TEDxBlue – Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. – 10/18/09



Translator: Orsolya Szemere
Reviewer: Min Hyun Oh Hello everyone, how are you? First I'd like to thank Matt
for that lovely introduction and to thank the Blue Man School people
and everyone associated with Blue Man, and to thank Chris Anderson and TED for really allowing us
to have this day together to talk about the potential of schools. So with the notion
of Ideas Worth Spreading, I am actually going to
only present one idea to you – that we have to totally revamp education. (Laughter) And that idea is to look at
the basic "R"s of education: reading, writing, arithmetic, and consider that in addition
to those important skills, we need to offer three more Rs: The "R" of reflection,
relationships, and resilience. What I am going to do is share with you
a little story about education and then go with you through these steps by which these new "R"s
can become a part of education, not only here in New York, but everywhere, where it's a different way
of thinking about things. Like in any talk, you want to get to know
a little bit about the person speaking, so I'll just talk you about this kid, and the idea is that we all
start out as this kid, who is exposed to certain things,
not only in a family life, but if they go to school,
early on in life, those experiences we have
actually shape the brain. So our genes, of course, affect
the connections in the brain, but the experiences we have
shape this brain. So if we're just given reading,
writing and arithmetic as the basic things that then get
elaborated over and over and over again, it's going to shape the brain
in a certain fashion. And what I want to suggest to you is that the brain has two
very different sets of circuits. One is a circuit about the physical world, and the other is a set of circuits
about the world of the mind. And these are extremely different. And when we see the mind, the internal life
of ourselves and of others, through insight and empathy,
that can be called "Mindsight." That's what mindsight is. And there's a power
behind developing these circuits that basically never happens in schools. It's an unbelievable opportunity
to transform not only a child's life, and a family's life,
and a community's life, but even to awaken people to the fact
that we're all interconnected. That's what mindsight offers – that the brain, in fact,
left to its own devices in modern culture, comes up with what Einstein called
"an optical delusion of our separateness." An optical delusion, right? And yet if we get this reflection
into the internal world going, we can dissolve that delusion. So I'll just give you
a little example from my own life, going through preschool,
learning the basics of sharing toys, and sharing milk, and going through
everything we do in kindergarten, and then something strange
happens, of course: reading, writing, arithmetic take over, and all those important
interpersonal skills go away. Now, what happened to me
is in middle school I continued, in high school I continued. I was fascinated with life,
so I studied biology, worked actually at a suicide
prevention service in college. I was really interested
not only molecules, but in the mind, and I thought a good way
to combine that would be … what? To go to medical school, right? Not. So I went to medical school, and I started asking my patients
the oddest things. I would ask them how they felt. I would ask them
what their life story was. And when I would come back
and tell my professors about this, they would yell at me
that I was doing a terrible thing. They would say – one of them said, "Daniel." And I thought, "Yes?" And she said, "Do you
want to be a psychiatrist?" Which is a dirty word in medical school. I said, "I don't know, I never
thought about being a psychiatrist." She cocked her head the other way. she said, "Daniel." I said "Yes?" "Is your father a psychiatrist?" And I said, "No, he's an engineer." And I said, "Why?" And she goes, "These stories you're asking about,
these feelings you're asking about, that's not what doctors do." Then she said this,
and I will never forget it: "Doctors stick to the physical." Now, I didn't know it then, but that's exactly the circuitry
of the physical world. I ultimately ended up
dropping out of school because I didn't actually want
to become that kind of a doctor, went around, and I had studied
this enzyme that changes in salmon so that they could turn
from fresh water to salt water fish, and I was really excited about that. Anyway, I thought I'd become
a salmon fisherman, and I actually went and was in Canada,
I went all the way west – "Go West, young man." I went to the western coast
of Vancouver Island. And there I got a ride with someone,
and I said, you know, "Thanks for the ride,"
he said, "What's your story?" "I dropped out of Harvard Medical School." "What are you going to do now?" I said, "I'm going to become
a salmon fisherman." He said, "Really?" I said, "Yeah." He goes, "I am a salmon fisherman, and it's amazing, I'm dropping out,
and I'm going to become a psychologist." You know? And I said, "Really? Why?" And he told me the whole life, and I said,
"Okay, that's maybe not for me." So, I had always wanted to be a dancer,
I had danced in college, and so I said maybe
I'd be a choreographer, and I started doing that kind of thing,
and I realized I loved how dance felt, and I had, like, no interest
in how dance appeared, so I thought if I was a choreographer,
I'd probably starve to death. So I ended up going back to school, but I was always interested
in this question of how could you have
really smart professors, really smart, concerned professors, who were blind to the mind? How was that possible? You know, how could we do that? Later on I'd work for the organization that collected 55,000 Holocaust
