Understanding ‘Wise Mind’

A big part of DBT is all about something called ‘Wise Mind’; Wise Mind is about blending together two other states of mind. ‘Rational Mind’ and ‘Emotional Mind’.

Rational Mind

Advantages: a logical approach which helps you to problem solve. You think clearly about what is happening, way up the facts and consider the detail, before giving a rational response.

Disadvantages: cold, detached from emotion, what you think you should do rather than what you want to do.

Emotional Mind

Advantages: linked to what you feel passionate about, standing up for yourself and/or others, and sticking by what you value and believe in.

Disadvantages: impulsive, don’t think about it just do it, personal interpretation rather than facts about the situation, risk of your thoughts being controlled by your emotions.

The ‘D’ in DBT stands for ‘Dialectics’; dialectics means that opposites can exist alongside each other.  The existence of ‘Rational Mind’ and ‘Emotional Mind’ is dialectic, and DBT teaches you how to get a balance between these two opposites, taking the best bits from each that work for you!

Wise Mind

Wise Mind comes from using both Emotional Mind and Rational Mind together; it balances emotional feelings with rational understanding.  It encourages you to stop and way up the facts before considering what you want from the situation, it helps you to see the situation more clearly and have a better understanding about what response will give you the outcome you want.  Wise Mind is sometimes described as being similar to intuition – a gut feeling to a situation; and being able to connect with these feelings can help you to get in touch with Wise Mind.

See the Bigger Picture with Wise Mind

Just as 3D glasses blend two different positions to create a fuller more realistic scene, so too does Wise Mind.

Wise Mind is also about stepping outside of any worries you have about the past and the concerns you might have about the future, by concentrating all of its attention on the current moment.

In the Here and Now

How to connect with your ‘Wise Mind’

We all have Wise Mind; you just might not have found it yet. By learning to find a place of calmness inside you, you can let go of intense emotions, and you can find Wise Mind. Try this short exercise to help you find Wise Mind:

  • Find somewhere that you can sit or lie comfortably, without being disturbed for 15-20 minutes.
  • When you are comfortable, you could close your eyes to help you relax and focus.
  • Then, turn your attention to your breathing; as you take deep slow breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Continue to follow your breath as it gently comes in and goes out. And allow the focus of your attention to settle down into the very bottom of your in-breath, into your physical centre.
  •  This very centred point is Wise Mind.
  • As you continue to breathe slowly and deeply, notice how your breath is like an anchor to this calmer/centred less reactive part of yourself.

Practice this exercise daily, to get a sense of what Wise Mind feels like, and to develop the skill of connecting with Wise Mind before you make decisions.

When you are learning to connect with Wise Mind to help you make a choice, it can sometimes be hard to know whether you are responding in Wise Mind or Emotional Mind. A useful way to know that you are making a Wise Mind decision is to check in with Rational Mind, by asking yourself the question “Have I considered the facts of the situation?” If you have been involved in a situation that has triggered strong emotions, it can be helpful to give yourself time to settle and calm our emotions, before attempting to use Reasonable Mind.

Related – Acceptance and Change