There is this thing called “The Wise Mind”. If you are not familiar with it, here is the 30-second overview.
It is assumed that we operate through two different lenses within our mind. There is the Reasonable Mind. The Reasonable Mind is largely based on research. Statistics. The ability to make decisions based on the information that is provided. Analysing it and thinking it through to a “reasonable” solution.
Then there is the Emotional Mind. The Emotional Mind is largely based on…well, emotions. Whichever ones are present at the time: fear, anxiety, joy, happiness, anger, stress, and the list goes on and on. The emotions of the moment hold sway in bringing about an “emotional” decision.
The Wise Mind is located in the Venn diagram overlap. It is able to take reasonable information, combine it with emotional feedback, and come to a place of wise decision making.
Healthy people spend the majority of their time operating from the position of the Wise Mind. Especially as the decision looms larger with its ramifications and impacts. However, I would contend that MOST people operate with at least some leaning towards the Reasonable Mind or the Emotional Mind. Not necessarily an unhealthy leaning, but a bias none the less. This contention on my part is not without plenty of agreeance, potentially including yourself. It is all very similar to the right brain/left brain theories many of us grew up listening to.
I would also contend that unhealthy people (especially HIGHLY unhealthy people) are operating from an almost exclusive Reasonable or Emotional mind position. AND…that as you delve into the world of emotionally or mentally ill individuals, you will find an exclusive mind operation in many instances.
Which brings me (or us) to me (or us). Here is what I believe I have learned about myself recently through reading, studying, reflecting and therapy interaction regarding the Wise Mind.
First, on a day-to-day basis, I have grown up through the first 40-plus years of my life operating with a Reasonable Mind largely to the exclusion of the Emotional Mind. I thrive on intellect. Logic. Information. Data. Facts. The tangibles. Let me emphasise, not only with a leaning towards the Reasonable Mind but with a barrier being erected to block out the Emotional Mind. And for a given period of time, things progress rather smoothly.
Then along comes a trigger event. A piece of information. A moment of activity. A human interaction. Something that the Reasonable Mind can not make sense of. It simply cannot handle it in and of itself. However, due to the barrier, rather than being able to move into the locale of the Wise Mind, the pendulum radically swings to break through the wall into the Emotional Mind causing a complete meltdown. Now decisions instantly begin to be made from strictly an emotional point of view. Illogical. Radical. Fear founded decisions.
Proactive becomes reactive. Rational becomes irrational. Informed becomes ignorant.
Looking back, the people who have witnessed these swings in my life have most often responded to my rantings with “You aren’t making any sense.” (i.e. Not reasonable) Or “What’s going on?” (i.e. This isn’t making any sense) Maybe “Where is this coming from?” (i.e. These dots don’t logically connect)
It’s coming from a place of complete imbalance. A mind operating like a teeter-totter with the evil kid on the playground doing that thing where he pushes off the ground with all his might to send you on a downward death spiral only to immediately drop his fat ass to the ground again and shoot you right back up in the air.
Ironically enough, the solution seems quite logical. As I operate from the place of the Reasonable Mind I need to continually be pressing myself to open up more and more emotionally so that I might find myself moving towards center. Towards the home of the Wise Mind.
Problem is, one of the other factors working in the Reasonable Mind is past experiences. And past experience tells me this side of the wall is where I want to stay.
I live my life in constant conflict with myself. If not constant, nearly. My recent encounter with a kidney stone once again provided a stark example of this reality.
There is my personality, and then there is my illness. Not the kidney stone one. The other.
My personality is one of those somewhat hard care, highly driven, perfectionistic, some use the label…Type A personalities. That means my thinking is often characterised by a spirit of “suck it up.” Other phrases that commonly spew forth from my mouth are, “life’s not fair”, “deal with it”, “it is what it is”, “quit complaining and move on”…you get the idea. Worse yet, you have probably encountered someone like myself and these past few lines immediately brought them to mine. Double worse yet (if there is such a thing), you also are such a person.
Then there is my illness. Bipolar. Which, while once would have provided me with the identifying label of being a manic depressive, the more I age just provides me with the label depressive. I find my bouts with depression to come more frequently and more intensely. And they are polar (see what I did there…) opposite to the mentality of my personality.
In fact, the reality is that the depressed person has a counter to each of my spiritual pep rallying cries –
“Quit complaining and move on” – but I don’t want to.
“It is what it is” – but it shouldn’t be.
“Deal with it” – but I don’t know how to.
“Life’s not fair” – but it should be.
“Suck it up” – but I can’t.
As a parent, I know the frustration of seeing a child down in the “mulligrubs” and unable to coax them out of it with a little cheerleading. Unable to do that for myself? Well, that’s just plain debilitating.
So I wrestle internally. At times my personality gives way to a greater sense of compassion for the other in front of me, and on very rare occasion the person inside of me. At those times, I find it in me to just be present rather than to be a drill sergeant. On other rare occasions, I am successful at picking another up by their bootstraps or even pulling myself from a plunge towards darkness through more tender and kind words of encouragement. Most of the time? I just wrestle.
Wrestle between a personality that is telling me not to cry over spilt milk and an illness that just wants to crawl back under the covers and cry.