Choosing Change #12: Building Character and Building People (Part 2 of 3)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” – Jeremiah 29:11 (TNIV)
Thank you for reading…
- The Introductory post about Choosing Change,
- Choosing Change #1: Safe People, Safe Places, and Safe Processes
- Choosing Change #2: So what’s my reasonable contribution to your change process? (Part 1 of 2)
- Choosing Change #3: So what’s my reasonable contribution to your change process? (Part 2 of 2)
- Choosing Change #4: Gardening with Intention
- Choosing Change #5: Traveling with Intention
- Choosing Change #6: Schemas, Defenses, Distortions and Resolution (Part 1 of 3)
- Choosing Change #7: Schemas, Defenses, Distortions and Resolution (Part 2 of 3)
- Choosing Change #8: Schemas, Defenses, Distortions and Resolution (Part 3 of 3)
- Choosing Change #9: The A-C-T-I-V-E Model by Dr. Ken McGill
- Choosing Change #10: Blueprints and Building Change
- Choosing Change #11: Building Character and Building People (Part 1 of 3)
In Choosing Change #11: Building Character and Building People (1 of 3) you began to do “walkthroughs” in your home, going from “room to room” with consultants, experts and specialists who suggested specific but doable behaviors to incorporate into each room (or “domain” of your life) for your benefit and for the benefit of others, over the next day, weeks, months and years of your lives together.
In this post, we’ll continue your walkthrough with Dr. Dan Siegel, who’ll accompany you on your next Walkthrough, through your Living room, Dining room and Study, and in the process presenting rich information that will help you to impact others in your family system in these high-traffic hubs of activity in your home. Ready? So let’s begin our walkthrough in these areas!
Walkthrough Area #2: The Living Room, Dining Room, and the Study
At times when I’m sitting with someone in my office and I feel the need to introduce some complex psychotherapeutic information that might help to explain a situation pertinent to them, you’re liable to hear me say “I’m not wanting to lecture you nor do I mean to go psychobabble on you, but…,” and then I launch into delivering the information.
Typically, if I do a good job of explaining the information, they may respond to me by saying “that makes so much sense to me,” to which I’ll feel some sense of relief because I think the information that’s shared could help them to create different and better outcomes in their life or in their relationships.
So we’re at one of those moments, and I need to say to you “I don’t mean to go psychobabble on you,…” but as we invite this next Specialist to walk through your Living Room and Dining Room, two high volume areas that present numerous opportunities to connect with and influence others in your home, I’d like to pass along information that hopefully, when you finish reading it you’ll feel and will say, “that makes so much sense to me.” So here goes!
Specialist #4: Dr. Daniel Siegel
Dr. Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. Dr. Siegel is also the Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute and is the author of The Developing Mind: How relationships and the Brain interact to shape who we are, 2015.
I shared extensively about Dr. Siegel’s contribution in three other posts (see the links below) so I won’t go into great detail here, however, as time permits, I’ll ask you to take some time to read the other posts to gain a thorough understanding of how his recommendations could be beneficial to you in these vital areas of your home. The posts are:
- Changing your Mind in the River of Integration
- Changing your Mind with the practice of LoveWorks
- Changing your Mind in the River of Integration (Psychological and Theological Goals, Skills and Activities)
- Changing your Mind with Interpersonal Neurobiology (12 Steps)
A signature tenet of Dr. Siegel’s work is what he calls Mindsight, which is achieved through your reflecting, interpreting, processing, “making sense of,” then acting therapeutically on the information and energy that flows through your brain and your mind.
Dr. Siegel would love for his readers to create and enjoy what he calls “the Triangle of Well-being.”
When your Brain and Mind engages in goal-oriented activity to develop skills that produce constructive, functional, and “win-win” Relationship outcomes with the Brain and Mind of your partner, your effort results in the creation of a Triangle of Well-being.
Getting really good at Dr. Siegel’s Mindsight process means your brain, your mind, and your relationships are working together to positively and constructively impact one another. This typically occurs because you’re integrating good psychological resources, identifying important personal values, and consistently practicing constructive relationship strategies in these three areas of your life.
By the way, Dr. Siegel defines your brain, your mind, and your relationships in this manner:
- Your Brain: Is part of your Central Nervous System (along with your Spinal Cord) that sends, receives, processes and interprets messages throughout your body to help you to function efficiently and…
- Your Mind: Which is the self-organizing and regulating center within your body that interprets, makes sense of and acts on the information as processed in your brain, and finally…
- Your Relationships: Which is where the energy and information processed from your mind flows between you and others, and when shared, will hopefully yield mutual benefits that are therapeutic in nature for both of you.
Interpersonal Neurobiology and the Triangle of Well-being
If you read Dr. Siegel’s work, you’ll find that he uses another term to define the Triangle of Well-being process that’s called “Interpersonal Neurobiology.”
This term is used because it accurately describes how everything from the firing of your brain synapses to your involvement in the world you live in is impacted when you reflect, interpret, process, make sense of, then act on the information and energy that flows within you, then eventually between you and others (your relationships). If you’ve been to my office and this issue has come up in our conversation, you’ve heard me say “we simply want to work so that your brain and mind positively impacts the brain and mind of others, and when you do that well, you’re creating good Interpersonal Neurobiology.”
So if you’re in the Living room or Dining room of your home, then I’d suspect you’re in one of the busiest “hubs of human activity,” where there are lots of thoughts, feelings, and energy that’s being exchanged between you and others. You’re correct to think that it could be daunting for your brain and mind to try to listen, observe and keep up with all of the spoken thoughts and behavior that is occurring in the room. However, there’s more for your brain and mind to consider.
In addition to practicing the basics of active listening and observing others visually, you’re taking in information rapidly, interpreting, processing, trying to make sense of it then “encoding” (transferring your thoughts to others) or “decoding” (receiving and deciphering more information) between you and whoever else is present. That’s a lot of work that we’re asking your brain and mind to do at any given moment! But believe it or not, there’s even more for your brain and mind to consider when you’re with others in the Living and Dining rooms of your home.
On top of everything that’s been mentioned in the two previous paragraphs, you’ll want to consider your personality, your memory and all that’s stored in your mind, and then your personal life experiences (good, bad, ugly or traumatic) that also shape how you think, hear and make sense of, then react or respond to any information that’s exchanged between you and others.
When you factor in all that is going on within you (your brain and mind) and between you and others (your relationships), you’re apt to see that it takes a good amount of work to create and maintain a functional Triangle of Well-being as well as to enjoy good Interpersonal Neurobiology with all involved! So what are some skills, tools, and activities that could help us to achieve these goals? Glad you asked! Let’s take a plunge in the river!
Dr. Siegel would have us know that we’re most apt to make progress toward our personal and interpersonal goals (especially our goal of creating good Interpersonal Neurobiology) when we integrate and live by values and behaviors that are intended to keep us moving flexibly, adaptively, coherently, energized and with stability (Dr. Siegel’s “FACES” acronym) in the River of Integration.
To Dr. Siegel, remaining in and moving fluidly in the River of Integration is not only a sign of mental health, but it’s a significant indicator that your brain, mind, and relationships are changing and growing as you practice and repeat your value-oriented behaviors!
Equally, Dr. Siegel would have us know that we’re prone to slow down or frustrate ourselves (by “hitting a sandbar”) or worse, “become shipwrecked on the shores of Chaos or Rigidity” (my quotes) should we fail to integrate specific skills that would help us to experience mental health versus mental disorder.
Dr. Siegel describes how these two states (Chaos and Rigidity) and all of the consequential behavior connected to them are a result of “living an unintegrated life.” Living an unintegrated life means we’re not living an examined life, nor are we “uploading” into our brain and mind new goals, resources, tools or opportunities to create new skills, patterns, narratives or ways to live that are functional, adaptive, flexible, strategic, deliberate, intentional and of course, loving!
Time to G.A.S. up! (Your Goals, Activities, and Skills)
In order to travel through life and reach the Psychological and Theological goals you set for yourself, you’ve got to have the right fuel to provide power to your thinking and actions.
Giving your Brain, Mind, and Spirit the appropriate goals to aim for, activities to shape your thinking processes, that result in actions that reflect proficiency and skill development is the right fuel in my estimation. So I have a question for you:
What are the goals, activities, and skills, which when uploaded and integrated into your brain and mind could assist you to develop your Triangle of Well-being and to enjoy good Interpersonal Neurobiology with others? Make sure you “G.A.S. up!”
Since Dr. Siegel is big on integration (and I love the practice too!), I’ve adapted his some of his terms and integrated a few of my own for you to consider integrating into your own life as you travel on the River of Integration. The suggestions are located in three tables (feel free to download and print now to follow along, however, the image is reproduced below in this post), called:
Changing your Mind in the River of Integration (Psychological)
Changing your Mind in the River of Integration (Theological)
12 Steps to Changing your Mind with Interpersonal Neurobiology
It’s my hope that by studying this information (in the area of your home you’ve designated as your Study), you’ll achieve your goals by engaging in strategic activity to produce skills that will help you to be more focused in your thinking, to live intentionally with your actions, and to only engage in behavior that mutually benefits yourself and others.
I’ve found that giving my brain and mind “new data” to draw upon when I most need the information has helped me to be more thoughtful and creative in my decision making, which has led me to produce and experience better outcomes with my behavioral goals. My hope is that you too will experience similar outcomes as you practice these strategies in your work toward building your house on the rock (Matthew 7:24-25).
As always, don’t worry about implementing these suggestions perfectly; take the Nike™ approach: just do it, and keep practicing them. Eventually, your brain and mind will learn and incorporate the skill, and the repetitive process will help to create a “new default” where your behavior will indicate you’re headed in the right direction toward achieving your goals as you move forward in the River of Integration.
So first, let’s look at the Psychological Goals, Activities, and Skills, then we’ll integrate the Theological Goals, Activities, and Skills, with an eye toward seeing how the applied principles from both domains could be of service to you.
Changing your Mind in the River of Integration (Psychological Goals, Activities and Skills)
As you look at this chart (and the one below), know that your overall goal is to upload and integrate into your brain and mind concepts, strategies, and behaviors that will assist you to “keep your boat afloat and moving” in the River of Integration. As outlined in the chart, your sub-goals are to identify, integrate and become good at behaviors that create flexibility, adjustability, connection, flow, congruence, and dependability.
When these and other helpful behaviors are identified, integrated and implemented into your life, you’re accomplishing two important objectives. First, you’re giving your brain and mind the opportunity to develop new skills that will help you to be more aware, deliberate, considerate and intentional regarding what you’ll do and how you’ll act on the energy and information that is flowing within your brain and mind.
