Abstract illustration of a young man's face split into three parts

The Three States of Mind


Decisions are made constantly. They may be as important as the person you choose to marry or as simple as what to eat. Regardless of what the decision is, you need to be mindful of the thought process utilized when coming to those decisions.

Dialectical behavioral therapy teaches people about the three states of mind:  the emotional mind, the reasonable mind and the wise mind. In this post I will call these states of mind:

  1. Emotional Mind
  2. Intellectual Mind
  3. Sound Mind

Different decisions require access to different states of mind.

The emotional mind is used when decisions are made purely based on feelings. For example, consider a person who is in a heated argument with their significant other and decides to suddenly punch a wall in order to release their frustration. The decision to punch the wall was made impulsively based on feelings.

The intellectual mind refers to the facts. It’s usually supported by evidence and sometimes, scientific knowledge. Consider a situation where your significant other is sick with the flu. Your intellectual mind knows that there is a high likelihood that he or she is contagious. Therefore you choose not to get too close.

Your sound mind is the blend of your emotional mind and your intellectual mind. It refers to times when you make decisions based on both facts and feelings. For example, consider if you are looking for a job and have the opportunity to make an enormous salary doing something you detest; or, make less money doing something you love. You may choose the later because although you desire money, on balance, you believe that being happy at work is more valuable to you.

Different decisions require different states of mind. There are times when it’s appropriate to be in an emotional mind, intellectual mind and a sound mind.

To help decide which mind is appropriate to access at a given time, it may be helpful to rate on a scale from 1-10 how important a given decision is. Often, but not always, important decisions are best made in sound mind. Knowing about different states of mind can assist the decision making process.


Explore Categories