June Converse

Thriving After Trauma - Author and Writing Coach

FROM A BILLBOARD NEAR ME: Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is you're stupid and make bad decisions.

Imagine you have been offered a new job and you want to do a pros and cons analysis. Would it look something like this?

PROS

  • More money
  • Better insurance
  • Corner Office

CONS

  • Commute (from 30 minutes to 75)
  • Big team to manage
  • Travel about 40% of the time

Those are GREAT things to consider. As a matter of fact, those things must be considered. Those considerations, however, are FACT based. They make the rational brain happy. What about the EMOTIONAL brain? Facts also carry an emotional component. In other words, we have an emotion around truth.

Remember that a WISE MIND* considers both the rational and emotional. We cannot ignore our emotional side of decision-making and expect to be satisfied with our choices. It’s very important we settle down and complete a different type of pros/cons analysis. Let me demonstrate for a scenario I am personally struggling to decide.

UNDER CONSIDERATION:

I’d like to start a “school” for writers. I’m envisioning on-line classes, video classes, a video critique group, one-on-one editing and critique services for all aspects of the writing process.

Rational Pros and Cons

My RATIONAL brain is spitting out pros and cons in rapid-fire fashion. I won’t bother you with the entire list but I will share enough so you can get a feel for how to find WISE MIND.

Pros

  • You are already doing this, it’s just a different adaptation
  • You could make some $
  • You have most of the resources already
  • Might get me an audience for my own book
  • Like teaching – energizes me (that might be my emotional mind weighing in)
  • I’d learn a lot of different skills

Cons

  • It would take an influx of $ to get started (“how much?” the rational brain asks)
  • You would have to learn to do several “technical” things and that would take time from your own writing (huge learning curve)
  • Requires a commitment and you enjoy your current flexibility
  • You’d have to learn a lot of different skills that don’t excite you

I could add – and will add to this – but let’s allow the emotional mind to have her say:

Emotional Pros & Cons

Every decision you make causes distress. Thankfully, most are so minor that you just push on or barely notice. For example, you might be planning to change toothpaste. On a scale of 1-10, that’s a distress level of 1.

But, changing jobs, having a kid, choosing a school, considering marriage or divorce, filing bankruptcy – these cause a level 10 distress! Right? The higher the distress, the more critical it is for you to sit down and feel AND think before acting.

I’m applying an 8 to my distress level regarding starting a writer’s school.

The DBT Pros & Cons is more about the consequences of potential choices on an emotional level. Let me just jump to it because that will likely demonstrate it best.

OPTION 1: Move Forward and Pursue the Idea with Gusto

“TOLERATING THE DISTRESS OF OPENING A SCHOOL”

Pros

  • I’d be very satisfied with this career. This career would not only feed my teaching gift, it would keep me writing and learning.
  • I’d be proud that I faced the fears associated with such a project
  • You’ve written a book, published it, currently writing a second one – this is easier – (that’s not a pro, it’s more an affirmation but I’m trying to share what’s coming up for me)
  • You’re already doing it – you’re being a ding-dong (that’s my name-calling side rearing her beautiful head) – just do it already

Cons

  • I’d have to discuss with Dave and I’m afraid he’ll reject it and cause conflict, hurt feelings … (If I’m brave enough to bring this up, then I’ll want him to get on board)
  • The learning curve scares me – what if I can’t do it – that ‘crushed feeling’ could send me backwards mentally
  • What if it fails …. You’d be a failure …. You’d put your family in jeopardy AGAIN
  • Where does the $ come from – how much are we talking about anyway?
  • FEAR FEAR FEAR
  • Having to face that overwhelmed feeling! Can you do that? Is it worth it?
  • Who are you to think you could do this – and charge for it? – (admittedly, that’s not a con but it does demonstrate Distress Tolerance. This comment is swirling and swirling and beating me down)
  • You’d have to start slow – and that’s not a strength

OPTION 2: GIVE UP THE IDEA

“NOT TOLERATING THE DISTRESS OF OPENING A SCHOOL”

