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Knowing Me, Knowing You: An Intro to Mentalizing

By MMUwellbeing 05 Jan 2017

The reference to Alan Partridge was really to get your attention. But I may have failed. You might not have a clue who he is. But that's what we do every day with each other. We try and intuit, or read, the thoughts and feelings of others, while we try to know our own minds, our own thoughts and feelings. This is all about knowing me and knowing you or ‘mentalizing’. Relationships go better when we mentalize. We communicate and act better when we mentalize. To use a metaphor, it’s like being ‘online’ with ourselves and others. Like our connection to the web there’s everything in between being offline and having great broadband speed. There are several ways of going offline. I am going to tell you about one of them. Imagine a light on your router which indicates a fault, it’s a red light which flashes it’s a fault called ‘psychic equivalence’.

This red light flashes when we have a thought that seems so real it seems like ‘that-is-the-way-the-world-is-and-there-is-no-other-way-of-seeing-it’. For example a young child in bed yells to their parents, ‘THERE’S A MONSTER UNDER THE BED!’ The parents speak softly and try to convince the child there isn’t a monster. The child won’t be persuaded. They won’t look either. For a while they are ‘in and of the thought’. After a while though, and a hug, the child becomes less anxious, the thought loosens up and they look and see there is no monster. They relax and feel safe again. For that period of time before though, there was a monster and there wasn’t another way of seeing it. This is called ‘psychic equivalence’. When we dream we are in ‘psychic equivalence’.

Certain ideas that we hold dear, for example when challenged, may set that red light flashing and send us offline. So if you have a sense of going offline and perhaps ‘losing it’ our best advice is to pause, pause and pause. See the red light flashing, be the mentalizing person, breathe and walk away if needs be. We wish you a happy and peaceful New Year.

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