30 episodes

Neuroscience-based strategies for encouraging growth mindset, creativity, emotion regulation and resilience.

Mindset Neuroscience Podcast Stefanie Faye

    • Health & Fitness
    • 4.9 • 94 Ratings

Neuroscience-based strategies for encouraging growth mindset, creativity, emotion regulation and resilience.

    Season 2 Ep 12 - Moral Injury, Forgiveness and Cognitive Flexibility

    Season 2 Ep 12 - Moral Injury, Forgiveness and Cognitive Flexibility

    Moral injury is not a danger- or fear-based response to an event.  Moral Injury is tied to a sense of betrayal, a breaking of social trust, and transgression of one’s values.


    “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls;

    the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

    -Khalil Gibran


    Is it possible to take a painful and negative event from our past, and 're-purpose' it to become an empowering feature of our story, of our identity?

    The process of re-organizing neural circuits to integrate a negative past event into a more complex and mature perspective is tied to cognitive flexibility.  This flexibility is a major aspect of the healing process for moral injury.

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    What is Moral Injury?

    I offered an overview of moral injury in the last article, but here’s a quick recap...

    As  Jonathan Shay defines it,

    "moral injury occurs when there’s a betrayal of ‘what’s right’, either by a person in authority or oneself, and in a high stakes situation."

    Litz and colleagues divide moral injury into three types: 

    * bearing witness to,

    * perpetrating, or

    * failing to prevent

    events that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations.


    As we see from studies by pioneering researchers such as Ruth Lanius, Moral Injury is an emerging frontier in neuroscience and psychology to help us understand...

    * humans as a socially cooperative species

    * the importance of social trust and what happens when those bonds are broken

    * the importance of cognitive and psychological flexibility.


    What's beautiful about the exploration of moral injury is that it helps us find ways to bring negative events into a new light.  In doing so, it exposes resilient and powerful aspects of the human response to stress.  The processes used to navigate moral injury shed light on how to help help all of us be more empowered and find new ways to contribute to the greater whole.

    As we talk about moral injury, it’s also helpful to explore the idea of morality 

    What is morality?

    Jonathan Haidt, a professor of moral and political psychology at NYU describes morality as

    “interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make cooperative social life possible."

    • 50 min
    Season 3 Ep 6 - Love, Purpose and Relational Realities

    Season 3 Ep 6 - Love, Purpose and Relational Realities

    “Love is at once an affirmation and a transcendence of who we are.”

    ― Esther Perel


    “And what is true for human beings is true for every living thing: all organisms require alternating periods of growth and equilibrium. Any person or system exposed to ceaseless novelty and change risks falling into chaos; but one that is too rigid or static ceases to grow and eventually dies.

    This never-ending dance between change and stability is like the anchor and the waves. Adult relationships mirror these dynamics all too well. We seek a steady, reliable anchor in our partner. Yet at the same time we expect love to offer a transcendent experience that will allow us to soar beyond our ordinary lives. The challenge for modern couples lies in reconciling the need for what’s safe and predictable with the wish to pursue what’s exciting, mysterious, and awe-inspiring.”

    ― Esther Perel, Mating in Captivity


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    Our past influences our present

    No matter how strong a connection we feel to someone, there is always a chance that our past experiences and insecurities may influence the current experience.   To increase our chances of honoring the incredible potential of relationships, we must stay open to learning about how our own distortions from past experiences may lead us to think and behave in ways that close off connection.   Closing off connection to ourselves and to others can lead us to stop exploring the world around us and hold us back from engaging in incredible experiences that are always available to us.  Having that sense of exploration, curiosity and wanting to be challenged are essential for building healthy connections, units and systems.   

    A connection to someone who shares a passion for growth and evolution, a shared vision and ‘dialect’ for how they see and understand the world can give us a chance to be a part of a partner-family system who can help us feel at home AND energize us with fuel and fire to soar beyond our ordinary lives into awe-inspiring pursuits. But we must stay open to learning about how our own patterns, thoughts and behaviors contribute to the overall functioning of the unit.  This can be said for intimate partnerships and family units, as well as a community and team.




    The more deeply we can experience life in all its forms and moments, the more deeply we can experience another person.  

