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Dan Siegel - 'Being' Versus 'Doing' With Your Child

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The Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education Educating the Heart Educating the Heart Parenting for the 21st Century: Building the Neural Circuits for Resilience and Kindness. Dr. Dan Siegel in conversation with Maria LeRose. September 11, 2011 "Being" versus "Doing" with your child Solving problems is great but not when it is done to the exclusion of just being with someone Inner subjective experience And this is the key point we are raising this is where we are getting into the right-left brain stuff the right brain just likes to be with what is and that attunement between two people is one of the most important experiences of joining anyone of us could have ever so you can say you are not doing anything but actually you are doing something by just being toghether and that is something a lot of people miss because they feel so anxious inside they want to solve a problem, solve a problem they don't realize that the fundamental connection that needs to be set up, is not about looking for ways of solving a problem it is just about Being with the reality'. Now what does that mean on a deep deep level in this right hemisphere - left hemisphere example? Aha If I dont take the time to align myself with your right hemisphere all I am going to do is do what the entire rest of the world does, which is, the left brain is always looking outward, so for example - this is going to get a little complicated with anatomy, for a baby, a baby searches the world with the right hand which goes straight to the left brain but the baby soothes herself with the left hand which is going right to the right brain so the way - if you just want to get a gist of the differences besides the idea that the left is looking at the text and the right is looking at the context and the left is like a letter of the law where as the right is the spirit of the law. The right hemisphere is really about interiority it really looks at the interior of the self and the interior of other people it looks for the subjective side of the mind it is a right brain dominant thing. The left is really all about looking outward solving problems, sending language out, figuring out what am I supposed to display to the outside world - there are things called social display rules, what am I supposed to really do to be accepted by the people; that is all left brain stuff. So in these ways parents are so busy managing their children's doings and calendars and everything like that that they miss this opportunity for BEING with their child. And it is a very very sad thing What I am really concerned about is, when you add busy parenting that are focused on doing, and calendars and managing behavior where they are not actually BEING with the mind of the child. Then you launch kids into schools which are unbelivably pressured to get kids ready for this incredibly competitive, me, me, me, do better, better, better. Then they are on the internet which is constantly an externally focused set of stimuli. We are raising a generation that actually isn't developing the skills of looking inward which is where kindness comes from and it is where resilience comes from it is where the permission to know there is a vulnerable part of myself, there is a longing that is not met, like you just told me there. The way we really allow that vulnerability to be present, for kindness to be there, is to actually be able to look inward and ourselves look inward at others so at the very very basic level this is how we see the mind, I call MINDSIGHT and there is a way of living where you don't see the mind and there is a way of living where you do. And everything in modern culture pushes us to not look at the mind. But you are offering such a simple solution and if it doesn't cost any money Zero. And for all kinds of reasons that you just described we are not doing it. The cultural pressure is not to sit quietly and draw with each other and look into each others faces. In that scenario that you talked about where the child is upset and you attend to the right side of the brain by touching them, connecting with them emotionally and then at some point you are able, shortly after that, to start to problem solve. Is that because something is actually happening in their brain. Sure, let me give you an example shall we go back to the example where you feel rejected. Sure. So, there are studies that everybody should know about, that I summarize with the phrase "Name it to tame it" So if you are really agitated, you are frightened to be rejected again, or you are really upset with what happened, or you are angry or whatever. In Maria's right brain, I can tell you this, in addition to right and left, there is - now please excuse this incredibly simplistic statements- but there is an upstairs brain and a downstairs brain. Now I am fine with that for this parent's book, but believe me my other foot is in science. And the scientist would see that and go "What!" But the fact is there is a cortical rim where a lot of this higher stuff goes on, and there is everything below the cortex. So, if you take your thumb and put it in the middle of your fingers and put your hands on the top, give this a try. This should be in my brain like this, see. This would be the cortex where you do all your thinking and planning and all that kind of stuff. If you lift up your cortex you have everything below the cortex which we call the downstairs brain. Sounds reasonable. Downstairs is just a substitute for the word sub-cortical which freaks parents out. So downstairs. And it's the - the upstairs brain is the cortex. OK. So you lift up your upstairs brain, you go to your downstairs brain that is the sub-cortex, it's the limbic area and it is the brain stem these are very ancient circuits, responsible for things like emotion and motivation, and flight, fight or freeze reaction and your arousal states when you are awake or asleep, stuff like that. So what happens at that moment is, if we did a scan on your brain, we would say that your right amigdala in your limbic area of your downstairs brain - downstairs brain - downstairs brain which is super active I am scared, I am scared, I am scared, I am scared, I am scared, I am scared and studies show that if you have this kind of presence of mind I can get Maria's left brain to name the feeling from the downstairs brain, and you can show that she would squirt soothing neuro transmiters down to her right limbic area, right downstairs brain and calm it down. Ok, so we quickly summarized that entire set of studies with "Name it to tame it" that's all parents need to know, in the book we didn't put any of this stuff, but everything is backed up by science, believe me. So what does that look like? I come to you, I have a problem So here is what it looks like, let's say you are agitated about being rejected by your friends. So I give you the hug only at that moment, not naming anything, you don't jump to that. First is connect and then re-direct. So that's the way these strategies connect and re-direct. So the idea is, first I connect with my right hemisphere that helps sooth your whole system but you are still nervous about going back to school. Then I say "Well let's talk about it" and you say "Well, this happened and she went there, she was going to go to the party but she didn't want to go and then they turned away from me, they would not have lunch with me" And I say "It sounds like you are really dealing with a big feeling of fear that when you go to school tomorrow, no one is going to want to have lunch with you." So we are naming fear. I thought I was angry. Maybe you were angry too. But it helps too. Right, you have to actually name the accurate emotion. Right. Because we could say "well you are feeling excited to go for popsicles" But that is wrong It's not just naming anything. And when you name it, it registers as true. That is what I am getting at, that sometimes we think we are angry, but in fact we are sad or we are fearful, by you saying fear it may in fact that would calm your downstairs brain. So at that moment we are using, first connecting with the right hemisphere helps the system get stabilized, you don't feel alone the next step is to name it to tame it So I am now going to help you with my left brain because I am using both my hemispheres to get her to go. Gosh I wonder what my daughter is really feeling here? I am not going to tell you what you are feeling; but I would say something like "I wonder if you are feeling scared?" and then in Maria's brain the whole system calms down. Flipping your Brain: a scientific explanation.

Video Details

Duration: 8 minutes and 32 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Dalailamacenter
Views: 266
Posted by: szemereorsolya on Feb 4, 2013

Short talk at the Dalai Lama Center

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