survivors' stories to document that, and I was their consultant, and, you know, I went to Poland,
and we went to the concentration camps, and I met some people
who had been there as kids, a place called Majdanek, one of the worst concentration camps –
not that any of them are good – but this person said,
"You know when I was a kid, it was amazing, the guards
who'd work in the camp, killing hundreds of thousands of people, would come back
and be really nice with their dogs. They'd play with their dogs
and play with their kids, then go to the camps." So then I started thinking
this thing about seeing the mind isn't just something
you have or don't have, you can actually shut it off. You can shut mindsight off. And now we have
a whole bunch of scientific data that shows that under certain conditions you can treat people similar to you
as if they have a mind, and if you categorize
someone "not like you," you actually shut off
the circuits of compassion if you don't have this reflective capacity
to stay present, to have the grit, the strength, to actually
approach things that are difficult, like feeling uncomfortable
because you're with someone not like you. We can wake up to this and actually change these patterns
that human beings have of, in fact, genocide,
of looking at a world and feeling like we're
not a part of the planet, of realizing that in fact we are
part of an interconnected whole. So what I want to do with you
is share with you some insights that come from a field I have been
very proud to be a part of founding called Interpersonal Neurobiology, which is a fancy word just saying that the brain
is a social organ of the body. And if we don't take care
of the social side, the mindsight side, the brain will tend to want
to accumulate things and think that this bodily self
is the only self, as if a cell in the body –
if you're a heart cell you said, "I'm just a heart cell,
screw the liver cell. I don't really care about
the skin cells, I'm a heart cell." You know, we are all
a part of one organism. And reflection
is an opportunity to realize that relationships are our life's blood. And this is what gives us resilience
not only as individuals but as a collective community. So let me walk you through
how this happens. The way school is now
is imprisoning the brain, literally. It's putting the brain in a cage. We have to free the brain from that cage. And we actually know the science now
about how to do that. So the question is:
can we make this a collective movement, a grassroots effort to work together
to make this happen? And here are some of the ways
to think about it: The way we educate kids now, is we're basically damaging their brains,
to be really blunt about it. We're taking a set of circuitry
that we've evolved for sure over 40,000 years,
probably two million years, and now we have evidence
it's probably 4.4 million years – this is an ancient set of circuits
that modern culture obliterates in our strange way that we think
we're all separate from each other. This is a new invention, and it's a kind of sickness,
and this brain is sick. So the question is,
can we actually listen in to what's happening
to the brain side of things and understand it so we awaken
how we approach our lives. Well, the kid is ready to awaken, right? I mean, at a young age,
kids' circuitry is all ready, the whole relationship
that they've had with their parents has been shaping this brain,
and then we shove them in schools and everything that was relational
disappears after kindergarten. It's so sad, and the brain shrinks away. Right? This kid has the ability
to see all sorts of things – to be an artist, to be creative,
to be intuitive, to stick to it, to approach things that are difficult
and not withdraw from them – and we have the opportunity
to support this child's development. If we do it right
and we train our teachers well, we can actually do it. So here's the deal. The brain is the social organ of the body. And when you see
the internal subjective nature of feelings and thoughts
in yourself and in others, then the interaction you have
either with reflective awareness or with interpersonal communication
that is a reflective sort where you look at this internal world – not just manage behaviors
and tell people what to do but look at the internal world – you develop this thing
called neural integration. Basically integration is the linkage
of separate things together. And when it's neural, it just means
it is in the nervous system, that's all that means. And through an extensive set
of research studies that I review in all the different
things I've published, neural integration
is basically the heart of health. It's the heart of health in your body;
it's the heart of health in your mind; it's the heart of health
in our relationships, not with just one another
but also with the whole planet. And so integration becomes a concept that actually organizes
all of our thinking. Now, to understand that, we look at this triangle
of well-being and resilience, which basically puts on equal footing three fundamental aspects of our life
that are not reducible to each other. The brain is the easy one – you know, a hundred billion
neurons in there, trillions of glial cells that support the growth of the different
connections in the circuitry. Relationships and the mind. The first time I showed this
was in Poland when I was working there, and one of my co-faculty members said, "You're insane!" And I said, "Why am I insane?" He goes, "You put relationships
and the brain on the same slide. They shouldn't even
be in the same talk. You're crazy." I said, "I might be crazy, but I don't know why