    Intimacy and bonding are not just about how you are when you are with a person or people, but how engaged in life and exploration of your own world when you are apart.  What can lead many relationships into a feeling of boredom, stuckness, or resentment is 'self-abandonment'... an abandonment of what truly brings us joy and lights us up, and an abandonment of paying attention to our innermost wounds and places for healing.  Building a sense of love for yourself and wonder and fascination with life is what can help create a life-enhancing relationship for both people. 

    When we get clear about what our deepest needs and desires are and we find ways to support and nourish them within ourselves, we then get to share that with someone*.  They get to benefit from a perspective of happiness and sources of joy that are different than their own.  When each person in a partnership and family get better at honoring what regulates their nervous system and enhances their life force,

    • 43 min
    Season 3 Ep 5 - Why social rejection is so scary: the science of communication, maturity and purpose

    Season 3 Ep 5 - Why social rejection is so scary: the science of communication, maturity and purpose

    "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” *

    ― Leo Tolstoy


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    We are in the most interconnected period that humanity has ever experienced.

    The potential for us to tap into and amplify collective intelligence is unparalleled.

    The potential for us to tap into and amplify collective trauma is also unparalleled.

    As we interact with others online and in person, and in all the moments in between, we have a chance to find new ways to react to people and events that help us become more intelligent, regulated and rational.

    Being able to regulate ourselves and achieve a desired internal state during times of distress and challenging situations and emotions is one of the most important tools for humans to learn and understand.  It is the journey to maturity and complexity for us as a complex, adaptive organism.

    Without an ability to self-regulate, we are more vulnerable to the reactions, insecurities and volatility of those around us.  

    As a species, we are still in the early phases of understanding how dysregulation and mental health challenges are passed on and perpetuated from person to person, generation to generation.  This means that in most of the interactions we have with other humans, we will be dealing with some emotional reactivity and immaturity.

    Immaturity is a degree of low complexity and is a state of a system (for example a human) that depends on more mature systems to help it meet its needs and achieve its goals.  As a system matures, it becomes more capable of self-organizing and finding new, diversified ways of meeting its needs and achieving its goals.


    As humans, we do this by mastering our motor control over our bodies, our communication patterns (example language and social signals) and our problem-solving algorithms, which get more and more sophisticated as we have more feedback between us and the world around us.



    The more self-regulating we become, the more we are able to take care of our own needs. 

    This doesn’t mean we are isolated beings while we do this.  It means that we are able to meet our basic needs of sustenance, shelter, survival and regulated internal states by collaborating and cooperating with other members to get the tools and resources and support we need to achieve these goals.

    Our maturity as a system is reflected in the diversification of our strategies and resources.  This means that we are able to navigate and master our ability to get certain types of support, resources and information from a wide variety of places. This includes our ability to regulate our stress and manage difficult emotions.



    'Immature' systems have lower complexity, and higher rigidity.  

    When it comes to regulating our emotional states, immaturity would be reflected in attempting to use the same people and the same kind of activity over and over again to try to regulate our distress, and a lack of other tools to do this.

    Increasing our range and repertoire of strategies for survival and flourishing means that we are able to find tools such as online resources, books, therapists, community organizations, and tools and techniques like journaling, meditation, exercise, contemplation, stress inoculation training, physical movement training, etc., to help us achieve a desired internal state.

    • 1 hr 10 min
    Season 3 Ep 4 - Embodied Cognition and Learning

    Season 3 Ep 4 - Embodied Cognition and Learning

    Learning is a gateway to power and freedom

    Learning increases our degrees of freedom by giving us new ways to move, communicate and adapt to challenges and capitalize on opportunities.


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    True learning is a sacred process that is not honored in how typical classrooms are run.  

    I have seen many kids begin to believe that something is wrong with them. Not because they are unable to learn, but because of the teachers’ and education system’s outdated understanding of how humans actually learn and optimize their functioning.

    On a deeper level, because of outdated and ineffective education models that exist in schools, I think many of us were not given a chance to truly tap into our unique brilliance, and the effects of this linger in us today.

    The highlights of my life have been working with young people and watching them light up as they recognize their capacities to learn.  I love teaching them the magnificent systems-logic that exists in the world and in their bodies for them to use for their own sense of power and agency.

    It was an honor to speak with two professors who align with this and are taking action to transform and disrupt education as we currently know it.


    In this episode, Drs. Sheila Macrine and Jennifer Fugate and I explore how our cognitive and learning processes are embodied as we discuss their book, Movement Matters: How Embodied Cognition Informs Teaching and Learning.


