Beginnings and Endings

The big concept in therapy is how do we do endings? How do we say to an individual or a family with whom we have been working, “You’re done”?

Our work is about completion, satisfaction, and separation.

At the inception we have to accept that the work will be done, so we decide our work together is done on the day we decide to start.

In the same way, we might ask, “When are we done with parenting our kids?’ We experience completion on the day they make a decision that we have no say in. Their decision is often marked by some ritual – getting married, moving out of the family home, or graduating from university. It is a psychological event when we suddenly realize our children can manage their own lives, though we might observe their decision-making and perhaps think, “I wouldn’t do it that way but it’s okay that they’re doing it the way they want to.”

Some programs don’t actually think about separation – they think about establishing the relationship, and that comes naturally because we are meeting someone we haven’t met before, and we spend time with them because they come to see us. But how do we do the final part of the therapy, and what does that amount to?

I think we have to do the ending part when we meet the person because what we inform our self with at that point in time is that their life belongs to them. We never actually take over their life in a way that we are going to be accountable and responsible for what they do.

For instance, when we introduce young people to work experience at the start of their vocational process, we want them to have the experience of separation as well as the experience of connecting. If a particular placement doesn’t work for them, it’s just as important as if it was successful because they have had the experience of being there and doing both connecting and separating.

We are an integrated brain system

The body is connected to itself.  And although all of the cells that make up our body are distinct from each other, when our consciousness comes into play, all of the parts cooperate.

This gives rise to another way to think about the brain. On a micro scale, all of the body’s cells, all of its parts, are interconnected. The big toe is actually part of the brain. The toe supports our balance, which allows mobility, and in this way the big toe allows our brain to get around.

Every one of our body’s structures serve the brain in one way or another.

Stepping out from this, we are group animals, each with an individual brain, which in attachment mode serves to support other individual brains.

On a macro scale, when we step further out we can view our  society as an integrated brain system.


Reality is an Agreement

Claudius Ptolemy, an astronomer who lived in Rome about 100 AD asserted that the sun orbited the earth. It was logical to presume the sun was orbiting the earth, since the sun seemed to arrive in the morning and leave at night, return the next day and leave that night.

Many centuries after Ptolemy’s model was formulated, Polish mathematician and astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus revealed a different way of seeing things, a different way of perceiving consciousness.

In 1543 he introduced the idea that the sun was the centre of the solar system. At the time Copernicus’ sun-centred theory was considered radical thought that went unproven until science eventually had the tools to confirm his reality.

Although centuries ago it was commonplace to hold the belief that the sun orbited the earth, no one asserts that old reality now.

The story of the shift from the belief of an earth-centred to sun-centred universe is an example of the summation over time of our experiences. Even culturally, when we accept new and contradictory information, the old reality or program of thought is pruned away.

Summing Human Experience

The possibility of the brain appears limitless.

In actual fact, the structure of our brain depends on summation of the brain’s information.

In the same way that our individual brains sum up, the enormous mass of information makes it necessary to sum up human experience as well.

Because we have so many different experiences, the information that is summed differs widely across different groups, which creates cultures.

When the information is summed and edited in a group, it reinforces the culture, and enables individual and collective brains to retain evolutionary knowledge to survive adversity from wars, clashes, poverty, and famine.

Reality is an agreement. It is what people say it is.

Although we may think our particular group’s consensus is reality, this belief contributes to the silly argument that one culture has more validity than another.


Brain/Mind Interface

Two very distinctive kinds of thought originate in the brain. The brain organ itself produces automatic thought. Flexible thought occurs via the plasticity of the mind. Paradoxically, the organ stays the same, and changes at the same time.

The brain as an organ is fixed in its capacity. Consequently throughout our lives the brain prunes or changes its content and removes memories and other forms of information that are stored in the organ, and it allows new information to enter, through its characteristic of plasticity.

Since there is only so much room within the organ, the brain summarizes our memories and other information, over time, and organizes itself in order to have the capacity to receive more information.

It is probable that we humans operate from automaticity most of the time. This results in us having formed relatively fixed conclusions about ourselves and others and how we interact, and how we go about the day-to-day tasks of living.

