Do you experience moments in your life when you are acting purely on emotions rather than rational thought? How about the opposite, moments when you are all logic and no heart? Neither of these mindsets is ideal. What is ideal is when our hearts and our heads work together, when we are guided by both emotion and intellect. In DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), this is called Wise Mind.
Ideally, we would have a perfectly healthy balance of both Reasonable Mind and Emotional Mind at all times. But this is rarely the case. Usually, one of the two minds is leading the way. By understanding how these two minds work, and by knowing how to determine which mind is leading us in any given situation, we can begin to access Wise Mind more often.
What Is Wise Mind
Wise Mind is the balancing and merging of Emotional Mind and Reasonable Mind.
Emotional Mind is the mind that I personally tend to experience an awful lot, being a highly sensitive empath. It is the mind based on our feelings. We fall into this mind when we experience a heightened emotion (which for some people is often). For example, when I see a clown I immediately feel terrified and run away (true story). That’s an example of Emotional Mind leading us to act in a certain way (often illogically). It’s not always a bad thing though. For instance, some times the fear response can be a life saver. I’ll give you an example. About a year ago I was walking down my street when I saw a Doberman off its leash. My heart pounded in my chest even though I’m not usually afraid of dogs, so I ran away. Lucky me, because that Doberman then proceeded to take a vicious bite into the mailman’s leg. My Emotional Mind saved me.
And so that is Emotional Mind.
There is also Reasonable Mind. This is the mind based on logic, where decisions are formed through facts and reasoning. Some people seem to operate almost entirely off of Reasonable Mind. For instance, my uncle Stuart. He’s a ridiculously intelligent man who is always entirely about logic. And in some ways, that’s great. People like Stuart, with their factual reasoning, are amazing at making plans and following guidelines. But the Reasonable Mind does also have its downfalls. For instance, people who are all about reasoning often badly misread social situations and see everything as a problem to be solved rather than a conversation to be had. They can often miss out on important parts of interpersonal relationships.
Thankfully, Emotional Mind and Reasonable Mind are not mutually exclusive. They can coexist. And if you take my ultra-emotional mind and my uncle Stuart’s ultra logical mind and stuff them in a blender you will Wise Mind, the midway middleground Emotional Mind and Reasonable Mind.
According to DBT, Wise Mind is the ideal state of mind, the one with which we make our best decisions. We can access Wise Mind with exercises like mindfulness and meditation. But first let me share some example of Wise Mind to illustrate how it works.
3 Examples of Wise Mind
Here are some examples of Wise Mind from my own life:
1) A few months ago I was having an argument with a friend. We were both getting quite heated. Instead of flaring up, I caught my emotions and realized that it would be more effective and healthier to walk away for an hour so my emotions would cool, and then return later to discuss the situation calmly.
2) When I moved to Canada my heart was screaming “Just move there to live forever” while my mind was saying “This could all go terribly wrong”. I listened to both my heart and head and booked a flight for a couple of months with ways to get home quickly if I needed to.
3) When I was becoming a meditation teacher my heart screamed “Go for it! Just do that full time!” But my mind said “You need a reliable source of income”. I listened to both my heart and head and got a part-time job that allowed me to work on my career as a meditation coach while still having enough reliable income to pay the bills.
Link Between Meditation And Wise Mind
Let’s remind ourselves of precisely what wise mind is. It is the balancing of logic with emotion to produce a “mind” that uses the best of both those things while not being dominated by either. Meditation can help with this in many ways.
For starters let’s discuss the emotional side.
Both mindfulness (general awareness of the present moment without judgment) and meditation (deliberately focusing the mind on one or more things for a set duration) can help to balance our emotions.
Studies show that meditation heightens both emotional awareness and regulation. It reduces our reactivity to our feelings while also making us more consciously aware of them. So if you’re me and you get a last minute cancellation for the meditation lesson you have planned in 15 minutes you can just breathe through it instead of feeling sad and disappointed.
Meditation also improves our access to our intuition. Intuition is communicated through subtle bodily signals such as tingling skin. However, oftentimes the mind is too active to notice these subtle signals. Mindfulness, however, slows down and clears the mind so that we can tune-in to that tension in the tummy that is telling us to be cautious. And that’s vital because intuition is an integral part of Wise Mind.
Meditation also helps with Reasonable Mind. For starters, the simple fact that meditation balances our emotions and increases emotional awareness will in turn help balance Reasonable Mind, because the two work like a set of scales with one side balancing out the other. Beyond this, meditation will also enhance our cognitive performance and induce neuroplasticity. All of this essentially means that our cognitive processes are improved, leading to a stronger Reasonable Mind.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, meditation allows our Emotional Mind and Reasonable Mind to work together harmoniously. The awareness and acceptance that mindfulness brings creates a more balanced mindset, one in which Wise Mind can come to the fore.
Guided Meditation For Wise Mind
In this guided meditation we meditate on a decision we are trying to make. We work on the decision first with Emotional Mind, then with Reasonable Mind, and finally we bring it together with Wise Mind.
Wise Mind Exercises
There are several wise mind exercises used in DBT. The following are some of the most popular:
Mindful Breathing: Meditative breathing often the entry points for beginners to access wise mind. Simply sit and observe your breath while breathing through your nose.
Stone Flake On A Lake: Imagine that you are a crystalline blue lake. Now imagine that you are a flake of stone that has drifted out into the middle of the lake. The stone drifts gradually downwards to the bottom of the lake. Visualize what you see.
Breathing Wise Mind: Close your eyes and observe your breath. With each breath breathe in thinking or saying “Wise” and breathe out thinking or saying “Mind”.
Wise Mind is the balancing of both the Emotional Mind and the Reasonable Mind. It makes the most of both while being ruled by neither. This significantly improves decision making. One way to get wise mind is with mindfulness and meditation, and the exercises I have shared above are a great place to start.
Giving Is Caring
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison