The power of Wise Mind

In my women’s dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) group, we’ve been discussing the simple but powerful concept of Wise Mind.

In DBT we talk about three main mind states: Reasonable Mind, Emotion Mind, and Wise Mind.

If you’re a healthcare professional, Reasonable Mind will be very familiar to you. It’s likely where you are when you’re seeing patients, especially if you work in a discipline like emergency medicine or surgery in which decisions have to be made quickly. When you’re in Reasonable Mind, you get sh*t done. You’re logical, rational and focused on facts. Your own emotions are not in play. There’s no space for them.

Emotion Mind is on the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s the blazing fire to Reasonable Mind’s cool, placid lake. In Emotion Mind, you’ll find yourself in an impulsive, passionate place. You may say things you don’t mean or do things without thinking them through. Choices made in Emotion Mind are driven by anger, sadness, desperation, euphoria — you name it. Your ability to reason and apply logic are nowhere to be found.

Wise Mind is the balanced blend of both. When you’re in Wise Mind, you have excellent judgment. Wise Mind allows you to stay connected to your feelings (important, because your feelings give you critical messages and information) while simultaneously accessing your logic and reasoning. You can be compassionate, empathic and authentic. You are aware of the needs and emotions within yourself and of others, and aware of what’s in your own best interest, of what makes the most sense. It’s an integrative place — a synthesis of intuition and facts.

Making decisions, having difficult conversations, expressing your feelings, asking for things, managing crises…pretty much any interpersonal situation you can think of will be better if it comes from Wise Mind.

Getting to Wise Mind and staying there consistently takes practice. One of the main building blocks for accessing Wise Mind is cultivating a basic awareness of your thoughts and feelings. It sounds simple, but many of us do not have this awareness. If I were to ask you right now how you’re feeling, there’s a chance you’d stammer and say, “Um…let’s see…I don’t know? Fine? OK? Nothing? I’m just reading an e-mail!”

You might try asking yourself how you’re feeling a bit more often, just to see what comes up. What do you notice in your body? What thoughts do you have when you’re feeling peaceful, frustrated, depleted? (An important distinction: Thoughts are sentences in your mind; emotions are one word. Examples of thoughts: “I want pizza for dinner,” “I can’t seem to stay caught up at work,” “Am I a good mom?” Examples of emotions: content, relaxed, angry, sad, furious, betrayed, untrusting, despairing.)

You can also learn a lot from reflecting on times when you’ve been in Wise Mind. Even if you tend more toward Reasonable Mind or Emotion Mind, chances are you’ve had some experiences of being in Wise Mind, when you are in tune with yourself and others. What was going on that allowed you to inhabit this space?

If you’d like more support around any/all of this (coping with endless winter, identifying emotions, accessing Wise Mind…) e-mail me or give me a call: 585-568-7044.