Three States of Mind

I am on a roll so I am going to ‘roll’ right into the Three States of Mind from DBT. This is another introductory concept that I somehow think I forgot to give you as I have been navigating my own personal mess and needs here. More educational component this.

The Three States of Mind are not something esoteric or bizarre that you can only understand after a thorough initiation into some strange sect. They are actually pretty simple and I suspect that at one time or another you have been in each of the three of them. The three states are reasonable (or rational), emotional and wise.

Because this is supposed to just be a short post – better on the eyes, my dears – I am going to use an example that I used in class. Once more, real life Sue. God bless you.

I walk into a sale and there is a mechanical rabbit toy. It is cute and plush. When you push a button the ears go up and down and it sings a song. What do I say? “Isn’t that cute?! I want that rabbit!” That is the emotional mind. At the time I was 61 years old and I had absolutely no use for a toy rabbit. I would not want it in a few days but I wanted that rabbit – now! It was adorable.

“Isn’t that cute?! I want that rabbit!” says my emotional mind.

Who is heard from next? My reasonable (or rational) mind. “How totally ridiculous! It is a waste of money. What will you ever do with that thing?” Totally logical; right? Think Mr. Spock in your head.

“How totally ridiculous! It is a waste of money. What will you ever do with that thing?” says my rational mind.

“I don’t care! I want that rabbit! I want it!” Back to my emotional mind.

Now it is possible for this to go on for a long time. If I do not reach an agreement in the middle – a dialectic, remember? – there will be no peace in my head. I buy the rabbit and my reasonable mind has a field day.

I buy the rabbit and my reasonable mind has a field day ridiculing my emotional mind. If I don’t buy it, my emotional mind sulks.

Enter wise mind. Wise mind finds the middle ground. It finds the dialectic, the balance. Wise mind considers both sides and tries to make each of the other minds happy.

Three minds: reasonable, emotional and wise.
Three minds: reasonable, emotion and wise.

I must have walked away and returned to that rabbit three or four times before I came upon a wise mind solution. I would buy the rabbit but not keep it. My emotional mind would be happy because I got to play with the toy for a little bit. Emotional mind tends to be very short term in its thinking. I would then give it to a friend’s daughter and satisfy my reasonable mind. Toy rabbits should be owned by children. That is rational. Everyone is happy and there is peace in the kingdom.

The wise mind says to buy the rabbit and not keep it.

I buy the rabbit, play with it for a little bit (emotional mind is happy).

I then give it to a friend’s daughter (reasonable mind is happy). Toy rabbits should be owned by children. That is rational.

There will be times you want to be ruled by your emotional mind even though you know it is not a long-term or rational solution. There will be times you will be urged to do the “logical” thing and ignore your feelings. Remember there is a peaceful alternative where both your emotional and your reasonable mind can get some of what they each want. That place is in your wise mind. Try to go there often.

Next: CHACHACHANGES

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