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Mindsight: Three Therapeutic Ways to Look Within (and Find Yourself)

When was the last time you took a close look at your mind?

It can be quite a tricky thing to ‘see’ – elusive, maybe even evasive sometimes – for we’re used to seeing with it, rather than looking at it. But there are ways you can catch it in action and get to know it better.

And, if the latest neuroscience is right, it’s well worth doing.

For not only is the mind “what the brain does” (Hanson 2009), the mind actually shapes what the brain becomes, on a physical, synaptic level. So ultimately it shapes who you become. It’s all pretty interconnected…

So how can you get to know this intricate system of you a little better? And how might you help nurture it towards a richer sense of mental health and aliveness?

Dr Daniel Siegel talks about a thing called “mindsight” (2010). Basically, it’s a way “to see and shape [our] inner world with clarity, depth and power” (ibid, p.xxi). Mindsight lets us “…move our lives toward well-being and health” (ibid).

And it does all of this in three simple steps: Openness, Objectivity and Observation.

Let’s take a closer look…

Openness lets you welcome what is. It invites you to get beyond your expectations of what you might like there to be, and your judgements of what there ‘shouldn’t’ be. It’s about being receptive to your experiences, and really experiencing them (not just cruising through your life on automatic pilot). It’s about acceptance and the ‘paradoxical theory of change’ – the idea that acceptance, itself, can be deeply transformative.

So what’s it feel like if you just try accepting things as they are?
Right now. Right here.

Not to wish them away.
Or to want something else.
Or to hope for a different outcome.
Just to be with what is for a moment…

The second step – objectivity – reminds you that what you experience is not all that you are. So your thoughts don’t define you. Your emotions don’t define you. Your reactions don’t define you. You just have those things from time to time… It’s a bit like the difference between thinking, ‘I am an angry person’ and, ‘Right now, I feel anger.’

What might it be like for you to maybe try that out more often?
To feel an emotion, but not to have your whole identity hijacked by it?
To let yourself embrace it, but not be enslaved by it.
To remember that you’re more than just the single note of emotion you’re currently playing out – that you’re actually a whole symphony…

Finally, observation reveals how you witness the world. It asks you to take a step back and to see yourself as an observer to “…the unfolding of experience as it emerges moment by moment” (Siegel 2010, p.103). And it also lets you see the way you interpret those events – the kind of “narrator” you are of your experience, your life.

So what kind of narrator are you?
What sort of author are you to the story of your life?
Are there events that you’re more likely to weave into the story you tell yourself? (Or maybe some things you might be more likely to leave out?)
What’s it like to simply observe all of this about yourself?

So with those three qualities – openness, objectivity and observation – maybe you can gather some real insight into your mindsight.

And perhaps it’s a chance to ‘see the see-er’, to ‘watch the watcher’, and to learn not only about who you are today, but also who you are in the process of becoming


Hanson, R (2009) Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom, New Harbinger Publications, California.
Siegel, D J (2010) The Mindful Therapist: A Clinician’s Guide to Mindsight and Neural Integration, WW Norton & Co, New York.
Photo-collage: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar using images from here and here
Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a writer, blogger and Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She was the former editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.
Mindsight: Three Therapeutic Ways to Look Within (and Find Yourself)

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

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APA Reference
Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2011). Mindsight: Three Therapeutic Ways to Look Within (and Find Yourself). Psych Central. Retrieved on January 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 May 2011
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