It’s funny how easily it happens. We get into arguments, we have a challenge in life, we have to make a decision…and we go to our automatic way of thinking. We all have our own way of approaching a conflict or a decision-making process. But most of us are not aware of just how damaging our automatic way of thinking can be.
In the DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) world they talk about the different types of minds or ways of thinking that we can fall into.
In my Atlanta counseling office I find myself teaching this concept to help people begin to analyze how they are approaching things. I’ve seen these DBT “minds” graphed as circles.
The first circle is the rational mind or reasoning mind. This mind is about facts. It’s about numbers. It’s about being rational. People who settle in this way of thinking tend to rationalize situations, and they can often have difficulties connecting emotionally during the process.
The second circle is the emotional mind. This way of thinking is all about the emotions. We feel a certain way so it must be true. There are heightened emotions involved in this way of thinking, and emotions dictate decisions.
The problem with these two types of thinking are that they are extreme. They fail to merge with each other. And because of this, using these forms of thinking on their own can cause major consequences. Think about this example couple. He’s super rational, analytical, and unemotional. She’s highly emotional, and tends to cry easily. They have a disagreement about how the children should be held accountable for chores. He thinks every time the children don’t take care of a chore they should receive a consequence. Every single time. There is no grey area. But that means even if the kids are sick they should still be punished which he realizes made his kid even more sick the other day. She on the other hand doesn’t think this way. She likes to feel it out. Sometimes she’s really angry and she gives them consequences, other times she feels bad for them and doesn’t. But she realizes that these times aren’t necessarily always productive and the children don’t take her seriously. But, she feels like her way is better than her husbands. She felt bad for her daughter who was sick the other day, and he wanted to give her daughter a consequence. These two sound like they’re struggling.
Now, let’s look at the third circle. This mind is called the wise mind. I teach my Atlanta counseling clients that this way of thinking is a convergence of rational and emotional. It takes into account the dynamics of being human. It takes into account feelings and facts, and makes wise decisions based on what is happening in the moment. It’s important to note, that it’s beneficial to suspend judgment when considering these ways of thinking. Being more emotional or more logical is neither right or wrong. It’s just that using the wise mind tends to be more effective overall.
It can be difficult for my Atlanta counseling clients when they tend to analyze and rationalize, and they’re asked to get in touch with their emotions. But usually by the time they’ve reached my office they’ve noticed that their lack of paying attention to emotions is causing them anxiety or it’s causing them problems in their relationships.
The same is true for my Atlanta counseling clients who tend to live in their emotions. It’s so hard for them to act differently than what their feelings tell them. But, they realize sometimes their emotions lead them astray.
I like to encourage my clients to blend the two ways of thinking, honoring both, and finding a wise way to approach their decisions, conflicts, and issues.