Second, when targeted behavior is worked on regularly, your efforts will assist you to build better and stronger relationships that reflect safety, harmony, respect, and empowerment. This is achieved because your efforts are changing the way you assess, perceive, respond to and become better at taking care of yourself, which when done effectively, helps you to “reasonably respond” and administer appropriate care in your interactions with others.
So let’s take a closer look at the material in this chart, and we’ll start with a brief look at what you don’t want to do, which is get stuck on the banks of Chaos or Rigidity. Then we’ll take a look at the behaviors you do want to do consistently, to help you to be successful in your positive and forward movement in the River of Integration.
The Shores of Chaos and Rigidity (Psychological)
When life experiences cause surges of fear, anger, hurt, shame, mistrust, loneliness or some other strong energy (that evokes emotion) to shoot through your mind and body, you may try to gain some measure of control over these sensations and feelings before you “fly off the handle” or as Dr. Siegel calls it, “flip your lid.” Sometimes you might be successful at interrupting and curbing this behavior; at other times, you may simply just “blow it.”
When it comes right down to it, there could be a myriad of logical (and sometimes very complex) reasons that cause these biological and psychological reactions to occur simultaneously and instantaneously in your brain and body. However, regardless of their origin or complex nature, what may also be occurring is that your mind is interpreting that there’s an actual or imagined threat to either your person (your safety) or to the secure, sane, serene, supportive or sensual connections that you’d like to enjoy personally or within your relationships.
Although there’s no excuse for the maladaptive behavior that’s demonstrated when these sensations, feelings, and thoughts get triggered in your brain and cause you to inflict regrettable ruptures in your relationships, you are responsible, capable and “response-able” to reflect, repair and renew your relationship just as quickly.
The “scale-tipper” that could make a difference between engaging in scorched earth behavior versus creating compassionate connections is…Awareness (remember the A-C-T-I-V-E Model? Keep that thought in mind as we’ll come back to it in a moment). For now, let’s return to the “Changing your Mind in the River of Integration – Psychological” table and absorb the insight and advice that Dr. Siegel would like to contribute during his walk-through of your home.
Dr. Siegel calls the “upper shore” of the River of Integration Chaos, and he calls the “lower shore” of the river Rigidity (going forward, I’ve emphasized Dr. Siegel’s terms in bold, but the comments and conclusions are mines).
On the upper shore, I conceptualize Chaotic behaviors as those behaviors that cause anxiety, uncertainty, volatility, hurt, mistrust, fragility, and instability, while on the lower shore I conceptualize Rigid behaviors as those behaviors that cause inflexibility, hardness, stubbornness, entitlement, and consequence. Unfortunately, there are times in my office where I’ll see people who either get stuck on a sandbar or possibly even shipwrecked on either the upper shore (Chaos) or the lower shore (Rigidity). Here’s how.
People tend to get stuck on the Chaotic shore when they react to, or allow interpersonal conflict (or worse, a traumatizing experience they didn’t seek nor ask for) to cause a Rupture in their relationship, where prior to that encounter or experience, their respect, serenity, connectedness or Attunement to that person was intact.
If not dealt with in a constructive or timely manner, then their Rupture (or Unresolved Trauma, lower shore) may cause disruptive or intense surges of energy that causes one to respond by “Fighting or taking Flight.” Fighting or taking Flight means that one is engaging in conflict that intensifies, or avoidance, escape or distance strategies because they may be interpreting that a vital intimacy need or value that is held dearly may not be integrated interpersonally to create Repair within a reasonable period of time.
Equally, on the Lower shore, this same Rupture may cause one to “Freeze or Feign,” because one may think that their survival depends on either surrendering, submitting, subjugating, or, minimizing some part if not all of their of their personal needs. In a scenario like this, progress is stymied because the actual or perceived threat to their person generates so much fear or fright that the thought (or maladaptive schema that is triggered) signals that it’s better to pause or stop rather than risk further (and typically relational) hurt.
For some, the Chaos leads to what Dr. Siegel calls “Emotional Hijacking,” which means the lower and more reactive parts of our brain interrupts, floods or causes a functional disconnect with the higher, more rational and thoughtful parts of our brain. When this occurs, one’s brain, body, and mind may go on Automatic Pilot, and unwittingly or without much thought take any hapless bystander (but some passengers volunteer for the chaotic or conflictual ride) to places where focused, intentional, value-oriented and rational behavior often and sadly get left behind.
What tends to occur is progress is halted and you may feel stuck, shipwrecked or become Lost in Familiar Places, either in your mind by repeating negative self-or other maladaptive schemas, or, by using what Terry Real calls “misery stabilizers” (that is, accessing work, drugs, food, sex, gambling, romance, etc.) to anesthetize old or new wounds that may have been incurred on this unnecessary but typically predictable ordeal.
If you can identify with any part of getting stuck on either the Chaotic or Rigid shores of the River of Integration, I have a few questions for you:
- Is there some unresolved trauma that needs therapeutic attention immediately because it causes undesired problems or unplanned consequence in your life? Is so, what might it be?
- What “incendiary matches” (or issues) do you tend to “strike up then flick” which may cause internal distress and relationship chaos? For what valid (hear me now) personal or relational need are you maladaptively seeking attention?
- When ruptures occur, are you prone to react by fighting, taking flight, freezing or feigning (submitting, because your life depended on it)? How did this strategy start? What other constructive options come to mind that you could employ?
- Are you aware of what’s going on, or, what you’re about to do when you become emotionally dysregulated and your brain becomes emotionally hijacked? Are you aware that you’re about to go on “automatic pilot,” which could cause you to say or do things you probably know you’re going to regret? How long does it take you to “land” so that your logical and cortical part of your brain could help you? What helps that process to occur?
- What are the familiar places that you default to when you get emotionally flooded? What are the misery stabilizers that you gravitate toward to seek escape, respite or relief? What harm do they cause to you and others? What will it take to end this maladaptive behavior?
- What are the ruptures in your marriage or family that still ache psychologically (or literally in some part of your body) that need attention? What do you think could help to heal your wounds? What behavior, if integrated into your life could help you to feel better?
Thanks for taking a Time-In to Reflect and consider how you got to either the Chaotic or Rigid shore, but now, as you continue with the Psychological table, let’s take a look at some of the goals, activities, and skills that if developed and practiced, could assist you to create your Triangle of Well-being and enjoy good Interpersonal Neurobiology!
Keeping an Open Mind in the River of Integration
Even though you’re doing a walk-through of your home with Dr. Siegel to determine how to best create vibrant and functional connections with family members in your Living and Dining rooms, Dr. Siegel conceptualizes that these connections are best made when we integrate goal-oriented behaviors that help us to travel effectively on our own personal “River of Integration.”
Dr. Siegel would have us know that when we have clear-cut goals and adequate supplies that function as maps and tools to assist and lead us into activities to develop functional life skills, then we’re not only positioning ourselves to enjoy the Triangle of Well-being, but we’re also doing the required work to enjoy good mental health!
Going forward, I’ll encourage you to ask yourself “So what would Dr. Siegel want us to…
- Focus on, because in order to reach certain goals, we’ll need to upload these destinations into our navigational system, and…
- Acquire, because certain skills, when developed are necessary to experience mental health, and…
- Include, because without these tools we impede our ability to successfully engage in relationship activity, and…
- Change, because the outcome of any goal-oriented journey is to mature and grow while we enjoy the ride!?
For me, the River of Integration is where we integrate cognitive processes and behaviors that create…
- Flexibility, because change is a predictable factor that need not be threatening…
- Adjustability, because being open-minded and willing to change is valuable…
- Connection, which is enjoyable, works well and is reassuring in our relationships…
- Flow, because forward movement reflects work, progress and generates hope…
- Congruence, because clarity in communication facilitates understanding…
- Dependability, because reliability and trustworthiness reflect maturity.
Above all, with all these suggestions, ideas and viewpoints, I’d recommend and encourage you to have, keep and protect your “O-P-E-N M-I-N-D.” Keeping an open mind simply positions you to integrate additional data and resources that your brain and mind will “retrieve” when needed, and will be reinforced when you practice it consistently (of which Siegel states that “the Neurons that Fire together Wire together and in the process inspire you and others“).
So what do we need to keep in mind in order to have an Open Mind? Here are a few thoughts:
O: Optional? (Not!) – Dr. Siegel’s research indicates that the repetitive integration and practice of these “healthy mind behaviors” not only equips our Brain with good behavioral options to retrieve when we most need them but when practiced they also help us to achieve and maintain a continuum of mental health.
The same is true in the “Changing your Mind in the River of Integration – Theological” table as well (see below). The principles that are shown in the river part of the table work best when practiced (versus ignored), and if practiced consistently, are helpful and will go a long way toward helping you to create and experience the sanity, serenity, safety, etc. in your life and in your relationships. I’d encourage you to consider giving these principles the weight that you would of a directive from a boss, knowing that your whole system will benefit from the work to which you’ve committed.
P: Practice makes Proficiency – No, no perfect ending here! I’m a firm believer that practice helps a person to get better in the task or process they are endeavoring to learn. Learning then practicing new behaviors typically results in some form of progress toward one’s goals as well. Practice doesn’t lead to perfection, no, but practice does make one proficient and capable in his or her ability to function well!
E: Educate and Edify, especially with Empathy! – Learning how to develop, apply, then become proficient at skills such as “Cooking with ‘C.O.A.L.'” (Being Curious, Open, Accepting and Loving) as well as how to “S.I.F.T.” your mind, where you’re focusing on and processing your Sensations, Images (pictures or what you envision), Feelings and Thoughts makes for good neurobiological outcomes. Educating yourself regarding how and when to deliver the right combination of listening, tenderness, thoughtfulness, kindness, insight, tone, respect, and care yields a valuable relationship repairing experience called Empathy. You’ll never go wrong with the application of this value!
N: New “Nous” via Neuroplasty – Nous is the Greek word for our English word Mind. Cultivating a new mind whereby you practice skills to remain aware, “awake” and intentional as you S.I.F.T your mind will help you to “cortically override” your emotions when they erupt from your “lower brain” and threaten to dysregulate you when the proverbial stuff hits the fan.
Practicing then getting better at calming your body, brain and mind help your Middle Prefrontal Cortex to quickly retrieve the mental processes and psychological tools that facilitate fear modulation, emotional balance, better flexibility with your responses and a broader window of tolerance (also known as “response flexibility” and the “window of tolerance“). The rapid activation of these skills affords you with the split-second opportunity that usually makes the difference between inflicting ruptures that you’ll regret or the repair that recreates attunement, which among other behaviors, is the unconditional and respectful treatment of the other person and their ideas.
