Borderline Personality Disorder,  Mentalizing

The Implicit/Explicit Connection

Implicit and Explicit
Implicit and Explicit
When we have a conversation with someone, there are really four “people” trying to communicate. These people are you in your implicit thoughts, feelings, motivations, intent (all things inside your head and unavailable to the other person), you in your explicit expressions, words, body language, actions (all the ways you try and communicate), the other person in their implicit and the other person in their explicit. The most connected conversations are those in which each person can have the other’s “mind in mind.” This state is what complete mentalization is about. It is about understanding the meaning of the other person’s behaviors and words.

In a Non-BP/BPD relationship, this connection is generally broken. There are too many assumptions, too much focus on the content (rather than the meaning/function), too much personalization and too much “baggage” that prevents fully mentalizing. Some of the ways that one can fully mentalize is to approach each conversation from a particular “framework,” the characteristics of which are not a complete list, but a nice first attempt):

  • Being curious about the other person’s implicit situation. Ask them how they feel. (“How did you feel when he said that?”)
  • Validation for the purpose of understanding implicit understandings. (“Wow, that must have made you feel awful! Why do you think he said that?”)
  • Being humble and admitting “fault” where “fault” is warranted. (“Yes, I can see that when I said that it hurt your feelings. That wasn’t my intention.”)
  • Being compassionate for the other person’s suffering. (“You seem to be in a lot of pain right now. What do you think would help you feel better?”)
  • Seeing the situation through the other person’s eyes.
  • Starting afresh in each conversation, without grievances, relationship failures, victimhood, or assumptions that this is the “same” conversation over and over again. (NOT: “Here we go again.”)
  • Being fully engaged in the conversation.
  • Noticing words, actions and body language that break down engagement. (“When I said that, you seem to have gotten upset. What happened there?”)
  • Listen for meaning, rather than just hearing the words.

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