Goal:  To grow your Cognitive Core area, which includes (but is not limited to) your thoughts, feelings, behavior, and experiences concerning your brain, mind, intellect and the communication of your ideas, vision and viewpoints with others.

The Importance of this Core Area: One person I lean heavily on who helps me make sense of the Cognitive Core Area is the person and work of Dr. Dan Siegel, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, and the Director of the Mindful Awareness Resource Center. Regarding your Cognitive Core Area, Dr. Siegel’s work helps me to see there are three distinct but interrelated parts of you which, when working well together create what he calls a “Triangle of Well-Being” in addition to what I’ve come to call (using his phraseology) “Good Interpersonal Neurobiology.” Let me explain.

The first part of your “Triangle of Well-Being” that drives your Cognitive Core Area is your Brain (composed of your Central Nervous System and Spinal Cord), which sends, receives, processes and interprets messages throughout your body to help you to function efficiently. The second part of your Triangle of Well-Being that drives your Cognitive Core Area is your Mind, and per Dr. Siegel’s definition is the self-organizing and regulating center within your body that interprets, makes sense of and acts on the information processed in your brain. The third part of your Triangle of Well-Being is your Relationships, which is where the energy and information processed in your mind flows between you and “your neighbors” with the goal being to yield mutual benefits that are wise, loving, considerate and are therapeutic in nature. 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.” 

I like this term because it accurately describes how everything from the firing of your brain synapses to your involvement in the world in which you live 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.  We’ll unpack in detail in the 52 Cognitive Core Area entries how your Triangle of Well-Being/Interpersonal Neurobiology interacts and works with your other Core Areas to create wise and practical life experiences but for now, here’s a visual to explain this process.  

Interpersonal Neuro + Triangle of Well-Being picture

The Fruit and Wisdom in this Core Area:  It takes an incredible amount of work to decipher and make sense of, then create and maintain a Triangle of Well-Being and good Interpersonal Neurobiology because at any given time you’re listening, observing, processing, interpreting and “encoding” (transferring your thoughts to others) or “decoding” (receiving and deciphering more information) between you and whoever else is present. In addition, your personality, your memory, all that’s stored in your mind, and your personal life experiences (good, bad, ugly or traumatic) also shape how you think, hear and make sense of, then react or respond to any information that’s exchanged between you and others.

That’s a lot of work we’re asking your brain and mind to do at any given moment! But believe it or not, when your Brain and Mind integrates good spiritual and psychological resources, focuses on important personal virtues and values, and consistently practices goal-oriented and constructive relationship strategies to develop skills that produce wise, functional, and “win-win” relationship outcomes with the Brain and Mind of the neighbors in your life, your effort result in the celebrated creation of a Triangle of Well-being and good Interpersonal Neurobiology! 

Contaminants in this Core Area: Untreated and unprocessed health concerns, traumas, maladaptive schemas, maladaptive schema modes, cognitive distortions, ego defenses and personality styles, types and disorders (many of these could be “cortically overridden”) threaten your ability to access the best of your cognitions in your attempt to “come to your own assistance.” The presence of these contaminants also tends to keep people stuck in narrow frames of reference with their thinking and hyper-aroused and dysregulated with their emotions, which could wreak subtle or pervasive havoc internally regarding your Triangle of Well-Being and hijack your ability to create good Interpersonal Neurobiology in your encounters with others.  

If not given the attention they deserve, these contaminants, like viruses to a supercomputer, could infect your brain, mind and cognitions and impede your ability to access, integrate then evaluate the best strategies from your own Middle Prefrontal Cortex, especially when its essential for you to implement problem-solving strategies like insight and empathy.

Suggested Activity:  Begin reading the 52 entries in the Cognitive Core Areas, especially those which focus on the “A – C – T – I – V – E  Model” and the Nine Middle Prefrontal Cortex functions.  These specific strategies (and the others in this subsection), will help you to identify your self-sabotaging thoughts and subsequent behaviors, but more importantly, creative and strategic thinking methods to strengthen your Triangle of Well-Being and enhance your effort to create good Interpersonal Neurobiology!

Here are the “G.A.S. up” questions for further deliberation in this Core Area:

1. Think about what goals you envision cultivating in your Cognitive Core Area, and why it’s important for you to develop and practice the behaviors connected to your goals. What are they?

2. Think about the activities you’d like to create, engage in and enjoy personally and/or with others which is a reflection of your growth. What activities come to mind? 

3. Think about what skills you see yourself developing and how you see your life enriched due to the development and regular practice of the Cognitive strategies in this Core Area. Who needs what fruit from you and how do you think the two of you will be mutually strengthened?

Skill to develop:  Your ability to come to your own assistance by developing awareness with your cognitions and consistency in your ability to wisely apply and live by your chosen virtues and values which create well-being and synergy and success in your encounters with others.

Next: Defining your 7 Core Areas (Your Emotional Core Area) or return to the Table of Contents

Thanks for reading this excerpt from Cultivating Love: Wisdom for Life. 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


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About Dr Ken McGill

Dr. Ken McGill is an ordained minister and has been involved in counseling for more than 25 years. Dr. McGill holds a Bachelor's degree in Religion from Pacific Christian College (now Hope International University), a Certificate of Completion in the Alcohol and Drug Studies/Counseling Program from the University of California at Los Angeles and a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University. Dr. McGill received his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Family Psychology from Azusa Pacific University in May, 2003. Dr. McGill's dissertation focused on the development of an integrated treatment program for the sexually addicted homeless population, and Ken was "personally mentored" by dissertation committee member Dr. Patrick Carnes, a pioneer in the field of sex addiction work. Dr. McGill authored a chapter in the text The Clinical Management of Sex Addiction, with his chapter addressing the homeless and sex addiction. Dr. McGill is also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the States of Texas and California and Mississippi, and is a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, through the International Institute for Trauma and Addictive Professionals (IITAP). Dr. McGill had a private practice in Glendora, CA (Aspen Counseling Center), Inglewood, CA (Faithful Central Bible Church), and Hattiesburg, MS (River of Life Church), specializing in the following areas with individuals, couples, families, groups and psychoeducational training: addictions and recovery, pre-marital, marital and family counseling, issues related to traumatization and abuse, as well as depression, grief, loss, anger management and men's and women's issues. Dr. McGill also provided psychotherapeutic treatment with Student-Athletes on the University of Southern Mississippi Football and Men's Basketball teams. Dr. McGill served as the Director of the Gentle Path Program, which is a seven-week residential program, for people who are challenged with sexual addiction, sexual anorexia, and relationship issues. Dr. McGill also supervised Doctoral students in the Southern Mississippi Psychology Internship Consortium with the University of Southern Mississippi. Dr. McGill was inducted into the Azusa Pacific University Academic Hall of Honor, School of Behavioral and Applied Sciences, in October, 2010. Dr. McGill currently works as a Private practice clinician with an office in Plano, Texas, providing treatment with people who are challenged in the areas mentioned above.


Daily Bread for Addressing Compulsion