    Their website is: embodiedcognitionandlearning.com



    An example from the Movement Matters book is an expert bassoon player.  When this expert musician thinks of ‘bassoon’, their entire brain lights up with activity that simulates what it’s like to feel the smoothness of the instrument, the vibration of the sounds, etc. as they hear and play the instrument.

    Someone who has never played that instrument will not have the same areas light up when they think about a bassoon - there will be categories and words associated with ‘bassoon’, such as instrument or music, but that embodied, sensorimotor anchor of knowledge will not be there.  To learn something well enough to apply it, personalize and use it, we need to ‘play’ with the world, interact with it using our bodies and senses.

    As Dr. Fugate says in the interview, “the richer the initial experience , the richer the information that can be used for the simulation”.  Using more of our senses (including interoceptive and proprioceptive senses) during the learning process gives the brain-body more data to use later.


    Embodied, Enactive, Embedded, Extended

    The idea of this process is aligned with 4E cognition. As described by Dr. Shaun Gallagher, this framework proposes that “cognition is not just in the head. it's something that involves the body in general and also the situation of the body in the environment …”

    As Schiavio and van der Schyff (2018) describe, there are 4 components of 4E cognition:

    * Embodied: Cognition cannot be fully described in terms of abstract mental processes (i.e., in terms of representations). Rather, it must involve the entire body of the living system (brain and body).

    • 1 hr 27 min
    Season 3 Ep 3 - Socio-Biomechanics of Resilience, Trust and Flow

    Season 3 Ep 3 - Socio-Biomechanics of Resilience, Trust and Flow

    “Once again, the world seems to be less about objects than about interactive relationships.”

    ― Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics


    Studying human brains while a person is immobile and alone in an mri machine can only get us so far in truly understanding human brains and behaviors.  Because optimal brain development requires serve-return exchanges with conspecifics (members of the same species), affiliative neuroscience moves us into an exciting new era of understanding.

    Affiliative neuroscience is an emerging field that combines neurophysiology (including neuroendocrine and EEG hyper-scanning*) attachment theory, and highlights the evolution of social acts within mammals, nonhuman primates, and humans.

    My interview with expert rock-climber Alma Esteban parallels affiliative neuroscience research and how we coordinate, move and attune to others as a way to solve problems and ascend to new heights. Before we go into that, let's take a look at Affiliative Neuroscience

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    Much of the current research on resilience focuses on fear physiology and stress neurobiology.  Affiliative neuroscience seeks to understand this as well but also what cultivates strength and stamina.  Within this, pioneer researcher Dr. Ruth Feldman defines resilience as the "hallmark of human achievement", which includes the ability to*:

    Face life’s hardships with courage and perseverance

    Enjoy intimacy and wider social circles

    Have empathy and compassion to others’ misfortune

    Foster a sense of industry and agency towards long-term goals

    Access creativity, vitality and meaning

    Be free of debilitating symptoms despite early adversity or current trauma

    Affiliative neuroscience points to coordinated actions of sociality as a mechanism for increasing endurance, diversity and adaptation, thus optimizing us as a species.

    *Feldman, R. (2020) What is resilience: an affiliative neuroscience approach, World Psychiatry ;19:132–150)

    Humans are literally, neurophysiologically, 'better together' than alone

    Social neuroscience research shows that we achieve goals more efficiently and accurately when we coordinate our motor behavior with someone we have a long-term bond with, particularly couples.  One of the reasons for this comes from having high levels of exposure to the others’ patterns of movement, which helps each brain create better predictions and automations for reading and responding to signals.  Trusting, attuned, joint-problem-solving partnerships optimize our individual and collective functioning. Unfortunately, as children, many of us did not have parents with this type of partnership for us to use as guides for our own future relationships. We need more models of this for future generations.

    Affiliative neuroscience shows us that bonding and affiliation are embedded in our DNA.  Ignoring this fact will result in continued mental health challenges and depletion of well being and functioning.  We are wired to seek out connection.  This means that if a person is not getting it in their physically proximal environment, there is a good chance that they will seek it out in other ways.  For many people today, this will happen online.

    • 1 hr 40 min
    Season 3 Ep 2 - Natural Intelligence & Embodied Mindsets

    Season 3 Ep 2 - Natural Intelligence & Embodied Mindsets

    The moment you learned to walk, the entire social and power dynamic between you and your caregivers changed.

