Posted by: counselorcarmella | August 24, 2011

Decisions and Wise Mind

DBT therapist Marsha Linehan says that everyone has a “Wise Mind.” In other words, we all have a part of us that knows what is best to  do and that can  help us  come up with solutions  and courses of action for handling problems. A lot of times, though,  we don’t know how to access our wise mind or we don’t trust it. Many people aren’t sure they truly do have the ability to  choose wisely. To connect with our Wise Mind is to have logic and emotions balanced in a way that helps us feel calm, clear and grounded during our interactions and when  making choices. Wise mind combines, and then goes beyond, what is going on in your head (reasonable mind) and your heart (emotion mind).


If reasonable mind runs “cool” then emotion mind runs “hot.” Emotion mind is about  love songs and poetry, while reasonable mind is  encyclopedias and computers. Emotion mind is about your heart and feelings. It is intense and   much less rational. Reasonable mind is proactive (planning) and emotion mind is  reactive (knee jerk response because something has  set you off or pushed your buttons). Passionate and intense reactions in emotion mind make reasonable, logical thinking difficult. Reasonable mind is much easier when you are healthy, strong, sober, rested and fed but much harder when you are sick, tired, upset, or hungry. Emotion mind starts to take over when you are stressed or don’t feel well.


Crying  when watching a sad movie  is a reaction from emotion mind. Reasonable mind might say, “Its just a movie,”  but emotion mind still feels sad and expresses that  sadness through tears because your heart has been touched.  Emotion mind  is operating when you want to  yell at your boss. Reasonable mind tells you to go calm down so you won’t get fired. Wise Mind brings together the sets of information we gain from both states of being.  It takes us from  extremes to a more balanced place between. Wise mind is where we get to when  we put together the logic of reasonable mind and the sensitivity of emotional mind. 


The key here is balance.  Usually, when it comes to life,   balancing emotion mind and reasonable mind when making a decision  will  allow us to  bring more of  who we are into  solving the problem or situation.  When we use both states, we are fully engaging our different ways of relating to our world and the people in it. We have the best chance of being effective when we do this. When a doctor   is giving someone  a major health diagnosis,  it is important for them to present the facts and  be able to  stay   mostly in reasonable mind  to  balance the  possible strong emotions of the patient. However,  the doctor must also  draw on feelings of empathy, concern, and compassion.  Otherwise, he will seem uncaring  and insensitive.  The patient needs support and   reassurance.  At the very least, the doctor may need to realize that the patient is too upset at first to take in  new information.  The doctor may need to   acknowledge the patient’s fear or confusion or sadness before talking about anything else.  Empathy about  what  the patient is experiencing  helps the doctor  not  to become  frusstrated that he can’t just “get on with”   talking about what the diagnosis means and options for treating it.



But Wise Mind is more than this too; the magic of Wise Mind is intuition. Intuition understands the meaning, significance, or truth of an event, without having to analyze it intellectually. Such intuitive knowing combines emotional experiencing and logical analysis, yet goes beyond them. A deep sense of certainty or gut level knowing that you can’t shake validates your intuition, helping you discern whether your certainty is emotionally biased or truly intuitive. It is more solid and unshakeable and  strong. Acting intuitively out of Wise Mind, you trust that you know beyond what you think and feel. This kind of knowing  brings you back to the same  realization over and over, even when you try and talk yourself into a different conclusion. 


Wise Mind is calm. It is almost always quiet and peaceful. When change or acceptance is necessary Wise mind is the serenity of knowing which course to take. Many people believe this comes from  God or  their spirituality, that  they have a sense of “leading” or  divine guidance.  They speak of a “still small voice.” Using Scripture and prayer as part of this process is important.  God meant to help us search, with himself and with one another, for truth in our innermost parts: “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” Some call it a knowing beyond knowing.


Marsha Linehan states, “Wise mind is that part of each person that can know and experience truth. It is where the person knows something to be true or valid. It is almost always quiet, It has a certain peace. It is where the person knows something in a centered way.”  Wise mind  calmly says, “This is what is right or true for me,” no matter what anyone else  says. In Wise Mind, you can maintain your own feelings, opinions and decisions when around others. You are strong enough not to be defensive when presented with alternative views that warrant your consideration. Murray Bowen called this differentiation and having a  solid sense of self.  Clarity about who  you are and what you  stand for   helps you to  make decisions from that   place inside you that knows what is best and right for you. 


Being able to  reach a place of “wise mind” takes flexibility, imagination, and open-mindedness. Awareness, in general, nurtures Wise Mind. Wise Mind is like riding a bike, which takes effort, balance, and steering. You can learn Wise Mind, like you learned to ride a bike, only by experience. Just like you must pedal to start a bike rolling you must be willing to expend a little extra effort to initiate Wise Mind. As you would fall over if you were too far to one side or another on a bike, find Wise Mind by making the effort to find the balance of your emotions and thinking.  Intuition is like when you find that balance and  wise mind is then being able to speed off centered and in control. Another analogy is  that of  taking a bubble bath.  The water is uncomfortable when it is either too  hot or too cold, but  the right balance draws you in and feels “just right.” Intuition is knowing that  place and wise mind is that place that says, “This is just right” when you know you can sink in.



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