Turning Point Q&A with Daniel Siegel

Daniel J. Siegel, MD, is clinical professor of psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and executive director of the Mindsight® Institute. He has published extensively, including Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, an in-depth exploration of the power of the mind to integrate the brain and promote well-being.

Describe what you do in 15 words or less.
I teach interpersonal neurobiology to empower people to create more integration, kindness, and compassion in their lives and the world.

Tell us about a turning point in your life.
I was working with a family whose relationships with each other were profoundly shaped by a brain injury the mother experienced. The question of how to help this family depended on addressing how mind, brain, and relationships are interconnected, and what makes them so fundamental to well-being. That experience gave birth to a journey to bring all the sciences together into one perspective, one we now call “interpersonal neurobiology,” that offers a definition of the mind, a view of mental health, and a framework that reveals how mind, brain, and relationships are three facets of one reality that shapes our lives.

What do you love about teaching?
I love joining with others in a conversation about how we can bring more insight, empathy, and kindness into our lives and world. When people learn about interpersonal neurobiology, they can experience a new way of not only seeing how our lives are shaped deeply by both our relationships and our neural structures, but also how they can use the mind to actually change the function and structure of their brain. When we also weave in the power of relationships to help create more compassion and kindness in the world, we see a how a process called “integration”—the linkage of differentiated parts—is the underlying basis of health in our social, neural, and mental worlds.

What are you passionate about right now?
How to bring these ideas into families’ and individuals’ everyday lives as well as into schools, organizations, the helping professions, and even public policy.

What do you do in your downtime?  
Relax with my family and friends, walk the dogs, hike, sail, ride bikes, listen to music, juggle, dance, walk on the beach at sunset.

© Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. To request permission to reprint, please e-mail editor@kripalu.org.