Emotional Mind, Rational Mind & Wise Mind

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Welcome back to Smiling Through Tears!

Today I am going to discuss rational mind vs. wise mind vs. emotional mind. These three topics are all apart of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). DBT treatment is type of psychotherapy (talk therapy) that utilizes a cognitive behavioral approach that emphasis the psychosocial aspects of treatment. The theory behind the approach is that some people are prone to react in a more intense and out-of-the-ordinary manner toward certain emotional situations, primarily those found in romantic, family and friend relationships. DBT theory suggests that some people’s arousal levels in such situations can increase far more quickly than the average person’s, attain a higher level of emotional stimulation, and take a significant amount of time to return to baseline arousal levels (psychcentral.com.)

Emotional Mind

According to cogbtherapy.com. “Emotional Mind is the part of our mind that is dominated by emotions. We have an emotion, and that emotion tells us to act. We’re afraid, so we hide. We’re happy, and we sing. We’re angry, we hit something. Emotional mind is a state of mind we all have, and as with all of the states of mind, there is a time and a place for using it. For people who have intense, and easily triggered emotions, emotional mind is a very familiar territory. And for anyone with a nervous system, the bigger the emotions get, the more prone we are to emotional mind decisions. This is what’s known as impulsive behavior. A big emotion arises, and along with it comes an urge to act. If the emotion is big enough we act without thinking. It is not hard to imagine all the ways relying on emotional mind can cause very real problems. It is largely because of emotional mind that people with emotion dysregulation feel their lives are unlivable. It is difficult to sustain a relationship, hold down a job, or otherwise function if you are frequently relying on impulse rather than reason.

Rational Mind

The disarray that ensues as a result of camping out in emotional mind can be a trigger to take a hard left turn into reasonable mind. If having emotions consistently results in big mistakes and unrelenting chaos due to impulsiveness, people often try to shut that part of their minds off, and function like robots. This temporarily leads to a reduction in impulsive behavior, but causes its own problems. Completely expunging or disregarding emotion when making decisions leads to us ignoring our preferences and our limits. We may be able to come up with a plan that looks good on paper, but would be miserable to execute. Reasonable mind naively disregards what the decision would feel like to execute, not paying attention to any emotional pain it would cause, as though this were not a factor worth considering. In a way it is a kind of self-invalidation – invalidating one’s preference and experience as though these are unimportant. Stick to your reasonable mind long enough, and it will feel so unbearable that emotional mind will drown everything else out. At that point, you flop back to emotional mind, engage in impulsive behavior that leaves a mess in its aftermath. Once again after the dust has settled, you reaffirm that you will no longer consider emotions, and the bounce to reasonable mind is not far away.

Wise Mind

Wise mind is often described as the meeting of emotional mind and reasonable mind. It is the synthesis of considering both emotions and rationality. The more we reflect on what wise mind has to say, the more likely we are to do what works, and be willing to tolerate any difficulties that arise along the way. Consequently, integrating wise mind into our decision making can reduce painful emotional states, thus lessening emotion dysregulation overall. This is a description of what wise mind is, but it is not by any means a description of how to find it. It is not as analytical as the equation emotions + reasoning would have us believe. In fact, it may be completely devoid of that kind of analytical process altogether. When people describe wise mind, they describe a place of knowing that has always been there. It is an experiential place of wisdom – place that knows what’s best for us. If you’ve ever gotten into an argument about something that is very insignificant, there was probably a part of you that knew arguing about it was ineffective, and that you should probably just let it go. That’s wise mind. As this example illustrates, there is a part of you bent on winning the argument (probably emotional mind), and a part of you that deems the argument unproductive (wise mind). You may not like what wise mind has to say sometimes, as may be the case in the example above, but you are still aware of what wise mind is telling you. It’s always there, sometimes it just takes some work to find it and listen to what it’s saying.”




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