FULL TITLE : INTERPERSONAL NEUROBIOLOGY
INTERPERSONAL : the domain of experience when people interact with each other. Relationships. Human interactions. (compared to ‘intra-personal’ which refers to experience just within the self)
NEUROBIOLOGY : ‘neuro-‘ refers to the nervous system, which includes the brain. So, the biology of the nervous system.
A Triangular Concept of the Human Mind – the inclusion of Relationships in brain development & function
Siegel, Daniel J. The Developing Mind : how relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are. 2nd Ed. The Guildford Press, 2012. (1st edition 1999)
In his introduction, Siegel attempts to lay a foundation for the dense neurobiological and neuropsychological discussion to follow. At the heart of his message, which he reiterates again and again, is that “the mind emerges from the activity of the brain, whose structure and function are directly shaped by interpersonal experience” (p.1) and that his book hopes to “build a foundation for a neurobiology of interpersonal experience.” (p.1)
“The framework of this interpersonal neurobiology centres on three fundamental principles:
1. The human mind emerges from patterns in the flow of energy and information within the brain and between brains.
2. The mind is created within the interaction of internal neurophysiological processes and interpersonal experiences.
3. The structure and function of the developing brain are determined by how experiences, especially within interpersonal relationships, shape the genetically programmed maturation of the nervous system.” (p.2)
“By altering both the activity and the structure of the connections between neurons, experience directly shapes the circuits responsible for such processes as memory, emotion and self-awareness. We can use an understanding of the impact of experience on the mind to deepen our grasp of how the past continues to shape present experience and influence future actions.” (p.2)
In other words, the evidence of neuroscientific technology can, for the first time, allow therapists to offer physiological explanations about symptoms, feelings, thoughts and behaviours that until recently could only be explained in ‘psychological’ terms. I believe this is of huge significance for traumatised clients struggling to understand their seemingly out of control mental state. To reframe it for them as a physical problem rather than a ‘mental’ one, is tremendously empowering. The concept that their nervous system is compromised and needs specific intervention, is easier to grasp and easier to treat proactively. Likewise, clients can easily grasp the idea that their memory system has malfunctioned and needs help to be able to store the memories of the traumatic event in the right place. These concepts can be clearly located within a physiological framework of nervous responses, networks of neurons, memory storage, stress hormones and so on. Not only does it become more tangible and easier to visualise, but it helps to remove or lessen the stigma of ‘mental illness’.
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