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Making Decisions in Wise Mind: The If. . .Then Question








Making decisions in emotion mind often has very difficult consequences. Being in emotion mind means more than experiencing strong emotions, it means your emotions are controlling your thinking and actions. Demanding in anger a divorce (that you don’t really want), quitting a job you need when upset and you don’t have another one, and walking out on your best friend who you still care about are all examples of acting on your emotions in ways that hurt you.

When the situation that is upsetting is time limited, waiting until your emotions calm and you can think clearly is the best option. Sometimes though the emotional situation is ongoing and won’t pass quickly. Perhaps you have a chronic health issue or an ongoing issue with your friend or your boss. In those situations your emotions may interfere with clear thinking when you consider the problem. After using your most effective emotion regulation skills, and calming yourself physically, one way to help bring your reasonable or rational mind back on board to balance your emotion mind is to ask yourself the pros and cons of your decisions and the If. . .Then Question.

Jessica is unhappy with her job as a salesclerk in a craft store. In her early 30’s, she can’t pay her bills and has no hope of buying a house. In a committed relationship, she wants to marry and have children. She’s worried that time is passing.  She’s been worried about these concerns for several months. She decides to sell her homemade bracelets at the store where she works to increase her income but her boss said no. Jessica doesn’t see it as a problem, after all her bracelets are not like anything else sold in the store, so she shows her bracelets to customers when the boss isn’t around.

Jessica is excited about the possibility of making more money, but isn’t considering other possible consequences of her actions. Unfortunately this is a pattern for her. She’s lost four jobs and has blamed her bosses every time. To change this pattern, Jessica could ask herself the If. . .Then Question.  If she sells her bracelets at work when her boss has said no, then what is the likely outcome?  She could make more money, that is true. But her plan is also a risky one and she hasn’t considered the pros and cons or the possible consequences of her actions.

When you ask yourself the pros and cons you are likely to consider the facts about the present. It’s also important to consider the possible outcomes of your plan.  If. . .Then Question, push yourself to come up with as many consequences as possible, both positive and negative. Go further than the obvious answer or saying that the boss will never find out. Include the worst outcomes as well as the best. The question pushes you to consider whether your plan to reach your goal is realistic, the risks you would be taking and encourages you to engage your logical mind. Sometimes a plan that you think will get you closer to your goals will actually make the situation worse. Considering other possibilities that have fewer possible negative outcomes or less harmful outcomes may be important. Writing down the results to “If I do this, then this is a possible outcome,”

Wise mind is the synthesis of logical mind and emotion mind plus your intuitive knowing. Encouraging yourself to think more logically when you are emotion mind gives you the opportunity to get back to wisdom.

Note:  So excited that will launch in the next two weeks.  I hope this site can help support learning and applying skills for emotionally sensitive people.

Making Decisions in Wise Mind: The If. . .Then Question

Karyn Hall, PhD

Karyn Hall, Ph.D. is the owner/director of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Center in Houston, a DBT-Linehan Board of Certification, Certified Clinician, a RO DBT Approved Supervisor and Trainer and owner of, an online educational program. She is a trainer/consultant as well as a therapist and certified coach, author of The Emotionally Sensitive Person, SAVVY, Mindfulness Exercises for DBT Therapists, and co-author of The Power of Validation. Her podcast, The Emotionally Sensitive Person, is available on iTunes.

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APA Reference
Hall, K. (2015). Making Decisions in Wise Mind: The If. . .Then Question. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Jun 2015
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