Sadness engulfed me. I lied down, eyes half-closed, and sighed repeatedly, barely audible. Colors faded into shades of grey, and every day noises became irritating. The television on upstairs, the ball bouncing against the sliding glass door, and the red-headed 4 year-old playing loudly in the yard behind ours soon became like mobsters taking sledge hammers to my knees or terrorists using pliers to separate the nails from my fingers.
BOOM! I startled when my daughter jumped off the couch upstairs. Minutes later, she sneezed causing my arms to jerk, my heart rate to elevate and my respirations to quicken. I was surprised at this visceral response and scared because I did not understand it.
The vicious cycle began as the anxiety worsened because I wanted to understand where this anxiety came from, what it was all about…what I was all about, but I didn’t know how to go about seeking these answers.
In addition, part of me was scared to find out, but I was more scared not to find out. I hated myself – a self that I didn’t even know. Doesn’t make much sense does it? I hated how I felt, but I have learned that feelings are not facts. What a concept! They come and go faster than a man at a brothel if…I stay in what Marsha Linehan calls the “Wise Mind.”
The wise mind takes subjective emotions (in my example above those include sadness, fear, anxiety, self-hate) and compares them with the objective facts of a situation or environment. It’s the internal versus the external. Are they cohesive? Does one make sense in light of the other? The wise mind answers these questions.
I used to oscillate between emotional mind and logical mind daily. My emotions did not match the facts of my surroundings. These every day noises were not a threat to me, so why was my body going into flight or fight mode? I knew my body was overreacting and this made me hate myself. What was wrong with me? Was I just a crazy freak? Was I too sensitive, as my mom always told me? Was I losing my mind? Was something horrible about to happen? Was it a premonition, a warning, a spiritual prophecy?
As you can see, my emotional mind had a strong hold on me. I had to spend more time in logical mind mode. I had to give my logical mind more ammunition to combat these irrational thoughts. I had to find out why I reacted this way before my wise mind could reconcile these discrepancies. I had to find out so that I could be at peace.
In sum, my emotional thoughts lead to anxiety, my logical thoughts lead to self-hate, and now, after a year of DBT (counseling)…on most days, my wise mind is able to acknowledge the logical mind’s truth while also soothing the emotional mind. I have to validate both. One is not better or worse than the other, good or bad, hot or cold, saint or sinner. They are what makes me human – intelligent while loving, rational while empathetic, firm while compassionate. It’s balance, people. It’s all about the balance.
Do you spend more time in emotional mind or logical mind? How do you try to maintain a balance between the two?