Do you make decisions based on your emotions? Does your mood often influence how you act and respond? Or do you make decisions based solely on logic and facts? Do people make comments that you seem uncaring and distant?
Emotion Mind and Reasonable Mind
According to Dialectical Behavior Therapy, we have multiple states of mind including: emotion mind, reasonable mind, and wise mind (Linehan, 2015). Emotion mind describes how we are strongly influenced by our feelings and urges to the extent that we can react without consideration for reason. In contrast, reasonable mind is when we focus solely on logic and facts without consideration for emotions. Our biology and social environment impact which state of mind we are more likely to access (Linehan, 2015).
Some of us are born with more sensitivity to emotions and often feel them more intensely, so we may have a predisposition towards emotion mind. Our culture, gender, and society can also influence which state of mind we gravitate towards. For example, if we were told negative things about our emotions (e.g., "‘you’re too sensitive,’ ‘don’t feel that way,’ or ‘don’t cry’"), this can impact us by causing us to disconnect from emotions and develop a preference for reasonable mind.
Problems With Just Emotion Mind and/or Reasonable Mind
When we lean too much on one state of mind, we can encounter several problems. Emotions are important and necessary, but when they are too intense and we don’t know how to cope with/understand them, we can react impulsively. Our impulsive reactions can cause us to hurt ourselves (e.g., cutting or self-medicating with drugs) and to hurt others (by lashing out). Emotion mind can cause us to look for short-term relief that often can have long-term consequences. Being able to use facts and logic to solve problems has several benefits, but when we only act reasonably, we don’t make space for understanding our own and others’ needs/feelings. As a result, our well-being and relationships suffer.
While emotion mind and reasonable mind are opposites, having access to both simultaneously allows us to access our wise mind. Our wise mind comes from being able to respond mindfully by making decisions influenced by reason and the messages from our emotions/values. Wise mind is our inner wisdom and intuition guiding us towards choices that offer us peace, which is often in our best interest (Linehan, 2015).
Exercises to Access Your Wise Mind
Focus on your breathing to help you feel centered. Before acting or making a decision, you can always take a few breaths before proceeding.
Another breathing technique focuses on the in-breath and out-breath. On the in-breath, say to yourself ‘wise’ and on the out-breath say ‘mind.’ You can do this as many times as you need to.
Mindfulness skills, in general, can help you access your wise mind. This can be formal practices like meditation. You can read more about mindfulness exercises here.
You can practice regularly checking in with your inner wisdom. Ask yourself, "Is acting in this way wise? What is my wise mind telling me?"
You can also practice noticing the area(s) in your body, where you experience wise mind. Take a few breaths, and notice where your center is. Some people experience wise mind in their belly or between their eyes (e.g., "third-eye").
All of us have the capacity to access our wise mind, but we may need help connecting to it. If you have a preference for one state of mind (e.g., reasonable mind), you may benefit from learning how to access the other (e.g., emotion mind) and integrating both. Both states of mind are important and create balance to support your optimal wellness. With practice, connecting with your wise mind will becoming easier and more intuitive.
If you are interested in learning more about wise mind and DBT skills, you can reach out to us here.
Stay tuned. Our next topic is “Why Do We Have Emotions?”
“Learning to find wise mind is like searching for a new channel on the radio. First, you hear a lot of static, and you can’t make out the lyrics of the music-but over time, if you keep tuning in, the signal gets loud. You will learn to know right where the station is, and the lyrics become a part of you, so that you can access them automatically-just like you can finish the lyrics immediately if someone starts singing a song you know really, really well.” -Marsha Linehan, DBT Skills Training Manual, page 171
Linehan, M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual. The Guilford Press.
Written by Susanna La, Ph.D.
Edited by Elena Duong, Psy.D.