How to control poor problem solving or impulsivity? It’s all about balance!

Have you ever been faced with a dilemma and after addressing it, asked yourself “Why on earth did I do that” or, “what was I thinking”? Personally I have done this and the fact is we all have had these moments. There are times when we try to solve a problem and inadvertently make the situation worse.

Reacting to a problem impulsively can’t be avoided! Right? Some would say “Impulsive actions are caused by an absence of discipline and poor self-control”. I on the other hand, would argue our behavior/ impulses are determined by the state of mind we are in at the time of the triggering situation.

As a clinician, I often use the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) model of counseling in my practice. DBT is an adaptation of Cognitive Behavior therapy developed by psychologist Marsha Linehan. DBT is an effective therapy model for emotion regulation and one of the main focuses of DBT is mindfulness. When practicing mindfulness, one must understand there are three states of mind: Emotion mind, Reasonable mind and Wise mind.

    1. Emotion mind
    This state of mind is passionate in nature. Love, nurturing, excitement, despair, nervousness are experienced in this state of mind in high levels of intensity. Facts can be skewed in this state of mind since a person would only act based on feelings.

    2. Reasonable mind
    If emotion mind is high intensity then Reasonable mind would be low intensity. This state of mind is based on rules, logic, facts, data etc. Facts are all that matters and decision are made based on data in this state of mind.

    3. Wise mind
    This is the goal! Wise mind is the integration of Emotion and Reasonable mind. Decisions made in this state of mind tend to be effective.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each state of mind. For example, Reasonable mind is great for solving a problem, following a recipe or learning a new task at work. It is challenging to operate in reasonable mind when trying to empathize with a friend or show affection. Many of life’s challenges have an emotional aspect to them.

Emotion mind has its drawbacks as well. Remaining in Emotion mind for an extended amount of time can be exhausting. It would be like driving your car at 100 miles per hour for 8 hours straight; your vehicle would overheat or run out of gas. An advantage to acting in Emotion mind would be the ability to form social or family bonds through affection, empathy and love.

Now that you have become briefly aware of the three states of mind; let’s consider the steps to take to address non effective impulsive behavior and less than desirable problem solving. To begin, STOP before you act and follow these 3 steps…

“Counselor’s Advice 4 Better Problem Solving + Decision Making”

    1. Identify the problem
    Observe and take note of the situation.

    2. Complete a mind check
    Determine which state of mind you are in by reviewing your thoughts. “Am I thinking emotionally or reasonably”?

    3. Begin the balancing act
    When being too emotional or reasonable is ineffective try something new! If you are in emotion mind, determine the facts, take into account the data. When you are in a reasonable state of mind, take into account the feelings of others try to empathize.

In conclusion, Wise mind is achieved when you relate the facts you have learned (Reasonable) to the problem that hurt you (Emotional); then you are being effective.

Will there be times when you find yourself only in Emotion or Reasonable mind? Yes! If it is effective, do not worry. However, if you find yourself thinking “I have no clue why life’s challenges are getting out of hand”; take a moment and ask yourself “Am I in the best state of mind”? It is all about balance…

By Keisha Carter

Tips for Making a Big Decision

I’m writing an article for Newsday and I was hoping someone at Thriveworks Counseling could answer a few questions as soon as possible for the story. The article is about how to decide if you should sell your home or if you should rent it out – and I was wondering if you have any suggestions for how someone should make a decision that could potentially affect them for the rest of their lives. Also, what should readers do if they’re having problems feeling secure in the decision they’re making?



Hi Danielle!

I’m happy to help. I’ll write some ideas below, and if I can be of any additional help, please call me anytime at 1-855-4-THRIVE.

These days, many of us are living very fast paced lives, and this means we’re making more decisions than ever.

At some point, all of us get jammed up because each decision we make comes at a cost (or a penalty). If we choose to paint a room blue, the cost is we can’t also have the room be red. If we choose to have steak for dinner, the cost is that we won’t be having fish. And so on…

A big decision, like whether to sell or rent a house, can feel overwhelming. Here are some tips:

1. Put it into perspective.

    • Often when we face an emotionally charged decision it can feel much bigger than it is. While selling a house is a big decision, it is small potatoes in the greater context of one’s life: The career you choose, the city you reside in (Boston or Atlanta?), family planning decisions, etc. A house is just one of many financial planning decisions one will make in throughout their life.


2. Ask other people who have done it.
While we want to think we’re unique, our experiences often parallel others’. Ask other people you know who have sold, or rented a house in your community. How did it go? Was the experience positive or negative? Consider that your experience might be similar to theirs.

3. Don’t stress over two good decisions.
If both decisions are likely to have positive outcomes, don’t sweat over your choice! You can’t go wrong! To help lower your stress, consider which decision you’ll enjoy more, not which is the “right” decision.

4. Think about regrets.
One technique to help make a big decision is to think about the potential for regret. To do this, instead of asking yourself, “which choice is best” Ask yourself “which option could I regret most–to sell my house, or to not sell my house?” This might make the best choice more apparent.

Danielle, I hope this helps! Anthony Centore Ph.D., CEO of Thriveworks –Anthony