Life often presents us with challenges that require a balanced approach to decision-making, one that takes into account both rational thinking and emotions. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a form of cognitive-behavioural therapy, offers a concept called the “Wise Mind” to help us navigate these complex situations. Wise Mind is the intersection of our emotional and reasonable minds, allowing us to make decisions that are both intellectually sound and in tune with our feelings. By harnessing the power of Wise Mind, we can develop a more holistic understanding of our experiences and make choices that align with our true selves.
The concept of Wise Mind is based on the idea that our minds function in three states: Reasonable Mind, Emotional Mind, and Wise Mind. While the Reasonable Mind is cool, rational, and task-focused, the Emotional Mind is hot, mood-dependent, and emotion-focused. Although both of these states can provide valuable insight, relying on one state exclusively can lead to unbalanced decision-making. Wise Mind, on the other hand, is a state of mind that integrates both reason and emotion, offering us the ability to make well-rounded decisions that reflect our thoughts, feelings, and values.
In this blog post, we will explore the three states of mind, learn to recognize situations that call for Wise Mind and discover techniques to access this balanced state of decision-making. By the end, you’ll have the tools to practice Wise Mind in your daily life, leading to more thoughtful and fulfilling choices.
Understanding the Three States of Mind
Characteristics: The Reasonable Mind is the cool, rational, and task-focused state of our consciousness. When we are operating from this state, we approach situations with a level-headed perspective, carefully analyzing problems and potential solutions using logical reasoning. This part of our mind excels at organizing information, evaluating options, and making decisions based on objective data.
Governed by: This state of mind is driven by facts, reasonable thinking, and logic. It relies on objective information to make decisions and solve problems, prioritizing rationality over emotional input.
Limitations: While the Reasonable Mind is useful for making objective decisions, it has its limitations. When operating solely from this state, actions taken may not consider emotions or felt sense, which can lead to choices that don’t align with our true feelings or values. By neglecting our emotional experiences, we may miss crucial insights that could inform our decision-making process.
Characteristics: The Emotional Mind, in contrast, is hot, mood-dependent, and emotion-focused. It’s the part of us that responds to situations based on our feelings, moods, and urges, often leading to impulsive actions. This state of mind is highly sensitive to our emotional experiences and can influence our reactions to various situations.
Governed by: Emotional Mind is driven by moods, feelings, and urges. It relies on subjective experiences to make decisions and navigate life’s challenges, prioritizing emotional responses over logical thinking.
Limitations: While the Emotional Mind can provide valuable insight into our emotional experiences, it also has limitations. When operating solely from this state, actions taken are often impulsive and focused on alleviating distress in the short term, potentially leading to regret or unintended consequences. Relying exclusively on our emotions for decision-making may cause us to overlook critical rational considerations, resulting in choices that may not serve our best interests.
The wisdom within you: Wise Mind is the balanced state that arises when we integrate Reasonable and Emotional Minds. It’s the inner wisdom that we can tap into when we learn to value both reason and emotions, enabling us to make decisions that are grounded in logic while also honouring our feelings. Accessing this state allows us to find harmony between our thoughts and emotions, leading to more satisfying and well-informed choices.
Values both reason and emotions: Wise Mind recognizes the importance of both rational thinking and emotional experiences. It understands that making well-rounded decisions requires considering both objective information and subjective feelings, allowing us to achieve a more holistic perspective on any given situation.
Where reason and emotion overlap: Wise Mind exists at the intersection of the Reasonable and Emotional Minds. It’s the state of mind that allows us to access the best of both worlds, leading to decisions that reflect our thoughts, feelings, and values. By cultivating our Wise Mind, we can navigate life’s challenges with a greater sense of balance, self-awareness, and inner wisdom.
Recognizing When to Use Wise Mind
First, let’s explore when Emotional Mind tends to dominate our thinking. In certain situations, our Emotional Mind may take over, leading us to make decisions based solely on our feelings. Some common examples of such situations include arguments with a partner or stress at work. In these instances, our emotional reactions might drive us to lash out, avoid conflicts, or make impulsive choices without considering the long-term consequences. By recognizing when our Emotional Mind is dominating, we can begin to work towards accessing our Wise Mind for a more balanced approach.
Next, let’s think about when Reasonable Mind tends to be our state of mind. Conversely, there are situations where our Reasonable Mind may be in control, causing us to rely solely on logic and rational thinking. Examples of these situations might include making a pros and cons list for a relationship or forcing yourself through a stressful work situation. While it might seem practical to rely on objective information in these cases, disregarding our emotions can lead to unfulfilling choices that don’t resonate with our true feelings. Recognizing when our Reasonable Mind is dominating allows us to strive for a more balanced decision-making process by integrating our emotions.
