Just as human beings use their minds to interpret their own behaviours, desires, feelings and thoughts, they must also use their minds to interpret the mental worlds of others. Mentalization is a concept used to describe the mutual recognition of complex mental states, of self and other, along with the capacity to see mental states as independent from action and behaviour. When we mentalize we are sometimes aware of what’s happening in our minds and in the minds of others. This has been called ‘explicit or conscious mentalization’. We know it is explicit when we puzzle over the reasons, intentions or causes of thoughts, feelings and actions, of our own and others. This explicit aspect of mentalization enables our sense-making and our capacity for the expression of feeling in language, in our own words. In this explicit mode of mentalizing we keep mental states in mind; we are using our attention to be mindful of what others are thinking and feeling as we simultaneously observe our own states. We ask ourselves, for example, ‘why did I feel that way after she said that, or did I cause her to feel shame when I observed her slumping?’ Here, you notice, through your own personal stories and narratives, how communication unfolds and how it is affected by thought and feeling.
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