that's the reason to be crazy!" So then I made up this term
"interpersonal neurobiology" to really make him think I was insane. But the idea here is that –
and this is a long – I could do an eight-hour talk
on this one triangle here – but the issue to take home is this: Just as we're sitting together now,
we share information with each other. That information
is driven forward by energy, and I don't mean
any airy-fairy idea of energy, I mean like when you turn on the light, energy flows through the circuits
to give you light. You need energy to move your body. So, it's actual physics aspect of energy
that drives information forward. So we'll just call it information
for now, to make it simple. Relationships are how
we share information – driven by energy – with each other. The brain, the whole nervous system
distributed throughout the whole body – so I just call that the brain – is the mechanism
by which information flows. And the mind,
which is a really exciting topic – of course, it's our subjective experience,
it's our consciousness, it's our will, it's our stick-to-it-iveness,
it's all that stuff – but in this triangle, it's a process
that regulates the flow of information. And we can actually honor the mind
being as real as the brain, as real as relationships. Now, with this triangle in mind,
let's go through a quick review. You have experiences
which drive energy and information through synaptic connections. You then increase
as electricity flows down the long length of the neuron. You actually have neurons which
"fire together, wire together." Okay? You can create new neurons
throughout the lifespan; you can create connections
throughout the lifespan; you can actually lay down a sheath
around the neurons that are connected
to each other, called myelin; and deep practice does this, especially practice
where you confront your challenges and don't withdraw from them. This idea of grit,
this idea of really going forward and having deep,
deep practice grows myelin. And it takes 10,000 hours for expertise, but it doesn't take that long
to develop the basics of skills. Right? Mindsight is a skill
you can develop. So we have to ask the question:
How do we get the neurons of compassion, the circuitry of kindness, to actually grow the ways that we realize
we are part of a functional whole? Okay? And we actually know this. How do we plug in the kids' brains so we can actually
develop mindsight in their lives? And we actually know what to do. But we can't just do it by adding on
a little one-hour thing a week. We have to flip questions on their head. Turn it upside down so that we see, in fact,
things from a new angle. What I'm suggesting is that
you could have a whole curriculum where reflection,
the importance of relationships, and the way they develop resilience is actually at the heart
of the curriculum. This can start early on,
but in this adolescent's brain, you need to know that the adolescent brain
is a construction zone. And we can still work with adolescents and find a way to continue
to teach these reflective skills, and children who have them
before adolescence actually have more resilience
during adolescence. We know that from research. And we know that this child's brain
will also continue to grow throughout, not only till she's 25, but it's going to continue to grow
throughout the lifespan. There's wonderful,
wonderful new work on that. What I want to suggest to you –
and this is to put in relationships, resilience and reflection
all in one slide – is this: There's an injunction I was given
a year and a half ago, that said, "Please find a way
to make the world a kinder place in a secular fashion." So what I am suggesting in response
to that question that was asked to me, is that "brainbrushing"
can become a daily activity, just like toothbrushing is. Okay? And this would be a form of brain hygiene
just like you have dental hygiene. How many of you brush your teeth? Right? We brush our teeth, we do,
we brush our teeth. Why not have a reflective practice where we know
you get amazing things from that? So that the brain becomes integrated, it gets pulled together. Now, when you have an integrated brain
and you do your brainbrushing, this is what happens. Watch this. This is from science,
that the area just behind your forehead – and we'll do this very quickly – put your thumb in the middle
and your fingers over the top – that's a really handy model of the brain. And you have your spinal cord,
your brainstem, your limbic area's all there – the part we're going
to talk about is the cortex, and the front-most part
pulls it all together. The part we're talking about
is your middle two fingernails, right there, that area. If you lift it up and put it down,
notice that it connects everything. And that's true of this area is called
the middle prefrontal cortex, that which reflection develops. And watch this: Here are the middle prefrontal functions
that mindsight promotes. Watch this – and you think about
how many of these you would like: bodily regulations so you keep your heart
and your intestines working well; attuned communication
with yourself and others; the ability to have emotional balance
so life has meaning; and energy, but not too much
so it's chaotic, too little so it's rigid. The notion that you have
the extinction of fear. You also have the ability to be flexible
and pause before you respond. You have the capacity
for insight into yourself and then empathy into other people. You also have this capacity for morality: to realize we are
a part of a larger whole, and we enact behaviors and can imagine
what it's like to be for the greater good, and finally, accessing intuition. Now, how many of you