Learning then practicing these skills consistently stimulates new neural connections in your brain (know as “S.N.A.P.” or Stimulating Neuronal Activation and Growth). Learning new ways to see and think about issues, then implementing new ways of responding with your Agape-oriented values stimulates the neurons in your brain to make new connections that previously didn’t exist. This is the concept behind Neuroplasty, which simply means your brain is capable of growing and making new connections for your benefit and for the benefit of your relationships! I bet you’re beginning to see why these aren’t options!
M: Mine for the Gold in your Encounters – I encourage you to create opportunities to S.I.F.T. through the soil of your mind and that of others who are in the Living and Dining room, to learn about their rich and possibly unspoken values or viewpoints that beg to see the light of day then honored, integrated and thoughtfully acted upon.
When you think of the other people in the room, have you reflected on their thoughts, feelings, needs, hopes, wants, and desires? Do you see the children in the room and “the child-part of us that lives within our Adult body,” both whom I’d imagine would like to experience nothing more than joy, peace, happiness and to be treated like the honorable human beings that they are?
Are you tuning in to what they may need or want (Empathy), reflecting (Reflective Function) then reporting and responding compassionately regarding what you discover? Is the combination of insight along with the application of your Agape-oriented values and virtues leading you away from a “Me-centered” way of seeing life and toward the development of a more inclusive and respectful “We-centered” narrative and way of being? Paying attention to the thoughts and feelings of others helps them to feel respected, valuable and important, which are all values that others around us endeavor to feel.
I: Intentional Focus and Living – Dr. Siegel talks about how paying attention leads to intention. To me, intentional living simply means I focus only on those things that matter (my values) and I strive to accomplish and live by the daily demonstration of my Agape-oriented values.
What this does is that it creates a “range of value-oriented behavior” that is permissible for me (which I call my 68º -72º degree behaviors). Paying attention to, practicing, getting better at and living by my identified values helps me to accomplish my goal to live with intention. Living with intention not only helps me to “stay between the lines” (that is, staying in my lane, centered in the river or hitting the target), but it simultaneously reduces the risk of getting caught up in the production or demonstration of behaviors that are outside my boundaries as well. Living with focus and intention helps me to get to where I want and need to go, versus getting derailed or shipwrecked into an activity that’s counterproductive to my overall goals. What values are you paying close attention to, that when implemented, assist you to live intentionally, strategically, deliberately and successfully?
N: “Integrate and Include” – When you think about getting into a canoe or rowboat and pushing off on a raft to take an excursion on a river, you’ll probably want to make sure you have all of the necessary items that will make for a safe and enjoyable trip.
That being said, I have a few questions for you:
- What tools, items, values and resources (psychological, theological or traumagenic but curative in nature) are a necessity for you to have in your boat?
- Are you prepared for unexpected crises or emergencies? What would you do if a crisis occurred?
- Do you have the appropriate tools to establish and maintain a connection with others in your boat or with others who may be called upon to assist you in your journey?
- Are you confident about where you’re going (your vision) and will your current navigational tools (think: values and spiritual disciplines) help you to reach your destination point(s) successfully and without peril?
Having the appropriate tools to ensure you get to where you’re going is important, so I encourage you to make sure you’re prepared by integrating all the necessary items you need that’ll help you to live intentionally!
Equally, I encourage you to think about the needs, wishes, hopes, and goals of others with whom you’re journeying. What thoughts, feelings, needs, etc. are you picking up on that you may wish to respond to therapeutically, because including their perspective is a function of mindfulness, and being skilled in your response is just as important?
D: Do it! Vike = Victory! – We looked at the merits of this point originally in Changing your Mind with the practice of LoveWorks, (Letter “D”), where I encouraged you to demonstrate your Agape-oriented values with intentional, strategic, deliberate and consistent actions after you have identified them. Now, since you’ve become aware of the gain to be experienced by living according to these “O-P-E-N M-I-N-D” principles, I simply encourage you to put them into action as you work toward successful outcomes in your life!
As mentioned earlier, the consistent practice of your values, the LoveWorks process or any integrated activity that helps you to reach your goals will lead to the development of stronger neuronal connections in your brain that when reinforced, tend to be repeated when you most need your mental processes to work for you.
I remind you, in order to make progress with the building of your home, you’ll want to do some work each day, and more specifically, every hour. King Solomon reminds us that “the dream comes from hard work” (Ecclesiastes 5:3), and I trust you’ll feel confident about your effort as you begin to see progress with your labor. So above all, I not only encourage you to create and keep an open mind by integrating these principles into your life journey, but keep your oars in the water, and keep rowing toward your destination; you’ll be glad that you did!
As mentioned earlier, the bold print in the Changing your Mind in the River of Integration (Psychological) table are Dr. Siegel’s terms from “The Pocketbook of Interpersonal Neurobiology (2012) and serve as our “goals” for staying in the River of Integration. Embedded in the narrative below are my suggested activities to assist you in skill development.
Remember, you’re encouraged to implement and practice these behaviors to give your brain new opportunities to grow and your mind new skills to develop and master, which tend to facilitate healthier and stronger bonds in your relationships.
Insights from Column #1 in the River of Integration (Psychological)
One primary goal and skill that Dr. Siegel would want you to develop is a Secure Base wherein you engage in behaviors that facilitate safety, security, sanity, stability, and connection. These skills will assist you to create, maintain and enjoy Attunement in your person and in your communication with others, which Dr. Siegel states is marked by creating and maintaining respectful and compassionate connections with others.
Also, your chances of developing and maintaining a Secure Base and Attunement with others increases dramatically when you engage in the activity of “S.I.F.T.-ing your Mind.” S.I.F.T. is an acronym that stands for Sensation, Image (the vision or pictures in your mind), Feelings and Thoughts.
Dr. Siegel would encourage you to focus your attention on these vital aspects of who you are to gain valuable information about what’s going on in your mind, body, and spirit, then interpret, integrate and act accordingly on what you discover about yourself and your relationship.
Dr. Siegel encourages you to schedule times in your day to take strategic “Time-Ins” to enhance your ability to look within yourself to discover your feelings, processes, needs, wants, hurts, or other issues that deserve your attention. Your ability to “read your internal thermometer” then make the necessary Middle Prefrontal Cortex informed adjustments (where empathy, insight, intuition or response flexibility are applied) not only help you to return to your 68º – 72º degree range of functional behaviors, but it helps you to not detonate the unmistakeable mines in the familiar minefield that you may have gotten lost in during past moments of emotional dysregulation.
Creating safety between your ears and between each other generates co- and mutual emotional regulation. This type of regulation generates the necessary environment where dyadic regulation could occur because you’ll need to be in your Adult ego state to be able to hear, then respond appropriately to one another’s needs, solutions, ideas, options or requests versus having their viewpoints swept away in a flood of dysregulation.
Activities for Column #1 (Psychological):
- Take 5 minutes to think about what (spiritual disciplines) or List of 442 Agape-Oriented Values behaviors would create safety, security, and serenity for all involved. When identified, practice these for 5 minutes. What behaviors will you be responsible for implementing immediately to restore safety? Make a commitment to only do these constructive behaviors, realizing they’ll help you to “stay in your lane.”
Every 2 hours take a scheduled “Time-In” to S.I.F.T. your mind. What thoughts, feelings, ideas or needs are you discovering that require attention and follow-up?
You can’t be anxious and relaxed at the same time. Engage in controlled breathing exercises to modulate your fear and to experience emotional balance. Do you need to ask for a “Time-out” to further process your thoughts?
- Take some time to reflect and think about the words, sentiment, goals, ideas or solutions you’d like to impart when you speak with your family member. What is it that you’d like to say, ask for, need, negotiate, take care of, or address with your partner/family member?
Insights from Column #2 in the River of Integration (Psychological)
Are you beginning to see some of the potential benefits from implementing the Column #1 strategies? If so, I want to say that it only gets better! Dr. Siegel would have you realize that engaging in the daily strategy of S.I.F.T. (along with practicing other suggested strategies) creates an “Awakened Mind.” To Dr. Siegel, an awakened mind is a mind that’s Aware, and being aware affords you with the opportunity to make deliberate, mindful, enlightened and intentional thoughts and decisions for your well-being and that of others.
For me, an awakened mind means I’m actively (but not obsessively) sifting my mind, monitoring my own thoughts and feelings, taking my psychological “temperature readings,” and making necessary behavioral adjustments to ensure my behaviors keep me centered in the River of Integration. Staying centered means I try to view and interact with the world via the practice of my Agape-oriented values, which helps me to make sense of my actions, my goals, my past, my present, my responsibilities and what I’d like to impart in my encounters with others.
Operating with an Awakened mind means that every day I’m “uploading” ideas, principles, strategies, concepts, and options that align with my value system (like the A-C-T-I-V-E model and the LoveWorks model). By uploading strategies that work and make sense to me, I’m giving my brain and mind “new files” that are corrective and therapeutic in nature to retrieve and pull up when I most need to implement and operate by those principles and strategies.
Integrating and operating by the values within these new “files” or “winning strategies” empowers me with the ability to make a “Cortical override,” which means I’m giving my Middle Prefrontal Cortex more material to draw upon, which helps me to make sense of what’s going on in my encounters with others in the Living Room and Dining room of the home because I’m able to regulate my emotions which leads to more control over my impulsive behaviors (that is, the things, I say and the things I do).
In addition, S.I.F.T.-ing helps to keep my Middle Prefrontal Cortex (“MPFc”) awake, active and paying attention, which means I’m more alert, conscious and equipped to access and practice any of the nine MPFc functions that help me to balance my brain. This balance brings with it insightful and productive changes to my mind, which helps me to experience functional outcomes in my relationships (are you seeing how good Interpersonal Neurobiology could be experienced?).
I’ve talked about the nine Middle Prefrontal Cortex functions in Changing your Mind with the practice of LoveWorks (Letter B – Balance your Brain/Body via your Nine Middle Prefrontal Cortex functions), and in Change your Mind with Interpersonal Neurobiology. As time permits, please visit these posts for extensive information regarding how the nine MPFc functions could assist you to create your Triangle of Well-being and good Interpersonal Neurobiology. Here’s a peek at how the nine could help at any given time:
Regulating your Body (typically done by breathing or via bilateral stimulation when walking) facilitates the biological and psychological calm needed to develop and enjoy Attuned Communication. Regulating, “bio-balancing,” or restoring calm to your brain and body is best experienced when you’ve discharged the energy from your body that was “summoned” to prepare you for a fight, flight, freeze or feign experience that you don’t have to take. As much as these endogenous chemicals are present to ensure your survival, too much of the neurochemicals or hormones could leave you “flooded” and interrupt your ability to send, receive, process or interpret messages accurately. Breathing, walking, stretching, exercising or any activity that simultaneously stimulates both hemispheres in your brain will move you closer to your goal of personal or relational Attunement.
