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  • Writer's pictureAlexis Haws

What is Wise Mind and How do I Find It?

Updated: Apr 9

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your emotions seemed to take over, clouding your judgment and leading you down a path you later regretted? Or perhaps there were times when you felt disconnected from your emotions, making it challenging to connect with your inner self or make decisions that align with your values. If you've experienced these situations, you're not alone. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) offers a valuable framework to help individuals understand and navigate these experiences through the concepts of Emotion Mind, Reasonable Mind, and Wise Mind.

Emotion Mind

Emotion Mind is a state of mind in which your emotions are in control. In this state, emotions often feel overwhelming and all-consuming. Think of it as a time when you're "lost" in your feelings. You may act impulsively, reacting without thinking through the consequences, and your thoughts and actions are driven by intense emotions. While Emotion Mind is a natural and necessary part of the human experience, it can become problematic when it dominates our decision-making and behaviors.

For example, imagine a situation where you receive criticism at work. If you are in Emotion Mind, you might react defensively, lash out, or become consumed by feelings of anger or hurt. This response can lead to conflicts and regrettable actions.

Reasonable Mind

On the other end of the spectrum is Reasonable Mind. This state is characterized by logical thinking, rationality, and a focus on facts and evidence. When in Reasonable Mind, emotions are often suppressed or ignored, and decisions are made solely based on logic and intellect. While this can be beneficial in some situations, it can also lead to emotional disconnection and an inability to acknowledge and address important feelings.

Continuing with our example of workplace criticism, if you are in Reasonable Mind, you might dismiss your emotional response, downplay the significance of the criticism, and fail to address any legitimate concerns or emotions that arise from the situation.

Wise Mind

DBT encourages individuals to strive for a balance between Emotion Mind and Reasonable Mind, leading to the concept of Wise Mind. Wise Mind is the middle ground where emotional and rational thinking intersect. In this state, you acknowledge your emotions and use them as valuable information while also considering the facts and making decisions that align with your long-term goals and values.

Going back to the workplace criticism scenario, when you are in Wise Mind, you might acknowledge your initial emotional reaction to the criticism, but instead of impulsively reacting or suppressing your emotions, you take a step back. You consider whether there is any validity to the criticism, what emotions are arising, and how you can address both the emotional and rational aspects of the situation constructively. This balanced approach allows for more effective problem-solving and emotional regulation.

Cultivating Wise Mind

Cultivating Wise Mind, according to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), involves a combination of mindfulness, self-awareness, and skill-building techniques. Here are steps you can take to cultivate your Wise Mind:

  • Mindfulness Practice:

    • Start with mindfulness meditation: Dedicate some time each day to practice mindfulness meditation. Focus on your breath, bodily sensations, and the present moment. Mindfulness helps you become more aware of your emotions and thoughts without judgment

  • Observe Your Emotions:

    • Pay attention to your emotions as they arise. Identify and label your emotions accurately. Use a feelings chart or journal to help you become more aware of your emotional states.

    • Notice the physical sensations associated with your emotions, such as tension in your body or changes in your breathing patterns. This can provide additional insights into your emotional experience.

  • Accept Emotions without Judgment:

    • Practice self-compassion by accepting your emotions without criticism or self-blame. Remind yourself that emotions are natural and valid responses to your experiences.

    • Avoid labeling emotions as "good" or "bad." Instead, view them as valuable sources of information about your inner world.

  • Engage in Self-Soothing Activities:

    • Develop a list of self-soothing activities that help you regulate and calm your emotions when they become overwhelming. These activities can be anything that brings comfort and relaxation, such as deep breathing exercises, taking a warm bath, or listening to soothing music.

  • Use Mindful Distraction:

    • When faced with intense emotions, use mindful distraction techniques to shift your focus away from emotional distress temporarily. Engage in activities that fully capture your attention, like reading, art, or exercise.

  • Seek Support and Guidance:

    • Consider working with a DBT-trained therapist, like myself, who can provide guidance, feedback, and additional skills to enhance your Wise Mind.

Remember that cultivating Wise Mind is an ongoing journey, and it's normal to have moments when you lean more toward Emotion Mind or Reasonable Mind. Be patient with yourself and continue to practice these skills regularly. Over time, you'll become more adept at finding that balanced and wise approach to your thoughts, emotions, and decision-making, leading to greater emotional resilience and well-being.

Here is a video that I think sums up Wise Mind quite nicely from the DBT-RU channel:

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