|Wise Mind Handout Credit: Marsha Linehan|
Here’s what it’s all about:
Suppose we have two states of mind: The Emotional Mind and the Reasonable Mind. If we lived in the Emotional Mind all of the time (and I tend to spend a lot of my time there), we can get into a lot of trouble. If we spend all of our time in the Reasonable Mind, we’d be quite boring and emotionless. (Think of character Data on Star Trek.)
In DBT, we are told that somewhere in the middle is the Wise Mind – a balanced combination of the two minds.
The section of class where we covered this the most was Mindfulness.
I am feeling particularly anxious and fearful. Because of that, my appetite is lacking. Remember, everything has a cause. Because I have fearful past memories that are being triggered around eating, lack of food, and losing weight, what other people might see as an ordinary lack of appetite after having a stomach bug and going through anxiety – as something that will pass and the appetite will come back, I end up seeing as a very scary, catastrophic experience.
I decided to become mindful and noticed that I was operating almost entirely from the Emotional Mind:
I am scared. (feeling)
I am afraid. (feeling)
I am anxious. (feeling)
This is very bad. (judgment)
This is dangerous. (thought)
I am in danger. (thought)
The first step into entering Wise Mind was to just notice what was going on in my head: feelings, judgments, and thoughts, and not giving any of them too much credit. This alone started to calm me down. I reminded myself that I am not my feelings and that judgments and thoughts aren’t necessarily TRUTH.
I did something that is difficult for us borderlines – I remembered other times when I have been through this and emerged feeling well. I am getting better at doing this. I think it just takes dedicated practice.
I thought about the reasons I might be having those feelings: quitting/losing job next week (with thoughts about loss of structure and income), long-term relationship in peril (with feelings of guilt, remorse, and fears of abandonment and rejection), physical health has been suffering lately (stomach bug, difficulty sleeping, lack of exercise, and now the lack of appetite), and I realized that I had legitimate reasons to have emotional reactions. I also realized that being scared, afraid, and anxious won’t help with any of these except to motivate me to continue to get help and stay on track with plans to keep my mood and health stable.
Judging the situation as “bad” isn’t helpful either. While I also wouldn’t label it as “good,” it just is. It is the fact of the matter – the present situation…so I can go ahead and give it a negative label to make myself feel worse, or I can say, “I recognize this situation. It’s uncomfortable. I sense I’d rather not be experiencing this right now. But, I am experiencing it. This is not good or bad. This is my present experience.”
As far as the thoughts of this being dangerous – sure it would be if I didn’t care, made no effort to take care of myself, or wasn’t reaching out for help. But, I remind myself that I do care. I am doing the best I can to take care of myself right now with the tools that I have. I have reached out and will be in an intensive therapy program next week to get some in-depth help with getting back on and staying on track. So, actually, I am not in any real danger.
Do you see how just breaking things down, identifying them, and being reasonable about each item can help you feel better and deal with things more clearly? I feel like this exercise was very therapeutic for me, and I hope you also learned something or got something of value out of my sharing it.
Have you ever heard of the Wise Mind/Emotional Mind model before? Have you used it to help you through a difficult situation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.