous system that in turn, overlap with thousands of years of Indigenous and contemplative teachings. It is deeply rewarding, and natural, to open to how these all work well together from the vantage point of a deep view of energy flow. 

Lately, there is more and more science about the cardiac nervous system and the enteric nervous system. Scientists proving that in addition to the cephalic brain, we also have a heart brain and an enteric brain. How does interpersonal neurobiology (your field) view these new scientific findings? 

DS: IPNB (interpersonal neurobiology) envisions an “embodied brain” that includes at least three centers of energy and information flow–parallel distributed processors of neural networks in the gut, heart, and head. Recent research, including that of Antonio Damasio and colleagues, are exciting affirmations of this view that has helpful applications in personal insights and psychotherapeutic work. 

The word from psychology that has become part of the vocabulary of many Romanians is trauma. How is trauma described through the lens of interpersonal neurobiology and what does its treatment entail? 

DS: Trauma can be viewed as an experience that overwhelms the ability to adapt well. Individuals, couples, families, classrooms, and communities can experience trauma. An IPNB view of trauma is that it blocks the process of integration in a way that leads to lasting impediments to differentiation, linkage, or both. This makes the system–individual to community–prone toward chaos and rigidity. Finding a domain of integration that is in need of determining how these blockages are impairing integration is the general approach of a strategy. These domains include those of consciousness, vertical, bilateral, memory, narrative, state, interpersonal, temporal, and identity integration. By focusing on these nine domains of integration, we can help move from the vulnerabilities of post-traumatic stress disorder to the integrative transformation of post traumatic growth and healing.

Pagina de Psihologie este o comunitate de psihologi, psihoterapeuți, psihiatri și oameni pasionați de psihologia relațiilor. Preocuparea față de cultivarea inteligenței relaționale, a sănătății emoționale și interpersonale este exprimată prin articole, evenimente și cărți de specialitate. Editura Pagina de Psihologie publică anual bestseller-uri naționale și internaționale. Iar contributorii noștri sunt specialiști cu experiență clinică și practică terapeutică. La secțiunea cursuri vă oferim atât activități educaționale online, cât și programe de formare continuă și complementară.

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