Mindsight is a word coined by Dr Dan Siegel to describe the ability to truly “see” or know the mind. It turns out that the more able we are in understanding the workings of our minds, the healthier our internal worlds. This is because when we focus our attention on the workings of the mind, we can build or strengthen specific circuits in our brains.
Mindsight comprises three fundamental skills.
The first is insight, the ability to sense your own inner mental life. Insight is like a mental time travel of who and how you’ve been in the past, who and how you are now and who and how you would like to be in the future.
The second is empathy or the ability to sense the inner mental life of another person. Empathy allows us to “see” from another’s perspective. Empathy can lead to compassion and social intelligence as it allows us to understand other people’s intentions and needs.
The third is integration, the ability to link different parts of something into an interconnected whole. Integration in relationships allows us to honour differences while connecting respectfully. Integration within ourselves link the different aspects of memory together connecting our past, present and future in a coherent way so that we have a life story which makes sense. Integration helps us link different aspects of the brain and body so that we are healthy. Overall, integration is key in achieving coordination and balance in our inner and interpersonal worlds.
The highest part of the brain, the cortex, makes maps of he environment, The back of the cortex makes maps of what we see, the side areas make maps of what we hear. In the frontal area, we make many complex maps of past events and future possibilities. This is how we sense another person’s feelings, thoughts and memories. When we sense the mind of another person, we are making a mindsight map of another person’s mind. Mindsight is the ability to make maps of your own mind and the mind of another person. Mindsight is a key skill of both emotional and social intelligence and as a skill, it can be learnt and strengthened.
When we reflect on things going on inside ourselves, as in mindfulness, we activate our prefrontal neural circuitry and strengthen them. The brain makes new neurons and new connections in response to experience as long as we live. This is called neuroplasticity and experience means how we focus our attention. When we focus on our inner lives, we grow important nerve fibers that enhance empathy and insight.