Three States of Mind


Today’s prompt is a video based on the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.

I was intrigued by the video introduction, which is an image of the book cover.  It looked so familiar!  After watching the clip, I realized that we had the book, but I had never read it. I did an search for the book and read a few excerpts.  The content of this clip is taken directly from the book. Plus, I discovered other little pearls of wisdom. I’m going to have to find that book.

The book describes the concept of two states of mind (i.e. “two minds”), rational and emotional. What I found missing from the excerpt (which may be in the full manuscript) was the concept of a “third mind”.  We all have the ability to think logically and emotionally. What takes some work is learning to balance the two sides of our nature — to bring them in to harmony, creating a “wise mind”.

In the migraine community, we all experience “rational mind” through research, education, training, doctor’s appointments, medication use, etc. “Emotion mind” is easy to recognize, too. It makes an appearance whenever we have reached the limit of our pain tolerance.  It also comes out in our response to stigma. Sometimes when we use “rational mind”, even other migraineurs who are using “emotion mind” can accuse us of “not ever having a real migraine”.

The tricky part is finding that “sweet spot” right in the middle, that perfect blend of “emotion mind” and “rational mind” that is just right. When I was still seeing clients, they would often be puzzled by the concept of “wise mind” and wonder how to achieve it.  This is the exercise I recommended:

Choose a quiet moment when you know you will not be disturbed. The exercise will only take a few minutes. You will be washing your hands. It’s something you’ve done a thousand times without thinking. However, this time, pay attention!  Listen to the sound of the water as it rushes from the faucet. Feel the change in temperature as you adjust the hot and cold water. Notice the texture and smell of your soap. Embrace the sensation of soapy lather on your hands. If your mind wanders, just gently redirect your thoughts back to the sensations at hand. Focus only on what you perceive with your senses. When you finish washing your hands, take a moment to either share your experience with someone else or write it down. Remember to share only what you experienced from your senses. Avoid making any judgments about your sensations. Was there a point in the exercise when you felt a moment of clarity and calm?


The video focuses on a different excerpt from the book, explaining how self-control is a limited resource. Fortunately, we are not give a finite amount of self-control.  Just like alertness or physical strength, self-control can be replenished if given enough time. By taking the time time to focus on just your sensations for even a few moments each day, you can recharge your self-control batteries.

This is called “mindfulness”. I encourage people to practice this for a few moments each day during any activity that is usually completed without the need for concentration.  As it becomes easier, the length of time can be increased. I’ve found it helpful in a variety of situations unique to migraineurs.

What situations have you experienced in which this practice might be useful?

The 2014 Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, is dedicated to Dreaming of a World without Migraine and Headache Disorders. The 2014 Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge is a project of American Headache & Migraine Association.


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