Advances in neuroscience have led, progressively, to considering the mind as an epiphenomenon of brain activity. That is to say, they brought forward an understanding of the brain as the physical basis of psychic activity, and the mind as the final by-product of neural connections. But as neuroscience progresses, evidence that the mind is more than brain activity is becoming more evident.
Dan Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine, says that the mind cannot be confined, so to speak, within the skull. Moreover, it is not even “inside” our own bodies. The mind, Siegel explains, can be thought of as “social.”
In fact, along with a group of neuroscientists, sociologists, psychologists and anthropologists, Professor Siegel concluded that the mind is a relational process. He defines it as “an emergent process of self-organization, both embodied and relational, that regulates energy and information flow within and among us,” as reported in an article Olivia Goodhill recently published on Quartz.
As Goodhill points out, the most interesting thing about this definition is that it extends the mind to dimensions that go beyond our own immediate physical being. Siegel explains that it is something similar to what happens when we try to define what the shoreline is: “I realized if someone asked me to define the shoreline but insisted, is it the water or the sand, I would have to say the shore is both sand and sea (…) You can’t limit our understanding of the coastline to insist it’s one or the other. I started thinking, maybe the mind is like the coastline—some inner and inter process.”
Thus, understanding the mind in terms of processes of self-organization involves relating different ideas: that is, it is indeed the process of integrating them all. This integration, Siegel explains, whether cerebral or social, is the basis of a sound mind.
To read the full article on Quartz, click here.