Three Mind Practices (emotions, logic, wisdom)

Mindfulness and Wise Mind

Balanced Living


In the pursuit of mental and emotional well-being, mindfulness stands out as a beacon of hope and balance. Its significance is especially pronounced in the context of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), where the concept of “Wise Mind” is central to understanding and improving our mental processes. This article delves into the essence of the emotional and reasonable minds, the emergence of the wise mind, and the neuroscience underpinning this transformative approach to living fully in the present moment.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy and the Wise Mind

Developed by psychologist Marsha M. Linehan, DBT integrates cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness principles derived from Buddhist traditions. The core of this therapy lies in the dialectical process – the reconciliation of opposites – which acknowledges the need for balance between acceptance and change.

Emotional Mind

The “Emotional Mind” is characterized by feelings, emotions, and moods that can be powerful and overwhelming. It’s a state where decisions are made based on how one feels rather than what may be logical or rational. This domain is associated with the limbic system, a complex set of structures in the brain responsible for our emotional responses, long-term memory, and behavior.

Reasonable Mind

In contrast, the “Reasonable Mind” is driven by facts, logic, and reason. It’s the aspect of our consciousness that values planning, evidence, and pragmatism over the ebb and flow of emotions. Neuroscientifically, the reasonable mind is often associated with the prefrontal cortex – the cerebral cortex covering the front part of the frontal lobe. This brain region is implicated in complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision-making, and moderating social behavior.

Wise Mind: The Synthesis

“Wise Mind” is the synthesis of emotional and reasonable minds. It is an integrated state where one can acknowledge and respect their feelings while simultaneously recognizing and assessing factual evidence and logical reasoning. Wise mind is not simply about balance but about the deep intuition that emerges when one is fully aware and attuned to the current moment and the self.

Living in the Present: The Power of Mindfulness

Mindfulness, the practice of being fully present and engaged in the now, without judgment or distraction, is foundational to achieving a state of wise mind. It’s a mental state of awareness, focus, openness, and receptivity to whatever is happening at the moment.

Benefits of Mindfulness

  • Emotional Regulation: Mindfulness facilitates a greater capacity for emotional regulation, helping individuals to experience their emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them.
  • Stress Reduction: Engaging in mindfulness can reduce stress by shifting focus away from ruminations on the past or worries about the future.
  • Increased Focus and Clarity: Mindfulness encourages a heightened state of focus, allowing for clearer thinking and decision-making.
  • Enhanced Resilience: Regular mindfulness practice can lead to increased resilience, enabling individuals to recover more quickly from adverse events.

Neuroscience Behind Mindfulness and Wise Mind

The interplay between the emotional and reasonable minds is more than a psychological construct; it is reflected in our brain’s architecture and functioning. The limbic system, with its amygdala and hippocampus, processes emotions and can often hijack our responses during high-stress or emotional events. Meanwhile, the prefrontal cortex is involved in planning complex cognitive behavior and moderating social behavior, making it pivotal for what we call the reasonable mind.

Neuroplasticity: Training the Brain

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Mindfulness practices, by encouraging a state of wise mind, can leverage neuroplasticity to help train the brain to more effectively transition between the emotional and reasonable minds. With practice, individuals can rewire their brains to access the wise mind more readily, leading to a more balanced, reflective, and fulfilling life.

Surveying the 3 States of Mind

People seeking therapy or coaching services often struggle because the reactions of highly emotional states can get them into trouble, negative consequences. On the other hand, there are people who don’t struggle at all with emotion regulation. They don’t seem to be impacted by strong emotions and often act from a place of logic and reason.

We have observed the natural human tendency to operate from a place of logic and reason on the one hand and strong emotions on the other. The problem is that when you’re viewing any situation through either the lens of logic or the lens of strong emotions, you miss out on a lot of nuance and information. It can feel cold and robotic to view events and relationships through nothing but facts, logic, and rational thought. Conversely, life can feel chaotic and disorganized if seen only through the perspective of emotions. Wanting to help people, the concept of states of mind can be simplified by saying that people are either acting from their emotion mind or their rational mind.

It is, however, the third state of mind that is key. We call this state of mind “wise mind” and recognize that we all have wise mind whether we realize it or not. When you act from your wise mind, you’re taking a more deliberate and contemplative approach to decision-making; that is, you’re using all of the mind’s experiences be they emotions, rational thinking, intuition, or goals — to direct you to a course of action. You don’t have to be aware of having wise mind to actually have it. However, once you’re aware, you’ll be capable of experiencing wise mind.

Again, awareness isn’t the initial key to wise mind. This is true of many things. For instance, just because you aren’t aware that you have a stomach or a kidney right now does not mean that your stomach and kidney do not exist and are not functioning. And so wise mind is there, and by practicing mindfulness, you can recognize it and use its power to not only reduce suffering but also enhance so many aspects of your life.


Embracing the concept of “Wise Mind” within DBT provides a powerful framework for understanding and improving mental health. The cultivation of a wise mind state through mindfulness not only harmonizes our emotional and logical selves but also aligns with our neurological functioning, promoting a holistic sense of well-being. As we navigate the complexities of life, the wise mind offers a compass for balance, enabling us to live more fully in the present moment. Through mindfulness practice, we train our brains for better emotional regulation, reduced stress, enhanced focus, and resilience, ultimately shaping a life marked by wisdom and contentment.

In the landscape of mental health and wellness, mindfulness and the wise mind are not mere concepts but practices that can lead to profound changes in our brains and our lives. By fostering a balance between emotional depth and rational thought, we can navigate the intricate dance of human experience with grace and composure, fully engaging with the present in all its richness and possibility.

Copyright protected content:

In order to view the material in this section of the course, you must be a current or previous client of James Fitzgerald, MS. The content on this page has been adapted from DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition, by Marsha M. Linehan. Copyright 2015 by Marsha M. Linehan. Permission to use DBT content and materials is granted to purchasers of DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition, and DBT Skills Training Manual, Second Edition, for personal use and use with individual clients only.