I would propose that every decision we make is based on an anticipated feeling. For example, if my wife suggests we go see a romantic-comedy movie, I might anticipate that on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best feeling, I anticipate that the rom-com movie might rate for me a 5 or 6. I go because I love my wife. And I am pleasantly surprised that the movie rated an 8 or 9. And, of course, being with my wife rated a 10. If we think of going to an action-adventure movie, I might anticipate a feeling of 9 or 10, then it is somewhat disappointing and turns out to be a 3 or 4. Of course, being together is still a 10.
In our lives, we make some major decisions like where to go to college, what to study, what career to pursue, who to marry, where to live. In counseling, there is a decision-making model called Wise Mind which is a combination of Emotion Mind and Reasoning Mind.
Emotion Mind occurs when we become critical or judgmental or base decisions simply on how we feel. Emotions are not bad. They help us live healthy, emotionally connected lives. But emotions can become a problem when we allow them to control our lives.
Reasoning mind is when we focus on things from a purely intellectual perspective. We analyze the facts, just the facts. We look at the facts of a situation, what is involved, who is involved, observe and analyze the details, predict the future possibilities, then we make rational decisions. Rational thinking helps us solve problems and make decisions every day. However, too much rational thinking can be a problem and damage relationships.
Wise mind combines both the emotion mind and the reasoning mind. Interestingly, this is also described in Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3 as the spirit of revelation. “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind [reasoning mind] and in your heart [emotion mind], by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.”
Together Emotion Mind and Reasoning Mind weigh the facts and emotions in the decision-making process. According to dialectical behavior, wise mind is similar to intuition (Linehan, 1993a). Often, both intuition and wise mind are described as “feelings” that come from the “gut” or the stomach area. In the scriptures, this is described as a “burning in the bosom.” (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8-9) This is the spot from which many people report making sensible, wise-mind decisions about their lives.
Wise Mind Decision-Making
- Have I considered how I feel as well as weighing all the facts of the situation?
A simple method to test how you feel is to flip a coin. Maybe I’m not certain if I want to join the military or go to college. If the coin flip is heads, I’m going to college, tails I join the military. I flip the coin. It’s heads. What is my instant feeling over that result? Then I can add that feeling to my reasoning mind to see how I want to move forward.
- To avoid impulsive decisions, we can ask ourselves: How will I feel about the results of my decision in 10 minutes, 10 months, or 10 years?
- How does this align with my beliefs and values and help me accomplish my goals? What will be the likely results over the long term?
The Burning in the Bosom
In the Doctrine and Covenants 9:8-9 the Lord teaches us: “8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. 9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; “
Several of the following quotes come from an excellent article by Rachel Nielsen from the June 2014 Liahona entitled What If I Don’t Feel a Burning in the Bosom? https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/2014/06/youth/what-if-i-dont-feel-a-burning-in-the-bosom?lang=eng
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas … and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.” (History of the Church, 3:381 quoted in The Quest for Spiritual Knowledge, President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Liahona/New Era, January 2007).
Elder David A. Bednar taught: “As you appropriately seek for and apply unto the spirit of revelation, I promise you will “walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5; 2 Nephi 12:5). Sometimes the spirit of revelation will operate immediately and intensely, other times subtly and gradually, and often so delicately you may not even consciously recognize it. But regardless of the pattern whereby this blessing is received, the light it provides will illuminate and enlarge your soul, enlighten your understanding (see Alma 5:7; 32:28), and direct and protect you and your family.” (David A. Bednar, “The Spirit of Revelation,” Ensign, May 2011, 88.)
Elder Richard G. Scott said, “I am convinced that there is no simple formula or technique that would immediately allow you to master the ability to be guided by the voice of the Spirit. Our Father expects you to learn how to obtain that divine help by exercising faith in Him and His Holy Son, Jesus Christ. Were you to receive inspired guidance just for the asking, you would become weak and ever more dependent on Them. They know that essential personal growth will come as you struggle to learn how to be led by the Spirit.”
Elder Scott continues: “What may appear initially to be a daunting task will be much easier to manage over time as you consistently strive to recognize and follow feelings prompted by the Spirit. Your confidence in the direction you receive from the Holy Ghost will also become stronger. I witness that as you gain experience and success in being guided by the Spirit, your confidence in the impressions you feel can become more certain than your dependence on what you see or hear.” (Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “To Acquire Spiritual Guidance,” Ensign, Nov. 2009, 7.)
President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) said, “How do we recognize the promptings of the Spirit? I don’t think that’s too difficult, really. … Does it persuade one to do good, to rise, to stand tall, to do the right thing, to be kind, to be generous? Then it is of the Spirit of God. If it is dark, sinister, ugly, not good, then you may know that it is of the adversary.” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), 260–61.)
President Boyd K. Packer (1924-2015), President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that ‘leap of faith.’ … It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two.” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Quest for Spiritual Knowledge,” New Era, Jan. 2007, 6.)
President Dallin H. Oaks taught: “What does a ‘burning in the bosom’ mean? Does it need to be a feeling of caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion? If that is the meaning, I have never had a burning in the bosom. Surely, the word ‘burning’ in this scripture signifies a feeling of comfort and serenity. That is the witness many receive. That is the way revelation works.” (Teaching and Learning by the Spirit, Liahona, May 1999, 22.”
In conclusion, may the Lord bless us that our decisions will be wise and inspired to accomplish His will in our lives.
[Note: The ideas and suggestions contained in these articles are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health professional. In addition, if you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek medical or mental health assistance immediately. In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or use the Lifeline Chat at 988lifeline.org/chat/. Services are free and confidential.]