Throughout the past eight seasons of Game of Thrones, Tyrion Lannister has built a reputation on being one of the most intelligent characters in the show.
Portrayed by Peter Dinklage, Tyrion is outcasted for being “The Imp” but regarded highly for his wit and cunning—quickly earning a place as a fan favorite through the course of the show. He demonstrates his brilliance early on, navigating the intricate plays of politics through manipulation and cunning. But Tyrion’s journey doesn’t just demonstrate the complexities of intelligence—it also beautifully embodies the concept of the Wise Mind.
The Wise Mind is a theory from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, a therapy rooted in mindfulness, thought-awareness, emotional regulation, and relational connections. DBT argues that we have three modes of decision making: the Reasonable Mind, the Emotional Mind, and the Wise Mind.
“Tyrion’s journey takes us through each state of mind, finding ways to balance and integrate into this holistic way of thinking.”
While all three mindsets are necessary and helpful in many situations, the Wise Mind tends to be the mind where we make our healthiest, most sustainable, and well-thought out decisions. Tyrion’s journey takes us through each state of mind, finding ways to balance and integrate into this holistic way of thinking.
(WARNING: Contains some spoilers.)
THE REASONABLE MIND
When we first meet Tyrion, he is deeply rooted in the Reasonable Mind.
The Reasonable Mind focuses on intellect above all else– logic and reason above empathy or emotional needs. The Reasonable Mind is disconnected from relationships and instead focused on problem-solving through a cold and clinical model, able to see the bigger picture and finer details but without the threads of emotional authenticity.
While the Reasonable Mind is good for making some decisions, the emotional disconnect can leave us isolated, mechanical, and even bored.
We see this clearly with Tyrion’s character. He is disconnected and isolated, having few allies and even fewer friends, but he already has a reputation for being incredibly clever. Others have a complex relationship with his cleverness—while they feel frustrated by his “know-it-all” manner, they often turn to his wisdom in spite of themselves. And while Tyrion clearly values his intellect, it isn’t enough.
He craves friendship. But the dissonance between his intellect and emotional needs is too difficult. He struggles to be loving when he has worked so hard to be right.
THE EMOTIONAL MIND
As we follow Tyrion’s journey, we see the cost of the Reasonable Mind—a dive into isolation, betrayal, and shame as he unsuccessfully tries to salvage the relationships around him. As he learns the cost of the distant intellectualism, he sways towards a deeper empathy that surprises even Tyrion himself as he dives headfirst into the Emotional Mind.
If the Reasonable Mind is cold logic, the Emotional Mind is heated passion.
It pulls from our sources of love, connection, belonging but also our experiences of anger, betrayal, and despair to bend our decisions based on the whims of our emotional experiences. If we are happy, the Emotional Mind will push us towards one set of decisions. If we are enraged, the Emotional Mind will lead us into an entirely different set of choices. The Emotional Mind thrives in empathy and emotional connection, allowing us to base our decisions not only on our own feelings but others’ as well.
“If the Reasonable Mind is cold logic, the Emotional Mind is heated passion.”
Tyrion’s experience with the Emotional Mind is as tumultuous as any, making snap decisions based on his feelings of the moment rather than a long-term solution. While the Emotional Mind allows him to connect deeply with his family, friends, and partner, it is also the root of his violence towards anyone who betrays him.
It allows him to feel passionately inspired by a new queen but clouds his judgement when it comes to making big-picture decisions. He is connected to the world around him, but disconnected from reality.
THE WISE MIND
Tyrion has struggled throughout the show. His intellect has failed him and his passion has betrayed him. And so he is offered the same choice we all face: to choose cold logic, blind passion, or find a way to marry them together in the Wise Mind.
The Wise Mind is about holding a balance between our passion and our logic. When we use the Wise Mind, we are able to see our emotions without being controlled by them and are able to utilize our logic without hiding behind it. We can feel authentically but reason thoughtfully. We can feel the guilt of our mistakes but problem-solve ways to make it better. We can understand the complexities around and within us with fresh clarity. We are grounded, focused, and connected with our deeper needs.
As Tyrion’s story progresses, we see him learn what a Wise Mind means. He begins to make difficult decisions and stand for what is right—not because it is clever or passionate but because he knows and feels wholeheartedly it is the best decision. Tyrion works to hold the line between what feels good and what makes sense to base his decisions out of a holistic good sense.
And while we see Tyrion’s character growth push towards this level of integration between the head and the heart, we know that this is never a place Tyrion will ‘arrive.’
The Wise Mind is not a destination to reach but a daily commitment, a continuous balancing act of self-awareness and thoughtfulness.
If Tyrion hopes to carry Westeros forward into a better age, he must commit to the Wise Mind, each morning, each moment, each decision—even when it’s hard. Because one mind without the other is only half of the human experience.
And to lead humans, we must decide as humans.