I was recently introduced to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). This therpeutic model, in part, utilizes the idea that the mind has three distinct states, a “reasonable mind,” an “emotional mind,” and a “wise mind,” as a mean’s of describing the driving forces behind a person’s thoughts and behaviors. How often we’ve heard someone say they made a decision with their head, and not their heart, or vice-versa. The head is the intellectual, or reasonable mind, while the heart is the emotional mind. Imagine if we made decisions from a place that balances between the two: the wise mind?
I’m familiar with spending the early part of my life making decisions from a purely emotional mind. I didn’t know any better. A great deal of my youth was spent reacting to my constantly shifting, and often dangerous environment. I endured many different adult caregivers, most of whom had far too much emotional baggage to properly consider my thoughts or feelings. When life comes at you faster than you can process what’s happening, you learn to respond emotionally, as there is little to no time available to plan a proper response. Unfortunately, as one grows older, constantly making decisions based on emotion leads one to indulge in impulsive actions with little regard for consequences.
As a young adult, I entered into a relationship no one thinking reasonably would have. I married my first wife because I took pity on her, and felt that our shared, flawed past was a good foundation for our partnership. I felt sorry for her for what she went through, and felt that based on my own traumatic childhood, I’d be able to help her heal from her wounded inner child. I was so wrong. She had issues that were beyond my capacity to deal with, and our relationship crashed tragically in just a few short years, costing me dearly both financially and emotionally.
In my teens, I sought earnestly for a way out of a difficult and stressful situation with my mother. My father had been a Jehovah’s Witness nearly all of my life, and I jumped at the opportunity to join him in his faith as a way of escaping a confusing and conflicted environment. It seemed the Jehovah’s Witnesses held all of the answers to the questions I’d been asking and had a purpose for my life already mapped out. It was a purely emotional decision, as I never thought about what would happen if I should ever decide to no longer believe in what the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach, nor did I even fully research their beliefs prior to joining. That highly charged, snap decision I made as a youth has resulted in me enduring many decades with no relationship with my father or sisters who remain active Jehovah’s Witnesses, not to mention the pain I endured when I lost many close friends as a result of my leaving the group.
I’ve learned more recently the value of slowing down, of focusing on the present. I no longer allow my past to act as an anchor, and I stopped worrying about the future. I understand that I cannot always control my environment, yet I can control how I respond to it. When making decisions I am now able recognize the importance of balancing an emotional response, which may be rooted in past experience, with a reasonable one, which may have a foundation in research or knowledge of facts. I am by no means an expert on this topic but have recognized the value of practicing this approach whenever I am called on to make decisions that will impact me far beyond the present moment.
Image courtesy of https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheet/wise-mind