So previously we’ve talked about the concept of the Wise Mind, which is a way of making decisions using the whole story; it helps us to guide our thought processes with what is, ideally, the perfect mixture of logic and emotion, or as we will call them, Rational Mind and Emotional Mind. As I’ve said before, don’t think of these “Minds” as separate personalities or as individual structures. They’re more like ingredients for a “decision recipe.” Different recipes call for different amounts of logic and emotions to fit the situation. For right now, let’s focus on the Rational Mind. I think it’s important to discuss this thoroughly because I’ve seen a lot of people, myself included, fall into the trap of valuing logic and reason above all.
Before we delve into the pitfalls of the Rational Mind, let’s start with the benefits. Think of someone you look up to. Now think about how they tackle problems in their everyday life. You, hopefully, picture them as calm, cool, and collected as they adapt to the challenges life throws at them. This is certainly an admirable trait! But let’s not confuse calmness for lack of emotion. It’s more likely that this person is adept at identifying the facts, acknowledging what they can control in this current moment, and is willing to be patient with things currently outside of their control.
Here’s an example. You receive a medical bill after a trip to the emergency room. You expected a bill at some point but this is way higher than you thought. By the time you got around to reading the bill though, it was a Friday night. You try calling your insurance company and the hospital but since it’s effectively the weekend, no one who can help you is working. Your Emotional Mind is likely screaming at you. “We need to do something about this now!” “We can’t afford this!” “Why me?!” If this sounds like how you might respond, it sounds like you’ve tapped into an anxious thought process and are having some negative self-talk. Let’s work on reframing that. What might your Rational Mind be telling you in this situation? “Okay. Calm down. It’s the weekend, and there’s nothing we can do about it until Monday.” “It’s probably a clerical error. The people who do the billing at hospitals are just human like the rest of us.” “Even if it’s not a mistake, maybe they would be willing to work out a payment plan.” Both of these “minds” are advising us about the situation, one is just doing so a little louder than the other.
The thing is, pure logic tends to fall short sometimes. Especially when people are involved, and I swear, nowadays, people are everywhere. Have you ever had a doctor’s appointment where you just felt dismissed or unheard? Maybe you tried to talk about some new pain flare-up or GI problem, only to feel like you had your concerns written off as trivial. This is an example of someone using only their Rational Mind, not because the doctor failed to produce some miracle cure, but because they failed to empathize with their patient. The doctor is relying on the logic of the situation. Perhaps they don’t have enough information to make an accurate medical diagnosis or decision. However, it’s one thing to use a “wait and see method” so the doctor can gain more information about the ailment, but the important nuance is the communication of empathy. When people are in the doctor’s office, they usually aren’t feeling their best, so a lack of empathy can really sting.
The big takeaway is that the Rational Mind is integral in making a sound decision, but is not solely responsible for it. In the future, I’d like to further discuss the importance of emotion, but for now, I ask that you really reflect on that emotional self-talk. Let your Rational Mind have as much input in your internal dialogue as your Emotional Mind does.