Choose your community wisely.

Continuing our theme of enriching the soil for life long good health, in this post I will talk about the importance of our community in which we live. I will use the word ‘community’ in a wider sense than the usual meaning; it will also include sense of connectedness and formation of social networks with other individuals in that community. So this includes all of our relationships with each other, including family, friends,work colleagues, acquaintances and strangers; as well as the relationships with the broader world, to the universe and the  community in which we live. I am using this wider sense because we are social beings, and we as individuals can only flourish in a good, wholesome, fertile Eco-system.

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Eco system that promotes stress will cause ill-health. Studies show living in communities that are stressful and cause unhappiness contribute to ill-health and in communities where there is happiness and contentment are health promoting.

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Our Eco-system starts with our families and on that we may not have a choice. If possible we would want to experience in our family a wide range of emotions without fear of harsh judgement and with over all feeling of  happiness, feeling of being safe and supported;  and also having a sense of  unconditional love. In this kind of environment we produce less toxic hormone in our bodies. We are able to learn from our mistakes and grow. We can explore and can afford to be adventurous. Of course the opposite is true when our family environment is not supportive but is  judgmental and so resulting in us shutting down, unable to share our emotional life. The first situation as you can imagine is ‘life giving’ and the second situation is ‘stifling and life draining.’

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Friendship can be mutually beneficial in different ways. The best friendship, according to Aristotle  is that in which both individuals are equally virtuous and never do any harm to each other, to do so would be against their nature; and they have mutual love for each other. Lesser friendships are where there is limited mutual benefit through the association.

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The further away we move from our association with family and friends, to work associates, acquaintances and strangers our reasons for association become more limited but these associations still can have significant impact on us depending on whether the relationship is stressful or not.

The sense of the relationship to our neighborhood should be where its safe to be there without coming to harm from individuals, noise and pollution.

We also want to have the sense that we are not poisoning our planet and we want to leave behind a healthy planet for our children and many future generations.

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Obviously we don’t have complete control to organize our community around us so that it allows us to flourish. We never the less need to align ourselves so that it causes minimal harm to our person-hood  This requires deep thought on what we value, practical wisdom and great courage to make a change. In the end, the change that results in less stress and more contentment will be healthy one indeed.

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.”

Resources:

Daniel J. Siegel -Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology 

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Mind, Brain and Relationships as a Single Reality.

In a new field call the Interpersonal Neurobiology, the mind, brain and relationships is viewed as a single reality rather than three separate entities. First let me quickly review the single reality story and then I will look at the value or benefits of this new view.

To understand how  mind, brain and relationships are connected as a single reality we can envision a visual image of  triangle that signifies one reality with three facets. The one unified reality, represented by the triangle, is the system of energy and information flow (at times I will refer to it as ‘the flow’).

The triangle represents the process by which energy and information flow and how the flow changes across time. The relationships are the sharing of that flow. The brain here represents the neurones in the head, as well as the nerves in the whole body; and it represents embodied mechanism of that flow. And the mind is an emergent process the arises from the system of energy and information flow within our bodies and between people; another wards the mind result from the brain and the relationships as the energy flow. The mind is an emergent process that regulates that from which it arises.( i.e. the mind arises from the movement of energy in the brain and the relationships; and then the mind regulates the flow in the brain and in a relationship). What arises is the emergent self – organizing process that regulates the energy and information flow. So the mind, among other attributes, is in part the regulatory process that shapes energy and information flow within and between people

In the Interpersonal Neurobiology field, the brain, mind and the relationships are not separate from each other, they are three elements of energy and information flow that represents the same single reality. These three elements communicate, relate and exchange information with regulation of “the flow”  between them. The better the communication and linkage between them  then better will be the “integration”, which is important as we will see in a moment.

From  an interpersonal neurobiology perspective , integration is the definition of good health. Integration is, as mentioned  before, the linkage of differentiated elements. A healthy mind, a healthy brain, and healthy relationship emerge from good integration. The structural connections of differentiated areas to one another in the body enable flexible and adaptive regulation. A well-regulated brain coordinates and balances its functioning through having a good integration with all its differentiated parts.

What are the advantages of this model ? Well, for one, we can understand better how the energy and information flow trough the brian as revealed in various brain scan findings; for example we can see what happens to energy flow on a scan when someone sees a loved one or an enemy or what happens when we trying to solve a problem etc.  We can also reinterpret the field of mental disorders; instead of listing properties of a particular disorder and giving it a name such a depression or schizophrenia, we can understand depression or schizophrenia as process of energy flow disruption or inadequate integration between differentiated parts of the brain . We can also reframe how we approach understanding relational experiences within families, couples, classrooms, or companies. Integration becomes the framework for looking for dysfunction ; the energy and information flow becomes our focus for correcting the dysfunction.

Integration creates harmony. Impaired integration results in chaos and/or rigidity. Brain or relationship that are not integrated move into dysfunctional state. The brain is unable to balance the flow of energy and information in a flexible way. So it either adopt a very rigid way of handling the energy or it may become very chaotic. The same is true for the relationships, if the information and energy cannot be handled between a couple in flexible and balance manner the relationships become rigid or chaotic.

The natural implication of this interpersonal neurobiology view of integration at the heart of health is that we can empower each other to discover novel and effective approaches to promoting wellness in our relationship, our brains, and our minds.

The nature of the impediment to integration may be some combination of genetic , experiential , or chance factors. This strategy then recognizes each individuals innate potential to heal and become whole by releasing the blocked capacity of that person to integrate the brain and relationships. The role of the clinician , teacher , or parent , then , is to facilitate the discovery of this potential for integration inherent in each of us. This is the way we awaken the mind to create health in the person’s life.

Daniel J. Siegel writes in his book ” Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology” ...

“…the triangle in everyday life enables us to see how our minds emerges not only from neural mechanisms but also from relationship we have with other people and with our planet. This means that we don’t ” own ” our minds , but rather we have an expanded sense of identity that goes beyond the boundary of our skin , beyond a definition of ” self” that is limited to just our bodily encasement. When studies of happiness, health, longevity , and even wisdom are reviewed , the key feature shared by each of these attributes is relationships. We can see how the triangle makes relationships equally as important as the embodied mechanisms of the brain in shaping the mind.When the relationships are integrated, a person’s mind thrives and the individual is healthier, happier, wiser, and live longer.”

At the heart of well-being is a fully integrated view of energy and information flow: the way it is shared in relationships, passes through  the embodied  mechanism of the brain, and is regulated by the self-organizing emergent embodied and relational process of mind.

Resources

Daniel J. Siegel  ” Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology” 

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