In DBT™, you learn about three states of mind: Emotion mind, rational mind, and wise mind. Living your life in either emotion mind or rational mind is not effective. In emotion mind, your emotions are in control. They overwhelm you. To make good decisions, you need the information you get from your emotions, such as what you enjoy and what makes you happy, but being overwhelmed is not helpful. You also need facts such as how much something costs or how what is healthy. You may love chocolate ice cream, but it’s not reasonable or healthy to eat it for all three meals.
Wise mind integrates the information from emotion mind and rational mind, plus adds what you know from your intuition. Using information from your emotions as well as facts and paying attention to your intuition helps you make the best decisions you can. When you are making decisions and interacting with others, you want to be in wise mind.
Have you ever hurt someone you love by saying things in anger or because you were hurt or scared? This happens to everyone. You’re in emotion mind when that happens and you can’t think about the effect of your words and actions on others.
If you are an emotionally sensitive person who has difficulty regulating your emotions, then you’ve probably acted impulsively because of the emotions you were experiencing. You may have quit a job, left someone you love, or called someone names. Maybe you yelled at your children when you were frustrated. Maybe you’ve done destructive behaviors like end a relationship, quit a job, hurt yourself, or throw things.
If you are a family member or loved one of someone who struggles to manage their emotions effectively, then you’ve probably been angry and upset to the point you’ve said things you don’t mean or said the words in a way that you wouldn’t have if you hadn’t been so upset. When that happens, you’re in emotion mind.
Awareness of being in emotion mind is important. How do you know when you are in emotion mind? Do you feel hot, your muscles are tense, and you have extreme thoughts (usually evident by strong words such as hate, always, never and the like) or you have strong urges to run or fight? Do you feel a strong need to tell someone off? Those are some of the signs that you’re in emotion mind.
When you’re in emotion mind, it’s not productive to try to solve problems or resolve an issue. The priority is to lower your emotions so you can think more clearly. Take a break. Do vigorous exercise, spend time breathing, take a mindful walk, or go talk with a trusted friend who tells you the truth.
When you’re back in wise mind, then talk with the person you are upset with or make the decision that you need to make. You’ll be more likely to make decisions work for you in the long run.
Note: Join us at DBTSkillsCoaching.com. This month we’re talking about Distress Tolerance Skills–how to get through difficult situations without making them worse.