Attuned Communication occurs when you feel safe, connected, aware and attentive of what’s going on inside of you, which helps you to give the same gift to others (that is, being safe with your thoughts and words, connected and able to contain the energy flowing inside of you, aware and able to interpret and process information, and attentive to doing the next right thing).
The practice of these behaviors creates Emotional Balance, which helps you to not only remain centered and focused on your values in the River of Integration, but it also helps you to accurately interpret and give meaning to the “data” that you’re taking in and processing in your mind and brain, typically without distortion or delusion.
When balanced emotionally, you enhance your ability to respond intentionally, deliberately and strategically with greater flexibility with your thoughts, feelings, and actions (also known as Response Flexibility). Widening your bandwidth means you’ll give your brain and mind more room to store and retrieve more of the values that help you to make sense of your situation, as this skill helps you to come to your assistance and to the assistance of your relationship.
When you begin to feel good and confident about the actions you’re practicing, and you can see and experience the “positive payoff” because of your work, then it significantly reduces internal worry, anxiety, dread, panic, and fear. What you’re doing is “Fear Modulation,” which means your “upper and cortical brain” is being given the opportunity to inform, guide, direct and override your “lower and reactive” brain.
Reduced fear helps us to benefit from other higher, cortical and spiritual areas of our brain and mind where Insight (our ability to discern, be knowledgeable about then make good choices), Empathy (our ability to tune-in to, read, reflect then accurately report or act), Morality (our ability to conceptualize and deliver value-oriented behavior in a timely manner) or Intuition (our ability to author, create and demonstrate new, positive, and wise methods of living) helps us and our ability to effectively help others.
The consistent practice of these nine Middle Prefrontal Cortex functions facilitates openness, focus, creativity, inclusiveness, and possibility in your brain and in your relationship, versus being close-minded, struck, hijacked, adrift or disoriented. Equally the practice of these skills gives you an unmistakable leg up in constructively approaching and resolving internal or interpersonal conflict with others in your home!
Activities for Column #2 (Psychological):
- Schedule time each day for silence, reflection, contemplation, meditation, prayer, introspection, and solitude. During this time practice your breathing while you engage in S.I.F.T.-ing your mind to become aware of your thoughts, feelings, ideas, needs, and opportunities. Consider sharing your insights with “trusted travelers.”
- Envision yourself practicing and demonstrating the nine Middle Prefrontal Cortex functions with others in your life. Whom in your life needs to experience which skill?
- Think about any ruptures in your life and relationships that need your attention to be repaired. As you practice the MPFc functions, what are you currently open to that you’ve been closed to in the past? What are you focused on repairing or building, whereas in the past you’ve been stuck or adrift? What possibility or opportunity will you seize upon correcting whereas in the past you’ve been rigid or inflexible?
Insights from Column #3 in the River of Integration (Psychological)
Dr. Siegel states that a prime goal of being in the River of Integration is to cultivate skills and outcomes that are Flexible, Adaptive, Coherent, Energized, and Stable (which he defines with the acronym “F.A.C.E.S”). He states that these qualities are markers and indicators of mental health, while Chaos and Rigidity and all that accompany these characteristics are indicators of mental disorder.
While you think about what MPFc functions in addition to which Healthy Adult mode behaviors could help you to cultivate and experience “F.A.C.E.S.,” Dr. Siegel encourages us to integrate another acronym called “C.O.A.L.,” into our boat. C.O.A.L. stands for Curious, Open, Accepting and Loving, and I encourage you to learn to “Cook with C.O.A.L.” It’s no surprise to me that the combination of any these acronyms or tools will help to produce constructive outcomes in your mind or relationships, especially since two of these characteristics are descriptors of Agape (Acceptance and Love).
Since these are core components of Dr. Siegel’s research, it behooves us to “upload” these characteristics into our minds to give our mental processes additional, and good principles to draw upon when we need them. I’ve also encouraged people to be flexible, open and curious about the viewpoints of others (while also remaining aware of their own viewpoints), and to work to create a stable, loving and accepting environment, which helps to facilitate safety, vulnerability, compassion and empathy, which are prime factors needed to develop good communication much less an effective relationship repair process.
Activities for Column #3 (Psychological):
- When, where and why would you see yourself applying the F.A.C.E.S. acronym? What life circumstances would require or necessitate the application of these values?
- The next time conflict arises, apply the C.O.A.L. acronym. Ask questions, become curious, remain open, accept and integrate what you hear and respond with values and characteristics that communicate validation, worth, honor and love.
- During calmer moments when you’re enjoying Attuned Communication, ask your spouse, partner or family member what the accurate delivery and demonstration of Empathy would look like to them. Feedback what you heard along with any suggestions that could enhance the experience. Make a notation of their response, study it, then practice it the next time a situation arises that is deserving of Empathy or Compassion.
- Jot down 3 questions that will prod you to think about the other person’s experience that you’ll utilize either before, during or after an encounter with them. Make sure these prompts help you to incorporate the S.I.F.T. -ing process about their point of view.
Insights from Column #4 in the River of Integration (Psychological)
What makes the River of Integration concept work is that ideas, options, viewpoints, opinions, insights, processes, values, strategies and more are brought to the forefront of your mind, talked about respectfully and then collaborated and implemented to create effective outcomes.
When this Adult-Adult intrapersonal (within yourself) and interpersonal (between you and another) process occurs, you’re cooking with the ingredients that make for a good Triangle of Well-being and you’re creating the “win-win” template that results in good Interpersonal Neurobiology.
Good Interpersonal Neurobiology is achieved because we apply the principle that Albert Einstein operated by: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with the problem longer.” Staying with the problem longer means you’re incorporating values, principles, and strategies that help you to emotionally regulate yourself and remain calm. When you regulate yourself, you’re increasing your mental bandwidth, which means more insights, solutions and a broader menu of options are given the opportunity to arise to your awareness.
Greater awareness helps to activate your Middle Prefrontal Cortex functions, which means you’ll employ dyadic communication skills that keep both of you talking at the table of communication with fewer interruptions from the “demon dialogues that threaten dysregulation.” To the contrary, the template that you’ve created helps you to mutually impact each other’s brain safely, constructively, and respectfully.
By staying at the table of communication you’re giving yourself the opportunity to stay with the problem longer, and when you stay with the problem longer you’re engaging in processes where your focused attention helps you to generate mutual awareness about what solutions you could apply to your problems, then employ your solution(s) or strategies, then measure your results to determine your effectiveness.
By employing these principles in this manner you’re positioning yourself to transition into what Dr. Siegel calls “Me to We” narratives, where your good communication processes and skills afford you with the chance to create new, functional, flexible and collective “win-win” experiences and outcomes.
It’s outcomes like this that not only make for good Interpersonal Neurobiology, but they also increase what Dr. Siegel calls “Proximity Seeking.” Proximity seeking means you’re both utilizing your energy to create opportunities to move closer to one another even though you may have different viewpoints and opinions about life issues that impact your relationship.
Instead of being threatened by your differences, your Agape-oriented values help you to maturely accept, integrate, appreciate and where possible, nurture each other’s points of view because loving your family member’s head and heart in this manner creates a win-win for both of you. Seen in this manner, Proximity seeking is the result of the work you’ve done to create good Interpersonal Neurobiology, and is a reflection of your commitment to create, maintain and live by Adult values that promote safety, sanity, security, stability, sensuality, spirituality and connection!
Activities for Column #4 (Psychological):
- Take some time to investigate, inventory then own with a commitment to change any behaviors which could be causing the unwanted eruption of the “demon dialogues.” What are they and which Agape-oriented values, when applied, could corral, eliminate or extinguish them?
- Think about the “must have” values that you need and deem critical for you as you travel through life. Share what they are, why they’re important to you and why you’re committed to converting these ideas into everyday practical realities in your life and relationship. By engaging in this activity, you’re identifying the “Me” narratives that you’d like to create, nurture and live by.
- After you’ve had some time to share your personal vision of what’s important to you, take time to reflect on what you’ve heard your spouse or partner say is important to them. Where, how and in what way are you able to integrate their dream, vision, needs, and viewpoint, where their wants and needs are given as much importance and significance as your own dream, vision, needs and viewpoints? By engaging in this activity, you’re developing the platform to move from a “Me-to-We” narrative that you’ll create, nurture and live by.
- Identify and report the “rock-solid” behaviors that when demonstrated, help you to feel close, comforted, cared for and connected to your partner. These behaviors are your “Proximity Seeking” behaviors. When you’re aware of the needs that will draw your spouse closer to you, what prohibits you from delivering them to him/her immediately? Which of your character virtues or values would help you to do a 180° with your behavior?
Insights from Column #5 in the River of Integration (Psychological)
It’s the aim of Dr. Siegel (and my hope too) that the integration of these suggestions will assist you in creating a level and quality of mental health that provides you with skills to develop and live an adaptive and functional life and to create the same in your relationships.
By incorporating these suggestions into your day-in and day-out activity, and becoming better and better at it, to the point of becoming skilled and proficient, your work will result in what Dr. Siegel calls a steady “State of Mind.” A steady state of mind is the outcome of the identification, employment, integration, and repetition of your value-oriented strategies that help your brain and mind to create constructive possibilities and results for you and your relationships.
Believe it or not, Dr. Siegel has an acronym for this process: “S.N.A.G.,” which stands for Stimulating Neuronal Activation and Growth. When you focus your attention and channel your mind energy to identify and repeat deliberate and intentional strategies that create calm, demonstrate help, are curative in nature and help you to repair ruptures in your relationships, then you’re stimulating neuronal activation and growth in your brain.
Dr. Siegel’s research claims that when synapses in your brain are stimulated and linked to specific behaviors that are repeated, especially behaviors that are focused on well-being and good for yourself and for others, then the “Neurons that fire together wire together.”
This is exciting because it means we have the capacity to accomplish something that the Jedi Master Yoda said to Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back: “You must unlearn what you have learned.” The unlearning (of Chaos, Rigidity and Maladaptive schemas, etc.) occurs when we channel our energy to identify, create and integrate new ways to think about, pay attention to, focus on and decide then implement behaviors that facilitate health, life, support and care to ourselves and others. Isn’t this the best way to use your brain energy? I can’t think of a better way to live!
Dr. Siegel closes his book by stating when we integrate the Mindsight principles, develop a functional Triangle of Well-being, and produce good Interpersonal Neurobiology, then we’re closer to experiencing what he calls “3 G to 2 P.” This stands for Gratitude, Generosity and Giving Back, to (“2”) People and our Planet.
