Mind Control: A Mindful Primer

By Dan Stevens

We think of mind control as something or someone else controlling a person’s mind — things like hypnosis or so-called brainwashing come to mind. We in western cultures believe we are fully rational and in control of our thoughts and feelings.

Are we?

What about when we are in the throes of intense love or when we are consumed with rage? At times like that aren’t emotions controlling our behavior? Sure, those are extremes but when we consider how we can be overcome by anxiety or fear, our rationality gets hijacked to serve those feelings. I don’t want to get into the full-on psychology of this, but it is core to coaching.

Having just said, ‘I don’t want to get into the full-on psychology of mind control,’ I am going to dip into a realm of psychology that I find immensely useful in coaching. The practice of Dialectical Behavior Therapy uses the notion of “wise mind” as part of its foundations. The diagram represents those three states of mind.

You can find other writers that give a much more eloquent description of the concept of wise mind, but I’d like to offer my synopsis of what the diagram is showing.

The Rational Mind

The Rational Mind is the analytical and logical part of the mind — it’s a place where accountants and insurance adjustors work. (Note that I didn’t include mathematicians, engineers, physicists and other scientist types because there is indeed pure creativity outside of the rational mind that goes on with their work, admittedly to varying degrees.)  You are in a state of rational mind when you are just looking at the facts of a situation and not your feelings about the situation. In other words, you are being more or less, purely objective like Star Trek’s Spock or Mister Data. Some writers call this the “thinking” mind.

The Emotional Mind

Unlike the rational mind, the emotional mind is a state of more or less pure subjectivity. When you are in this “mind,” feelings dominate. It can be hard to finish one thought before another breaks in — in kind of a chain-reaction fashion — and it can leave a person mentally drained and confused. Another down side of this state is that it can make a person vulnerable to external emotional triggers and manipulation by others. This is very much the “doing” mind.

The Wise Mind

Wise mind is a state of balance between the thinking and emotional minds — a state of being fully human and fully alive. It is a state where we can observe the facts of a situation yet have a sense of empathy or compassion for others — even ourselves — and act. A wise state of mind is a place where the practice of mindfulness leads and restores us; a place where we find the courage to challenge what might be holding us back, whether external or internal, a place of deliberate, self ‘mind control.’ Wise mind is a driver for incredible change in coaching. It is where the balance of one’s knowledge and feelings come together to make clear a path forward to greater fulfilment and happiness by aligning yourself with your values. And in line with the practice of mindfulness, this is the “being” mind.

Knowing your state of mind is very powerful — it puts you in touch with all that makes you human, it makes you self-aware and most importantly, it puts you in control of your own mind. And the tools are there for the asking. What is your current state of mind?

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