Mentalization – Keep Your Mind in Sight!

Trainer Ville Ojanen 8 June 2018

Two groups were tasked to go to a café and order a drink. The first group tried to place the order as efficiently as possible. The second group focused on interaction during the order. The second group experienced a positive change in their well-being and was happier with the experience.

Mentalization means keeping the mental state of yourself and others in mind, especially in interaction. Mentalization is a way of acting with the mental state of yourself and others, with subjective experiences. It’s a specific way to use your mental state, which has a daily effect on a person’s way of being, acting, and interacting.

Mentalization means understanding that your actions differ depending on whether you are participating in a meeting or arranging it. It means the ability to use this knowledge to guide your actions. For example, you take responsibility even as a participant as you know by experience how the person arranging the meeting feels.

Mentalization means the opportunity to adapt your actions towards a teenager even when your reactions might get out of hand. Is your message “Do as I say whether you like it or not” or do you start by asking “How do you feel about it” and only then decide on the best approach. “I don’t care, do as I say” or “Ok, let’s look for another solution.”

Mentalization has some of the same elements as mindfulness, awareness, and emotional skills. It’s a way of using the mental state, which in time develops into a personal trait. These skills highlight the person’s relationship with their self – thoughts, emotions, and bodily experiences.

Mentalization focuses on a person’s relationship with themselves and how it affects their interactions. In comparison to better-known concepts, mentalization accounts for why humans do not act in a certain way regarding themselves and others. Mentalization expands these concepts into two directions: to others and to the limitations of our minds.

The limits of our mind are related to the experience of selfhood. We are creatures who experience life as individuals. The world and other people challenge this selfhood: humans have different ideas, values, needs, and objectives. They often conflict with ourselves.

Our sense of self undergoes constant stress when dealing with humans, e.g., confusing emotions that the mind tries to exclude from our experiences. The human mind actively constructs and defends its own reality. Our sense of self undergoes constant challenges when dealing with ourselves and others.

Medical science has studied this part of humans for years — the complex struggle of selfdom links to mental health and mental health disorders. Mentalization has become a way of understanding the human mind when encountering challenges that risk the health of ourselves and others. The same approaches and models work for conquering daily difficulties in relationships, work communities, and health promotion.

Mentalization does not make a person become empathetic or other similar things. Adding empathy to interactive challenges can be beneficial, but it is only one way of using the mind. There is no universal solution to solving interaction challenges. Empathy might even be the wrong solution, just like rationalization would be.

It’s essential to understand how the limits of our mind affect our experiences and the way we interact; to become more aware of the mind’s role in interaction, our own, and others’. It’s crucial to utilize this knowledge in interactions.

At its best, interaction is natural, easy, and rewarding. People act efficiently and creatively together if the situation involves trust, respect, and everyone feels safe. On the other hand, interaction and collaboration can just as easily become a challenge. Trust, respect and safety are fragile. Why?

Mentalization is a conceptual tool for professionals working with mental well-being and health. It looks at humans as creatures with experiences, interacting through those experiences.

The core of mentalization is the ability to stay in touch with your self. Not primarily because you know best how it feels to be you, but because it affects how it feels to be with you.

Humans are hyper-social creatures, so relationships, communities, and human connections are unavoidable. We enjoy being in a community rather than being separate individuals.

We all have various contacts and relationships with others. However, our primary relationship is with our own experiences, ourselves. This relationship defines how it feels to be you and thus affects your way of interacting with others.

Mentalization means how a person is aware of their relationship with themselves and others while interacting. What’s my relationship with myself? What am I thinking, and how does it affect my way of communicating with others?

The impact of mentalization is not always clear, but the lack of it has a definite effect on individuals and communities. Also, giving mentalization a more significant role in individual and community actions has an apparent impact. Mentalization is the understanding of the experience-based reasons for a person’s actions, the consequences, and limitations, as well as the ability to discuss, present, and include these in interaction.

It’s not easy, but it is possible.