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When early caregivers are unable to reflect on children's state of mind, children do not receive the instruction they require, via caregiver modeling, to develop this important capacity.In other words, when this feedback to children is either completely missing or inaccurate, children are unable to fully develop the capacity to mentalize.This enhances their understanding of both their own feelings and motivations; and those of others.This understanding results in increased social and situational awareness.Therefore, they do not learn how to understand their own thoughts, feelings, and motivations; nor the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of others.The ability to mentalize enables children to develop a sense of identity (or stable self-concept).It is believed that this capacity to mentalize is compromised in people with personality disorders.Fonagy and Bateman argue that people with Borderline Personality Disorder are limited in their capacity to mentalize.
Such healthy interactions can only occur when secure attachment is present.
You will recall the central feature of a healthy personality is an accurate understanding of self and others, coupled with a flexible approach that is responsive to differing circumstances.
This importance of flexibility is discussed more fully in the introduction of this article.
The capacity to mentalize is seen as an important and necessary skill one must master in order to successfully cope with intense emotions.
For instance, my ability to understand exactly what I feel and why I feel it, provides me the information I need to better regulate, or simply tolerate, intense feelings.