It is now practically a cliche, and has been so ever since Howard Gardner published his work on the 7 different types of Intelligence, that we human beings possess multiple minds. Of which the ‘Rational Mind’ and ‘Emotional Mind’ are perhaps the most familiar.
I was thinking about this fact when one of my clients reminded me of the ‘Rational Mind – Emotional Mind – Wise Mind’ scheme which (I think) was first sketched by Marsha Linehan – the founder of Dialectical-Behaviour Therapy. DBT is the treatment of choice for Borderline Personality Disorder and in my view is a very powerful model indeed and I have great respect for Linehan’s work. The purpose of the model is to help people with Borderline Personality Disorder stay in ‘Wise Mind’, avoiding over-analytical thinking and ‘irrational’ emotions and retaining Mindfulness. This is a good strategy for people who are overwhelmed by anxiety, bad moods and tantrums but I think it is too negative about the Rational Mind and the Emotional Mind. It also leaves out ‘Bodymind’ – the real source of emotional intelligence.
So here is my own model:
Explaining the Model:
Starting with the box on the bottom left we can see the negative side of the Thinking Mind, which for convenience I call ‘Junkmind’. This is the source of all our mental health disorders and the crazy thinking which creates havoc with our lives. Spending too much time there will lead to what I have called the ‘Distressed Body’ (fallaciously known as ‘Stress’) on the bottom right. And if we don’t do anything about this distress then we might develop illnesses such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Medically Unexplained Pain along with other mysterious conditions. When the Body is in distress for too long then anxiety, clinical depression, and the symptoms of chronic illness will smother the emotional messages it is also sending us. For a description of how emotions actually work see my earlier blog post here.
To be healthy we have to stay in Focused Mind (middle left) while paying attention to the intelligence of the Emotional Body (middle right).
Focused Mind isn’t just about being rational. It is also about having the right focus of attention. Attention to things we can influence, rather than those we can do nothing about. Attention to solutions rather than problems and to goals rather than wishes. Attention to the facts rather than a fantasy about how things ought to be. Focused Mind stays in Present Moment Awareness and is open to messages from the Body.
While Thoughts are the means through which we organise our efforts, Emotions are the driving force through which we are impelled to make any effort at all. It is from there that we source our passion as well as the emotions that push us towards self-expression, self-protection, solidarity with our partners, families, friends and communities and the excitement that comes with success.
When Focused Mind joins forces with the Emotional Body we come very close to the Deep Self which I associate with what Abraham Maslow used to call ‘Self Actualisation’ – the primary drive towards becoming the best we can be. Staying at this level of Mind is a veery rewarding place to be with frequent moments of flow, moments of joy and excitement, and what Maslow calls ‘peak experiences’ – on which you can read more here.
“All the evidence that we have indicates that it is reasonable to assume in practically every human being, and certainly in almost every newborn baby, that there is an active will toward health, an impulse towards growth, or towards self-actualization.”