would like to have that in your life? This is possible! Research shows that empathic relationships and reflective skill training
promote these. Of course, anyone who's a parent
knows you can flip your lid and sometimes lose any of those, right? Any of you do that as parents? There you go. Well, you can see. Now, the fact is,
we can develop these in children. All nine of these middle
prefrontal functions can be what we're aiming for so that we deliver in education
an integrated brain. An integrated brain. And what we would have then,
in conclusion, is a child who honors
the way the mind is important, that the circuitry of compassion
has been developed so that relationships,
the brain and the mind become a triangle embedded
in this child's synaptic connections, so they realize they're
a part of a larger whole, they feel attuned to themselves, they feel committed
and responsible for others, and they go forward in life
with the synaptic circuitry that allows them to feel connected, to have a sense of equanimity, to have wisdom in their life, and a sense of responsibility
for all living beings on our planet. Thank you very much. (Applause) Host: Stay up here for one second.
Daniel Siegel: Sure. Host: You know,
we've had the opportunity – I've had the opportunity,
and we have at Blue School and Blue Man, to hear you speak several times
over the last month or so. Your book "Mindsight" – you talk
about a practice of mindsight, right? So, is this something – can you sort of relate
the practice of mindsight to educating kids? DS: Yeah. I think the first thing
to be with, of course, is having teachers really know
what this reflective skill ability is. And it's like the difference
between, in your own life, looking at just behaviors, which
are the physical aspect of the world, versus looking at the mind
that's behind the behavior. So what you can do
is train people, literally, to become aware
of the signals of their experience. So I'll give you – can I do a little demo? Host: Yeah. DS: So all of you,
to see what this is like, just let yourself notice whatever happens
as I do what I am about to do. Okay? Just notice. Alright? Okay, just notice. Now, one moment. Notice, just notice whatever happens. Anyone noticed a difference
between part one and part two? What did you notice? (Audience) You had
a cup of water and you took a sip. When I had a cup of water in my hand,
what did it feel like? (Audience) It made sense.
It was satisfying. It made sense, and someone's
pointed to their throat. Could you feel the water
going down, some of you? So we have a system
of neurons, you can know, that connect us one to the other, and when you can make sense
of what someone is doing, you actually embed that
in your same body experience. So you can simulate behaviors. You can also teach, let's say, teachers, how to be aware
of what "no" does for children, and make training
of the experience of "no" and "yes" – as you're going to see in a second –
part of what they do. Do I have enough time to do this too? Try this out. So just close your eyes,
and just notice whatever arises. No more drinking water –
sorry if you don't have water around – so just notice whatever happens
when I say the following things: No. No. No. No. No. No. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. When you're ready,
you can open your eyes. How many of you noticed a difference
between "no" and "yes"? So what did "no" feel like? Negative, what did it
feel like in your body? A pushing down. Pushing back. It sucked. Okay. And then what did "yes" feel like? Say it again. Empowerment. Encouragement. Expansive. What else? More love. Okay. Now, I'm not even your dad telling you, you can't have ice cream
before dinner, right? So just this little, teeny,
like, two-minute-set of exercises, what we begin to realize is that the "no" experience
creates a reactive response from the brain stem
and the limbic areas, these deep areas, that get us ready
to fight, flight or freeze. Okay? And so when you have children,
either in a family or in a school, that are constantly hearing "no," they get into a reactive mode
rather than the "yes" mode of receptivity. Now, kids absolutely need discipline,
they need structure, they need to have grit,
they need to go forward, to approach things that are difficult. So I'm not saying just everything goes. There is a way of making "yes"
in a structured setting. That's the kind of things
we would teach you how to do. Because if the child is reactive, if they're told they're no good, no good,
in whatever kinds of ways, their behavior, their impulses, like that girl, you heard the story about,
where she's told, she's a problem, and then finally someone sees her gift
and says "You're a dancer," right? That 's the kind of "yes"
we want to give kids. We want to help them find their element, as Sir Ken Robinson
talks about beautifully, to find their passion
and to allow them pursue it so they can develop
these various areas of expertise, lay down the myelin in their circuits that allow them to actually develop
who they are as individuals, but also at the same time, realize that we are all a part
of an interconnected whole. To inspire them to rewire their brains is basically what
a mindsight approach does. And what you do is you train the whole system
that you're working in to think this way as you offer people the opportunities
to come look at that triangle. If you take that triangle, which I teach people
who work with really young kids, to use that triangle
as an organizational principle: mind, brain and relationships, it actually can organize
an entire curriculum. That you follow that triangle through
from preschool through high school, and you will have a different generation
as these kids grow up.

