Wise Mind, ADHD and Self-Acceptance
DBT for Adult ADHD
Written by Scott Spradlin, LPC, LMAC

What is Wise Mind?

Wise mind as found in the core mindfulness skills of DBT, developed by Marsha Linehan and her colleagues at the University of Washington in Seattle, is a construct that communicates to us that we have wisdom. My understanding of wise mind is that all of us know how to live, especially when we’re paying attention. Wise mind is a state that is both latent within us and which can be further cultivated much like a garden.

We cultivate our wise minds with our practices in the core what and how skills (Linehan, 1993; 2015). The what skills include: observe, describe, and participate; and the how skills include: non-judgmental stance, one-mindfully and focus on effectiveness. These have been called vehicles for cultivating wise mind, or we can refer to them as tools, which enable us to become increasingly present to Life as it finds us in our embodied locations. We incrementally, patiently, and with willingness live into sagacious knowing. We hone an instinct for where and how to become more fully human and alive, we become our true and best selves with growing integrity. We become truly integrated and continue to do so over the course of the journey over the respective courses of our lives.

Wise Mind, Acceptance, and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

As a message to other ADHD adults out there, and anyone who is intimately familiar with invalidation, criticism, and rejection, I commend to you the DBT core mindfulness skills to cultivate your own growing connection with life, deeper presence, increased attention as well as the growth in wisdom. These what and how tools that lead to this state of mind are welcome balms for countering rejection sensitive dysphoria and internalized invalidation. With the frequent and steady practices of mindfulness whats and hows, we befriend our emotions, learning how they work for us in survival and in connecting meaningfully in relationships.

As we practice labeling emotions, a key DBT skill, we discover our lexicon for our inner lives that helps us to understand our emotions as simply given and valid, without the need to be justified or explained, and ultimately trustworthy and natural guides in life. This growing friendship with our emotions parallels our growth toward internal coherence, and a lived consistency of self. We grow into, live into, accepting and integrating our fallibility and our fabulousness.

Wisdom from Integration

Head and heart further cohere as we engage core mindfulness skills, cultivating wise mind, and this counters the inner fractious self-critical chatter we’ve carried our whole lives. This noise emerging from long histories of invalidation and which has been manifestly evident in our sufferings as rejection-sensitive dysphoria that has choked our spontaneity and creativity even stifled our willingness to pursue goals in education, arts, vocation, and even love.

With increased opening to wise mind comes this growing trust in our emotions and we connect with our inherent wisdom. This is also self-validation, taking ourselves seriously. We become more skilled at nurturing and cultivating our wisdom as we live into a life of meaning, love, and connection; a life of engagement, enchantment, and elevation.

Be mindful out there.


Image: Wise Mind for the Distracted Mind: DBT for Adult ADHD Collaboration by Mariah Warden & Scott Spradlin

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