I accidentally stopped writing here and started ranting to my professors.
I’ll leave this here for when I need reminded that overdrive is not a fulfilling existence.
Response: Brainstorm, The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain
I am just three years out side of adolescence and I’ve launched a search party to find my true self- my ESSENCE. This has looked like spiritual exploration, ravaging self-help books, therapy and meditation. All of these efforts to tap back into the ‘me’ that I was when I was sixteen years old. Before this book I had mostly felt like the exception to the “tortured emotional floundering” of adolescence. I loved my early years of adolescence. (The later ones looked an awful lot like adulthood in my opinion.) I had a robust social network, I had a very sure sense of myself, I was confident, filled with hope and aspirations, I was in love, I was a practicing artist and I was free. I have always held those years close as a magical time and a place that I would like to get back to.
It turns out not to be magic but instead to be biology and evolution. Funny how at the root of all psychology, especially human development, are the adaptations that we cemented in place over millions of years of evolving. According to Siegel’s acronym I was deeply fulfilled by each letter: emotional spark, social engagement, novelty and creative exploration. It turns out I was living the upside of this formula.
Depending on the season of your life each reader will take something out of the book, which is pretty wonderful. For me at this juncture in time I’m piecing together how to make many of his skills and information serve me as an adult. There’s some solace in knowing that my dopamine levels are more regular than they once were, that the appeal of statistically life threatening risk is waning. Mostly, because I escaped those years with out any real devastation or addictions. I did walk away witch a wealth of knowledge and a few reminders that bless me in new ways each year.
I did appreciate that he develops the practice of Mindsight over the chapters. Mindsight is a set of skills that help you integrate your brain. Adolescence is all about increasing your neural integration, which is how one coordinates and balances the internal world of others and ourselves (Siegel, p. 54). This is possible when the individual parties comprising a relationship are allowed to be, “Unique and specialized yet linked” (Siegel p.53). Essentially this is how on both an individual and global scale we can foster flourishing social connection and meaningful relationships from the intimate to the casual. Integration brings harmony.
The term harmony keeps popping up everywhere for me like a big flag screaming THIS! HERE!. Each time I stop and think yes, that’s the goal figure out how to get that. The embodiment of harmony has felt really distant and elusive as of late. I feel that Siegel’s take on integration is a good framework that I can fill in with personal practices in to help me grow highly functioning, supportive, challenging, social bonds and networks. Later in the book he explains how belonging to a bonded peer group has literally meant life or death over the millennium of human existence. At the end of the day we can’t lose sight of the fact that we are animals straddling the constructions of modern society. I will add Mindsight to my mystical toolbox of resources as I seek peace and contentment in this wild Western world.
The most striking part of this book was something so simple, “All thoughts and feelings are energy” (Siegel, p. 46). It’s so obvious but so abstract during the course of a normal day. In a modern Western context I think that we have confused the term energy. We associate it with being tired, with needing to eat; we’ve simplified it to something purely physiological. We often miss that the laws of physics apply to all energy including that of our own production. Energy can never be created or destroyed, just transformed. I often find physics the most esoteric experience.
Siegel explains that at its core the mind regulates the body’s energy. Duh. But, we commonly get bogged down in the functions of each structure and don’t heed the big picture. That our brains are working on a macro and micro scale to keep not only keep us alive but to very complexly conduct a higher level of thought and function not the least of which is emotional.
I have personally been expending way too much energy in the anecdotal sense since the first of the year. I’ve been stressed, consumed in rumination over ultimately trivial interactions. This past weekend with the help of this book I really had to take some time to evaluate how carelessly that I was expending my energy. Seigel’s explanation of attention as how we direct the flow of information and a relationship as sharing energy and information flow couldn’t have been better timed (Siegel, p.45-53). I think that like people, information comes into your life with some destiny. This text on the teenage experience was incredibly applicable to my current adult existence. I agree with Siegel that there is good reason for us communally and as individual adults to strive to get back to this highly experiential exciting sense of life, ESSENCE is a very powerful model.