    When you were an infant and lacked mobility, your caregiver would easily be able to track where you were. If they left you in the crib, they could be pretty much certain, you would still be there when they returned.

    As you began to move out of their reach, your caregiver needed to take on the role of ‘socialization agent’ and inhibitor of action to protect you from walking into danger or moving too far away where you were no longer visible.

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    This meant two things:

    Your caregiver would start saying NO more and prohibiting your exploration

    You needed a way to stay safe as you moved physically away from your protector

    Which then resulted in two major changes:

    You and your caregiver would begin to have power struggles as you increased your degrees of freedom

    You would need to ‘check in’ to your caregiver to know if something was safe or dangerous.  This is called Social Referencing

    One key way a caregiver ‘prohibited’ your action is through a sudden disruption in internal state attunement. 

    Each time you began to explore your environment, your mobilization-energizing systems would have been active.   Depending on each scenario, your caregiver would need to use voice and face to get you to stop going too far.  The way to do this is to put a brake on your energized state.  Human caregivers do this by using the word NO and making facial gestures that indicate disapproval of your actions. This is the mechanism of 'shame' - an inhibitor of interest-excitement and enjoyment-joy to reduce exposure or exploration (Tomkins, 1963; Schore, 2003)*.

    *more on this in an upcoming article


    How this relates to you now...

    Every caregiver has different levels of comfort and anxiety related to safety, danger and exploration

    Their comfort levels are based on their past experiences. Depending on what a caregiver perceives as dangerous, they will use a lot of prohibitory mechanisms to keep a child ‘safe’ (according to their perception).

    What the people around you were afraid of, disgusted by or avoided may not be things that are necessarily dangerous or inherently 'bad' for us.

    These include social types of danger such as rejection, failure, looking stupid, not fitting in, meeting new people, encounters with people who are very different or unfamiliar.  Another example I’ve witnessed in certain caregivers is an over-protection against germs, scraped knees, insects, and animals that will not cause them harm

    If any of these things feel aversive to you, part of your aversion may have some roots in the social referencing activity that happened between you and the people around you most when you were growing up.

    Your caregivers’ and social circles' perceptions of these things created an internal state within them which they would then transmit in the form of facial expressions, smell, voice frequencies, body posture, etc. - that became the reference point you used for your own algorithms of aversion, avoidance or approach. This is extremely important for actual dangers because as a child you also were not afraid of running into the street, sharp objects or hot stoves. Instead of learning in a way that can hurt or kill us,

    • 45 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
94 Ratings

94 Ratings

andreubaill ,

Mind reset.

Ive been looking for such a long time for a good podcast to help me rewire my brain and understand myself and why are we the way we are, other people behavior and etc. I wasn’t sure of what exactly I needed to listen to but this is it. Ive listened to so many podcasts and this is the absolute best, the way she explains everything, every detail, how deep she digs into information, the pace of her voice, how clear she talks and how everything is explained and makes it easier to understand a topic that is so complex and theres so many branches, yet she covers a lot without feeling like is too much to process. i start my day with her podcast and is a game changer. Please keep the episodes coming. I feel like this is a way of therapy since it gives a lot of information about the human mind and mechanisms and you work with it under your own system ❤️‍🩹

Mark Sargent ,

Love Her Show!

Hit play, pause, switch to Notes on my iPhone, write notes, resume playing the show, pause, write more notes. That’s how good this show is!

The interviews are great, and I really like her briefing the neuroscience topics before the interview starts.
It gives me context that I can play with, while listening to the interview.

The Music breaks seem to follow a “learning pace” that buffer the topics and help with my retention and reflection of what I just learned. 👍👍

She is an excellent source for helping me write my curriculum and articulate to my clients (in a way that makes sense) the “mental aspects” of survival.
Awesome work! Thank you 🙏

DeepDarkSee ,

Wonderfully nerdy and useful!

I love understanding more of how the brain works, and Stephanie brings a fascinating perspective as a biological neuroscientist and a counseling practitioner. She addresses human behaviors and needs from multiple perspectives, from how we are wired, our learned behaviors, our drive to address our wounds, and our needs for socializing, contact, approval, and play. “Hey baby, wanna get together and coregulate?“

The first two seasons went deep in supporting practitioners, and as an individual on a personal growth path they weren’t an exact match for me, although they still offered a lot of value. I’ve just completed the second episode of the third season and I’m excited to have found virtually all of the content directly applicable to my personal growth path.

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