Self-Determination and the Neurology of Mindfulness
Self-actualization is one of the keystones of humanistic psychology which, as a reaction to the reductionist values of behaviorism and psychoanalysis, also silently ignored brain research, subsuming it under the same rubric. Now comes mindfulness, a fairly new movement, with its openness to brain research and such cutting-edge notions as the adaptive unconscious—"thin slicing" unconscious perceptions for immediate decision making. The integration of mindfulness with emerging brain research leads to the possibility of modifying brain structure through conscious awareness, thereby restoring self-determination to its proper role. Another incipient movement in humanistic psychotherapy, deep empathy, is explained in terms of mindful human connection and limbic brain function. Just as emotion, thought, and brain structure mutually affect one another, so do therapist and client. Mindfulness, emotional connection, and deep empathy all contribute to mental well-being and a physiologically nurtured brain and help us transcend the numbing "consensus trance" that blinds us to the deeper aspects of life. Mindfulness and the new awareness of mind-brain interaction bring us back to the self-actualization values of the beginnings of humanistic psychology.