Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

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Culture of Empathy Builder: Daniel Siegel

Daniel Siegel M.D. and Edwin Rutsch: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy

Daniel Siegel M.D. is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute. His training is in pediatrics and child, adolescent and adult psychiatry. Dan is the author of many books on parenting, child development, Mindsight, etc. including The Developing Mind, Second Edition: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are and The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being.

Dan shared his understanding about the importance of empathy and how it works in the brain thought mirror neurons. "When kids are able to watch an interaction that's empathic, empathy isn't just being taught; it's being demonstrated,"  Talking about the importance of empathic attunement, Dan says, "When we attune with others we allow our own internal state to shift, to come to resonate with the inner world of another. This resonance is at the heart of the important sense of “feeling felt” that emerges in close relationships. Children need attunement to feel secure and to develop well, and throughout our lives we need attunement to feel close and connected."
Sub Conference: Science





  • 00:00 Introduction

  • (transcription pending)

  • (Video Transcriptions: If you would like to take empathic action and create a transcription of this video, check the volunteers page.  The transcriptions will make it easier for other viewers to quickly see the content of this video.)



Attuned communication. "When we attune with others we allow our own internal state to shift, to come to resonate with the inner world of another. This resonance is at the heart of the important sense of “feeling felt” that emerges in close relationships. Children need attunement to feel secure and to develop well, and throughout our lives we need attunement to feel close and connected."



Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation (Apr 2009)
This interactive talk will examine two major questions: What is the mind? and How can we create a healthy mind? We'll examine the interactions among the mind, the brain, and human relationships and explore ways to create a healthy mind, an integrated brain, and mindful, empathic relationships.




TEDxBlue - Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. - 10/18/09

Daniel is a child psychiatrist, educator, and author of Mindsight, The Mindful Brain,
Parenting from the Inside Out, and The Developing Mind. He is the Founding Editor of
the Norton Professional Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology, co-director of the UCLA
Mindful Awareness Research Center, and executive director of the Mindsight Institute.

Dan Siegel - "Being" Versus "Doing" With Your Child 


Dr. Dan Siegel - On The Basis of Empathy - Mirror Neurons


Google Personal Growth Series
Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation
presented by Dr. Dan Siegel
April 22, 2009
As part of the Google Personal Growth Series, Google University recently invited Dan Siegel to address two crucial questions: What is the mind? and How can we create a healthy mind? In his talk, Dr. Siegel examines and explores ways to create a healthy mind, an integrated brain, and mindful, empathic relationships





Daniel Siegel: What Is Mindsight?

Daniel Siegel explains the idea of "mindsight" and how it can promote mental health.

  • How to see your mind and shape it in a different way

  • Definition of the mind

  • The capacity to see the mind and shape it towards health

  • Some people say defining the mind is indefinable

  • Definition: An embodied and relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information

    • embodied in the body.

    • relational - happens in relationship

    • process  - not a noun but a a moving flow

    • regulates energy and information

  • good to have a definition and model

  • some people want the mystery of the mind - i.e. no definition

  • Mindsight is the ability to see and shape the internal world



Daniel Siegel discusses Mindsight with the Dalai Lama Center



Stanford MedX Live! Feb 13, 2014 - Compassion, connection and engagement



Health@Google: Dr. Daniel Siegel, Taking Time In




Mindfulness and Neural Integration: Daniel Siegel, MD at TEDxStudioCityED

  • How schools can combine with technology for self regulation

  • the hand model of the brain

  • Cover 3 topics

    • the brain

    • the mind

    • relationships

  • what is regulation

  • what is the self?

  • likes to have shared definitions

  • Mr. Rodgers

    • Teach the 3 R

      • reflection

        • kids can mention their feelings

        • when you feel you feelings you can understand others

        • schools can teach this

      • relationships

        • kindness and compassion toward self

        • number 1 factor in longevity, happiness, is relationships

        • wisdom is based on positive relationships

        • give to others give to others

        • stimulate learning

      • resilience

  • 6:00 Hand model of the brain

    • how it works

    • brain means the whole body

    • the head brain

    • Parts of the brain.

