Mentalization

ImageI usually don’t become so embroiled in day to day problems in this blog.  Recently has been an exception.  I can’t thank the blogging community enough for all the words of support that came in recent weeks, during times of bereavement.

I am at a crucial stage in life.  So many things are changing and improving.  I believe most of that comes from the educational approach I am taking in my recovery.

Four weeks ago, I started my two-year Mentalization Based Therapy.  It starts with a nine-week training course.  The process is something I intend to share in this blog.  But, first, let me give you a brief rundown of what exactly Mentalization is.

Many of us are not familiar with the word ‘mentalizing’, yet it is something we all do throughout our entire lives.  It’s a standard way of thinking, essential for interpreting human behaviour and is one of the most complex problem solving skills humans possess.

Mentalizing is a process that describes our ability to be mindful of the mental state of others and of ourselves.  It helps us communicate with fellow humans, while building and maintaining empathic relationships.  We are mentalizing when we attempt to make sense of our environment and where we fit in. 

Basic examples of Mentalization would be, “Why do certain situations make me feel bad”, “Why did I ever depend on her”, “Why did he/she look so miserable last night”, “Why did I start smoking again”, “why didn’t they answer my email/phone call”, “why are they being so abrupt with me” and “should I accept this job offer”.

Mentalizing is the fundamental root of self-awareness and identity.  The process enables us to make judgements and choices.  It is necessary for our psychological wellbeing and contributes to our general sense of direction in life, enabling us to remain in control of our own behaviour.

Failing to mentalize will ultimately lead to considerable problems in every aspect of our lives.  If we are not mindful of our own behaviour or of other people’s feelings, we will continually misconstrue situations and cause issues in our interaction with others and within personal relationships.

Research suggests that those with a good ability to mentalize will be less likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders. 

Psychiatric disorders, including substance abuse, inhibit our ability to mentalize because they affect our ability to think clearly and flexibly.  Strong emotions such as fear, anger, shame, defensiveness, and even indifference, will all impede on our ability to mentalize.

Some experts believe that the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder are caused by a deficit in our ability to mentalize.  Mentalization Based Therapy was developed as a therapeutic programme specifically for people living with some kind of personality disorder.

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21 thoughts on “Mentalization

  1. kat

    fascinating. absolutely fascinating. what you said here caused me to have an ‘aha’ moment regarding my mother’s behavior through my entire life (my primary abuser), which i have never been able to comprehend. the idea of lacking the ability to mentalize explains her so well (she has borderline as her main diagnosis).

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    1. Cat Post author

      So pleased you could relate in some way, Kat. What you have just been doing, in thinking about your mum’s behaviour, is mentalize!

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  2. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

    “I am at a crucial stage in life. So many things are changing and improving.”

    This is wonderful to read. *does happy dance* 😀 Thank you for putting a big smile on my face and for sharing awareness about mentalization and Mentalization Based Therapy.

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  3. mm172001

    been in the hospital and just got out. Sorry to hear you are going through a rough time, sometimes change is a good thing though, hope to catch up on all my blogs

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  4. Cate Reddell

    Looking forward to hearing more. I admit that mentalization is one of those terms I’ve heard many times but never got around to finding out what it means. So thank you. 🙂

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  5. Mandy

    Cat, this training you’ve been taking is so in-depth–I’m so glad you’ve had this opportunity. Thank you for sharing this information and look forward to hearing more.

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  6. Susan Irene Fox

    Great to hear about another move in a forward direction, Cat. I look forward to reading more about this, about your process going through it and any other insights about your diagnosis. Praying for courage and wisdom.

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