Mentalizing is making sense of mental states–one’s own and others. There is a theory that in borderline personality disorder, difficulties in mentalizing are part of the cause, and that makes sense to me.
Maybe not specifically about bpd–I can’t say about that–but in complex trauma generally. Mentalizing is partly learned: you feel hungry, you cry, your parent feeds you, and I think you work out that what one does about the feeling of hunger is eat. You know how to respond to that feeling of hunger, because your parent knew to do. But what if your parent instead hits you?
I suppose hunger is not very complicated, but other feelings and needs are, and it’s not that easy to figure out acceptable avenues for addressing them when the model for how to respond is unclear or silencing.
I think the feelings become more intense when you don’t respond to them, and I also think when you shut the feelings down they become merely thoughts and urges that you are more likely to act on.
That is what I see in myself, anyway. Emotions can seem almost unmoored. What brought this on? And that can make them seem global or total in some sense: I was writing yesterday, and I felt overwhelmed with feelings of badness. That’s shame, isn’t it? And I think that’s a step forward: okay, so this is a feeling. I am having a feeling. And the feeling is called shame. Shame, among other things, happens when you have violated some kind of social norm. That ought to be guilt, but I seem to feel shame and guilt over similar things.
It seemed total and global. I began to consider my general worth in the world, but after a second I realized I had moved away from a painful topic. Okay, so I think I ought not to do that. I ought to stay with difficult things. That is, actually, kind of my rule for myself. And it came down to size. I went on with my writing.
I have a feeling. It is called shame. It happened because I violated a rule I hold for myself.
The thing is that this is not a big deal. I moved back toward the difficult topic, which my feelings were telling me I ought to stay with. Life went on.
Unmoored and disconnected, it is a big deal. It’s much more painful.
There have been times when I have written in this blog that it isn’t about the past. It’s about the present. Because, actually, it is both. The process of thinking about them is not, in itself very different.
Oh, so I