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DBT Skills: Wise Mind

This post will talk about the Wise Mind Skill. This is a mindfulness skill.

The goal of this skill is to balance your emotional mind and your reasoning mind. We tend to get stuck on one extreme end of the spectrum. We might make decisions based purely on our emotions and react on our first instinct. We might make decisions on a purely rational basis, considering only facts, and disregard our emotions completely.

Each of these can cause their own problems. Making decisions based on only emotion can lead to hurting yourself and/or someone else. Disregarding our emotions usually just leads to burying them, which tends to lead to them surfacing in other ways that can make things harder.

This skill can be very useful when you are feeling hurt or frustrated about something a partner or friend said. It can also be helpful when someone has done something to unintentionally upset you (which they may not even realize has upset you). It may be useful when you think you have clearly explained something to someone and they do not seem to understand, or have taken a different meaning from it. It also can be good to use when you are feeling an emotional reaction to someone for reasons that are not caused by them (such as something that happened earlier that day or them doing something in a similar way to a different person who you have an emotional reaction to thinking about).

Here are some questions you might ask yourself:

What is the problem that’s on my mind?

Example 1: My partner and I had a miscommunication.

Example 2: Someone I live with (roommate, partner, etc) asked me to do a chore I don’t like doing.

What do I feel like doing?

Example 1: I feel like breaking up with them, or yelling at them, or saying mean things to them.

Example 2: I feel like snapping at them that I’m busy, or yelling at them to do it themselves, or saying something about why I shouldn’t have to or they don’t deserve me doing it.

What feeling is this urge representing?

Example 1: This urge is representing me feeling insecure.

Example 2: This urge is representing me feeling overwhelmed.

What are other ways to meet my emotional needs?

Example 1 & 2: Using my coping skills. (This varies person to person, for some this might be journaling, going for a walk, re-reading text messages where they've told you they love you, etc).

What is the rational/logical thing to do?

Example 1: The rational thing to do is to realize it’s a miscommunication and simply move on.

Example 2: The rational thing to do is to just do what I’ve been asked to do.

What am I choosing to do? (Should take into account rational consequences/benefits, but should also honour feelings.)

Example 1: I am going to talk to my partner about why I’m feeling insecure and ask for reassurance in a healthy way.

Example 2: I am going to talk to the person I live with about why I don’t like doing that thing. Maybe once I have been able to talk through why I don’t like it, I will find it easier because I will feel more heard. It’s very possible we can figure out what they can do to make it easier for me or if there’s a way they can do it instead - maybe I can take over something else they have been doing. Perhaps there is a different form of compromise/solution that we can figure out together.

When we are upset, we often have a first instinct to react in a purely emotional way, which can cause harm to ourselves or others. When we see how we are causing pain with these reactions, many of us respond by trying to shut out the emotions and respond in purely rational ways. Using the Wise Mind Skill is about using reason to deal with these needs and reactions in healthier ways than might be our first instinct, while still letting our emotions out and addressing them instead of burying them.

Here is a printable worksheet with the example questions that are above.

Wise Mind
Download PDF • 2.51MB

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