Week 01: Gain strength through

Week 04: Master the art of social interactions

Week 05: Hold tight and act with intention

Week 06: Maintain your gains and stay well

The three states of mind

DBT presents three different ‘states of mind’ that we can operate out of. These are 1) reasonable mind, 2) emotion mind, and 3) wise mind. Each of these states of mind is associated with a different way of thinking about and approaching various situations and challenges in life. Below we discuss each state of mind and how this concept relates to both mindfulness and social anxiety. 

Reasonable (‘cool’) mind
  • Logical and rational
  • Planful and practical
  • Attends to facts
  • Ignores emotion

In reasonable mind, we view things rationally and pay attention to facts, reason, pragmatics and past experience. How we feel and what’s important to us in the situation are not factored in. You may be in reasonable mind if you’re feeling emotionless and detached from a situation, or if you find yourself getting caught up in planning and research.

Emotion (‘hot’) mind
  • Driven by emotions and urges
  • Discounts reason and logic
  • Facts are distorted to fit mood state

In emotion mind, we are overcome by intense emotion and find it difficult to think clearly and logically. You may notice the facts but find yourself discounting or distorting them based on how you feel. You may be in emotion mind if you find it hard to stay unbiased and you engage in behaviours that you later regret. 

Wise mind 
  • Balances reasonable and emotion mind
  • Involves a sense of ‘intuition’ 
  • Requires mindfulness skills 

Wise mind is where reasonable and emotion mind overlap. In wise mind, we simultaneously take into account both the facts and how we feel about the situation. Through wise mind, we can access our inner wisdom and intuition to act in ways that are both reasonable and true to ourselves. This is considered the most helpful state of mind, as it is practical and sensitive to how we feel. We use mindfulness skills as a way of balancing reasonable and emotion mind to get us to wise mind.

A case example:

To demonstrate how this concept applies to social anxiety, let’s consider the following example. Sally has social anxiety and finds all social situations highly distressing. She is trying to push herself to make new friends and is considering inviting some people from work to her place for dinner. Sally is extremely nervous about this and fears that she will be rejected. Let’s look at Sally’s options and how they fit with the above states of mind. 

Reasonable mind: Sally could ignore her fear and anxiety, tell herself to ‘pull it together’, and approach a large group of colleagues to publicly announce her plans and see who’s interested, after all, this is the most time efficient approach.

Emotion mind: Sally could become so consumed by her anxiety that she disregards her plans to make new friends altogether. She finds it difficult to think clearly and accurately weigh up the pros and cons of her options. Sally avoids approaching her colleagues and tells herself that they “wouldn’t want to waste their time with me anyway”

Wise mind: Sally could remind herself of her goal to make new friends and the reasons why this is important to her. She could also acknowledge her anxiety and offer herself some compassion, this is a big step after all. Sally decides that she will start by approaching one or two colleagues with whom she feels more comfortable. She tells herself that starting small is ok, she can build up to the bigger tasks over time. 

Can you think of your own examples of being in each of the states of mind? If you were in reasonable or emotion mind, how might it have helped to enter wise mind in that particular situation?