      • reptilian

      • brainstem

      • limbic



 Mar 8, 2011 - The Neurological Basis of Behavior, the Mind, the Brain and Human Relationships
At the Garrison Institute's 2011 Climate, Mind and Behavior Symposium, Dr. Dan Siegel of the Mindsight Institute discusses the neurological basis of behavior, the mind, the brain and human relationships. Dr. Siegel puts forth a method of expanding the sense of identity so as to include other people, species and the planet and proposes the concept of "we maps." He recommends using the notion of health as a means of linking individual, community and planetary wellbeing.


  • Overview - works in an integrative way - interpersonal neurobiology

  • All science come together

    • arts, science, contemplation



Dan Siegel: The Brain and the Developing Mind - Chautauqua Institution

Dan Siegel: The Brain and the Developing Mind from Chautauqua Institution on



 Mar 3, 2011 - Dr. Dan Siegel by PsychAlive 

  • On Disorganized Attachment in the Making

    • most people are doing the best they can

    • when you bring that positive regard, then even a parent that is abusive to a child can be understood with empathy and compassion.

    • Many parents have themselves experienced trauma.

      • implicit memory - priming the brain to act

      • unresolved trauma

      • story of father trying to have his daughter brush her teach

      • can be reactive

      • mirror neuron system - picks up the anger of the child - triggers anger in the father - the fathers own anger

      • cascade of emotion, may hit daughter

      • low road

        • prefrontal functioning gets shut off

        • underlying emotions rise up.


  • On Disorganized Attachment

    • father comes at you very angry

    • I see your intention

    • mirror neurons feel you and the intentions

      • possible reactions - fight, flight or freeze [empathy]

    • Attachment - parent is supposed to protect me provide safety, security

      • Childs mirror neuron system soaks in the intention to harm

    • the child fragments - protection vrs. harm = disassociation of the continuity of the self

  • On Ambivalent Attachment

    • mother sees hunger in child

    • mother is terrified and nervous and doubting her  ability

    • mirror neurons of child pick that up, (should be called sponge neurons)

    • child soaks in the internal state (nervousness) of parent

    • child feels anxious and it gets connected to hunger

  • On Avoidant Attachment

    • parent doesn't mirror back - there's no-one to know. there's a deep sense of emptiness

    • the children grow to see just one aspect of the world, the physical touchable measurable world

    • plains of reality

      • physical

      • the mental side, feelings,

    • the care givers didn't see that mental-emotional world inside of them, so they haven't developed it.

  • On Optimal Attachment

    • positive intentions - love - care - children pick that up

    • repairing ruptures is the most essential thing in parenting

    • we don't' always reach the intention but it's important that it's there. (a culture of empathy)

    • mirror neurons tell the child it's possible to be full of love.

  • On The Basis of Empathy

    • Mirror neurons works with different parts of the brain

    • more than just imitate behavior

    • they simulate internal states - [intentions, motivations, etc]

    • this is the basis of empathy - this is how you feel another's feelings, and even going beyond the resonance - you understand what's going on inside of the other persons mental world.

    • see someone lift a cup to drink.  you feel the full state of the other, their thirst, you actually feel their thirst.

    • a circuit:

      • mirror neurons -> 

      • superior parietal cortex  ->

      • mirror neurons  -> 

      • driving down through the insula  ->

      • sub cortical limbic bodily states  ->

      • back up into the insula  ->

      • middle prefrontal area ->

      • introseption ---

    • You develop mind sight, where you see inside of subjective experience

  • Explains Mirror Neurons in Depth

    • mirror neurons - how it works

      • 1. see a random action - mirror neurons don't fire

      • 2. repetitions - lifting hand - mirror neurons don't fire

      • 3. pick up the glass - and you can feel the intention - of wanting to drink

    • follow sequence of the action - can feel it - know the intention

    • a map of the other person

    • that's how we have the human capacity to imitate behavior

  • Mirror Neurons: 'The Discovery'

    • this discovery has changed how we understand each other

    • understand the being of another

    • they bridge between seeing and acting

    • mirror neurons allow us to see and then enact

    • one neuron bridges perception and motor action

  • "The Low Road"

    • prefrontal area regulates the firing of the limbic area and brainstem

      • stomach churning, heart pounding,

    • going along with inner integration  -  the high road

    • something triggers you - an action connected to a past memory-imagination

    • hair trigger - this is an act of attack

    • Flip your lid, the inhibition action is lost

    • Respond with cold action, or emotions out of control, evolutionary self defense

    • a lot of things can make you go down the low road.

