Daniel Siegel: A System's View of Disintegration & Integration

(He's still cute, he's still brilliant, he speaks in easy-to-remember aphorisms and he's still heartful. What's not to like?)

"Integration is the linking of differentiated parts. The concept is useful for assessment, tx planning and therapy. . .Presence is absent in trauma survivors. Presence begins with us as therapists."

when fully
Present we can
Attune to the client or others and
Resonate with others and develop
Trust which is important because it activates the smart ventral vagus so the social engagement system turns on so that we can
Track what's going on in moment to moment experience which allows the
Truth to come out and creates

We help clients become open systems: self-organized: chaotic moving toward complexity, flexibility and adaptable: energized and coherent. System acheives complexity by linkiing differentiated parts. Coherence comes from integration. (Thank God for systems theory in social work school in 1979! I understand this stuff!) When not integrated we move toward rigidity (avoidance), chaos (flooding) or both.  It's all about the mind regulating the energy and information flow. "The mind is in the whole body and among people: it's embedded socially/relationally and embodied." "What I am is a process of regulating energy and information flow, not limited to our bodies and right now and this relationship. The ripple effects after we leave or die are also who we are." (My woo-woo teacher says the same thing. So does Hillel, sort of.)

Calming exercise: Put one hand on your heart, the other on your abdomen. Hold them there for a while. Try switching hands to see if you prefer one over the other. Most people do.

Your right hemisphere contains the storage of autobiographical information. PTSD is impaired integration. Long story about how a past trauma impeded on the present and how mindfulness allowed him to integrate the past event and stop reacting to the trigger.

"There's a distinction between awareness and mental activity: Awareness is the infinite possibility of neural firings."

In trauma, mental activies get locked into rigidity and chaos and pull humans into limited possibility. With unresolved trauma, rigidity and chaos imprison the person's possibilities. Good therapy transforms the brain of the the client to totally shift their center of attention and stay present to the self and watch self and make sense of it. The labeling of the internal state downregulates the limbic system. The client knows that "this" is not "that". Integration is the capacity to sit with core awareness and sit with anything that comes in. You can use mindfulness practice to help people distinguish between mental activity and true awareness. Ventral integration–being touch with the bodily state: Track it and you transform. Supress it and it screws you up.

"Liberate the innate drive of a complex system to integrate. Interpersonal integration: We are designed to be interdependent and interconnected. There's hope for we as humans to move from chaotic & rigid states to integration, kindness, and peace.

(Thank you, Rebbe Dan.)


After Dan, Martha Stark, a child psychiatrist spoke about Optimal vs Traumatic Stress. Traumatic Stress overwhelms and disrupts. Optimal Stress provides the impetus for transformation and growth. Optimal Stress–you need enough to stimulate adaptation and growth but not enough to overwhelm the system. In therapy, challenge when possible and support when necessary. (My brain was full and I took a walk.)


The Question and Answer period at the end of the day was worth the price of admission:

Dan Siegel: Txist attunement helps clients widen their ability to be with emotions and curiosity; integrates the experience; brings openess; widens the window of affect tolerance and acceptance and love, and moves away from rigidity and chaos. Be safe but not too safe: push the limits of the window of tolerance.

Francine Shapiro: Schizophrenia is sometimes misdiagnosed. Not all psychosis is genetic. Some is trauma-based, early and not-so-early childhood. If you target the negative experience, set up information processing. If they have positive networks to go to, the trauma will clear. Do processing if the client can stay present during processing (maintaining a dual awareness) and have positive experiences to call on. Otherwise spend as much time as you need to set up those positive networks. Truly schizophrenic people can be traumatized by their disease or by abuse, or disrupted attachment. Go after those targets if the client is resourced enough.

Pat Ogden, to Dan: Too much attention to mindfulness doesn't develop relational capacities. Dan to Pat: If you improve mindfulness, people have the capacity to connect. Capacity for the parent to be with his/her own self and material predicts the kid's secure attachment.  Teach people to harness the social capacity of their brains.

Steve Porges: We've developed to deal with humans, but school teaches/rewards dealing with objects. Psychiatry depersonalizes relationships. We need to teach social interaction: develop exercises. Play tempers mobilization states. We need more exercise that is face-to-face. Treadmill running teaches mobilization, badly. (I disagree.)

Bessel van der Kolk: Med school kills empathy in trainees. (Cited research)

Francine: EMDR and Dreams. Same brain process. (Robert Stickgold) Customize sets by attuning to clients needs. Goal is to take the REM state further than it goes in sleep. Images change in each set as new positive information comes in. . . Early therapeutic intervention for early humiliation would help people immensely. We need to teach parents and educators the impact of humiliation. (Jim Knipe and I wrote chapters about using EMDR on these issues to clear depressionin Solutions II.) The window of tolerance closes because of these childhood negative experiences.

Bessel: EMDR is hypnagogic, like sleep with very rapid associative processing. . . But people need to move, to play. EMDR has no movement. People need to complete the movement. But, research shows that EMDR clears 83% of the trauma. Movement-based treatment doesn't have the same success.

Martha Stark: Did EMDR with an insomniac client over a suicide attempt. In processing she remembered that at the last minute she saved herself, and the meaning about self changed for the better. Her insomnia disappeared and she started to remember her dreams.

Skipping some — too tired.

Dan: Mindfulness creates secure attachment to the self. It's a way of being. Mindful awareness is brain hygiene, not a religion, should teach it in schools, to doctors, and create empathetic practitioners.

More in the next few days. Steve Porges read this blog and told the other presenters about it. I got some interesting attention today.