The 3 Minds

The 3 Minds: Emotional, Rational, and Wise

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If you’re anything like me, you may have noticed that the mind often seems to consist of different “selves.” Typically, when I’m engaged in fairly neutral activities (driving to work, grocery shopping, brushing my teeth), I will think in a fairly rational manner. Other times, the “Emotional Mind” kicks in and I will act out of fear, excitement, sadness, anger, and joy.

Not surprisingly, these two aspects of ourselves – the Emotional mind and Rational mind – are often in conflict.

Emotional Mind

There are many examples in which the emotional mind can become “triggered”:

  • During an argument with a spouse
  • When fighting the urge to use drugs / alcohol
  • Procrastinating various tasks (exercise, responding to an email, changing the oil in the car, cleaning the house)
  • Certain people, places, or events

These scenarios may carry an emotional weight with them that triggers various responses: dread, anger, sadness, anxiety, etc. For this reason, it can be difficult to maintain an impartial, reasonable mindset when in this state.

Rational Mind

The Rational Mind, on the other hand, bases its decisions on facts, evidence, and what worked in the past. Some situations that may facilitate the Rational Mind include:

  • Deciding what to eat for dinner
  • Driving to work
  • Planning an event or social gathering
  • Learning a new language
  • Fixing a leaky faucet

These activities are more likely to foster a straightforward, logical, kind of thinking.

It should be noted that situations which bring about the Emotional Mind and Rational Mind can vary tremendously between individuals. For example, deciding what to eat for dinner could be hijacked by the Emotional Mind in a person who is trying to cut back on unhealthy foods. Context and individual differences are crucial here.

Wise Mind

The ideal state is what is called “Wise Mind.” In this state, an individual takes into account BOTH their Rational and Emotional minds when making decisions and taking action.

Rather than allowing the Rational Mind to wag its authoritarian finger at the sensitive, Emotional Mind, the Wise Mind seeks to bridge the gap between the two and encourage a sense of harmony and acceptance.

The Wise Mind is able to honor and accept emotions, while taking into account the facts, and working to act in a manner that is reasonable. Consider the following infographic:

The 3 Minds Image

Another way to conceptualize the 3 Minds, is to image how they might form a dialoug with one another:

Rational Mind: You should get out of bed and go to the gym. You have a lot of stuff to do today.

Emotional Mind: I don’t want to do that! You’re stressing me out!

Wise Mind: I can be stressed about this AND go to the gym anyways. Once I get that workout in, I will feel better.

Notice how, in this example, the Rational Mind is telling the Emotional Mind what to do, whereas the wise mind is acknowledging the Emotional Minds concerns, while soothing it in a reasonable way.

For the next blog post, we will dive in a little deeper regarding these Should Statements.

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Feature - The 3 Minds

Further Reading

Over To You

What kinds of experiences bring out your inner “rational” and “emotional” minds? How strong is your Wise Mind?

James Voss, MA, LMHCA

[email protected]

James is a mental health counselor, specializing in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and substance use related issues. James emphasizes the therapeutic relationship with his clients and uses a wide range of techniques to help reduce distress and foster psychological flexibility.

1 Comment
  • Hq

    June 9, 2019at5:47 am Reply

    When making desions I began fighting with my emotions.
    Should I go here, or there, do this or that. I will be going back and forth between emotional, rational and wise, until after days or weeks even months before choosing what’s best.
    Why do I go through all that torment,and stressful situation before making the wiser decision?

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