The human mind is so incredibly complex that researchers and scholars continuously learn more about it every day. One type of therapy called Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) that seeks to explain different types of human thought, behavior, and action uses the idea of a rational/reasonable, emotional/anxious, and wise mind. The wise mind is a balance and acknowledgment of both the rational and emotional mind, containing the whole picture. If you are operating from a mainly rational or emotional mind only, it can lead to experiences and thoughts being overlooked or ignored.
The Rational Mind
The rational mind is primarily driven by logic, research, intellect, reasoning, and facts. The rational mind may ignore emotions and look at what makes the most logical sense in any given situation. The rational mind often compares the current experience one is enduring with past ones and takes time to think of and create a plan. The rational mind may weigh the pros and cons of a situation, yet those operating primarily in this mindset may feel a sense of detachment or numbness in a situation. An example of utilizing a rational mindset would be choosing to not go out to dinner with a friend they haven’t seen lately in order to save money and stick to their budget.
The Emotional Mind
Emotions, senses, and feelings primarily drive the emotional mindset. The emotional mind takes into account emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger, or stress, and things that feel good to the individual. Due to a period of heightened emotions, the logical mind may become harder to reach or may be disregarded entirely. The emotional mindset is known to act impulsively and can be very reactive or defensive of its actions. An example of operating within an emotional mindset would be saying yes to going out to dinner with a friend without thinking of the financial strain, or binging on a pint of ice cream due to a recent breakup, job loss, or life stress.
The Wise Mind
The wise mind is a balanced blend between the rational and emotional mind that looks to honor and respect both mindsets. The wise mind takes into account logic and emotions, striving to reach a decision, behavior, thought, or action that is in the best interest of the individual overall. The wise mindset often takes more time than the rational or emotional mind, since it considers both perspectives, and looks to respect and honor feelings while also acting logically. An example of functioning from a wise mindset would be saying yes to going out to dinner with a friend, due to your desire to see them and catch up, yet looking for a cheaper restaurant or offering to look at other ways to cut back on spending that week. Another example of practicing using a wise mindset would be practicing work-life balance. If you have a difficult task at hand, your rational mind may say: “This is important. Get it done as soon as possible.” Your emotional mind may say: “This is making me anxious. I don’t want to do this.” Your wise mind would look to blend the two and say “This is important yet difficult. I’m going to allow myself a ten-minute break to recharge and take care of myself, while also having a deadline on when I need to get back to work.”
Note: Feel free to label your emotional mind, or any of the other minds, something different if this doesn’t work for you - some have labeled their emotional mind their ‘anxious mind’ or given it a human name to further separate it from themselves.
All of us are capable of acknowledging and working with our rational, emotional, and wise minds. Creating a balance between the rational and emotional mindsets takes time, yet striving to utilize the wise mindset more often will allow individuals to honor their individual experiences and feelings while also accounting for logic and reasoning.
Written by Carolyn Simon, MS, LPC