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Wise Mind

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a therapy that heavily emphasizes and utilizes the practice of mindfulness. Some tend to think there is a specific way to “do” mindfulness, but really, you can practice mindfulness with anything. Mindfulness is honing in on wherever you are and whatever you are doing, completely. You can mindfully walk, mindfully drive, you can even do the dishes mindfully!  And why does DBT place so much importance on practicing mindfulness? Because mindfulness helps us become more aware of our present surroundings and the current state of our minds. When we know what’s going on in our brains as well as what’s physically happening around us, we can more easily regulate our emotions, make more beneficial decisions, and better understand nuance. So mindfulness can be pretty impactful in helping us understand our minds.


In DBT, we like to conceptualize it in terms of the different types of minds a person can have. Think of it as a venn diagram. On the right, we’ve got what is known as “Emotion Mind”. Lots of things take place in Emotion Mind. When we are in Emotion Mind we are able to connect to other people and events more deeply and we tend to be more sensitive and more tapped into our feelings. Emotion Mind allows for “all the feels”. On the opposite side of the diagram, all the way to the left, we’ve got our “Reasonable Mind”. When we are in our Reasonable Mind we are able to be efficient. We can get through the day and cross off each part of our to-do list. We are able to make logical and rational decisions without our “silly” emotions getting in the way. Does this thought-process sound familiar to some of you?


Many people tend to live mostly in either Emotion or Reasonable Mind, while also under the false assumption that one is better than the other. In actuality, both Emotion and Reasonable Minds each have their own benefits and drawbacks. Emotion Mind allows us to feel and experience deeply. It helps us be present and connect to the here and now. Emotion Mind can also become overwhelmed with feelings to the point where it doesn’t allow us to accomplish our day-to-day tasks or make logical decisions that will be more beneficial in the long run. Reasonable Mind, on the other hand, definitely allows for logical decision making. In fact it prioritizes logical decision making. Reasonable Mind is what helps us go grocery shopping after an extremely hard day at work. It’s what enables us to keep to a busy schedule and not get bogged down by the missteps of the day. And, it also shuts us out of any sort of meaningful connection. There’s not a lot of room for genuinity in Reasonable Mind.


The thing is, understanding our minds doesn’t mean we can suddenly balance extreme emotions along with going about our everyday routines. Understanding our minds is only the first step to achieving what is known as the “Wise Mind”. Ideally, we’d like to utilize the benefits from both Minds to help us navigate all types of situations in life. This is why, in between Emotion and Reasonable Minds sits Wise Mind. 


Wise Mind is the point, as DBT founder, Marsha Linehan, explains, when a person can “know AND experience truth”. It’s the combination of both the Emotion Mind and the Reasonable Mind plus a deeper sense of understanding that is entirely its own. It’s the point when you know, deep down in your gut, that you’re making the right decision. Or the feeling that you’re finally understanding the full picture and have an elevated sense of clarity than before. It’s experiencing the right decision. Many people explain it as having an overall sense of calm when making their decision because they know and feel that it is right.


Attaining Wise Mind is not a simple feat. It takes a lot of practice and self-evaluation. At first, it might feel a bit foreign. Eventually, it’s possible for Wise Mind to become your intuitive state of mind. This is not to say that there won’t ever be times in your life when you will slip back into only Reasonable or only Emotion Mind. Sometimes, it might even be necessary to slip into only one of those minds in order to get through a particular situation. But with practice, Wise Mind can become your default mind where most of your decisions and perspectives stem from a place of self-trust and inner calm. Eventually, you can approach your life with the higher wisdom that comes from accepting all parts of yourself, the reasonable, the emotional, and everything in between.


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