Updated: Dec 21, 2022
As I began thinking about this month’s Director’s Corner article, I struggled immensely to select a topic amongst so many important topics to share with you. In a stroke of fortunate coincidence, the following “on this day memory” image below popped up on my Facebook page.
This was our 2015 holiday greeting card photo taken during our Thanksgiving trip to Death
Valley National Park. For this article, I have cropped the original photo to provide a more zoomed-in view of our family.
What came to your mind when you saw this photo? Did you wonder why this photo was chosen when all family members are not looking at the camera? Did you wonder if you would have done the same as the little boy in the photo? What was going on behind that was more interesting--so much so that you cared about that more than looking into the camera? What is the mother looking and smiling at away from the camera lens?
From my distant memory, I recall smiling and wondering what might be so interesting behind us for my son to turn his body almost 180 degrees from where his legs are positioned while we were attempting to take our family holiday photo. In my mind, I recalled that the only consistency others and I have noticed about my son through the years include: “your strength is curiosity,” “most curious award,” and “your child has a curious personality.” I could also very well have focused on what was “wrong”--not looking into the camera, not sitting up “properly,” for “distracting” me--and the associated negative emotions attached to such thoughts.
How we interpret and experience this photograph does not change the reality and content of the photograph. This photograph is still “the same;” however, our emotions and what draws our attention often vary for each of us. These differences in our emotions and attentional focus lead to variations in our perceptions of an opening (more) or narrowing (less) of our available next-step options.
We process our world through dual pathways, with faster unconscious processing through the emotional parts of our brain, and a slower conscious pathway through our pre-frontal cortex (e.g., Kahneman, 2013). In other words, we cannot separate processing information from our emotions and must consider thinking and emotions as intertwined tightly. We are “feeling creatures that think” (Taylor, 2009). This implies that what we care about is key to leading us to think deeply (Immordino-Yang, 2016).
Taking what we currently know about thinking and emotions (Immordino-Yang, 2016) together with the importance of collaborative relational interactions (Walsh et al., 2021), I contend that deep intentional thinking together with positive (re)framing of our emotions nestled within our relational interactions is a key prerequisite to initiating authentic sustainable transformations in ourselves and our communities to move towards belonging. In other words, deep intentional thinking, reframing through positive emotions, and collaborative interactions must be viewed, felt, and practiced as a set. Taking an embodied cognitive relational approach (e.g., Smith, 2008), I propose that feelings of belonging occur when we experience alignment in our mind, body, and brain as we interact with our community-communities-world. Our mind, body, and brain alignment serve as cues that our conscious and unconscious feelings, thoughts, and bodily signals are working in harmony within and between ourselves and our outer world.
As we move into 2023 and beyond, I extend a sincere invitation to our SENG community to engage actively in the practice of being curious about others’ experiences, perspectives, and lives. Being curious is the first step that allows opening our minds and hearts to support and lifting everyone in our SENG community towards belonging through intentional thinking, reframing through positive emotions, and collaborative interactions. Let us take cues from our mind-body-brain (mis)alignment as our guides on this collective journey toward belonging.
We still have a long way beyond belonging within our SENG community to connect with other communities to exchange awareness, understanding, and support for all beings. It is necessary to lift every single human being to find belonging for a healthy, sustainable humanity for all. After all, we (humanity) are but a minuscule speck of dust within the universe, a single community when we zoom out. I now share our actual 2015 holiday card in its entirety. What do you see and feel?
I am falling in love with this photo all over again as I visually see and feel how small we (humanity) are relative to what is beyond our planet and share the words of Astronaut John Glenn: “I suppose the one quality in an astronaut more powerful than any other is curiosity. They have to get someplace nobody’s even been.” Let us get to a place of belonging for all, starting with curiosity--about ourselves, others, and our world. May the Force be with you!
Immordino-Yang, M. (2016). Emotions, learning and the brain: Exploring the educational implications of affective neuroscience. W.W Norton and Company.
Kahnneman, D. (2013). Thinking, fast and slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Smith, E. R. (2008). Social relationships and groups: New insights on embodied and distributed cognition. Cognitive Systems Research, 9(1–2), 24–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cogsys.2007.06.011
Taylor, J. (2009). My stroke of insight: a brain scientist’s personal journey. Hodder Paperbacks.
Walsh, Z., Böhme, J., & Wamsler, C. (2021). Towards a relational paradigm in sustainability research, practice, and education. Ambio, 50 (1), 74–84.
Lin Lim, Ph.D. is the Dean of Students and Communications at Bridges Graduate School with a doctorate in human development psychology. Her parenting journey with her two gifted outliers, one twice exceptional and the other radically accelerated, drives her to create better understanding and nurturance for complex outliers across the lifespan. She founded Quark Collaboration Institute, a non-profit that focuses on human dignity and wellbeing across the lifespan for all. She is an international speaker, author, and active volunteer serving on the boards of several gifted-related non-profits. She is honored to serve as the President of SENG through the end of 2023. With a diverse academic background and wide experience across fields, Dr. Lim’s current interests include interdisciplinary embodied complex dynamic systems thinking and practical applications around positive parenting, education, and human development.