So what are the limitations of thinking solely in Emotional Mind or Reasonable Mind? Operating exclusively from either the Emotional or Reasonable Mind has its drawbacks. When we rely solely on our emotions, we may make impulsive decisions that don’t serve our long-term interests, potentially leading to regret or unintended consequences. On the other hand, when we depend entirely on rational thinking, we risk neglecting our feelings and making choices that don’t align with our values or emotional well-being.
By acknowledging the limitations of both Emotional and Reasonable Minds, we can start to appreciate the benefits of tapping into our Wise Mind. Accessing Wise Mind allows us to take a more balanced approach to decision-making, one that takes into account both our rational thoughts and emotional experiences. This holistic perspective enables us to make more thoughtful choices that are better aligned with our true selves.
Accessing Wise Mind: Techniques and Exercises
Creating distance from thoughts and emotions
- Practicing mindfulness: Mindfulness practice can help you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions, allowing you to create distance from them. By observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment, you can gain a better understanding of your mental state and work towards accessing your Wise Mind.
- Calming the mind: Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation can help you calm your mind, making it easier to access your Wise Mind. By quieting your mental chatter, you create space for insight and inner wisdom to arise.
- Allowing insight and inner wisdom to arise: With practice, you will begin to notice moments when your Wise Mind emerges. Allow these moments of insight and inner wisdom to surface without forcing them, and be open to the guidance they offer.
Developing intuition and inner wisdom
- Asking yourself: To tap into your Wise Mind, ask yourself questions such as “What feels right?” and “Does this feel true to myself?” These inquiries encourage you to explore both your rational thoughts and emotional experiences.
- Listening for the answers without judgment: When you ask yourself these questions, be open to the answers that arise without judging them. This non-judgmental attitude helps you cultivate a deeper connection with your Wise Mind.
- The stone flake on a lake visualization: Close your eyes and imagine a stone flake floating gently on a lake. As the flake sinks, notice the serenity and calm of the water. Settle your attention on this peaceful image, and use it as an anchor to help you access your Wise Mind.
- Breathing in to ask a question and breathing out to listen for the answer: Use your breath to guide your inquiry. Inhale as you silently ask a question, and exhale as you listen for the answer. Remember not to force the answer, but simply be open to whatever arises.
Wise Mind exercises
- Identifying a problem that has been bothering you: Choose a problem or situation that has been causing you distress or occupying your thoughts.
- Method one: Asking your Wise Mind a question
- Observe the answer without judgment: Once you’ve asked your Wise Mind a question, pay attention to the answer that arises, without evaluating or critiquing it.
- Determining if the answer considers both rational thinking and emotions: Reflect on the answer you received and assess whether it takes into account both logical reasoning and your emotional experiences.
- Method two: Simply think about the problem
- Observing and describing the thoughts that arise: Allow your mind to naturally explore the problem, and observe the thoughts and feelings that surface.
- Determining if you’re in Wise Mind: Reflect on the thoughts and emotions that emerged, and consider whether your perspective is grounded in both rational thinking and emotional awareness. If so, you are operating from your Wise Mind.
In summary, using Wise Mind in decision-making and problem-solving is crucial for achieving a balanced approach that takes into account both rational thinking and emotional experiences. By accessing our Wise Mind, we can make more thoughtful, well-rounded decisions that are better aligned with our true selves and values. This integration of Reasonable and Emotional Minds enables us to navigate life’s challenges with greater clarity and wisdom.
We encourage you to practice accessing your Wise Mind regularly and apply it to various situations in your life. Whether you’re facing personal or professional dilemmas, cultivating a connection with your Wise Mind can lead to more fulfilling choices and a greater sense of inner harmony. Remember, developing a relationship with your Wise Mind takes time and practice, so be patient with yourself as you embark on this journey of self-discovery and growth. By incorporating the techniques and exercises outlined in this blog post, you can begin to harness the power of your Wise Mind and live a more balanced, intentional life.
Disclaimer: As a registered clinical counsellor and registered psychotherapist (qualifying), I'm sharing insights on my blog for informational purposes, not professional advice or treatment. My writing aims to inspire you to consult your own healthcare or mental health provider. Remember, your decisions based on the blog content are solely your responsibility. Please explore other resources if this understanding doesn't align with your expectations. Thank you.