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Psychologist's advice - the importance of mentalizing

Mentalizing is a normal ability to attribute intentions and meaning to human behavior, to understand "unwritten rules". It includes both a self-reflective and an interpersonal component that provides the individual with a well-developed ability to distinguish internal from external reality, physical experience from the mind, and internal mental and emotional processes from interpersonal communication. Mentalizing can be described as the ability to see oneself from the outside and other people from the inside. It is a basic social competence essential for human communication and relationships. Of great clinical significance is the fact that mentalizing promotes affect regulation. Mentalization abilities are important for identity, self-knowledge and a sense of independence, true intersubjectivity, healthy relationships with others, feeling felt. Disturbed mentalization often leads to loneliness. Good mentalizing is mental and relational flexibility and refers to mental and relational strengths such as curiosity, perspective-taking, forgiveness, reflective thinking, a confident attitude, humility, playfulness, willingness to take responsibility, and awareness of one's impact on others. In summary, mentalizing is the ability to perceive what is happening in one's own feelings and thoughts, and to infer what is happening in another person's thoughts and feelings, what is happening in the relationship between me and another.

To mentalize means to be able to understand your non-exercises. Disturbed mentalization can lead to confusion and disorientation, acting on false assumptions. Being misunderstood is very scary. This can lead to strong emotions that can result in abuse, withdrawal, hostility, overprotection, rejection, and increased symptoms. A person with a disordered mentalization, such as someone with an eating disorder, often experiences a vicious cycle: the disordered mentalization leads to misunderstandings and breakups in relationships, and an unsafe world becomes even more unsafe. Such stress, fear and emotional agitation further impairs the ability to mentalize. Thus, anorexic withdrawal and behaviors may be an expression of control and predictability.

Everyone pursues social learning to navigate their life world. When a person feels insecure about their beliefs and intuition, they seek reassurance from others. However, while the insecure person's need for learning may be intense and anxiously sought, the content of the reassurance may be misinterpreted as having hostile intent, the meaning confused and rejected. As a result, the unconfident person is in a state of chronic uncertainty. So how do you reach the hard to reach? Individuals today live in a culture of rapid change, changing internally and externally, so everyone needs to connect with others to cope with this world.


When communicating with others and with ourselves, subjectively intense emotion can "throw" us out of the here and now and "drop" us into non-mentalizing states. This can happen when we are under stress or when interacting with people very close to us, activating an insecure attachment style.

In a non-mentalizing state, a person's understanding of himself, his behavior, another person or interpersonal relationships is weakened. We may feel lost, suspicious, fearful and resort to "managing" our feelings through various destructive activities such as alcohol, fasting/vomiting, self-harm, etc. We can leave others lost and confused, become withdrawn or even paranoid about others. Our communication with others would become extremely difficult without the ability to mentalize.

In what follows, I will identify and describe three non-mentalizing states, how to recognize them, name them, and how to bring yourself back into mentalizing. The following non-mentalizing states are distinguished: mental identity, apparent and teleological.

Non-mentalizing state of mental identity (Psychic Equivalency). It is such a non-mentalizing state when our inner mental reality appears to us as real external reality (inside=outside). The state can be called the "godzilla" state, when the imaginary "monster" becomes real, scary and frightening to us. When "I think (feel) THIS, therefore I am THIS". For example, with anorexia, a person may feel fat and begin to think they are fat because they feel that way. Negative thoughts and feelings towards oneself can be too real (for example, the feeling of evil can be unbearably intense). This non-mentalizing state can be recognized if: thinking "all or nothing"; black and white thinking; when emotions flood; when it starts to seem that "my feeling is 100% the truth"; "if it seems to me that they are angry with me, then they are"; "if I feel ugly, then I am"; alternatives, different perspectives are not tolerated, there is no doubt, only categoricalness.

Teleological, non-mentalizing state of the body (Teleological Mode). This is a state of wanting to quickly arrange, solve, when the environment, emotional and external world is understood only in terms of objects (physical or action

s) within the framework of reality. Mental states are dealt with by self-harm or violent, destructive behavior. It may seem that we control the psyche by "employing" our body. For example, "I won't believe it until I see it." A non-mentalizing teleological state can be recognized if there is a damaging behavior: overeating; alcohol, drug use; not eating, fasting, or an increased desire to lose weight; unsafe casual sex; too intense sports; suicide or self-harm; intentionally induced vomiting; migraine; increased body dissatisfaction; panic attacks; stomach ache; shopping (excessive); hastily quitting a job; abrupt termination of relations, etc.

Pretend Mode (Pretend Mode). In contrast to the state of mental identity, in the pretend state the internal reality is separated from the external reality (Inside/Outside). The mental world is separated from external reality. We can call this non-mentalizing state as the state of the elephant in the room, when, for example, after a loss, family members do not talk about it, living and behaving as if the loss did not exist, do not talk about their feelings of sadness or mourning. This state can also be called the "Batman" state, because it is a state when we "fly away" to our thoughts, another reality, but separating ourselves from the difficulties and difficult feelings that exist here and now (such as grief, jealousy, loneliness, love, etc.) . In this state, fantasy and reality exist completely separately, thoughts and feelings can become monotonous, dull, constantly repeating and spinning in the head, escape into fantasy, reflections (dissociation) distract us from the existing reality. The alleged non-mentalizing state is characterized by: intellectual speech without feelings; "elephant in the room" thinking (ignoring what is important here and now); fantasy world; withdrawal; detachment from friends, activities, the outside world; immersion only in activity, communication; avoidance of delving into feelings; pseudomentalization.

In Mentalization-Based Therapy (MBT), it is important to learn to recognize these states. Recognizing that I am in a non-mentalizing state indicates that I am already mentalizing what is happening to me and reflects that I am in a state that is probably affected by a difficult feeling or thought. In each non-mentalizing state, the strategy may be different. In the state of mental identity, reassurance is important, or allowing/inviting the other to help me calm down, in other states, stopping the state/behavior is important. Being in the supposed (Batman) state, it is important to simply stop overthinking and turn elsewhere (to other, less destructive thoughts). Think about the "here and now". In a teleological non-mentalizing state, it is important to recognize and catch that you want to behave destructively - to stop the destructive behavior, try to recognize the difficult emotion or thought that caused it and stay with it or turn elsewhere. The sayings "take your time" or "morning is wiser than night" apply here to stay with difficult emotions and thoughts without rushing them into actions that are often harmful or destructive.

Questions to ask yourself:

Try to delve into these three non-mentalizing states and notice what states you fall into every day. You can think of or write an example for each state.
Notice what are your typical "triggers" / stimuli that throw you into non-mentalizing states?
Can you get out of these states? If so, how do you do it?
Write down 10 stress coping strategies to help you calm down and focus during times of stress.
The effectiveness of mentalization-based therapy is scientifically proven. I managed her at the Mental Health Center of Vilnius city, treating people with eating, personality, mood, post-traumatic stress disorders and addictions. Currently, I apply mentalization-based therapy methods in counseling individually, couples, families and groups. Therefore, I invite you to contact me, medical psychologist Nikol, if you are experiencing difficulties in mentalizing and want to work on it together. I believe it can be difficult for one to catch one's non-mentalizing states and bring oneself back into mentalizing. So I would welcome the opportunity to help you do this and heal from the symptoms or disorders you are experiencing.

- Medical psychologist Nikol Stičinskaitė