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Chasing adventure & living mindfully while parenting through mental illness

DBT Skills For Parents: Wise Mind

DBT Skills For Parents: Wise Mind


Wise Mind is the most important DBT skill you will learn. All the other skills hinge upon making the attempt to access this space. Mindfulness is a component of accessing Wise Mind, but Wise Mind is a bit more than just being in the moment. Wise Mind takes Mindfulness into action and sets an intention for it. If you are living mindfully, your actions should be informed by that mindfulness.

What is Wise Mind?

Everybody's brain has two sides: the emotion side and the reason side. The Emotion Mind is passionate, spontaneous, and heated. The Reason Mind, on the other hand, is cool, measured, and slower. Often, those of us who experience extreme emotions swing between the two. We act with our extreme emotions, feel shame, deny our emotion mind, and idealized our reason mind, only until emotion mind explodes onto the scene again. I spent years in this cycle. I still catch myself there!

Wise Mind is the intersection point between your Emotion Mind and your Reason Mind. Wise Mind listens to the logic of Reason Mind while trying to satisfy the Emotion Mindy’s need for action.

Why Wise Mind Is Important For Parents

As parents, Wise Mind is even more of an ideal state. Our logic mind has a fantastic blueprint for how to raise children - there is so much research, we have access to it 24/7, and we should know exactly how to act cooly and calmly in any given situation. But Emotion Mind makes it hard. We are tired, our kids are throwing their raw emotions at us, and that brings our emotions on too. Reason Mind says act according to the plan; Emotion Mind says yell and lock yourself (or them!) in a closet.

Wise Mind says something in between. Wise Mind is the quiet voice that reminds you of the plan, but reminds you that it's okay to voice your feelings. It's the voice that, despite Reason Mind giving you the way you should act, sometimes tells you the best thing to do in fact is lock yourself in that room for a few minutes.

Finding Wise Mind

So how do we access this magical state? Well, just like it takes practice to meditate, it takes practice to access Wise Mind. Another way of thinking about WisMind is by thinking about it as accessing your intuition, a prayer state, or clarity. Finding Wise Mind is kind of like riding a bike - you only know how to do it once you practice.

Basically, to find Wise Mind, you need to cultivate a mindfulness practice. Practice being in the moment, and try to focus on viewing your emotions non-judgmentally. When you have an easier time being regularly mindful, try being mindful while trying to solve a problem. Ask yourself a question, and be mindful of your emotions as you come up with solutions. You will know you are in Wise Mind when you feel wise, when you feel calm and as if you are taking all sides, even unpleasant ones, into account.

Note: Wise Mind is not infallible! Don't worry about considering every single angle. You don't need to aim for perfection. You can still make mistakes based on decisions made in Wise Mind. And that is okay. lt is part of life to make mistakes. As a wise friend once said, if you make a mistake, say "Damnit!" and try again!

For more on Wise Mind, Mindfulness Muse has a great outline of exercises to help you practice finding your Wise Mind state. If you want to learn more on Wise Mind, DBT Self-Help has a great PDF.

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