Borderline Personality Disorder,  Mentalizing

Mindblindness and BPD


A little while ago, I was reading through “Mentalizing in Clinical Practice” (a dense read, but worth it IMO) and I was reading the section on Mindblindness. This is a concept that was originally developed with respect to autism. It means that you have the inability to accurately read the intentions, motivations or emotions of another person, based on their behavior. We each develop (around 3-4 years old) the ability to read others motivations based on their behavior. The example they give in the book is a “mind reading” (in the sense of accurately understanding another person’s motivations – internal states – based on behavior) test – it is as follows:

Maxi is helping his mother unload the groceries. He takes the chocolate chips out of the bag and places it in the GREEN cabinet, remembering where he put it with the intention of coming back later and eating some. He goes out to play. While he is outside, his mother opens the GREEN cabinet and takes out the chocolate and uses some for cookies. She places the bag back in the BLUE cabinet and goes down to grab the laundry. While she is gone Maxi returns to get the chocolate. Which cabinet does Maxi open to try to find the chocolate chips?

Most of us would say GREEN, right? People with mindblindness and little children (less than 3-4) say BLUE. Why? Because they already know the chocolate is in the BLUE cabinet – they can’t put their minds in the mindset of MAXI, who doesn’t know the chocolate has been moved.

Why do I bring this up?

Because both people with BPD and Nons do this sort of thing all the time. We attribute motivations to others based on information in OUR minds and not on information in THEIRS. Next time you attribute a motivation to your BP (i.e. “she’s trying to control me!” or “she’s out to get me” or “she’s just trying to get attention”) stop and think about this post. Instead of assuming, ask.


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