You’ve heard the phrase “wise mind,” but you aren’t sure what it means.
And how does it relate to dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)?
In dialectical behavioral therapy, the term “dialectical” refers to the concept of “dialectic” found in classical philosophy and the manipulation of opposing relations, such as thesis and antithesis.
The term “DBT wise mind” refers to a technical concept.
While logic is the driving force behind reasonable minds and emotions are the driving force behind emotional minds, wisdom is the driving force behind wise mind.
Wisdom combines the precision of logic with the energy of emotions.
What Is Wise Mind?
According to DBT theory, since wisdom comes from balancing the rational and emotional minds, DBT therapists focus on helping people become aware of their own analytical and emotional thinking and behavior to live happier, more fulfilling lives.
A DBT therapist uses the ideas reasonable, emotional, and wise mind related to a person’s thoughts and behaviors.
The reasonable mind is driven by logic, and emotions drive the emotional mind. The wise mind focuses on the middle ground between the two.
As people learn coping skills, such as cultivating the practice of mindfulness, getting better at emotional regulation, and improving their distress tolerance, they will have a more comfortable relationship with mental health symptoms and personal reality.
Each person experiences wise mind uniquely.
Here are some ways you might experience them:
- You may experience “hunches” as a sensation in your body, such as a gut feeling or a tingling between your eyebrows.
- Your spontaneous decisions may seem right to you. You suddenly stop feeling anxious or depressed anymore. There is no doubt in your mind that you are on the right track.
- You might notice that watching your breath during daily meditation for 20 minutes enhances your ability at pattern recognition.
- You may gain a new perspective on a troubling event. Suddenly, you see the big picture. Instead of getting pieces of the puzzle, you now see how the dots connect.
- You might be able to see a difficult situation clearly because you managed to step back and look at it as if it were happening to someone else.
- You may feel you have finally understood something that has baffled you for a long time. Without your usual defensiveness, you see things clearly and more directly.
What is DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy)?
In the 1980s, psychologist Marsha Linehan developed Dialectical Behavior Therapy, a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
People who undergo DBT learn how to regulate their emotions, deal with difficult situations, and make better decisions.
Originally, DBT was designed to help individuals with borderline personality disorder. As time passed, psychologists realized they could also use these methods to treat mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
Psychological counseling of this type helps people cope with their struggles more effectively.
DBT practitioners believe every issue has two sides and that one must consider both sides before acting.
Losing weight, for example, might mean eating healthier and exercising more. However, you must also consider two other factors: your enjoyment of food and your ability to maintain a workout schedule.
If you consider both sides of an issue, you can reach a compromise.
If you were to visit a DBT therapist to learn how to use wise mind, you would learn the following three cognitive skills:
- Mindfulness: Rather than focusing on the past or the future, focus on the present moment. Practicing mindfulness has many benefits, including stress reduction, mood improvement, focus, concentration, and self-awareness.
- Emotional regulation: Managing strong emotions is an invaluable skill. Regulating volatile emotions triggered by events is an essential part of emotional intelligence. You can use mindfulness, introspection, and meditation to manage disturbing feelings.
- Distress tolerance: Whether you’re a parent, a caregiver, or a student, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to put others’ needs before your own. These roles may require distress tolerance. Keeping calm in difficult situations is not always easy. Fortunately, you can improve the ability to cope with other people’s disruptive emotions, thoughts, and behaviors by increasing your emotional intelligence.
You will learn these three skills through homework assignments, group meetings, and individual therapy.
Emotional Mind vs. Wise Mind vs. Reasonable Mind
DBT is a cognitive-behavioral therapy that can help you see things as they are rather than how you want them to be.
It can help you make significant decisions more effectively in the heat of an argument or an emotionally overwhelming situation.
Using your mind in a conscious way, rather than reacting to unfolding events in an automated way, can help you make better choices in difficult situations or chaotic environments.
In DBT, you need to become aware of three types of mental states to navigate your life with any success: emotional mind, wise mind, and reasonable mind.
Here is a brief description of each aspect of your mind.
This state is when your emotions are in charge, and you’re not thinking clearly. You can learn to understand and accept your emotions by retraining your emotional mind.
Someone skilled in emotional regulation doesn’t have to act impulsively on what they are feeling.
Instead, they are in a position to acknowledge their upsetting emotions and accept their validity without letting them control them.
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This is the balance between your emotions and your thoughts. It is the ideal state of mind. If you have a wise mind, you witness your emotions and thoughts with detachment.
You’re in a position to recognize that your emotions don’t always reflect reality accurately. You no longer perceive things as absolutely black or white. You recognize that your emotions have shades of gray.
When you have a wise mind, you notice the gray areas and make informed decisions. Using techniques from both rational and emotional minds helps you achieve wisdom.
This is when you’re thinking logically without being influenced by your emotions. You can learn logic and reasoning from a reasonable mind.
You shouldn’t ignore your emotions since they contain relevant information about your needs and values. You recognize it’s critical to pause to understand the facts clearly before letting your feelings drive your behavior.
The purpose of DBT, then, is to help us find the balance between the emotional mind and the analytical mind.
DBT counselors use four distinct practices to help people take control of the diverse aspects of their own minds:
- They teach their clients cognitive skills like emotional regulation and distress tolerance.
- They provide validation and acceptance of their patient’s feelings, thoughts, and experiences.
- They educate their patients on how to adopt behaviors that promote emotional regulation.
- They encourage patients to examine their own thoughts and feelings when confronted with challenging circumstances that would normally trigger reactive and possibly self-destructive behavior.
DBT counselors believe we should base our choices on wisdom rather than impulsivity or emotion.
In practice, anyone can learn to regulate their emotions and make decisions from a place of clear thinking instead of emotional turmoil.
How to Use Wise Mind and 3 Wise Mind Examples
Using DBT, you can move from an emotional mind to a wise mind to make more conscious, effective decisions. Being aware of your thoughts and feelings is a helpful way to manage your various challenges.
First, focus on what you observe rather than getting caught up in judgment. Next, immerse yourself in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or future.
Although cultivating a more mindful approach to life can be challenging, it’s well worth it because you can move through your life with greater clarity and purpose.
Here are some examples of wise mind and DBT:
- Imagine that your boss has just criticized you. You might see that the criticism was unfair and that you are not a bad employee if you are in a rational frame of mind.
However, if you’re emotional, you might only be able to see how hurt and angry you are. An open mind can see both sides of the story: the hurt feelings and the logic that the criticism was unwarranted.
In addition, you are now better prepared to respond constructively to the situation.
- Imagine your significant other no longer wishes to be in a relationship with you because they have fallen in love with someone else. Your emotional mind might tell you to react angrily and lash out at them for betraying your trust and love.
Your reasonable mind may tell you to remain calm and walk away with dignity.
A wise mind would suggest constructively expressing your anger, heartbreak, confusion, and frustration by making an appointment with a therapist or speaking to a lawyer (if your partner wants a divorce).
- Imagine you’re stuck in a dead-end job and considering whether to quit and find a better-paying job that aligns with your aptitudes and interests. When you’re using your wise mind, you can make decisions based on both logic and emotion.
If you’re considering leaving your job, use both your rational mind (logic) and your emotional mind (intuition/emotion) to assess whether you’re truly ready to let go of your paycheck and follow your career dreams.
You don’t have to engage in DBT or any other therapy to practice wise mind. Learn to pay attention to your emotions and your logical brain, especially during emotionally-charged or challenging situations.
How do each of these inform you, and how can you access the best of both to find solutions or take action?
Your wise mind is always available to you when you seek it mindfully.