WHAT IS MENTALIZATION?
Mentalization is the ability to think and feel at the same time, in a nuanced way, about what takes place in oneself, in others and between people. Mentalization means understanding oneself and others, one’s experiences and behaviour, in light of mental phenomenon, e.g. assumptions, feelings, attitudes, wishes, hopes, intentions, plans, etc.
It provides an experience of being separated from other people and from things. It is the starting point for understanding one’s own actions and enables us to own and to reflect on feelings and thoughts as distinct from those of others.
Mentalization supplies the individual´s sense of self with subjectivity and self-reflection. It provides an experience of being separated from other people and from things. It is the starting point for understanding one’s own actions and enables us to own and to reflect on feelings and thoughts as distinct from those of others.
The shift from inner chaos to controlling oneself and life
THE MENTALIZATION THEORY
Mentalization theory promotes mentalization as the most important ability of the self. The ability to mentalize supplies the self with cohesion. Without mentalization, the individual is subject to shifting and disconnected self states governed by chance external (and internal) events. This ultimately leads to a total lack of control of oneself and others and life in general
Mentalization provides meaning and context to shifting self states. It puts them into perspective of one’s life history and one’s judgement of other people and interpersonal interactions, now and in the future
SIGNS OF EXPERIENCES THAT AN INDIVIDUAL IS FAILING TO MENTALIZE APPROPRIATELY:
- Milder variations may be illustrated by phrases such as: “had problems concentrating”, “difficulties with focussing”, “felt overwhelmed”, “had trouble thinking clearly”, “thinking more black-white”, “became very doubtful”, “became extremely suspicious” etc
- Extreme episodes can be described as: “breaking down”, “stopping thinking”, “all went black”, “I had enough”, “I needed to get out of there”, “I had to overeat”, “I got thoughts of killing myself”, “I just needed to get high” etc.
- Frequency, scope and degree of seriousness of such episodes will indicate the person’s mentalizing abilities.
THE PRINCIPLES UNDERLYING MENTALIZATION-BASED TREATMENT (MBT):
- The ability to mentalize is acquired gradually in childhood. The attachment relation to caregivers is the most important arena in which the child’s mental state can be experienced, interpreted and mirrored by a positively disposed and bonded other, which in time allows the child to recognize his or her true self. It is critical to have the experience of being mirrored in an accurate and non-distorted way by primary caregivers as a child. The absence of this experience, and in particular the consistent non accurate and distorted mirroring of a chords feelings, intentions and inner mental states can be severely damaging ultimately leading to the development of a false sense of self.
- Extensive evidence shows that insecure attachment relationships are associated with an impaired ability to understand others’ intentions and a generally poorer social competence.
- Disorganized attachment in childhood is associated with psychopathology in adulthood.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF A DISORGANIZED ATTACHMENT STYLE IN CHILDHOOD AS AN ADULT?
These individuals have a disorganized state of mind with respect to attachment. They do not have an organized approach to relationships. Often these adults exhibit behaviors that suggest a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. They run very hot and cold and are quite mecurial.
As children they had histories of abuse, neglect, or severe loss. Their parents were unresponsive, inconsistent, punitive and insensitive. They learned to view others as unavailable, threatening and rejecting. They are afraid of genuine closeness and see themselves as unworthy of love and support. Disorganized adults show many antisocial behaviors such as lack of empathy and remorse. They are selfish, controlling, refuse personal responsibility for their actions, and disregard rules. Their experience of severe attachment trauma makes them much more vulnerable to a variety of emotional, social and moral problems. They are at high risk for alcohol and drug abuse.
When the ability to mentalize is impaired, the individual is left with prementalistic thought patterns. These patterns are not based on intersubjective exchange and lack integration with emotional experience and are therefore, in this sense, primitive. They thought are also characterised by a lack of nuanced thought categories and by inadequate contextualization. Being in a prementalistic state entails risks, in that one is subject to the whims of one’s emotions – one’s impulse control and power of judgment will be impaired. It is also a painful state. The stage is set for dramatic arguments, self-harm, overeating, substance abuse, promiscuity and other potentially harmful behaviors.
WHY SHOULD I CHOOSE MBT? WHAT CAN MBT HELP ME WITH?
- Improvements in ability to mentalize which can only be activated through the help of others.
- By improving the person’s mentalizing abilities, the client’s sense of self and identity is strengthened
- Significant improvements in interpersonal skills
- Reduce reliance on and/or drive towards self-destructive behaviour and need for coercive control of surroundings
- Helping towards establishing more long-term and committed relationship
- Get control over emotions, i.e; improved impulse control
- Improved power of judgment.
- Control over self-harm, overeating, substance abuse, promiscuity and other potentially harmful acting out.
Contributes to the improvement to make better use of rehabilitation measures