A Wise Mind

November 11, 2023

Daniela Silva, Low Entropy Volunteer Writer

The practice of mindfulness entered my life through dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which is recommended for patients with borderline personality disorder, as in my case. The disorder is characterized by instability in relationships and emotions.

Mindfulness skills are developed throughout DBT treatment, as they are considered key elements for emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness and tolerance to discomfort in people with high emotional dysregulation. I can say for myself that my life is divided into two stages: before mindfulness and after mindfulness.

Before mindfulness, I used to have impulsive behaviors, which affected not only me but mainly my relationship with my husband and my family. My husband no longer knew how to act with me, as anything he said sounded like a trigger, leading our relationship to arguments and outbursts of anger. With my family, the problem was even worse: I had the dysfunctional belief that my father and my sister had to be sensitive to my emotions, temperament and crying spells. It was as if I wanted them to guess what I was thinking, and in this way they would be able to fill my existential emptiness and my soul pains. There were so many arguments that I ended up breaking up with my family.

In the mindfulness skills module of DBT, I learned to focus and breathe, and little by little, this calmed my explosive states of anger and taught me to stay focused on the present moment, thus reducing dysfunctional thoughts and anxious behaviors. In practice, I adopt a non-judgmental stance, doing one thing at a time. I do the following:

  • Observe

Observing is about observing a situation without making a value judgment about it, being able to experience something without labeling it as good or bad. The objective of this practice is for the mind to become still.

It’s like having a Teflon mind, where you are able to let experiences, feelings and thoughts quickly enter and leave it. It is related to observing each feeling growing and decreasing, like waves in the ocean, and being able to intimately observe what is happening through your senses.

  • Describe

Describing is simply putting words to a situation or experience, describing what is happening to yourself, and naming your feelings. For example, while taking a bath, name the sensations you are feeling in relation to the water (whether it is hot, cold or warm), the texture of the soap in contact with the skin, the scent of the shampoo (whether it is sweet or citrusy) and the power of the shower running through your body.

The objective of this practice is to establish a connection between you and the environment, encouraging you to remain in the present moment and describing situations more clearly so that you are able to modify them in a calmer and more efficient way.

  • Participate

Participating involves getting in touch with your experiences deeply, allowing yourself to be completely involved and without rumination. It’s getting fully into an activity and throwing yourself headlong into it.

We are often on autopilot with our activities without even paying attention to them. The objective of participating is precisely to develop self-awareness about our actions in order to feel more in control over them. So try choosing an activity from your routine, such as driving, washing the dishes or cooking, and keep your focus and concentration on it in order to participate in the task in detail.

It is important to highlight that to develop each mindfulness skill, it is necessary to act with a wise mind. And it is precisely the state of having a wise mind that mindfulness has taken me to.

Wise mind: the balance between two minds.

Wise mind is a term from DBT that brings together the logic of the reasonable mind and the sensitivity of the emotional mind into a serene state of spirit. A wise mind is a very useful skill, as it helps us make decisions with confidence and balance. It makes us reflect on how we think, feel and act when relating to and facing situations daily. But how does the wise mind work in practice? Is it possible to develop it step by step?

The truth is that the more we practice observing, describing and participating, the more we develop a wise mind. Thus, the wise mind is the one that comes closest to our intuition, as it understands the meaning of an experience without having to analyze it.

In my life, I have used my wise mind in the following situations:

  • Avoiding arguments by taking a deep breath and removing myself from the triggering place or situation.
  • In stressful situations, I take time to retreat and meditate, thus taking care of my physical and emotional health.
  • Accepting my family members as they are, instead of wanting to change them in order to please me.

In this way, the practice of mindfulness has transformed the way I relate to the environment, to myself and to relationships. It brought a renewal to my mind, making me a more serene, confident person with a better quality of life.

Currently, I am a less impulsive and more reflective person. I live fully, am focused on the present and seek to enjoy each experience in life in a unique and special way.

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