Wise Mind


The central concept of DBT is mindfulness. The concept of mindfulness comes from both Western and especially Eastern (Zen) meditation and spiritual practices.

Mindfulness means being in the present, being aware of what is happening and what you are doing, observing what is going on, participating fully in what is going on around you. It is a
skill that is practiced and learned throughout DBT, little bit by little bit.  By learning to live in the present, you can have a life that is more in tune with your feelings and your activities.

The three primary states of mind are:

  • Reasonable Mind
  • Emotion Mind
  • Wise Mind

Wise Mind is that place where reasonable mind and emotion mind overlap.  It is the integration of emotion mind and reasonable mind.

Linehan states, "Wise mind is that part of each person that can know and experience truth. It is where the person knows something to be true or valid. It is almost always quiet, It has a certain peace. It is where the person knows something in a centered way."

I personally have felt wise mind when I have made a decision that I absolutely know is the right thing to do. I know I am in wise mind because I don't have any sense of dread or anxiety. I just "know" I am doing the right thing. There is absolutely no doubt in what I am doing.

To continue Linehan's explanation..." Wise mind is like having a heart, everyone has one, whether they experience it or not."

Linehan uses the following metaphor which she repeats at times.

'Wise mind is like a deep well in the ground. The water at the bottom of the well, the entire underground ocean is wise mind. But on the way down there are often trap doors that impede progress. Sometimes the trap doors are so cleverly built that you believe there is no water at the bottom of the well. The trap door may look like the bottom of the well. Perhaps it is locked and you need a key. Perhaps it is nailed shut and you need a hammer, or it is glued shut and you need a chisel."

I have had the experience in my DBT skills group where someone has described an experience that they have had and how it related to a certain behavior. In listening to them I have had that "Aha" moment were I go "Yes, I have experienced that too. So that's why I do that."

Wise mind is sometimes experienced in the center of the body ( belly) or in the center of the head, or between the eyes. Sometimes a person can find it by following the breath in and out.

My wise mind is experienced in my belly. I "feel" it in my "gut" when I know that I am in wise mind.