Mentalization is the true essence of love, compassion and understanding, because it allows you to internalize the authentic “image” of the other person’s mind (and they can yours as well).
Mentalization is essentially done through asking questions, but not leading questions.
One cannot ASSUME the other person’s thoughts and feelings are what you think they are. You have to start with a blank slate each time.
You can “read” momentary feelings (such as recognizing micro-expressions) but the MEANING of those feelings is not always clear.
If you don’t know, you have to ask.
You ask by being “dumb” and not assuming. For example:
- “I’m not sure I understand. Can you help me out and explain how you feel?”
- “Why do you think he said that?”
- “What happened?”
- “How did you feel about that?”
- “That’d make me feel sad. Do you feel sad about it too?”
- “What do you think was up with that?”
- “Could you tell me more about that?”
- “Really? That wasn’t my intention. Perhaps we could talk about that more?”
- “I wonder if…” statements
The purpose is to probe the other person’s mind and to get as close to a full understanding of the other person’s internal mental processes as possible. It is impossible without a true interest in the other person. It is impossible if you judge the other person, or if you get in your own way, entangled in your own mental processes.
Don’t judge the other person’s mental processes and feelings. It is important to focus on intention. You want to know what the other person intended to say and what the intention is behind their actions. You also want to communicate your intention. However, remember that intention does not rule out consequence.
Be a Detective, not a Judge