Coping Skills — Wise Mind

Wise Mind is a concept from Marsha Linehan, the developer of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). From the first time I read about it, I liked Wise Mind. It is balanced, it does not glorify logic over emotion, it validates both thinking and feeling, and it is especially good for anyone who tends toward black and white thinking.

This is a common thinking error, whether it’s called “black and white,” “either/or,” or “going to extremes.” It means looking at people, events, even yourself in a two-valued way, allowing no gray, no in-between, no “this and that.”

Wise Mind was very hard for me to grasp and infinitely harder to practice. I spent my life before age 30 bouncing between Rational Mind and Emotion Mind, not even knowing what I was doing. Then after I read the DBT Skills Workbook I recognized what I was doing but I could not stop it.  Over time I learned to achieve Wise Mind occasionally, then often, then frequently. The key was to practice it consciously when I wasn’t under stress, when I wasn’t overwhelmed with emotion, but I could express emotion appropriately.

Achieving Wise Mind means acknowledging the role of rational, logical thinking and the role of emotion at the same time. If I am using logic, perhaps by making a list of pros and cons, and I notice unpleasant feelings in my body (stomach ache, headache, etc.) but I’m not ill, I need to open myself to emotions and find out what I’m feeling along with the logic. Most importantly, I do not judge myself for the feelings!

Likewise, when I feel out of control emotionally, I know that I’ve lost Rational Mind somewhere. I can regain it by engaging in tasks such as objectively describing what I see or hear around me, pausing for a moment to breathe deeply, even counting or thinking of multiplication tables. The last ones may seem silly, but they work! Emotion Mind doesn’t do math, lol.

Is it always bad to be more in one mind or the other? No. There are many times — for example, taking a test on history or math — when it is best to be 90% rational mind and only 10% emotion. Likewise, sometimes the opposite is best, such as during a romantic dinner or perhaps a funeral. Wise Mind is balanced even with exceptions!

7 thoughts on “Coping Skills — Wise Mind

  1. I’ve been interested in and the cognitive therapy too. My therapist has mentioned something about them in passing but I can’t get her down to actually do anything anymore. I guess she’s getting tired of me. I ‘ve been with her for about 10 Hey can I e-mail you about something I really don’t want to put it in a comment or anything. my email addy is If you get a chance and don’t mind, I would love to get your email and talk to you about something mental health related.

  2. I somewhat recently started cognitive therapy and I was skeptical at first but now I swear by it. It’s helped me take charge on so many things, or at least in others helped me realize that I was living patterns that conflicted with all sides of my mind. That whole vicious circle thing.

    From a broader perspective, I believe the rational mind HAS to win over the emotional one in most cases but there are also opportunities for the two to co-exist. That’s not an easy nut to crack, for sure.

  3. Pingback: Reviewing Mindfulness Concepts | The Bipolar Dance

  4. Pingback: Reviewing Distress Tolerance Skills | The Bipolar Dance

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