My clients hear me say this phrase all the time "Feelings are not facts, but they are important." It based off of one of my favorite concepts in Dialectical Behavior Therapy called “wise mind.” Wise mind can also be thought of as your intuition or your “gut feeling.” It’s the integration of reasonable or rational thinking with emotional thinking. I like to think of it as a Venn diagram where wise mind is the intersection of rational mind and emotional mind.
You may be thinking “Well, why would I want to pay attention to that?” If you are the type of person who spends a lot of time thinking logically, paying attention to your wise mind might seem silly. Why would you want to include emotions in your thought process? Or perhaps, you spend a lot of time letting your emotions drive the car. You may be thinking “How can my wise mind help me when these emotions feel out of control? I just want these emotions to quiet down!”
If you are a rational thinker, you may find that emotions come at you of nowhere. When you stop paying attention to emotions, they also tend to act like screaming children. The longer you ignore them, the louder they scream, and the more they scream in inappropriate situations (in the grocery store or an important meeting or…)
Other people find that emotions are not there even when they think they should be. The thing about emotions is that we cannot selectively numb them. Numbing (or not paying attention) to negative emotions often means you miss the positive ones too. I think this Hyperbole and a Half comic is a good example of what it feels like to be numb.
If you are an emotional thinker, it may feel like emotions are driving the bus, and you are just along for the ride. Unfortunately, emotions can be reckless drivers, leaving you feeling scared and nauseated at the end of the drive. It is no fun to end your day feeling exhausted by the emotional energy you have expended.
Where does this leave us? Neither emotion mind or rational/reasonable mind gives us the right balance. So, in comes the concept of wise mind. Wise mind allows us to drive the bus, putting thoughts and emotions in the backseat and us in the driver’s seat. We acknowledge that emotions are there and that they are important, but they are not facts. They are not the rational beliefs about the situation, which would also not give us the full picture. Both points of view are important. When we find wise mind, we make our best decisions.
Next week, I will talk about what wise mind actually looks like and how it leads to better decision making.