The Triangle of Human Development with Daniel J. Siegel, MD

It's all about the triangle—the triangle of mind, brain self and others. After 30 years of clinical experience and research, Dr. Daniel J. Siegel has found a cohesive, innovative new framework that's radically different from conventional understanding. In this excerpt from The Neurobiology of “We,” he reveals his revolutionary “triangle” of development.

We cannot understand the human mind just by looking at the physical connections in the brain. We have to look at three aspects of human experience: 1) relationships, or the way we share energy and information between us; 2) the brain, the mechanism by which energy and information flows; and 3) the mind, which regulates that energy and information flow. What we're talking about here is what I call the “triangle of human experience,” where each corner deeply influences consciousness.

We now have fascinating scientific evidence indicating that the brain is hard-wired to literally connect with other brains. We also have evidence that suggests humans have a built-in capacity to intuit another person's inner state. In essence, we take information from a “resonance”—created by our mirror neurons—and then we examine our own internal state and we use those feelings to make a guess about what is going on with someone else. This is the beginning of empathy, and actually points to a fascinating overlap with insight meditation practices. What this means is that we are all literally programmed to look inward—to enhance our ability to understand and feel with another person. In turn we can affect those we relate to by attending more carefully to what's happening in our own minds.

The take-home message is this: the obstacles to optimal health and well-being can be overcome when we link these seemingly three different parts: the mind, brain, and relationship. This powerful triangle can help us understand how we have the power to shape—and reshape—every aspect of our social and emotional development.

Daniel J. Siegel

Daniel J. Siegel Return to top of page

Daniel J. Siegel, MD, currently serves as the director of the Mindsight Institute and co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. A graduate of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Siegel is the...


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