Integration, Humanity, & (True) Strength

While pondering the state of our current political and cultural world, I have also been reading Daniel Siegel’s most recent book, Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human.
Siegel has been claiming for decades that integration is the heart of health, strength, and resilience. He has noted that integration leads to strength on the level of individual neural cells, within the entire brain-body network, between persons, and even in the cosmos itself. (Scientists have proven that electrons that were once in proximity to each other can be effected by the other electron, even when separate by vast distances).

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Integration is a property of a system where individual differences are noted and respected, while also being connected and linked together. At the level of human relationships integration includes

embracing differences while cultivating compassionate linkages.

When integration is present the system becomes flexible, adaptive, coherent, energized, and stable (FACES – Siegel loves acronyms!). When integration is underdeveloped the system tends to move toward chaos or rigidity. For example, when your computer freezes (rigid) your operating system is unintegated, information and energy is no longer flowing freely; when your pointer starts bouncing all over the screen randomly (chaos) your operating system is no longer controlling information and energy. The same processes apply within individual persons (in the brain and mind) and between persons (in societies and cultures).

At the level of social integration Siegel provides the following timely insight:

Limiting one’s identity in this time of global need seems to push against the importance of integration, especially the integration of a broad and embracing identity.
As political forces of fear and anxiety take on greater power, they drive us away from integration. We are seeing some people express a desire to close our borders, both to people and to free exchange of goods, money, and ideas. America first! is a form of isolation that blocks integration, limits growth, and ultimately makes us weaker.
The interesting point to take from these scientific observations is that this is not (only or primarily) an issue of party politics, left vs. right, Republican vs. Democrat, or whether or not you like or dislike the president. Much of the rhetoric around immigration, trade, health care, jobs, economics, etc. is about making us stronger. But the science and the human wisdom involved in these processes is clear: true strength comes from integrating – respecting differences while cultivating compassionate connection.
We have been programmed to panic every time there’s a new twitter feed for us to obsess about. The truth of what is conveyed in (social) media itself becomes irrelevant (hence “alternative facts”), so long as it keeps us anxious, fearful, narrowed down so that we focus first and only upon our self-serving needs. The medium is the message.  The only way out of this addictive, and unintegrated, process is to find a way to stop the reactive conditioning that drives this fear.
In my religious tradition we are in the middle of Lent, a period of increased prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Whatever it is that enables you to remain integrated, centered, and grounded, I offer the hopeful suggestion to recommit to those practices and efforts. The well-being of our society may well depend upon enough people remaining integrated to resist the forces of disintegration.
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