by Daniel J. Siegel
Guilford Press, 1999
Review by James E. de Jarnette, Ph.D. and Robert N. Grove, Ph.D. on Feb 7th 2003
In the Preface to this most
readable and enjoyable book, Daniel Siegel puts the question, What is the
mind? How does the mind develop? From
this point we are taken on a psychoneurobiological expedition exploring one of
the oldest questions for mankind, i.e. soma vs. psyche; what is consciousness.
The beginning questions lead us to
the philosophical conclusion that consciousness, i.e. mind, is something that
is developed, and it is implicit in this that it is something that grows along
developmental lines and is linked to some biological structures. This question even after this book will
continue to be debated in the best salons around the world.
Epistemology and eschatology set
aside, this is a truly ground breaking work that is very user friendly. Anyone with a high school education can
follow the yellow brick road beginning with learning basic brain structures and
understanding the need for consilience.
Consilience is at the heart of this
book. Edward O. Wilson the author of
the book Consilience and the Unity of Knowledge said in an interview
with David Gergen said about the word consilience: "Well, it's not a new
word. It's been used for 160 years by philosophers of science, and essentially
it means the way the different fields, you know, like Biology and Physics and
the social sciences connect up at least in terms of the laws, the basic laws
that they share together. It really goes back to a very old dream of the
enlightenment in the 17th and 18th century when philosophers believed that you
could unite knowledge. So consilience means really the uniting of knowledge at
a fundamental level."
work empirically demonstrates what we have all been reading about how important
attachment is and its effects in all areas of life and relationship. However its implications for the healing of
traumas that effect brain structure point toward a new appreciation of the
wisdom teachings of the ages about meditative solitude. He states,
Each of us
needs periods in which our minds can focus inwardly. Solitude is an essential experience for the mind to organize its
own process and create an internal state of resonance. In such a state, the self is able to alter
its constraints by directly reducing the input form interactions with others. As the mind goes through altering phases of
needing connecting and needing solitude, the states of mind are cyclically
influenced by combinations of external and internal process. We can propose that such a shifting of focus
allows the mind to achieve a balanced self-organizational flow in the states of
mind across time. Respecting the need
for solitude allows the mind to heal itselfwhich in essence can be seen as
releasing the natural self-organizational tendencies of the mind to create a
balanced flow of states. Solitude
permits the self to reflect on engrained patterns and intentionally alter
reflexive responses to external events that have been maintaining the dyadic
dysfunction. (pg. 235).
to the use of psychotherapy as a means toward repairing continuing trauma and
restoring self-regulation, he states,
clinical setting, the relationship of therapist and patient becomes the
external constraint that can help produce changes in the individuals
capacity for self-organization. (pg. 242)
of evidence support the view that the conscious self is in fact a very small
portion of the minds activity.
Perception, abstract cognition, emotional processes, memory and social
interaction all appear to proceed to a great extent without the involvement of
consciousness. Most of the mind is
Nonconscious processing influences our behaviors, feelings and
when processes become linked with consciousness, they can be more
strategically and intentionally manipulated and the outcome of their processing
can be adaptively altered.
Consciousness may allow us to become free from reflexive processing and
introduce some aspect of choice into our behavior. (pg.263)
Developing Mind is a
must read for professional behavioral scientists, people interested in parenting,
early childhood development, neurobiology, and those who really want the
empirical facts about the effects of parenting over the lifespan. It is full of wonder and written so that
anyone can understand and appreciate the wonders that consilience in the
sciences are bringing to us in understanding how we arrived at who we are and
what we can do to effect change at the systemic level.
© 2003 James E. de Jarnette and Robert N. Grove
James E. de Jarnette, Ph.D. and Robert
N. Grove, Ph.D.