    • most vulnerable to go down the low road are those with Disorganized Attachment as children

    • unresolved trauma and grief

    • low road can be passed on to your children

  • On Disorganized Attachment

    • parents have passed it on

    • parents are terrified-anxious themselves

    • abusing - emotional, physical, sexual

    • child feeling fear - wants to got to parent for comfort but the parent is the source of the fear.

    • there is no solution, fragment and disassociate

    • regulation of emotion is compromise

    • can't understand other people - problems with intimacy

    • constant vigilance for safety

    • 3 routes

      • 1. hopeless - freeze

      • 2. in danger - run

      • 3. fight - reactivity - whole system is put on alert

      • [what about 4. empathize - go to the fear, - need to have a empathy support community]

      • If cortical control is lost, then others takes over - our basic evolution

  • On Emotional Balance

    • view of attachment, when parents have a presence in their own skin. Call it mindfulness, mind sight, see their own minds and the minds of others.

    • not reacting to behaviors but seeing the mind beneath the behavior - mind sight

    • studies show - security of attachment allows children to regulate their bodies, attune to others, balance their emotions.

  • On The Idealization of Parents

    • Children Idealization of Parents

    • bust through the idealization and see the truth

    • Idealization of childhood, is constrained

  • On Recreating Our Past In the Present

    • brain and mind -

    • window for transformation

    • a plain of reality - open possibility

    • above and below the plain

    • patterns inhibit change

    • from openness  energy can rise

    • come into this state and you can see new ways of being

    • can learn from book, relationships or phycotherophy

    • could get more connected to their body.

    • they get an acknowledgement of their internal state

    • they are experiencing a new mental side of things which brings along synaptic firings

    • a charge is there, to feel an authentic experience. it is a profoundly integrative state.

    • brings a sense of truth to it.  for example with

      •  a therapist and a client

      • a person doing meditation

      • reading a book that speaks to you

      • [an empathy circle]

    • attuning to yourself and resonate

    • two people will be transformed because of the resonance

    • truth and a sense of trust emerges

    • they have changed

  • Explains 'Top Down' Constraints

    • see a flower - can experience it or have top down feel

    • bottom up experiences get constrained by top down influences

      • in relationships

      • in a busy life

    • how to awaken yourself to bottom up?

      • learn how to dissolve the top down constraints

      • 1. mindfulness practice

        • breath - in and out

        • have awareness of topic down

        • become aware of it.

      •  apply this awareness of top down to romance

Aug 22, 2012  @RSA:
The Emerging Mind: How relationships and the embodied brain shape who we are


  • Many questions about the mind

  • Lack of definition of the mind has paralyzed us

    • psychotherapy

    • education

    • academic

    • philosophy - we should never define the mind

    • etc, etc

  • We need a definition - he brought together a group to define it

  • With a definition you can change how the brain functions.

    • Can disband the myths around the mind

    • Can empower people

  • 8:00 The embodied brain

    • all the systems of the body relate to the brain

    • billions of neurons

    • neurons - trillions of connections

  •  11:25 - group working on the definition of the mind

    • example of intention:

      •  lifting the the hand randomly

      •  lifting the the hand to drink

    • mirror neurons

      • actions with a predictable sequence

      • a map of the intention - the inner system of the other

      • this connection is profoundly social

      • what you do affects the other

  • 15:00 working definition of the mind

    • the mind can be defined as; an embodied and relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information.

    • the mind is not only in your skin but is relational

    • mind is a verb

    • complex systems

    • self organization emerge from the interactions of the elements of the system

    • how does it move energy flow

  • 18:30 help you developing a stronger mind,

    • help you monitor and stabilize

    • see others i.e. empathy

    • create sharper detail - depth, clarity,

    • we can train the mind

  • 20:30 - the mindsight view

    • good working systems have a sense of harmony

    • individual, group, society, etc

    • health comes from integration

    • self organization - metaphor a choir singing in harmony - feel energized and rich

    • when distinct individuals find their voice and link

    • Approach for training

      • reflective practices

      • Mindful practices

      • attention training

      • Mindsight - 9 domains of integration

  • any process that promotes integration promotes health

    • mental presence is a massively integrative state

    • integrative fibers in the brain