Activities for Column #5 (Psychological):
The list of 442 Agape-Oriented Values (Downloadable PDF)
- Download then take a look at the List of the 442 Agape-Oriented values. Select 10 – 15 of the Values that are important to you that you’d like to develop and integrate into your life over the next 3 – 4 months because the presence of these behaviors would facilitate mental health, a functional Triangle of Well-being and good Interpersonal Neurobiology with others.
- Which of these values when practiced would help you to develop a steady state of mind? Record your thoughts and think about how you’re going to bring these words to life, on a day-in and day-out basis.
- Which of these values need to be rehearsed and acted upon regularly because the repetition of your Agape-oriented values helps you to not only unlearn maladaptive habits but they could help to stimulate neuronal activity and growth in your brain and mind? Record your thoughts and think about how you’re going to bring these words to life on a day-in and day-out basis.
Thanks for taking a look at the Changing your Mind in the River of Integration (Psychological Goals, Activities and Skills) information! I know it’s a lot of information to take in, however, learning then applying the principles provides you with valuable information that your brain will retrieve when you most need it, as you work toward creating a functional Triangle of Well-being and good Interpersonal Neurobiology!
Before we close out this post by looking at the Changing your Mind in the River of Integration (Theological Goals, Activities and Skills) worksheet, I’d like for you to look at and integrate the Changing your Mind with Interpersonal Neurobiology (12 Steps and Questions) worksheet.
Consider the Changing your Mind with Interpersonal Neurobiology (12 Steps) worksheet a “quick reference” guide designed to assist you in your effort to quickly identify 12 “losing strategies” that could frustrate or impede good Interpersonal Neurobiology, then 12 “winning strategies” that could help or enhance your ability to create good Interpersonal Neurobiology.
Here’s the information, and you could download a printer-friendly version here:
12 Steps to Changing your Mind with Interpersonal Neurobiology
Changing your Mind with Interpersonal Neurobiology (12 Steps)
When your Brain and Mind engages in goal-oriented activity to develop skills that produce constructive, functional, and “win-win” Relationship outcomes with the Brain and Mind of your partner, your effort not only results in the creation of a Triangle of Well-being but your interactions with each other also results in the production of good Interpersonal Neurobiology.
Listed below are 12 “losing strategies” that either create or continue conflict in relationships, followed by 12 “winning strategies” which when integrated into your life help to not only create a good Triangle of Well-being within yourself but will also help you to (re)create good Interpersonal Neurobiology with your partner.
After each losing and winning strategy is a question posited to assist you to derive insights and answers that will hopefully help you to make sense of any situation that creates conflict and begs for repair. I encourage you to invite trusted others to help you in your resolve to produce good neurobiological outcomes.
These losing strategies cause relational “ruptures” and conflict
- Refusing to live an examined life. Not taking “Time-ins” hinders self- and other exploration and discovery. How could taking a “Time-in” help you to examine what matters the most?
- If you’ve done nothing wrong, then complain, be critical, shame or vilify; all serve to dehumanize others. What unexpressed hurt is causing you to rage like this?
- Relationship Ruptures Dysregulate. Dysregulation interrupts Attunement and rouses the Automatic Pilot. What applied strategy could help to restore emotional balance?
- Ignore your MPFc (Middle Prefrontal Cortex). A “hijacked” mind will remember all the regressed, fearful or familiar places to get lost in. What Middle Prefrontal Cortex function (insight, intuition, empathy) could help now?
- Keep scorching your earth. Further dysregulation of your emotions ensures resentment and tunnel vision. What valid intimacy need or value is overlooked or lost in your dysregulation?
- Ruptures lead to Misery Stabilizers. Misery begs for flight, escape or relief through habit, vice or abuse. How might you sabotage your personal progress or relationship?
- A-C-T Reactively. Maladaptive schemas evoke mistrust, entitlement, hypercriticalness, harm, and punitiveness. Which maladaptive schema from my past is threatening my present ability to function effectively?
- Disorders inject Chaos or Rigidity. Being shipwrecked on either shore thwarts integrated solutions that heal. What solutions or “data” do I need to integrate to create attunement?
- Character defects like manipulation, hard-heartedness, arrogance, rage or neglect cause additional ruptures. Which foible do I need to own, eliminate or replace, because they interrupt repair?
- Limited Integration of values and skills reduces the options your brain needs to access in crucial moments. What ego defense or cognitive distortion blocks me from integrating data?
- Repetitive ruptures cause insecure attachments, defensiveness and are not the best use of your energy. What choices will help me to make replace insane ruptures with sane behavior?
- Not Cooking with C.O.A.L. (Curious, Open, Accepting, Loving) burns us due to unresolved issues that linger. How could being curious, open, accepting and loving help to resolve relational issues?
These winning strategies create well-being and good neurobiology!
- Practice Awareness. Awareness leads to insight, reflection, information, intuition, morality, guidance and strategy. What have you learned about your situation that needs the best of your attention and awareness?
- Practice your Spiritual Disciplines. Prayer, Contemplation and Reflection help us to humanize others, which may be needed. How could loving my “enemy” and praying for my persecutor help me right now?
- Breathe to Regulate your Body and Mind. This generates flexibility with your responses and a larger “window of tolerance.” Call a “Time-out with an explanation” to practice mindfulness and personal grounding.
- Use your MPFc (Middle Prefrontal Cortex). What Agape-oriented values are uploaded and memorized for the present or future repair of ruptures? What well-placed values (patience, listening, grace, negotiation, curiosity) could assist you with a repair?
- S.I.F.T. your Mind. What Sensations, Images, Feelings, and Thoughts surface that you need to pay close attention to? What vision of how you’d like it to be is appearing in your mind, of which you’ll be responsible?
- S.I.F.T-ing leads to an Awakened Mind. Openness ushers in Options, Possibility, Empowerment and New Neural hopes. What thoughts, options or strategies do you wish or need to integrate now?
- Be A-C-T-I-V-E. Be aware to challenge/change and terminate old schemas and investigate, validate and evaluate new ones. What Healthy Adult mode behavior (nurture, boundaries, creating safety) do I need to deliver right now?
- Mental Health Heals. Practice value-oriented behavior to engage in dyadic regulation to repair relationship ruptures. What Agape-oriented values, when skillfully delivered, will help me to repair this rupture?
- Values and Virtues like Empathy, Sympathy, Compassion, Love, Understanding and Kindness repair rupture the best. Which values, when integrated will help me to be flexible, adaptive, coherent, energized and stable?
- Rapid Integration of values creates neurobiological calm and movement to rewrite “Me to We” relationship narratives. What “must have” values are to be included in the new relationship narrative being created?
- Consistent Repair creates new linkages in your brain. S.N.A.G means you’re Stimulating Neuronal Activation and Growth. What reliable, dependable and predictable behavior will help to reestablish safety and rebuild trust?
- Practicing your Values keep you in the River of Integration. Using these tools creates flow and the experience of health. What values will help to heal trauma, restore harmony and produce secure attachments?
Thank you for taking time to examine how the integration of these goals, activities, and skills could help you to produce and enjoy the Triangle of Well-being and the experience of good Interpersonal Neurobiology between you and others in your life!
I encourage you to keep these strategies close by and to review them regularly to create the effective linkages that your brain will retrieve when you most need them. By all means add other solution-oriented values, virtues, behaviors, and practices that help you to become productive, proficient, wise and above all, skilled at living (the meaning of the Greek word Sophia)!
So in closing this post, let’s travel to the Study area of your home, where we’ll look at how integrated information spoken by Jesus and recorded in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7) not only facilitates a functional Triangle of Well-being within ourselves but could also help us to develop good Interpersonal Neurobiology with others in our lives.
Remember, a core component in these latter posts in the Choosing Change series that compliments Dr. Siegel’s River of Integration work is found in Matthew 7:24-25, in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (TNIV)
The Agape-oriented suggestions listed below are few in number but are very powerful, and I dare say life-changing when implemented, especially when integrated with Dr. Siegel’s research from the Psychological Goals, Activites and Skills worksheet.
Here are links to the three chapters that contain the Sermon on the Mount discourse: Matthew 5; Matthew 6; Matthew 7. As time permits read through and “study” the three chapters in your Study, taking and applying what you can, to the best of your abilities. There is no judgment nor will there be a test over what you can or can’t do. Just try to integrate and apply the principles for your personal benefit and for the benefit of others close to you. Thank you for your willingness to positively and constructively change your mind and your relationships!
Changing your Mind in the River of Integration (Theological Goals, Activities and Skills)
As conveyed with the Changing your Mind in the River of Integration (Psychological) chart, your overall goal is to upload and integrate into your brain and mind concepts, strategies, and behaviors that will assist you to “keep your boat afloat and moving” in the River of Integration. As outlined in the chart, your sub-goals are to identify, integrate and become good at behaviors that create flexibility, adjustability, connection, flow, congruence, and dependability.
Equally, remember that you’re studying these scriptures to extract principles, guidelines and meaning to accomplish two important objectives. First, to give your brain and mind the opportunity to develop new skills that will help you to be more aware, deliberate, considerate and intentional regarding what you’ll do and how you’ll act on the energy and information that is flowing within your brain and mind.
Second, to assist you to build better and stronger relationships that are therapeutic, life-enhancing, spiritual and which reflect safety, harmony, respect, empowerment, and care.
So let’s take a closer look at the material in this chart. As we did with the other chart, we’ll start with a brief look at what you don’t want to do, which is get stuck on the banks of Chaos or Rigidity. Then we’ll take a look at the behaviors you do want to do consistently, to help you to be successful in your positive and forward movement in the River of Integration.
The Shores of Chaos and Rigidity (Theological)
Here, the upper shore still facilitates Chaos (to borrow Dr. Siegel’s term), as indicated by behaviors that create distress, disorder, trauma, defensiveness, regression, and reactivity. Going forward, the words in bold are not Dr. Siegel’s but are emphasized by me.
From the start, we see that our engagement in actions where we behave virulently (Matthew 5:4; by disregarding the inclusion of sound theological principles intended to help us and others become better people) in addition to engaging in unreasonable and rageful behavior (Matthew 5:21-22), is harmful, traumatic and cause ruptures in our relationships that we’ll eventually need to repair.
In addition, when we engage in speech or actions that project toxic shame onto others or views them contemptuously (Matthew 5:22), which are both stances that devalue others and are a reflection of treating them as if they’re not human beings deserving of dignity and respect, then we’re setting ourselves and them up for chaotic outcomes that will result in emotional dysregulation.
Finally, by creating experiences that trigger the emotions of fear, worry, dread, panic or anxiety (Matthew 6:25-33), in addition to the demonstration of behaviors that belittle, judge, control, or assassinates the character of others (Matthew 7:1-4), means we’ll contaminate or do damage to relationships that are deserving of the practice of harmony, peace, and attunement.
The lower shore of the river is still conceptualized as Rigidity, as indicated by behaviors that cause hurt, confusion, disconnection, neglect, and calamity.
