It was a challenge to read much this summer (at least the sort of reading worth sharing online!). But I recently sat down with a couple of great books and have a lot of helpful take-aways for myself, some clients, and my children.
The Whole-Brain Child, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.
I’ve been a fan of Dr. Siegel’s since I was introduced to his ideas a couple of years ago in a training. He focuses on the integration of a person’s brain (in this case, a child’s)- which helps all the different functions of the brain work together as a whole. He asserts that the brain is plastic, moldable, throughout life, and that, since neurons that fire together grow connections, we can use that to “rewire” the brain.
He talks about two kinds of integration: 1- horizontally: left brain (logical, literal, linear) and right brain (nonverbal, emotional, intuitive) and 2- vertically: “downstairs” (primitive- anger, fear, survival, fight vs. flight) and “upstairs” (thinking, imagining, empathy). We recognize when kids become “trapped downstairs” when they are flooded with the more primitive emotions and just don’t have access to the kind of thinking we want from the upstairs brain. We can help them by:
- Connect & redirect- when the child is in an emotional flood, we can connect first to the right brain and then appeal to the logic of the left brain
- Name it to tame it- Retelling stories helps children make sense. Journaling can be so helpful because it calms the right brain so that they can hear the left brain.
- Ask which part you’re appealing to (upstairs or downstairs). Access their thinking by saying “convince me” or “come up with a solution that works for us both”.
- Exercise their upstairs brain- decision making practice, breathing & calming, empathy.
- Move the body!
- Replaying memories (to integrate the explicit and implicit)- Storytelling is the most effective way to promote integration. Use the idea of a DVD player with a remote control and ask them to pause, rewind, fast forward (especially when recounting something difficult).
- Making recollection a part of daily family life (tell me 2 things that really happened and 1 that didn’t; tell me your high and low and one act of kindness).
- Let emotions roll by (like a cloud).
- SIFT- pay attention to what’s going on inside sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts.
- Getting back to the hub- looking at mindsight or wheel of awareness, recognizing when they’re fixated on one of the rim points and can instead choose to return to the stable, calm, big picture center.
- Increase family fun factor.
- Teach kids to argue with “we” in mind.
Presence, Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges, Amy Cuddy
I first heard of Amy Cuddy through her massively-popular TED Talk, and I finally read her book, which convinced me fully that our bodies have the ability to change our minds. Through research and examples, she showed how people can get in their own way of being present with their self-monitoring, “imposter syndrome”, and communicating physically like they don’t deserve to be there. She demonstrates how we can break out of that powerlessness with some powerful body languages (think Wonder Woman power poses!).
“When we feel powerless, we cannot be present. In a way, presence is power- a special kind of power that we confer on ourselves.”
“Personal power is all about having the confidence to act based on one’s own beliefs, attitudes, and values, and having the sense that one’s actions will be effective. Effective, in this context, doesn’t mean we will always get the result we desire; instead it means that we will come away from every interaction feeling that we fully and accurately represented who we are and what we want.”
“The way you carry yourself is a source of personal power- the kind of power that is the key to presence. It’s the key that allows you to unlock yourself- your abilities, your creativity, your courage, and even your generosity. It doesn’t give you skills or talents you don’t have; it help you to share the ones you do have. It doesn’t make you smarter or better informed; it makes you more resilient and open. It doesn’t change who you are; it allows you to be who you are.”
Why should you do a 2-minute power pose before doing something big or bold? Expanding your body:
- makes you feel more confident and powerful, less anxious and self-absorbed, and generally more positive.
- causes you to think about yourself in a positive light.
- frees you to approach, act, persist.
- physiologically prepares you to be present; it overrides your instinct to fight or flee, allowing you to be grounded, open, and engaged.
- toughens your body to physical pain.
“In each challenging situation, we nudge ourselves: we encourage ourselves to feel a little more courageous, to act a bit more boldly- to step outside the walls of our fear, anxiety, and powerlessness. To be a bit more present. And incrementally, over time, we end up where we want to be…”
Our bodies are apt to be our autobiographies.” – artist Frank Gelett Burgess