35 thoughts on “TEDxBlue – Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. – 10/18/09

  1. This was amazing to hear that we can help children learn and make them feel good of themselves. Its really interesting to hear also that our mind is a key part in our social area, and many things we do in this world will effect that. I agree that teachers need to work hard and should be aware of these circumstances in the fact that it can truly help children grow as they get older.

  2. Una nota para mejorar la traducci贸n. Al principio cuando dice que hay que ofrecer 3 rs mas, una de estas es RESILIENCIA no resistencia.

  3. I have been a teacher for 29 years, and my husband a principal/superintendent for 36. We've always been frontiers with embedding social/emotional education as a daily part of teaching. I actually retired early to work solely on what is lacking in our schools – instead of parents/teaching telling teens what NOT to do, we're training college students to lead these teens in what TO do. It's not rocket science. If you want to sell drugs, alcohol, or leadership to teens, get a cool college student who is a true role model; our problem is we don't have any role models anymore, especially for boys.

  4. In resply to James Morgan

    It is not longer debatable but conclusively scientifically proven now for at least two decades, that is, the direct relatiohship between neuroplasticity and experience with respect to not only changing functionality but structure, i.e., neuronal pathways, the actual synchonized or asynchronous firing of neurons the integhrity of the mylein sheaths and the precise formation of synapses. You can start with Eric Kandell, 2000 Nobel Leecture on the Molecular Biology of Memory Storage: A Dialog between Genes and Synapses.

    The scientific evidence by Dan Siegal, Bruce Perry, Ed Tronic, Stanley Greenspan, Stuart Shanker, Peter Shonkoff, with respect to early childhood/primary caregiver heathy recirpocal affective attachment or diathesis directly determining healthy functional and structural differences in for example, synchronous neuronal firing and synpatic formation; increase or decrease in Amygdala, FFA or fusiform gyrus, expanded prefrontal cortex connections and so forth are, my dear Sir, actual scientific facts!