On this shore, relationship damage is caused when we try to shape the impression others have of us (Matthew 6:1-2) by gaslighting their reality and/or presenting ourselves as something that we’re not. Further relational damage is caused by our engagement in duplicitous or hypocritical behavior (Matthew 6:16) because unsafe behavior results in mistrust, and mistrust leads to emotional dysregulation, insecure and disorganized attachments and ruptures in relationships.
Finally, by not being mindful nor implementing boundaries regarding what stimulates or impacts our brain (Matthew 6:22), we open ourselves up to images or stimuli that could potentially traumatize us or others in our family system. Compounded trauma or damage could be done to children by being harsh, inconsiderate or insensitive (Matthew 7:9-10), while careless or entitled behavior (Matthew 7:26-27) in family relationships could create catastrophic outcomes which could adversely impact the legacy you’d like to leave.
If you can identify with any part of getting stuck on either the Chaotic or Rigid shores of the River of Integration, I have a few questions for you:
- What unwanted or unplanned impression might you leave with a family member by not practicing what you preach? What, if any, damage might you have incurred as a result of this stance?
- What impact would be made by allowing rageful or contempt for others to saturate your home environment? What maladaptive schemas have you noticed that’s connected to this behavior?
- What is the impact of anxiety-related symptoms on you and others in your family? What maladaptive schemas modes (fight, flight, freeze, feign) have been employed as a way to cope with this symptomatic behavior?
- What could be the “payoff” for “taking the inventory of others” and/or trying to control them or outcomes in their lives? How are they resisting your effort?
- What’s the function of your engagement in impression management? Duplicity? Hypocrisy? What character defect(s) are you attempting to cover up or distract attention from?
- What have you focused or fixated on (with your eyes, and subsequently your brain and mind) that’s been detrimental to the health in the family system?
- Have you encountered any adverse impact from being exasperating or insensitive to your children? What occurred but more importantly, what repair needs to be done?
- Is there some fundamental or characterological flaw in your behavior that needs immediate attention, and without intervention, treatment or change, you or loved ones may experience devastating consequences?
Thanks for taking a Time-In to Reflect and consider how you got to either the Chaotic or Rigid shore, but now, as you continue with the Theological table, let’s take a look at some of the goals, activities, and skills that if developed and practiced, could assist you to create and/or enhance your Triangle of Well-being along with developing and enjoying good Interpersonal Neurobiology!
As mentioned earlier, you’re encouraged to implement and practice these behaviors to give your brain new opportunities to grow and your mind new skills to develop and master, which tend to facilitate healthier and stronger bonds in your relationships.
Don’t forget to keep an “O-P-E-N M-I-N-D” regarding how these Agape-oriented values and Theological principles, along with the Psychological goals, activities, and skills could help you to travel effectively on your own personal “River of Integration.”
In addition, as you did earlier, remember what you’ll want to focus on, acquire, include and change, because you have goals to set, skills to develop, tools to become proficient with and life experiences to transform.
Finally, I encourage you to remember that you’re doing this because the identified values of flexibility, adjustability, connection, flow, congruence, and dependability are tools that are already in the boat with you, and they’ll be just as useful to you now as when you first became aware of them. So let’s take a look at what insights we can extract in the Theological River of Integration.
Insights from Column #1 in the River of Integration (Theological)
No one gets married or starts a family with the intention of creating hurt, causing harm or inflicting trauma on others that results in unbearable devastation. On the contrary, many have exchanged wedding vows fully intending to live them out for the remainder of their life with commitment and purpose; not by wreaking havoc, fear, rupture or posttraumatic stress experiences upon their spouse or family. Joy, happiness, love, connection and other virtues were on the radar on the wedding day of most, not conceit, abuse, neglect, hardheartedness or violence.
Unfortunately for some, as life unfolded and issues arose, the secure base you dutifully worked on or thought you had eroded and gave way to dishonesty, deception, depression, harm or other unsafe experiences fraught with feelings of anger, pain, resentment, overwhelm, loneliness, confusion, hopelessness or despair.
Do you know someone whose life has been pockmarked with experiences like this, who never asked for, dreamed of, nor planned or wanted to do life or have it unfold quite like this?
Do you remember the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29 – 37)? Perhaps like me, you too might identify with the all of the roles Jesus described: The Robber (who was an “Unhealed Wounder”), the Religious men (who were hypocritical and behaved unconscionably), and the Samaritan (who functioned as a “Wounded Healer”). It’s hard to believe, but with the complexity of life, we can be all three at once (four if you include the Victim), or at least at various moments in our life. Regardless of our past, hopefully, we’d strive to be, and live in the role of the Samaritan, who stopped to help someone in dire need of assistance because their life depended upon our immediate and compassionate response.
This is where I’d like for you to think about entering the River of Integration. It’s my reality, and more than likely, when you seek the services of a Pastor, Psychologist or Therapist, it’s your reality too. You may have experienced (or inflicted) behaviors that caused heartache, trauma, embarrassment, guilt or shame, and someone you know (or that person may even be you) is lying on the side of the road in need of assistance. So I have a question for you:
When others in your life are worried, fearful, ashamed, depressed, hurting, lonely, guilt-ridden, or devastated, what’s your response to their situation?
In one of the first verses in the Sermon on the Mount, we hear Jesus instructing us to impart comfort to those who hurt and are mourning (Matthew 5:4), or who are grieving over losses that are connected to their current life situation. The word for Comfort (Parakaleo) means to “aid, comfort, console, lessen their grief, sorrow or disappointment” via some form of action that resembles and looks a lot like counseling (definition from the Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible).
He also asks us to integrate mercy (Matthew 5:7), which by definition means we engage in behavior that alleviates the suffering experience of others. Jesus not only wants us to engage in and deliver a merciful response when mercy is needed, but He desires for the act of mercy to originate from a heart (or state of mind) that has internalized, is guided by, committed to a lifestyle and eventually demonstrates mercy.
It also makes sense that living a life that plants, cultivates, waters, protects, harvests, cooks, then serves up the virtue of Peace (Matthew 5:9) that is nourishing to oneself and to others helps to create an environment where Secure attachments have a chance to grow, versus the growth and proliferation of Insecure, Avoidant, Anxious or Disorganized attachments. Remember, we learn best when our brains and our relationships are calm, nurturing, connected, secure and safe. So when I’m hurting, perhaps I need compassion, when I’m at my wit’s end, perhaps I need mercy, and when I’m rattled because of internal or external strife, perhaps I need to experience peace.
Identifying, practicing, living by and modeling Agape-oriented values that stimulate, add to and enhance the personal and relational growth of your family members is what I interpret Jesus to be getting at in Matthew 5:13 – 16; Matthew 5:19 – 20).
Activities for Column #1 (Theological):
- Think about 2 times in your life when you were hurting and you needed and received some form of comfort, tenderness, kindness, understanding or compassion from another person. Do you recall the words or actions they delivered to you? Jot dot their behaviors and try to demonstrate responses like this the next time someone close to you is hurting and in need of a comforting response from you.
- Think about the last time you engaged in conflict with a family member, then take a large piece of paper and draw a box, leaving space outside of the box to record additional words. This is your “Problem Solving Box.” Inside of your problem-solving box record only the values (List of 442 Agape-Oriented Values) that you’ll draw from and practice when dysregulation, conflict and relationship strife that disrupts peace occurs. On the outside of the box, record those behaviors that you know are out of bounds. Share this with a family member and commit to practicing and doing only your problem-solving behaviors.
- Take a look at the Agape-oriented behaviors in the LoveWorks post (Letter “A” here). Which of the value-rich characteristics would you like to be known and identified with as personifying? Which characteristics will you implement because they’ll help you to co-regulate with your spouse or family member? Which characteristics will you be responsible for modeling because they make positive impressions in your family system? Take time to seek the input of your family, querying them about their needs and wants from you.
Insights from Column #2 in the River of Integration (Theological)
Keep in mind that emotional dysregulation prevents you from experiencing emotional balance, and when your emotional balance is disrupted or dysregulated, you’re prone to engage in behaviors that create conflict and “robs” others of their internal peace.
I think this is one of the prime reasons why Jesus encourages us to initiate reconciliation whenever there’s a rupture in our relationships (Matthew 5:23-24), and to settle these conflictual and adversarial matters quickly (Matthew 5:25), especially with people who may have adversarial feelings and viewpoints with us.
The simple definition of Reconciliation (Katallaso) calls for us “to lay aside any and all wrathful behavior and to simultaneously impart peaceful behavior.” The benefit of engaging in behavior that facilitates calm and peace quickly is twofold:
First, I abort and avoid piloting a plane (er, brain) to an unwanted, unnecessary or dark place that I or my family member would more than likely like to avoid as well. There’s not much good that occurs when I allow resentment, “victim posturing” and self-pity to “hijack” my brain, where typically I crash land on the banks of Chaos or Rigid behavior. It’s a great benefit to me and others if I avoid this occurrence.
The second benefit to settling matters quickly is that I’m not only getting better at practicing and living by values that make sense to me, but I’m also building linkages in my Middle Prefrontal Cortex that help me to retrieve insights, ideas, and strategies to problem solve issues much sooner! This psychological and theological mix helps me to focus on and deliver much-needed values like empathy, sympathy, compassion, and forgiveness immediately, rather than walk by or ignore a wounded family member who desperately needs this therapeutic and curative response!
When I access and implement cortical override strategies like this, it helps me to “be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). The outcomes from employing and living by Agape-oriented principles like this is that I’m going to treat women, children, and men better (Matthew 5:27-28), with one of the most significant payoffs being that I’m safeguarding my marriage (Matthew 5:31-32) because I’m not causing nor ignoring relationship ruptures but I’m providing decisive and intentional responses (Matthew 5:33-37) that rebuild trust and facilitate health and healing. Living in this manner creates a functional Triangle of Well-being and makes for some good Interpersonal Neurobiology!
Activities for Column #2 (Theological):
- Think about a few (serious) matters that you’ve been avoiding and need your immediate attention. Make a short list of the Psychological (Middle Prefrontal Cortex) skills and a few of the Theological suggestions from Matthew 5 that will assist you in your effort to resolve and repair any relationship rupture. Some of the Psychological suggestions could be found on your Changing your Mind with Interpersonal Neurobiology (12 Steps) list. Feel free to contact a friend, Sponsor, Pastor, Priest, Rabbi or Spiritual guide if you need assistance.
- Set aside some time over the next 48 hours to read Empathy #6: Empathy Facilitates Honor. Jot down 3 – 4 principles that you’ll commit to integrating into your daily way of living over the next 3 months, especially the principles that help you to treat women, men, and children with greater honor.