Within the fixed capacity of the brain, our stored personal narrative becomes an edited version of our reality, and not a reflection of the entirety of the experiences of joy and pain that occur throughout the span of our lives. For example, when our brains are stuck on the narrative of traumatic events that we have endured, we may become unbalanced towards our trauma; the brain not summarizing the daily joy that has occurred, instead, pruning away the joy. This may explain the onset of depression: when a person’s central experience is, “I’m in a terrible situation. My life is hopeless,” desperation readily sets in.

In the revolutionary T-groups of the 60’s and 70’s, participants stepped away from the automaticity of the ‘real world’, and experimented with interactive behaviours that stretched their sense of self. They summed up positive experiences in a way that balanced their sense of mistrust, fear of being hurt, and hopelessness, with actual experiences of trust in others, and frequently came away with a sense of hope.

Today, our ever-evolving knowledge of the organ that is the brain and the brain’s process, and the interface between the two (which we can access by the practice of mindfulness) makes it possible for us to challenge our automaticity in relation to others, and consciously re-write our attachment narrative.



The process of memory represents our ongoing personal narrative that is recorded in the organ that is the brain.

This narrative guides our behaviour and interactions, and is the story we tell about ourselves to ourselves.

The Mindfulness Circle

The Buddhist symbol for mindfulness is a circle that is almost closed. The opening allows for awareness to enter the circle, and also for awareness to leave and be shared. This Gestalt flows within the circle that contains everything.

There is a flip-side. If we are not mindful we are guided by our automatic assumptions (our automaticity) and we appeal to bias.

Mindfulness is about being in the world, in the present, and giving meaning to our existence and to the existence of others.

The open mindfulness circle is a reminder of the shared mutual experience that exists in Interactive Mindfulness. 

Mindfulness and the Now

The relationship we have with mindfulness is a present event. It is Now.

We are stuck with our automaticity – our brain as it is – and when we choose to be mindful we attempt to move away from the mechanics of our brain, into the mind. In other words, we seek to experience the world from a mindful place, not a ‘brainful’ place.

The brain collates. It marks down our experience. The recording of experience is memory. When we think of that recording in a mindful sense, memory forms a narrative of ourselves to ourselves.

Memory has other realities as well – the biological reality, which is the chemical reality, the electrical reality, the neurological reality, and the connectedness that exists in the world right now that allows us to interact with others.  These are all automatic functions that are in the brain. Using imaging technology, we are able to see the various functions light up areas of the brain as they become active. In these images we don’t see the mind. We see the brain.

The sum is greater than the parts. The mind is greater than the brain, but the mind is dependent on the brain. Without brain, we have no mind.

Our narratives move from brain to mind, and mind to brain.

The brain will insist that things haven’t changed, because that’s what the brain does, while the mind says, “That’s not how I want to store this stuff. I want to reorder it in some way so I’m not depressed or anxious all the time” – or whatever the issue might be.

In mindfulness, in the Now, we can attempt to change our automatic narrative by keeping the information our brain has stored out of mind for a few moments.

A cascade of awareness

When we share our knowledge of Interactive Mindfulness with a child we both have the opportunity to move from awareness of the other, to acceptance of the other, to access with the other, which may result in a shared experience of curiosity about each other, affinity with each other, and proximity.

This communication process starts a cascade of awareness within the brain that follows an order, and a biological reality, and ends up with a result.

The words we have chosen to describe the process are simply a way for us to take the cascade apart so we can teach others about each separate bit.

Automaticity and the growing brain

The brain grows in size, limited by the physiological space of the skull, and so it grows connections between parts of itself. Even the shape of the brain as it curves in on itself and folds, allows it to make maximum use of its limited space.

When the brain is new it has connections everywhere and it has room for everything. As information comes into the brain, the brain drops some of what it has previously captured in order to make room for new information.   

Since some information has more relevance to what our needs are the brain gradually starts to build up patterns of response to perceived behaviour as it prunes certain connections and collates others. Thus our brain’s preferentially of collated, stored information is the basis of our automaticity.