Have you ever flown off the handle and said or done things you later regret? (Almost all of us have.)

Or have you been so much “in your head”, focused on facts and figures that you lost contact with your feelings or those of other people? (Probably.)

In the first case, you were in what is called Emotion Mind, which is characterized by feelings, reactivity, impulsivity, and difficulty in remaining objective about a situation. In the latter example, the logic, intellectual, and emotionally detached traits of Rational Mind took over.

Both Emotion Mind and Rational Mind are valuable aspects of our being, so we wouldn’t want to eradicate either one. Our emotions alert us to our psychological needs and lend color to our lives. Who would want to miss out on the joys of love or laughter or even the release that a good cry can give? Or who would we be without the ability to experience awe in the presence of a beautiful sunset, or to connect with other people on a heart level?

Our capacity to be rational allows us to use facts, past experiences, and research in order to plan effectively. When using logic, we can remain calm in the midst of turmoil and provide a steadying influence on others.

However, when primarily in Emotion or Rational Mind, we aren’t availing ourselves of all of our strengths. One could say that we’re not operating on all cylinders, which can lead to increased discomfort down the line, perhaps through damaging an important relationship or not picking up on someone else’s (or our own) strong feelings and needs.

The alternative is to develop and strengthen your access to your Wise Mind. According to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, developed by Marsha Linehan, Wise Mind integrates Emotion Mind and Rational Mind, and adds intuitive knowing.

Traits of being in Wise Mind include:

  1. Sensing that you’ve had an “ah-ha” moment where you know what is true for you and what you need to do. Whether or not your inner direction points you in a way that may involve times of discomfort, you know that this is right for you.
  2. Being and acting in a courageous, willing, and confident manner.
  3. Respecting your emotions, reason, and gut feelings, and making decisions based on listening to all three. Wise Mind is your Committee Chair.
  4. The ability to make good decisions, meaning the best possible decision at the time, given your circumstances.
  5. The ability to step back and see the big picture.
  6. Psychological balance, also referred to as the middle path (as opposed to all-or-nothing thinking).
  7. Accessing and listening to your inner wisdom.
  8. A strong sense of self. This is not arrogance but rather a deep knowledge of your values and of your strengths and those areas which you’d like to develop further.
  9. Retaining your personal feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and choices when around other people, without acting defensively or shutting yourself off to others’ input.
  10. Emotional control. You’re able to have a full continuum of feelings but they do not take center stage. Even when experiencing a powerful emotion, you can have a sense of inner calm, knowing that your emotion does not define you nor dictate that you behave in a destructive or rash manner.
  11. Accepting the way things are at this moment and doing your best to deal with the situation effectively, while recognizing that you’re not entirely in control of the results.

Maybe it sounds far-fetched to you to even attain the state of Wise Mind, but the truth is that we all have this capacity. Even if you’ve lived for many years being dominated by your emotions or immersed entirely in “facts”, you can get in touch with and strengthen your Wise Mind.

Common ways to access Wise Mind:

Mindfulness meditation. Wise Mind is best accessed when we’re quiet internally and externally on a regular basis. Find a secluded spot where you’re unlikely to be disturbed, and assume an upright position with your feet on the ground. Close your eyes. Bring your attention to your breath. Try the following:

When you inhale, think “here”. When you exhale, think “now”.

When you inhale, think “wise”. When you exhale, think “mind”.

When you inhale, notice your breath. When you exhale, think “one”.

When you inhale, notice your breath. When you exhale, think “peace”.

Notice the pause between your inhalation and exhalation, and between your exhalation and your inhalation.

At the beginning of your meditation session, ask your Wise Mind a question about a situation you’ve been struggling to resolve. During your meditation, just stay alert to possible answers from your Wise Mind, but don’t force solutions. If no answer comes to you, not a problem. Just keep making yourself available to your own inner wisdom.

If thoughts pop up (and they will – we are thinking beings), label them by mentally saying to yourself, “I’m having the thought that…”

Whether you make this a daily ritual or meditate less often, every moment of practice will pay off.

If you’re struggling with emotional eating or problems with excessive drinking, you could substitute “clean mind” for Wise Mind, or “binge/alcoholic mind” for Emotion Mind. Feel free to tailor the terms to fit your situation.

At times in your life, when you feel inclined to take a certain action or say something, pause and ask yourself, “Is this Wise Mind?” Practice taking the time to listen to yourself and then take effective action – which sometimes entails refraining from specific behaviors.

Be patient with yourself – developing your connection with your Wise Mind takes time and effort, but it will be worth it when you begin noticing that you are able to live more from your core truths, rather than feeling like a victim of your emotions or obsessive thoughts.