- Which integrated values or principled and practiced behavior might you need to implement and remain consistent with in order to safeguard your marriage, reestablish safety and rebuild any trust that’s been eroded?
Insights from Column #3 in the River of Integration (Theological)
Some of these spiritual principles may not make a whole lot of sense to you. I mean, what on earth could be the benefit of engaging in behavior that calls for you to “love your enemy, pray for the one who persecutes you and do good to the one who mistreats you” (Matthew 5:43 – 47), especially the mandate to forgive someone (Matthew 6:12, 14 – 15) who hasn’t yet acknowledged or admitted to the offenses that may have caused you deep emotional, psychological, financial, sexual or spiritual hurt, harm or devastation? It just doesn’t make much rational sense, does it?
No, and just like it’s difficult to see the upside in practicing these prescriptions, it could be just as baffling to the other person, the recipient of these value-oriented behaviors. One thing to keep in mind though: Even though we’re called to practice these principles, our ability to successfully apply them is connected to a serious and perhaps lengthy process that deserves considerable thought, deliberation and eventually action, and rarely do these processes occur overnight. Some may take days, weeks, months and perhaps, even years of personal growth and commitment to implement.
One thing I do know is that practicing and filling tall orders like these begin to come into focus and emerge as becoming doable with the consistent practice of my Spiritual Disciplines. Do you remember the list of Spiritual Disciplines recorded in Choosing Change #10: Blueprints and Building Change?
I’m not going to repeat them all here, however, Jesus conveniently references and embeds a few of them in The Lord’s Prayer. Let’s take a look at the Prayer, the spiritual disciplines embedded in the text, and remarkably, how they dovetail with the tenets of Dr. Siegel’s work to help us to create good Interpersonal Neurobiology.
The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9 – 18)
9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,
18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Do you see the Spiritual Disciplines embedded in the text? What follows are the ones that come up for me, along with how Dr. Siegel’s River of Integration research helps me (and could help you) to accomplish any goals we set for ourselves and the skills we need to develop to accomplish our objectives to move forward in our own river of integration.
Verse 9: Prayer and Worship – Prayer connects me to my Higher Power, which helps to bring calm and regulation to my internal (thinking, feeling and physiological) states and helps to awaken and open my mind. Prayer also helps me to S.I.F.T. and pay attention to what is going on in my mind, and brings focus to my thinking and listening skills, which is a valuable process that typically informs me about what decisions I’ll want and need to make.
Worship not only helps me to hear from God, but it’s also a reminder that I’m not God, that God is God, and the sooner I remember He’s the Power greater than me who could restore me to sanity, then the sooner I’ll probably see my issues and life situation in a different and typically saner light. Worship also softens my heart and ushers in feelings of compassion, as my mind and spirit retrieve messages of inspiration, conviction, hope, and guidance.
Verse 10: Submission, Study, Reflection, Silence and Acceptance – Submission facilitates humility in me, because if I don’t submit my will, my way and my pride regarding how I see and approach certain life situations, then I know my fear, anger, rage, selfishness, and pride will get the best of me. When that happens, self-will runs riot and be on the lookout for low flying, emotionally hijacked planes; if it stops for you, don’t get on! Without submission and humility, I inflict myself with tunnel vision, and with tunnel vision, I don’t have the expanded vision where more than likely, the answer to my issue is just outside of my emotionally flooded and narrowed field of vision. Submission and Humility helps.
Study is the way I really feel I get to know my God. If he wants me to love Him with all my heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27), then I need to know who He is, and studying scriptures help me in this process. Studying scripture, “technical psychology books at bedtime” (as my wife calls it) and other research-based/data-rich material is one of the prime ways that I give my brain and mind the Agape-oriented values, virtues, and behavioral options that are retrieved and acted upon when specific life situations require an informed and mature response.
Reflection and Silence beckon me to pause, be quiet, think and contemplate about what’s going on in my life, my relationships and my environment, and how I’ll mindfully, deliberately, strategically and intentionally interact with those around me. Reflection tends to change my thinking and my narratives from “Me to We,” and usually guides my thoughts, mental processes and then actions, especially when Reconciliation and Interactive Repair are needed.
Acceptance, another descriptor of Agape, ushers in serenity, because the word means “to take something close to the face or eyes, to carefully scrutinize it, and when it’s been determined credible, then to receive it deliberately and readily.” When I think about my life and relationship with God, He’s never let me down; His leadership, guidance, direction, and provision has always passed “the test.” Therefore, when I feel fear, hurt, pain, anger or devastated, I know He is with me, and I will not be abandoned in my plight midstream, which helps me to accept my circumstances and usually restores power to my soul that looks a lot like courage to take the next right step in the right direction.
Verse 11: Simplicity – When I think of the discipline of Simplicity, other words like contentment, reasonableness, balance, and humility come to mind as well. I also think about Proverbs 30:8 – 9, which reads: “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (TNIV). I know each and every day that I’m gifted life on this Earth God is my strength, provider, breath and sustenance. No matter what the situation, He provides the best insight, guidance, empowerment, and stability. Believe it or not, He also helps to focus on keeping it simple!
Verse 12: Confession, Forgiveness and Obedience – The Greek word for Confession in 1 John 1:9 is Homologeo or “same word,” and it describes agreement with someone. When I confess to God, myself and or to another human being, I’m simply agreeing with what they already know about me, or will soon know about me.
Implicit in this process is telling the truth, and you may recall that truth and integrity both come from the same Greek word Alethes. Alethes is a compound word: A (“no, not, without”) + Lethos (“Lethal”). Said simply, confessing or admitting the truth about myself to others is not lethal; on the contrary, it tends to help me and others get better. Why you may ask? Because dishonesty, guilt, shame, embarrassment, and deception are character defects (and in some cases characterological) that tend to weigh a person down, throw them off balance, and may shipwreck them on the shores of either Chaos or Rigidity.
I tend to feel much better when I’m able to get something off my chest in an Adult-Adult conversation, with safe and trusted others, who are committed to helping me versus shaming me; that’s a feature of psychotherapy that makes it so valuable. Speaking of Psychotherapy, Dr. Sigmund Freud used a word found in 1 John 1:9 (Katharos) and called his process Catharsis, or “the Talking Cure.” Cleansing, purifying and curative outcomes, which are all meanings of the term Katharos, are what we hope to experience when we unburden our soul of the guilt and pollution that accompanies carrying secrets or any mental construct that’s a burden to us. The question that’s full of inspiration then becomes how and what is the best way to use my energy since I’ve confessed and subsequently freed up mental space in my mind and spirit!?
Forgiveness (Aphiemi) means to “send forth, send away let go from oneself.” Like confession, the primary benefit of Forgiveness is personal in nature, and secondarily to others. It certainly isn’t a process to enter into lightly, nor begrudgingly. Forgiveness begins with careful deliberation about the offense, the impact of the offense upon you, the “relationship” you have with the offender, and your overall goal(s) connected to the situation, especially as you consider then answer the question “How shall I live?”
From there, my hope is that your connection with your Higher Power will help and eventually heal you as you move through your (seasons of) loss and grief and into a state of willingness to make what will probably amount to a series of decisions to see all involved, including yourself, in a much different light.
Your transformative process and the decisions you make will provide you with the power and ability to reclaim and repurpose your power and energy. Some of the energy expenditure is a reflection of your empowerment to love yourself because you’re reclaiming the space in your body, mind, and spirit to not be consumed by the weight nor hijacked by the memories connected to the offense or the offender.
When this type of empowerment from your Higher Power envelops and inhabits you, more than likely you’ll see the offense and the offender differently because you’ve sent away, let go of, or freed yourself from the weight of the hurt, pain, anger, rage, suffering, shame, embarrassment or entitlement connected to the offense, a weight which you probably thought would burden or consume you forever.
Finally, with the help of your Higher Power, a Power that is greater than you and has helped to restore sanity to your existence, you’re free to make saner, more informed and mature choices regarding what type of relationship (if any) you’d wish to have the offender. Remember, Reconciliation simply calls for you to choose to lay aside your wrathful behavior and to simultaneously impart peaceful behavior to all involved, and your forgiveness process and decision(s) have powerfully positioned you to implement and benefit from the practice of this value. In light of your work and at this point in your life, how would you answer the question: “How now shall I live?”
The discipline of Obedience, especially since it’s connected to the mandate of forgiving others, becomes much easier given the way it’s framed in this verse. Since I’ve been forgiven, and perhaps forgiven much, then it’s asked of me to mete out and demonstrate the same amount (if not more) of behaviors that reflect the virtues of grace, mercy, love, and kindness that’s been extended to me. Doesn’t the feel and demonstration of these characteristics fit better in your hand than character defects like unforgiveness, bitterness or vengefulness?
Some may think that Obedience, especially if it’s linked to a Biblical decree, is akin to you being told what to do where your thoughts, feelings or decision-making ability aren’t involved, and subsequently, may cause you to resist engaging in what could be very purposeful behavior. Have you ever felt like that? I encourage you to think about Obedience as being given the opportunity to do the next right thing that makes sense to you. No one is holding a stopwatch to see when you engage in the behavior nor a scorecard to keep track of your actions. Obedience simply beckons you to employ behaviors that could create a “win-win” for all involved.
Verse 13: Guidance, Choice, Decision – I’ve often repeated the quote “the best defense is a good offense,” and I think the principle fits well with this verse. By all means, I encourage you to pray for and seek God’s protection in your life, but I also think studying and being deliberate and strategic in the application of your Agape-oriented values provides you with Guidance to avoid the wiles of the Enemy.
Implicit in the application of your values is to live a life where the principles of S.I.F.T. help you in your ability to be aware, mindful, strategic and intentional with your Choices, Decisions, and actions. The more you consistently aim at and focus on your goals, then engage in activities that help you to not only reach your goals but develop skilled behavior in the process, means you’ll probably create and experience beneficial outcomes for yourself and others.
Temptation is going to look very different for each person. However, I’d imagine it’ll probably have a “misery stabilizer” look and feel to it where avoiding, distracting and self-soothing behaviors (sex, drugs, overeating, workaholism, gambling, etc.) are factors where the ultimate goal is to cause you to misplace rather than accurately place your energy and passion. If the actions connected to temptation testify to your body, mind, and spirit being emotionally hijacked, where or what is the final destination where self-sabotage proclaims “mission accomplished?”
In addition (in my opinion), another goal of temptation is to get you to sever or renounce what could be an established, functioning and empowered connection with your God, where your ability to love your self and love others is interrupted. When tempted, my hope is that the lion share of whatever energy you expend is focused on recapturing or renewing your relationship with your God, rather than fixating on the distraction or other feelings connected to the temptation.