  5. Wow.. incredibly important topic.. incredibly explained!!! Thank you for such a compelling explanation! Thank you for your research! 馃檪

  6. Boring. Really really boring. Concept after concept after concept. Hardly any evidence provided at all. Like almost none. He's not going to get to the real TED stage unless he seriously ups his game.

  7. Dear TEDx Talks, can I get your permission in order to use some parts of this video? I need it for reference purpose in my scientist conference

  8. Doctor麓s only work with the physical. If that麓s the dominant point of view then psychologists must be seen as enemy麓s….

  9. This was amazing. I took two short workshops with him in California, have listened to a number of youtube videos by Dr. Siegel, and have read his books. This was succinct and talks about a way of making important changes in the "minds" of our children, which will change the future of the mind and our culture. Sorry! I am so enthused by this video…listen to it, walk away with it. And, funny enough for me, I was a dancer who became a psychologist. Loved it!

  10. When Dr Siegal said NO NO NO … 聽 YES YES YES….. I only heard the sound. I did not interpret the meaning of the sound. Is it OK or we need to interpret and react accordingly for mindfulness.

  11. Can anyone explain to me what "emotional intelligence" mean? Is it medically/ scientifically possible to define or acknowledge "spirituality?"

    Psychiatry is a very fascinating field. I really want to understand the minds of evil criminals and mass murderers. I also want to understand if everyone is equally prone to suicide under the same external stimuli. The human condition is as vast as the universe and I would like to study it with facts so I can somehow help my fellow humans in distress.

  12. Lastima, no lo entiendo, no podria alguien traducirlo, aunque fuera resumido al Espa帽ol. Muchas gracias anticipadas, alguien lo traducira.

  13. Every time he says "and we know what to do" he immediately returns to metaphorical blather. This isn't the talk to watch if "what we know how to do" is what you want to know how to do.

  14. Great video Dr. Siegel! I look forward to the day when the 3 Rs are incorporated into our educational system.

  15. Another interesting approach and quite helpful in being more specific about the mind, fragmentation of it, true Self and how to balance it all can be found on GERCACN channel here on youtube.

    I recommended it very much.

  16. It's all very nice and inspiring (I heard some of his longer speeches) but as organized religion failed, organized secular education will. First the issues preventing the healthy mind do happen in family. Trying to rewire that in school is better than nothing but I'm afraid it will push the policy deeper to 'abandon your kids, the system will take care of them'.
    Second you don't balance your mind/personality bc you'll be encouraged to meditate or study your mind – it has to be voluntary.

  17. "The Neuro-biology of We" – By Daniel Seigal……. most amazing 9 hours of audio I've ever listened to!;p He explains in detail everything he just discussed here.. listen to it!!!

  18. @Vikingbrute
    If you need this oresentation prescribed to you then it obviously doesnt apply to you. "Horses for courses"
    Siegel articulated quite well alot of what I feel and think and further in the field of trying to break the cycle of dependency he is spot on.

  19. For those interested in how you can use mindsight in everyday life, check out some of Dan's upcoming talks. He's got one on building resilience in relationships and another on mindsight itself. You can find them on psychalive

  20. ….I get the point of what he was trying to communicate and do not disagree with a need to incorporate a more balanced approach in educating the whole human organism, but after his 16 minute lecture with zero examples or actual facts profferred, i am nonplussed. This lecture would never make the cut at an actual TED conference. Dust it off and try again 'Dr.' Siegel.

  21. Out of 100 plus TED talks i've watched, this one has the least actual information. He speaks like a politician, stringing colorful 'catch' phrases together that have very little actual content. Makes declarative statements with no verification or follow through. "our brains are 'literally' in a prison. m'kay?"

  22. Neural integration is the heart of health… 10:20 in your body, in your mind, not just in our relationships with one another but with the whole planet. Three irreducible elements of well being… brain, mind, relationships.

  23. Thanks for posting this excellent, important talk! I love Daniel Siegel's work, and this talk is a great overview. I'd love to hear him talk further about whether any schools are dealing with the other three R's, and what parents can do to help their children develop more mindsight.

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