Viața noastră nu e doar despre creier, e și despre minte și relații. Iar episodul de azi exact despre asta e, despre cum se integrează aceste trei concepte și cum să faci ca ele să te ducă doar în sus, nu și în jos!
The Tripod of Life
Brain, Mind and Relationships
It goes without saying that our brain plays a crucial role in our lives, but we mustn’t forget about other two concepts that are just as essential for us: our mind, and our relationships. This episode
focuses on the way these three components integrate and influence each other, and how this phenomenon impacts us.
This association was brought to attention by neuroscientist, clinical professor of psychiatry Daniel J. Siegel, who says he is a researcher in interpersonal neurobiology. This field seeks the similar patterns that arise from separate approaches to knowledge, according to his statement. He wrote several valuable books, but two of them are specifically related to these three dimensions highlighted above: brain, mind and relationships. The first book is called MindSight (a term coined by Dr. Dan Siegel to describe our human capacity to perceive the mind of the self and others), and the second book is called The Neurobiology Of ‘We’.
Let’s take a look at how Siegel describes these concepts:
It is the easiest to define in comparison with the mind and relationships.
It can be defined as the hardware, or the physical structure which hosts flows of energy and information.
If the brain is hardware, then the mind is the software.
There is no universal definition for it that could satisfy all professionals working in related disciplines like neuroscience, biology, sociology, psychology, etc., so Siegel came up with one: it’s an emerging process, embodied and relational that balances the flow of energy and information through time.
Emerging process: it’s never in a fixed state, it’s fluid, depends on interactions with the environment, the chemistry in our body, the focus changes.
Embodied: it needs a physical structure to circulate in, hence the relationship with the brain, so it’s somehow agreed that the mind in the absence of the brain could not exist.
Relational: it’s always changing in relation to the people we interact with.
Depending on the people we hang out with, we may have different thoughts or moods.
Some people might give us a lot of motivation and energy, and always talk about work, business, investments, etc., some might help us relax and enjoy the moment, while some might even stress us and make us anxious. The relational mind is also indirectly involved in what several famous quotes such as: You are the average of the five people you spend most of your time with, or The fastest way to do things you don’t think you can do is to surround yourself with people already doing them, state.
In the previous association (brain- hardware, mind- software), they are the network.
Siegel states they are the way we exchange energy and information with those around us.
It’s important to keep in mind that this Tripod of Life is dynamic. The environment we live in and the people around us focus our attention on one thing or another and repeatedly focusing our attention also changes the hardware — the brain, so there are actual structural changes. The mind has the ability to change the architecture of the brain.
Understanding common manifestations
Despite its importance, this topic may be often overlooked. It’s a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It usually occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.
Regarding the three concepts discussed above, burnout is related to all of them: brain, mind and relationships. For example, being in an environment with a lot of pressure, that demands us to work at record speed and finish everything until yesterday, keeps us constantly emotionally triggered. Our Elephant (discussed in our previous podcast) is in alert mode so we are in survival mode, because the deadline is close and everyone keeps asking me for something. This changes our mindset: the environment, relationships, the context activates the brain in a certain way that shifts the focus of attention to a negative side, we start perceiving even minor things as threatening. We are constantly consuming our mental resources, so it gets more and more difficult to get out of that state and enjoy our free time when we get home or take a short vacation.
However, burnout is not irreversible damage, having as proof several stories from people that managed to get past it, but it is still something that no longer depends only on a momentary emotional state that can be instantly fixed. A hardware change produces. Fortunately, there are some solutions — or cures — that are very efficient and heal our mind.
Sleep is something that acts on the hardware level, basically on our brain, it is an intervention on the physical support. Our brain refreshes the information and gets rid of toxic waste, our nerve cells communicate and reorganize, which supports healthy brain function. English scientist and professor of neuroscience and psychology, Matthew Walker, wrote a book called Why We Sleep, focusing on the impact of sleep on human health.
Shifting our attention
Acting on the software level, on the mind, by consciously choosing to get out of an environment that hurts us, can be a useful prevention method. Each side activity we sign up for, such as dance classes, painting, going to the gym, etc., can make a huge difference for our psyche, as it makes us neglect our trivial problems and worries. When we choose to surround ourselves with negative information and observe all the things that are wrong, we automatically start to think that way. As a consequence, when faced with a new information, we will likely offer negative feedback, or get a defensive attitude, even though it’s not even threatening, but rather pleasant. We can choose to eliminatethese influential factors in our lives by turning to a more positive environment, source of information, or person.
Learning to control our mind
An extremely valuable advice is to understand that whenever we start to change something about ourselves, such as losing weight, we need to perceive the transformation effort as a holistic approach. For that, we need to start from our environment: our house, our office, and place there several reminders or artifacts that keep our mind — the software, focused on what we want. Following the example above, when we plan to lose weight, we could surround ourselves with signs or motivators that keep us on track, that remind us of our target weight and ideal look.
Secondly, we need to keep in mind that the relationships in our lives are a powerful catalyst for transformation. In an environment with people we share the same values with, with healthy habits that we aspire to, it takes little effort to achieve our goals: constant conversation and interaction with them keeps us focused in that direction, and after a while it becomes a habit. On the same note, when we suddenly change our entourage and try to keep our mindset intact, we may want other people to be curious about our new values and findings, the outsiders may disappoint us by bringing us back down to earth.
To sum up, the magic that happens between brain, mind and relationships, is that if we change either of them, it influences the other two. A new habit, new people in our lives, new things to focus on, and so on. There is a very fine interdependence between the three, so it’s important to keep a stable and healthy triangle that will help us build the ideal lives for us.
this is an English adaptation of the Mind Architect Podcast audio episode created by Ștefania Simon, also available on Medium.