Star Trek has been an amazing predictor of science and technology since the original series aired in 1966. Many of the show’s sci-fi gizmos have since become a reality: iPads, voice-controlled computers (Siri), smart watches, even 3D-printers are starting to look a little bit like the show’s replicators. But for as much credit as Star Trek gets for its scientific imagination, it doesn’t nearly get enough credit for giving incredible insight into the human mind.

One of those insights happens to be about the “wise mind,” a concept used in dialectical behavior therapy.




“Some individuals experience emotional levels so high that they negatively interfere with their daily living.”
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a treatment approach that treats numerous disorders, including depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The underlying theory of this therapy is that all individuals experience heightened emotions in stressful situations, however, some individuals experience emotional levels so high that they negatively interfere with their daily living. DBT focuses on building skills to accept, cope with, and alter or prevent these heightened emotional states.

One of the major skills utilized in DBT is mindfulness, where one seeks to balance their “emotional mind” and “intellectual mind.”

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Captain Kirk often embodies the “emotional mind” very well in the original series. The captain refuses to accept defeat and can sometimes ignore the logical or sensible solutions. When confronted with the famous “no-win scenario” in school Captain Kirk decided to cheat, rather than accept losing.

On the other side of the spectrum, Spock is clearly representative of the “intellectual mind.” He, like a good Vulcan, suppresses his emotion in favor of logic. Captain Kirk and Spock often spar over decisions involving Spock’s logic versus Kirk’s gut feeling. In the end, neither of these minds are particularly healthy without the other. Or, as Kirk puts it:

“You’re a great one for logic. I’m a great one for rushing in where angels fear to tread. We are both extremists. Reality has brought us somewhere in-between.”

Which brings us to the “wise mind” that integrates the two.

That’s where Doctor McCoy is a great example. McCoy is often emotional: he expresses anger (“I’m a doctor, not a mechanic!”) and he’s even afraid to use the transporters. But in the end, McCoy is a man of science; he uses science and technology to ensure that his response to the emotional state is most useful. When pressed, McCoy often utilizes the “wise mind” to strike a balance between his emotional and logical minds. The emphasis here is that logic and emotions are useful and that there are often times that we need to access one or the other more, but generally they both are important in determining behavior that will validate us and help us be our best.

“The wise mind is one that incorporates both emotional and intellectual states of mind.”
The wise mind is one that incorporates both emotional and intellectual states of mind. Neither is considered more important or useful than the other, and both are considered necessary for behaviors that are going to satisfy one’s emotional experience and also be sensible for various situations.

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