Verse 14 – 15: Forgiveness (see Forgiveness in verse 12)
Verse 16 – 18: Fasting – Even though this passage is a few verses beyond the end of the Lord’s Prayer, Fasting is a discipline that calls for me to abstain from food, electronics, media or other activities that distract me from being able to focus my attention on hearing the delicate and nuanced communication from my God.
When I’ve been able to subtract or bracket distractions from my day it’s amazing how quickly I’m able to hear God inform me regarding what idea He wants me to follow up on, what question(s) to ask, what information should I introduce for discussion or what’s the right amount of empathy or confrontation to deliver.
So the practice of these spiritual disciplines enlighten, empower, inspire, remind and guide me to approach people, life issues or problems with creativity and courage, and to remember that I live in a world that sometimes needs to see “upside down” and uncommon (love) responses in order to not only make sense of life, but to deliver experiences that will heal deep wounds where nothing else could.
Could you see yourself engaging in and delivering a type of love like this to others on a consistent basis? I’d offer to you that when your focus is to live by your Agape-oriented values (Matthew 6:22) then meaningful outcomes (Matthew 6:19 – 20) and evidence your character is being shaped tend to occur. This repetitive behavior is the driving principle behind “S.N.A.G.” (Stimulating Neuronal Activation and Growth) because anytime you’re repeating constructive behaviors for your own Triangle of Well-being and to create good Interpersonal Neurobiology, you’re helping your brain cells to “fire, then wire together.”
Not only do these actions go a long way toward creating and coding new memories in your brain and in your relationships, but they also help you to deliver therapeutic behaviors and healing to those in need of repair, renewal, and growth.
Activities for Column #3 (Theological):
- Read through the List of Spiritual Disciplines found in Choosing Change #10. Which ones help you to clearly see, hear and connect with your Higher Power? Try to spend about the same amount of time connecting with your God that you might normally devote to eating 3 meals a day. Journal what insights you are receiving and what changes or actions you’re led to make.
- The next time you’re upset with a person or situation, practice the wisdom in these two verses: First, acknowledge (i.e., confess) your anger, hurt, frustration or whatever the feeling is, preferably immediately. This is putting the “Be angry but do not sin…” part of Ephesians 4:26 – 27 into action. Pray and confess it to your God. If you feel the surges of emotion 5 times within a minute, then pray 5 times, followed up with the instruction found in Matthew 5:43 – 47. In light of this verse, your prayer may sound like this, “but your word tells me to love my enemy and pray for the one who persecutes me, so…,” then lift the person or the situation up to your God in prayer. Ask for your God to bless the other person(s) involved who may be the trigger to your anger. Remember, just like you can’t be anxious and relaxed at the same time, you’ll find it difficult to be angry or spiteful when you’re asking for God to bless the object of your ire as well. Practice this every time you feel your emotion. It’ll be interesting to note what changes occur with your situation or with the other person after a few hours, days, weeks, or however long the surges prompt your use of this prescription.
- The next time you’re tempted, integrate the spiritual discipline of Fellowship, by calling as many people as necessary, sharing with them these four (4) things: First, tell them what you’re thinking. Second, tell them what you’re feeling. Third, tell them what you’re thinking of doing (i.e., how you may give in to your temptation). Finally, tell them what you’re going to do (what purposeful goal or target will reflect the best way to use your energy, then do that). How might you self-sabotage your efforts? What’s the best defense that you may need to employ to overcome the cunning, baffling and powerful actions of the Enemy? Equally, what else do you think your experience is wanting you to learn regarding how to deal with your passion accurately?
Insights from Column #4 in the River of Integration (Theological)
God “hard-wired” within all human beings the need to be valued (Matthew 6:26), loved, esteemed, cared for, understood, protected and respected, among other important intimacy needs. His intent was for Adults to follow His lead and demonstrate this quality of love freely, intentionally and consistently, especially to children, which would help to form Secure and strong attachments within them.
If some of these very important Agape-oriented values and intimacy needs aren’t met adequately through “good enough parenting” by either parents or caregivers, the impact could cause the child to develop Anxious, Disorganized or Avoidant attachments. These attachments, or the ways that children respond to caregivers or others in their lives, begin to shape how they think, feel and interact with others, and could convert into thoughts, feelings or behaviors that are maladaptive in nature in an effort to fend for or fight for their existence or survival.
When these latter type of attachments occur, a child may not feel important, secure, safe, loved, or valuable. On the contrary, they may feel anxious, confused, angry, fearful, ashamed, alone or depressed. These types of feelings may manifest in various types of crises in the life of a child, adolescent, young adult or adult, and one of the crises could be a crisis of faith, where the person may feel mistrust, unloved, devalued or abandoned by their Higher Power.
A crisis of faith is one of the most difficult crises to experience because the self-message uttered repeatedly is “God doesn’t love me because…” (and you could finish the sentence). There could be a litany of reasons and rationales that we could tell our self that reinforce our feelings, and these thoughts and feelings deserve to be explored compassionately.
In light of this, there are no quick answers, platitudes nor magical solutions that could cause a person to miraculously resolve how they see their life experience in relation to their Higher Power. This is why discussing with others what their needs are, then working to reasonably meet their intimacy needs (for no other reason than the fact they’re a human being who lives in your home deserving of inherent and intrinsic rights), could be the most valuable gift given to them by God that may help to resolve their spiritual crisis.
As we’ll see in Choosing Change #13 when we do a walkthrough of your Children’s room, children (and Adults) tend to thrive when their intimacy needs are generously delivered to them, and integrated into the home environment in which they live. So I encourage you to select then display values in the home environment that make sense to you but are also empowering to others. This could go a long way toward creating or recreating the secure base and secure environment that builds necessary and healthy attachments.
That’s why the material in this column calls for you to examine what is important, what is valuable, what is a priority (Matthew 6:33-34), and in what ways are you present and focused on developing and delivering values that are not only therapeutic, curative and corrective in nature but also support awareness (Matthew 7:1-2), connection, vision, purpose, meaning, and growth, among other values.
Equally, I encourage you to integrate values into your day-to-day life where self-awareness (Matthew 7:1-2) helps you to inventory and reproduce the values that promote growth but also help you to inventory, own then correct errors when you commit them. I know that one of the greatest gifts that I provide to my family is that of apology when I’ve committed an offense and self-correction when I’ve traveled in the wrong direction with my behavior.
This is also one of the prime ways that I love myself so that I’m able to love my neighbor as myself: Using the A-C-T-I-V-E model be aware of then interrupt my maladaptive schemas, then implementing the LoveWorks model for course correction.
Activities for Column #4 (Theological):
1) Memorize the “G.A.S. up” principle: In whatever situations you interact with others in the Living or Dining rooms of your home, especially when conflict or serious conversations occur and are in need of repair, ask yourself…
a) What is the Goal that I want to accomplish in this exchange?
b) What is the Activity that I’ll implement to best help me achieve my goal?
c) What is the Skill that I want to develop for my benefit or to model with others?
When you’ve identified your goal, the activity that’s going to help you achieve it, and the skill you wish to develop or impart upon the conclusion of the conversation, then you’re living intentionally and more than likely will demonstrate behaviors that heal.
2) Schedule some time at the end of your day to reflect on your actions and experiences. If you’d like, journal a few thoughts about which behaviors you’re proud about and wish to commit to memory to repeat again when necessary. Equally, inventory the behaviors that are deserving of more attention that you’ll want to revisit tomorrow where you’ll apply the “G.A.S. up” principle.
Insights from Column #5 in the River of Integration (Theological)
In closing out this post, we’ve looked at behaviors connected to the Psychological side of the River of Integration that create Chaos and Rigidity, as well as behaviors that when implemented, will produce a Triangle of Well-being within us and good Interpersonal Neurobiology with others in our lives.
On the Theological side of the River of Integration, we’ve looked at how the application of virtues, mores, principles, goals, activities, and skills help us to build and impart uncommon spiritual values and behaviors that are simple in nature, promote positive flow in the river but also leave indelible, meaningful and restorative impressions.
So it’s fitting that we close this post with encouragement to practice dyadic communication, which helps us to engage in Adult-to-Adult regulating speech and behavior, which helps us to collaborate (Matthew 7:7) more effectively with others. When this is done, we’re civil and considerate with the words we use with each other, which helps us to remain focused (Matthew 6:34), regulated and creative in our effort to reach our common goals.
By practicing these psychological and theological goals, activities and skills and getting better at it, more than likely our confidence in our abilities to “stay in our lane” will increase, and we’ll also feel good about the life-giving behaviors that we’re delivering to others. Getting better at the demonstration of Agape-oriented values (Matthew 7:22) means we’re “firing and wiring” our brain cells for continued positive activity, and we’re becoming wise, or skilled at living, as is the meaning of the Greek word Sophia.
Finally, the more we choose to change our lives by focusing on and delivering Agape-oriented values means we’re maturing, which means our behavior becomes edifying and “nutritional” to others (Matthew 7:16-17). This means we’re accomplishing our goal to “build others up” (Oikeodomeo) and our diligent behavior will produce exactly what Jesus described in Matthew 7:24-25:
Activities for Column #5 (Theological):
- Take a moment to think about this exact point in your life journey as well as the traveler(s) who are with you at this particular time. What value-laden behavior do you think they need to receive and “ingest” from you that will nurture and nourish their mind and spirit? What behavior will help them to feel secure, safe and serene in your presence? Think about using your spiritual disciplines to plant, grow, harvest, deliver and consume the values that you deem will to strengthen them for the next leg of your journey. Make a commitment to only produce and deliver behaviors that help and heal.
- “Wash, rinse and repeat” for the next few “micro-seasons” (3 – 4 months) of your journey in the river. If you need assistance, make a commitment to seek help in the next 24 hours to accomplish your resolution.
Thank you for reading this incredibly long but I hope rich post on the splendid (and adapted) work of Dr. Dan Siegel. In Choosing Change #13 (Part 3 of 3), we’ll invite a colleague of his, Dr. Tina Bryson, to accompany us on our walkthrough of the Children’s room, as she has integrated Dr. Siegel’s principles with her own and has masterfully applied it in her research and work with children.
We’ll also close out our walkthroughs by looking at your home Office, and the principles that make for good outcomes in your career or ministry, in addition to what your Kitchen looks like, in your effort to feed, interact with and strengthen those in your home.
Also, as time permits, please visit the other blogs written by Dr. Ken McGill: Daily Bread for Life and “3 – 2 – 5 – 4 – 24″ for additional information that could be helpful. I welcome your comments below or via email and your favorites, your retweets and your “+1’s” if you have a brief moment and find the information helpful. Again, it is my desire to provide the very best info for your consideration.
TeleHealth/Video counseling sessions are available for those who prefer to meet online – Dr. McGill