I tried to determine the best way to describe the Wise Mind concept from Marsha Linehan’s DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) mode. This particular treatment/coping modality has been the most helpful to me. Ms. Linehan has developed many tools to help someone like me calm myself and make rational decisions. Over the next several weeks, I will “show” you some of these and how I use them in my daily living and daily struggles.
To begin, let me quote someone else.
One of the tenets of DBT (Dialetical Behavior Therapy) is recognizing Wise Mind. We all have moments in life where we are overly emotional, moody, or reactive. In DBT, this is called Emotion Mind. “When in emotion mind, you are ruled by your moods, feelings, and urges to do or say things. Facts, reason, and logic are not important.”
The opposite of Emotion Mind is Reasonable Mind, a state in which we operate “by facts, reason, logic, and pragmatics. Values and feelings are not important.” In this state, we might approach people in the same way that we might handle an arithmetic problem – systematically.
Wise Mind is the perfect balance between reason and emotion. Individuals living in Wise Mind are able to utilize both reason and emotion, taking the middle path to cultivate emotional sensitivity and a calm, cool collectedness.
To read the entire article (which I highly recommend) check out this link: http://therapeuticoasisofthepalmbeaches.com/living-in-wise-mind-dbt-skills-for-everyone/
Who Are You? Who Am I?
Well, you and I aren’t wholly emotional or rational. But, in my experience, we do gravitate toward one extreme or the other. Wise mind requires effort from all of us.
I, obviously, lean toward an Emotional Mind. My husband, on the other hand, is more Rationally Minded. This often makes us a nice mix – and it’s often oil trying to mix with water.
To demonstrate the way our minds work – and clash – I wanted to share some very true stories from our home. These are funny stories – well, they are funny now. At the time, it was not too fun. Anyway, feel free to laugh at our expense.
We decided that an all-inclusive beach resort would be the best vacation for our family this year. We originally planned a cruise but once we priced that, we realized it was more expensive than other, equally enjoyable destinations. [By the way, that’s WISE mind.] We all got on board with the all-inclusive and the challenges began.
Rational Mind Approach – my husband, God bless him, presented me with a spreadsheet --- I am NOT joking. He came to bed one night with an extensive spreadsheet that analyzed every tiny detail of about 20 resort locations. When I asked him which sounded the most fun, his response was to point at the spreadsheet column labeled “activities.” UGH.
Emotional Mind Approach – the one nice thing about the spreadsheet was the links to the resorts. I ignored his analysis and starting clicking. This led to more and more clicking. It was all about pictures to me. I chose three that “looked” good. Sadly, I’d done so much clicking that I was suggesting resorts NOT on his spreadsheet. Shame on me!
Rational Mind Approach – Dave jerked the laptop from me, added my three selection to his spreadsheet and began his analysis. Jeez! When I asked him when he’d have a decision, he rolled his eyes and said, “Give me a few weeks.”
Weeks?!!??!?! It’s a beach resort – just choose one. Am I right? My emotional mind says I’m right!
Can you see a conflict coming? One of the ways my emotional mind works is that I want to CHOOSE. And, I don’t want too many choices – my emotional mind becomes jumbled and frustrated. For me, I wanted to do a couple hours of searching and comparing and then, come on, pick one! Pull out the credit card and start looking forward to our trip.
Dave likes to spend weeks (literally) analyzing, shuffling, adding places, subtracting places. He reads review after review after review. Uh oh!
Wise Mind – here is how we settled this … we agreed not to discuss the vacation AT ALL until he was ready. Once he was satisfied with all his mathematical analyses, he would present the top three … then I got to choose using my emotional mind! In the end we landed here: Dreams La Romana Resort & Spa in the Dominican Republic
We’ve been to several all-inclusive resorts all over the Caribbean. This resort was one of my very favorites and one of the few I’d go back to. The Rational Mind and the Emotional Mind found a Wise Mind we could share!
Let me be honest – this is not my story – this is my best friend’s story. But, it’s a classic and a perfect representation of Emotional/Rational/Wise Minds.
Emotional Mind – “Hey, honey, I was thinking we could start raising bees?”
Rational Mind – “Bees?”
EM – “Someone I know said they got started and it’s easy, cheap to get into and they are making $ at it. Here, I did a little research. Thought I’d order a hive tomorrow.”
RM – “And where, darling, do you plan to put these bees?”
EM – “Well, in the back. There’s plenty of room at the bottom of the hill.”
RM – “You mean the bottom of the hill that we can’t get to because it’s so steep?”
EM – “That’s an easy fix. Get Danny over here to put in steps. The hives won’t arrive for a few weeks.”
RM – “Honey – Darling – Sweetie Pie – we live in a neighborhood. You know, with neighbors. We live on a regular ol’ spot of land. We can’t start raising bees.”
EM – “But but … this friend of mine does it and he’s making money. It’s not expensive. We can order them and give it a try.”
RM – “Let me put together a spreadsheet first – analyze the cost of bees, supplies, maintenance. And then we have to figure out how to distribute the honey. I’m sure there are all types of laws regarding food distribution.”
EM – “Hold on. We buy honey at the local farmer’s market. Don’t tell me they obey any laws. They just throw their honey in a jar and hope. Come on. Let’s buy some bees. It sounds like fun.”
And so on ….. thankfully, one of the hallmarks of many emotional minds is that they can get easily distracted. We distracted our Emotional Minded friend with a new, more viable idea.
Admittedly, in this story, what I labeled Rational Mind is more Wise Mind. But you get my point.
Emotions are critical to survival. Logic is critical to good decision-making. I read a book once where the protagonist created a spreadsheet describing his perfect mate. He fell in love with the exact opposite.
Emotions need to be tempered by logic or I’d be helping our friends raise bees. Logic needs to be tempered with an emotional element. Resort A may have been the best choice according to the spreadsheet but fun, relaxation and “feel” can’t be programmed.
I imagined telling my daughter that she had to buy a wedding dress with the Rational Mind method – build a spreadsheet of length, material, style, cost, etc. Then click and order. Those things are important (especially cost) – but what makes a wedding dress special is the way it makes you feel. The Wise Mind makes the best decision every time.
I’ve gotten much better at recognizing when I am making decisions or judgments out of pure emotion. Now, I wait a day or two and allow my emotions to settle. I also have a few DBT tools in my pocket that help me stand back. I’ll share these over the coming weeks.
I also lean on my rational husband to help me find balance. And, he leans on me to bring in intuition and feeling.
Marsha Linehan’s Book: DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets:
Also, ask your therapist or call a therapy center in your city. There are often small group classes in DBT skills. The classes and skills practice are worth the time and money if you find yourself letting emotions lead you around by the nose.
Just before I hit "post" I stumbled across this worksheet. I have not used it YET ... but it looked promising. https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/WiseMindWorksheet.pdf
I am not a therapist. I have no relevant diploma. I have no fancy letters behind my name. I am a sufferer with years of therapy. I am an expert only in the sense that I am enrolled in the School of Hard Knocks. But hard knocks are an excellent teacher. If you suffer, I highly recommend you find a professional to help you and develop a personalized treatment plan. This blog is MY experience and while I pray it’s helpful, I am not qualified to diagnose or treat anyone for anything. (Well, I am a great math teacher—especially fractions!).
Copyright 2023 June Converse, All Rights Reserved.
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