Not so fast! Is it Wise Mind or Emotion Mind?

Dec 06, 2021

About to make an important decision? Before you do, take a moment to ask yourself what state of mind you’re in. In DBT, there are three states of mind. Are you acting from a place of wisdom, in your long-term interests, and in line with your values? If so, you’re in Wise Mind. Wise Mind is an integration of emotion and reason, plus intuition. Or, are you hijacked by a current emotion that’s coloring how you see things and controlling your behavior? If so, you’re in Emotion Mind. It’s also possible that you’re thinking purely logically and relatively devoid of any emotion. That’s Reasonable Mind.

Ideally, we can move fluidly among these three states of mind, but some people are more susceptible to one state of mind than another. DBT was designed for people who are emotionally vulnerable. This means they’re quick to slip into Emotion Mind, spend a lot of time in it, and have difficulty getting out of it. While there’s nothing inherently problematic with Emotion Mind, it doesn’t always lead to optimal decision making. This is because when we’re in Emotion Mind we’re not thinking long—we’re focused on the short term. Many Emotion Mind decisions are impulsive and reactionary, and often decisions we regret. Like breaking up with someone the first time they let us down, or dropping a class when it becomes boring.

Some times it’s hard to tell the difference between Wise Mind and Emotion Mind. Both have a strong sense of conviction, i.e., “I just know it,” “I feel it in my gut.” As a rule of thumb, if you’re experiencing a strong emotion, it’s probably Emotion Mind, not Wise Mind.

The pandemic can lead to extreme decisions driven by fear and burn out. So, before you decide to make a momentous life decision like quitting your job or moving to another state, take time to ask yourself what state of mind you’re in.

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