Wise Mind: Balancing Emotion and Reason
Who is the wisest person you know? Think for a moment…. This is the person that you would go to for advice about a situation. The person who would help you balance the cold, hard fact with your feelings & the things that are most important to you as a person. What advice has this person given you in the past about things? What is it about them that makes you think they are “wise? Is this different than if they were “smart?
How can Wise Mind help you?
Are there times where you make impulsive decisions based on how you’re feeling in the moment? What about other times where you convince yourself that your feelings don’t matter and make decisions purely based on facts, what you “should do” or what is “right?” Many of my clients move between these two extremes, so we spend time in session or group learning to find Wise Mind. I first learned about this concept in 2008 when I was introduced to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), but I believe it’s actually very helpful for anyone to understand how freeing it can be to balance reason and logic with emotions and impulses. Wise Mind is a core Mindfulness skill and we teach this when we are beginning to teach DBT skills training clients Mindfulness.
What is “Wise Mind?”
In short, in DBT “Emotion Mind” refers to a state of mind where you make decisions based purely on your feelings and emotions. This may be yelling something hurtful out of anger, binging or purging food to change feelings of sadness and aloneness, or quitting something because you’re afraid of failure just to name a few examples. On the other hand, “Reasonable Mind” is the complete opposite. Many people believe they should operate in this state of mind where all decisions are made devoid of emotion and based purely on reason and logic. This mind state considers facts, rigid ideals and self judgments. For instance, you may ignore your feelings of anger at a friend who hurts you or reschedule your day because you “should” say yes when your mom asks you to do something.
Wise Mind is the synthesis of these two opposites. Wise Mind means acting in a rational way that helps you accomplish your goals while still acknowledging and honoring your feelings. Many clients I’ve spoken to over the years say they spend most of their time in Reasonable Mind, but they find that after some time of stuffing down their feelings they will suddenly swing far into Emotional Mind acting in such a way (screaming at a loved one, eating disorder behavior, self harm such as cutting or breaking off a relationship) that they later regret.
An Example of “Wise Mind”
For example, if I go to the gas station looking for a snack while I’m feeling really stressed, I may make different choices based on what state of mind I’m in. In Emotion Mind I personally am likely to grab a large Dr. Pepper (light ice to make room for more soda) and a couple of candy bars. If I go to the same gas station in Reasonable Mind, I may lecture myself on the importance of eating healthy and just buy some fresh fruit and a bottle of water. On the other hand, if I take my Wise Mind with me to the grocery store, I will probably choose a bottle of iced tea and a small package of beef jerky-still relatively healthy but also items I really enjoy the taste of!
Whether you’ve been trying to learn meditation, wanting to improve your social relationships or simply looking for happiness, I encourage you to become aware of which state of mind you are spending the most time. When you go to make a decision or respond to a stressful situation, mindfully ask yourself, “What does my Wise Mind say is the path to take? What honors both my feelings and the facts?”
About the Author
My name is Jessica and I am a therapist in and the founder of Aspire Counseling in Columbia, MO, a counseling clinic focused on providing quality mental health services. If you want to learn skills to improve your mental health and help you better reach your individual goals, consider calling Aspire Counseling. We offer comprehensive DBT services through our therapists who sit on the DBT Columbia Consultation Team. We would be more than happy to talk to you about who would be the best fit for helping you meet your unique mental health goals! Please contact Aspire Counseling by e-mail or by calling 573-328-2288.
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