Pros

  • Sweet relief – I could sleep at night – stop running the idea around and around in our heads
  • More time to write, hobbies, etc.
  • Never have to tell Dave and hear his worries (hmmm – this worry may indicate a problem area that I should address at another time)
  • Never have to face the fear
  • No financial impact – (can you see how this is both a rational and emotional idea?)
  • You wouldn’t have to put structure around the idea

Cons

  • You’ll always think about it – wonder if you could have succeeded. The idea will continue to germinate.
  • You like teaching so much – and you’re good at it – do you walk away because of fear that can be worked through?
  • No positive financial aspect – (can you see how this is both a rational and emotional idea?)
  • Working through the fear is good for you on many levels

I could go on and on here too. I’m hoping you see that there are many things to consider. The higher for potential distress, the more I must analyze both areas (rational and emotional).

Combining

Did you notice how some considerations were both rational and emotional? I think when you take the time to do these analyses, the rational and emotional brains start to talk to each other. I’d have an emotional con and my rational brain would agree or challenge. Kind of cool!

What Does the WISE MIND Say

My Wise Mind thinks it’s a good idea on two levels: 1) The idea is just a good one. 2) Having to keep pushing myself through fears and obstacles is only going to benefit my mental health. 3) Discussing this with Dave in a calm manner would continue to strengthen our relationship and build my confidence in conflict management.

Wise Mind is telling me to present the idea to Dave. He’s an excellent source of balance and his ability to see things I haven’t is unparalleled. He’s a resource that has my best interest at heart!

BUT ….

My fear/anxiety about even discussing it is super-high. Imagine how that will grow if I move forward! Worth it?!?

A Weird Observation

Did you notice how sometimes my comments were first person (‘I, me’), then second person (‘you’) and even plural (‘we’). I need to evaluate what that means – was I trying to distance myself, trying to share the angst?

The Decision/Next Step

I’m not sure yet. My next strategy is to bring this up in therapy and try to move “fear” to the back burner and then I’ll be able to look at this more clearly.

And, I will discuss this with Dave (hopefully before he edits this). If I can’t face that fear, I should forget it! But, I need to go to him armed with a plan. Part of that plan is this analysis.

Success

Regardless of what I decide to do, I am PROUD OF MYSELF because I didn’t jump in or run away. I’m sitting in my feelings and letting it all simmer so that I can make a WISE decision. I’m getting better!

*If WISE MIND is a new concept for you, read last week’s blog for an introduction.

Resources:

I did not follow the DBT model exactly as it is typically presented. Still, my adaption follows the methodology pretty well. Here’s more for you to read:

https://www.dbtselfhelp.com/html/pros_and_cons.html

https://peerguideddbtlessons.weebly.com/dt-procon.html

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ

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!).

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.

Some Examples to Make You Laugh

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.

The Vacation

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!

The Bee Hive Business

bees on honeycomb

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.

Which is Better?

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.

So What?

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.

Resources:

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

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ

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!).

Last week, I wrote about hurt feelings turning to anger while I sat in a paradise. I walked through the R.A.I.N process and stopped when I got to I[nvestigate]. In order to investigate, I had to ask myself: What am I believing about myself? How is this situation feeding my story? That sounds easy but is in fact quite painful.

The caveat, however, is that I’m supposed to ask those questions “with kindness.” I’m not supposed to beat myself up or get on a negativity train. Hmmm, now that’s more challenging.

Allow me to quote Tara Brach from Working With Difficulties: The Blessings of RAIN (https://www.tarabrach.com/articles-interviews/rain-workingwithdifficulties/)

“We need to offer a gentle welcome to whatever surfaces. This is why I use the phrase “Investigate with kindness.” Without this heart energy, investigation cannot penetrate; there is not enough safety and openness for real contact.

Imagine that your child comes home in tears after being bullied at school. In order to find out what happened and how your child is feeling, you have to offer a kind, receptive, gentle attention. Bringing that same kindness to your inner life makes inquiry, and ultimately healing, possible.”

