The Beautiful Brain
I have been fascinated by the brain for as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl, my mother gave me a walk in closet to have as my own ‘laboratory”. This was prime space ina house of 8 children and I quickly put it to usew with my microscope, my dissection and chemistry kits, a model of the brain and a cherished set of old encyclopedias. I was in heaven. Those days, I thought I would become a doctor and researcher and search for the cure for brain cancer. While I didn’t follow that path, forty years later, I still am fascinated by the brain.
The recent developments in research on the structure and function of the brain makes this an exciting time for brain nerds. My favority stuff is in the field of interpersonal Neurobiology pioneered by one of my heroes Dr. Dan Seigel. Dr. Seigel is a psychiatrist and pioneer in the interdisciplinary study and practice of Interpersonal Neurobiology. In his TED talks and numerous books, Dr. Seigel clearly and simply outlines how we are relational organisms and that our brain – indded our entire nervous system (or embodied brain) is shaped by our experience and interactions with others from before our birth until our death.
While psychology has focused on the impact of early childhood experience, Seigel clearly articulates how this occurs and how it shapes the way we relate to others throughout our lives. The exciting part (hold on to your seats) is that our brains are much more resilient and plastic than once thought. That means they can continue to grow and change and through skillful and conscious experience we can change not only the way we show up in a relationship or the way we think and feel about ourselves but we can ACTUALLY change our neurophysiology through our interactions with others until the day we die! This puts a whole new spin on the idea that you should be careful who you choose to spend your time with.
In his audiobook “The Neurobiology of We”, Dr. Seigel recounts a lovely example of this when he shares a story of a 92 year old patient of his that profoundly changes his relationship too himself and his family.
This has also been my experience of my own journey and my work with clients. The brain is a beautiful, powerful part of being a human being and we can use that power and complexity to our advantage. Turning our conscious attention to what we want to change and with a skilled and trusted other to assist us, we can heal, grow, transform.