Sense of Self (Me) and We.

If one decide to become part of “we” it doesn’t mean they should lose sense of “me” ; if “me” does gets lost there is a serious problem knowing and developing the sense of self.

In relationships we share patterns of energy with one another which pass through our neural circuits, these patterns of energy carry meaning and information. If this energy and information is not transmitted properly there are serious consequences for knowing the self and being part of the we.

For example, if  the past experience of relationship connections were unreliable, it will prevent us from knowing ourselves and will cause difficulty relating to others as “we.” So as not to risk being hurt again by similar experiences to the past ones, we will shut parts of ourselves off . This may result in us living life of isolation and creating sense of independence which will allow us to survive but it will limit our sense of vitality that we are able to feel as part of we. We may also find that our sense of self to be in an overwhelming upheaval if our experience of past connections with those we depended for comfort  were inconsistent, un-welcomed and intrusive. In this situation we may find ourselves with disabling doubt , anxiety and fear when ever we allow ourselves to become dependent on our loved one for support, caring  and well-being. We may continue to look for a perfect partner but never finding one. We may become highly reactive to ambiguous communication that may fill our daily lives with dread and uncertainty. These experiences prevent us from growing and knowing ourself as a person; they keeps us from being “me.” They also constrain our present experiences and limits us from constructing more helpful future. We have to grow beyond these past memory patterns and move towards integrated state of thriving as both a strong “me” and a vitalizing “we.”

Daniel J. Siegel in his book Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology mentions studies of empathy and reports…

…” individuals who are shown a photograph of a gruesome accident can be overwhelmed in their response and shut down their capacity to help if they ask the question: What if that were me? How would I feel? Instead , if they ask the question, ” How does that person feel?” they are more likely to have the internal resources to extend themselves and help other. The gist of these finding is that if we fuse together you and me, “I” will become lost and overwhelmed. We will become confused, fused – with. Joining is not the same as fusion.”

Various mindful awareness practices are direct way to increase the capacity to become a part of a we without becoming lost as me. ( in the future posts I will say more about these practices.)


Daniel J. Siegel :  Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology

Learning to thrive with uncertainty is the root of creativity.

I mentioned in my previous post that integration is the basis for health. I explained integration as a situation where all the differentiated parts are  linked together and the information between these parts flow in a flexible, free and harmonious way. So when a brain or a relationship is well-integrated and therefore healthy ,then all of the different centres, each dealing with a unique information or function, are connected and the information flows between them is flexible, free and harmonious.   To understand the dynamics of living creative and healthy life some have suggested a “river of integration” as a metaphor for our flow through life in which the central flow of the river the movement of harmony, and the banks of the river represents the states of chaos and rigidity when we are not in an integrated flow. I should mention that integration is not a state we arrive at and then stay there for ever; rather the integration is a life long process, not a final product. Our life continuously flows and unfolds towards intentional integration but never reaches a fixed endpoint, so we are truly on a journey of growth, understanding and wisdom.

If we are always in the middle of the river where one is fully integrated, life would flow along without much stress or upheaval. In real life the opportunities for growth, creativity,understanding and wisdom comes when we move towards both banks of the river of integration, towards chaos and rigidity; but not get stuck there for long periods of time. On the banks there is uncertainty of chaos and rigidity, one has to be open to see reality in a new way and discover new solutions or insights for growth and creativity.

The romantic notion of an artist’s having to suffer personal pain and turmoil to produce wonderful art is dispelled with careful studies of their inclination and output. The artistic expression is only one form of creativity; here we are viewing creativity as a much larger concept. It includes not only the outward production of art but also includes a deep inward experience of living a creative life. What does it mean to live a deep creative life? It is a notion of way of being. It is being receptive and open to ourselves and others; ready to receive and ready to connect; it means letting go of preexisting judgements and expectations; it means experiencing energy flow within us which give rise to fresh perception, new perspective, and spontaneous gesture. It means having a mindful awareness. It means open to experience as it arises without being swept up by judgements or automatic processes that dominate our perceptions of the whole.We have an habitual inclination to avoid sensing and experiencing with a fresh and open mind, perhaps to gain a sense of control and certainty. But we need to embrace  uncertainty. Learning to thrive with uncertainty is the root of creativity.

Sometimes we get stuck in familiar and repetitive habits that becomes our imprisonment ( cohesive way of being). We may have a fixed view of ourselves which is cohesive and logical stating who we are  and why we are here but not being open to further change; we may experience repeated uncontrollable emotions and impulsive reaction to others which overwhelms us and we pass it off as “hot under the collar” or we may put it down to ” prone to meltdown or rages”. This kind of repeated behaviour gives us rigid patterns to our personality that keep us stuck in rigidity and chaos. The allure to staying in these pattern is certainty and familiarity of the same behaviour;  an attempt to avoid uncertainty. But it is destructive and often create impediment to health and creativity.

In mindful awareness one has to be open and present , in the “here and now” ; the experiences in this way of being are not controllable, not certain, and often not familiar. It requires courage to face the unknown and not withdraw into the familiar destructive habits.  Dr . Daniel J. Siegel in his book Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology puts it this way…

…” Applying this approach to integration is a creative act from the inside out. Living creatively is not about creating a product, but living a life fully present and open to things as they are. Living creatively is also filled with the thrill of possibility and the gratitude for this miracle of being alive. As the self emerges in these new ways with integration, being generous and kind is a natural outcome – towards others, and with ourselves. Beginning with ourselves and extending our open mind to others, integration becomes a way of being present that opens the doors to healthy and creative ways of being in the world.”


Daniel J. Siegel -Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology 

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Mindfulness is the single most important foundation of Health.

It has become more common to hear people talk about mindfulness. In the future I believe it will become even more common and it would not surprise me if as part of the health promoting measures, health care professionals don’t start advocating mindfulness in addition to exercise, good nutrition etc. But what is mindfulness? The exact definition is still being debated but generally it is a form of awareness where we are fully present for an inner or outer moment of  experience, of being accepting and open. In contrast non-mindfulness is when we view from a prejudicial belief, we may be fully aware but not mindfully aware because we are not open and not accepting. We can for example act hostile towards someone because of our existing mental model of hostility but not because there is any need to be hostile. In mindfulness the stance is one of positive regard for others, a nonjudgemental awareness that is tinted with acceptance at its core, of compassion towards self and others.

Mindful awareness can be intentionally created by practices such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, or centring prayer. Daniel J. Siegel in his book ” Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology ” writes this about mindfulness…

“Studies of those with mindful awareness using a broad application of these features reveal that it is of benefit to the health of the mind in terms of balanced emotional regulation, flexibility, and approaching rather than withdrawing from challenging event. Being mindful makes you more empathetic and improves the health of the body in terms of enhanced immune function and increased telomerase – the enzyme that maintains the telomeres at the ends of chromosomes and thus enhances cellular longevity. Mindfulness also helps you have more resilience in the face of chronic pain. Mindfulness awareness helps minds, relationships, and our embodied lives.”

In the ancient traditions of the East mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years to seek truths at higher state of being or to seek enlightenment. It is only recently scientists, with encouragement of Dalai Lama, are discovering the value of mindfulness for health and relationships. In the future posts I will talk about the neurobiology of mindfulness.



Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology  by Daniel J. Siegel

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