Let’s give this a try:

I[nvestigate] with Kindness:

Immediately, when I asked myself “what I’m believing”, my brain/heart/soul shot these exact words (these were rapid fire thoughts):

  • “You’re a terrible mother. Why would your kids bother with reading your book?”
  • “Or maybe they did read it and it sucked so bad, they are pretending they didn’t read it because that’s easier.”
  • “Give up writing. Give up everything. Just hide in the house because every time you try, you disappoint or are disappointed.” (note: disappoint is a trigger word for me)
  • “You depend on Dave too much. Don’t be a wimp. If you want the kids to read the book, then say so.”
  • “Dave’s not having breakfast with you because you are so high maintenance that he needs a vacation from you too.”
  • “Everybody would have more fun if I wasn’t here. I wish I could go home.”
  • After this, I went to “proving” all of this true by remembering the times I was a terrible mother and the times I was high maintenance and other times I let people down.

Brutal. Can you tell me how to handle those comments with “kindness”? I’ve not yet mastered that aspect of R.A.I.N.

I took several sips of coffee, woofed down an ooey-gooey roll. I swallowed past lumps in my throat and forced myself to pretend my child had come to me with this scenario and these horrible thoughts. What would I say?

First, I acknowledged that emotions are just that – emotions. They are not right or wrong, good or bad. Negative emotions are the soul’s way of alerting us to investigate, step back and open up. I asked my “child” if it was hurt feelings or true anger. It was easy to realize the problem was simply hurt feelings. I also admitted to jealousy – the rest of my family is athletic and likes paddle-boarding or rock climbing or white water rafting. I don’t enjoy these so I often feel left out. My emotional brain labels this as “ostracized.”

I asked my child-self: “What is the best way for you to handle this? Can you label what you need and then ask for it?”

Surprisingly, that was simple too. I needed my husband to spend more time with me on this trip. I wanted my desires to be a priority every now and then. (Note: I had brought games to play at the beach and four days later we had not opened them.) I wanted my family to do something I liked even if for just a little while.

Uh oh – my emotional brain was triggered and spouted this: “If you have to force them to play games with you, then they are doing it out of obligation and not because they want to. That will be worse. You’ll know they don’t want to be with you and that you forced them. Maybe it’s better to just be ignored.” ---- A blog for another day ---

Anyway, I shut that down to deal with later. I resolved that when Dave finally came to breakfast, I’d tell him how I felt.

He arrived and unfortunately I was still in turmoil (although RAIN was helping) … he saw my distress and asked what was wrong. I wanted to be calm, to just tell him what I needed. I think I started out all right but then emotions welled and I was harsh and teary. UGH.

You will not believe what he said to me … that will be next week’s topic … but let me just say that it’s been six weeks and we, as a couple, are still not quite back to normal.

N[on-Identification]

Let’s move on to N in RAIN. “N” is ‘non-identification’. Again, let me quote Ms. Brach because she’s much more concise than me:

Non-identification means that your sense of who you are is not fused with or defined by any limited set of emotions, sensations or stories….there’s nothing to do for this last part of RAIN—realization arises spontaneously, on its own. We simply rest in natural awareness.

What did I realize? Did R.A.I.N work for me in this scenario?

I realized that I can relax simply by anchoring myself in exactly what is. Right now, I am sitting on a hard chair, my shoulder muscles are screaming, it’s raining and the cat is taking a bath on the table (which I hate). These are truths. There is no emotion associated with what is. Emotion only arises when I seek to judge what is. I do believe that RAIN helped me calm and reflect.

I also think that if I’d had a few more minutes to ruminate and handle myself more gently, I would have been able to talk to my husband with a calm request for what I needed in that moment. Instead, he arrived, said the wrong thing and I went backwards.

I’ve used RAIN many times – as a matter of fact, I use “R[ecognize] Reality” and “A[llow] Reality” as my go-to calming strategies. It works every time. When I move to investigate, I struggle to be gentle. I often end up beating myself to death, validating my “crazy” and scheduling a therapy session.

In the next post, I’ll tell you what my well-meaning husband said that negated all the R.A.I.N. but did not bring the sunshine!

Resource:

Tara Brach has many excellent resources. Use this link for an excellent article specifically on RAIN: https://www.tarabrach.com/articles-interviews/rain-workingwithdifficulties/

She also has several YouTube videos on this topic. Simply search: Tara Brach Rain

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ

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! J).

June Converse with purple hair
In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....
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