What is ‘Wise Mind’?

by Bianca VonBank, LMFT

What is 'Wise Mind'? Have you ever had a moment where you felt a sense of calm and knew what you needed to do or what was going to be best and you were able to act from that place? Kind of like what Oprah calls an “Ah-ha moment”? Or, have you ever been in the middle of a chaotic situation and instead of getting swept up in emotion you were somehow able to focus and be effective in that moment? If you have, you were in your Wise Mind!

What is ‘Wise Mind’?

The concept of Wise Mind was created by Dr. Marsha Linehan and is one of the core components of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

Wise Mind is one of the three mind states that Marsha describes in this treatment, which also includes Emotion Mind and Reasonable Mind. Reasonable Mind is often thought of as logical and fact-based. Some examples of Reasonable Mind include creating a budget, baking a recipe from scratch, or figuring out a subway route. Reasonable Mind does not take into account emotion.

Emotion Mind is ruled by emotions. It is often impulsive and acted upon due to intense feelings and a sense of urgency. Some examples of Emotion Mind could be saying something hurtful to a loved one in the heat of the moment, using drugs, or falling in love. Emotion Mind does not take into account logic or reason.

The synthesis of the two or the balance of both is Wise Mind. Wise Mind is our place of inner wisdom or intuitive knowing. Reason and emotion come together as a whole. We make better, more balanced choices when we make them from Wise Mind. Some examples of Wise Mind could include taking a timeout in the middle of a fight to avoid saying something you don’t mean, following your gut and not walking in a dark alley at night, or finding time to meditate during a stressful workday and taking care of yourself. In DBT, it’s assumed that everyone is capable of accessing this inner wisdom.

Uncover Your Wise Mind

So… the good news is everyone has a Wise Mind, you just have to learn how to uncover it! One of the ways to access this wisdom is through regulating your emotions and practicing mindfulness. As a way to practice getting in touch with your Wise Mind try this mindfulness exercise:

Set a timer for 3 minutes (I love using thisĀ one on my iPhone). Take a few deep breaths and notice how you feel as you breathe. Simply just notice that you are breathing!

Next, try breathing normally and notice where you feel the sensations of breath in your body. Take a moment to find where you feel the breath most predominantly. You may notice it at your stomach as it goes in and out, at the chest as the ribs rise and fall, or you might feel the air moving in and out of your nose. Continue to focus on the breath for the entire 3 minutes. If you get distracted (which you will – but it’s ok – it just means you are human!) just simply come back to your breath.

Want to learn more about engaging your Wise Mind, regulating your emotions, and practicing mindfulness? Join Bianca’s weekly DBT skills group!

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