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A Yes Brain?

A common question I ask my adult clients is " what are you telling yourself about that?" It's become a go to for me.

Unless I learn what the inner dialogue is, I may be wasting their time in the pursuit of an ideal that has yet to be spoken.

Where does that internal dialogue come from, when does it develop and can we improve it?

Because folks are wounded, because folks are lonely and because we live in a broken world, our internal dialogue

usually mimics what we have heard said about us, what mom or dad said, what that important person implied, what we have falsely concluded. And even when folks claim to be believers in a God that loves them, they, too, often walk around with an internal critic, full of self loathing.

Which gets me around to the yes brain, a term that Daniel Siegel has coined in his latest book,

The Yes Brain: How to cultivate courage, curiosity and resilience in our children.

The research is clear: What we do as parents can shape our children’s capacities for insightful living.

"When we learn to parent using a Yes-Brain strategy, we are offering structure and discipline along with sharing the wisdom needed to reinforce a child’s ability to live in this receptive state. Yes-Brain parenting is not about being permissive. It’s about knowing how to skillfully create structure and learning in your child’s life so that the child comes to their inner and outer experiences with a sense of robustness and optimism."

Here are the four foundations of a Yes-Brain approach

1. Balance. By helping kids learn about the nature of their emotional lives and how any of us can become lost in these non-integrative states of rigidity or chaos, we can teach them how to ride the waves of these inner feelings and not become reactive when experiencing them fully. As Louisa May Alcott writes in “Little Women,” “I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”

2. Resilience. Sometimes, though, the ship of your life does indeed get tossed around in chaotic waves or stuck on a rigid shore. When we’ve entered the No-Brain state of reactivity – especially if this happens repeatedly and becomes a habit of our mind – we can become out of balance. We are no longer receptive to learning from others or even openly aware of what is happening inside of us.

Learning to detect when we’ve left the Yes-Brain state of receptivity and then altering our state to reenter this open, connecting way of being is a key part of being resilient. Facing challenges fully means monitoring our inner state and then modifying it to bring us back into balance.

3. Insight. Research reveals that children, adolescents and adults who are aware of their inner life of sensations, images, feelings and thoughts have better executive functioning and regulation and are even more compassionate and caring toward others.

Insight can be taught by building what I call mindsight skills – the capacities to sense the inner subjective lives of oneself and others, and then integrate these in your life. One aspect of mindsight is called mental time travel, the ways we link our past, present and future. Knowing the past means learning from our prior experiences. Being in the present involves having a receptive awareness to what is happening in the moment. When we anticipate and plan for the future, we’re able to become active authors of our own unfolding life story.

4. Empathy. This fourth foundation of living with a Yes-Brain approach to life can also be taught to children by their parents.

My next blog will more fully explore empathy.