Mentalization and Metacognitive Skills

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  • Post published:November 19, 2021
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Photo: Kamil Szumotalski

Do you want to improve your ability to regulate your emotions so you aren’t blown around by the changing winds of mood? You can start by memorizing the following six metacognitve skills.

Identification is the ability to recognize what is happening in one’s inner experience, and greatly overlaps with mindfulness. Someone with weak identification skills will have trouble knowing what emotions they’re feeling and is more likely to be overwhelmed by them as a result. On the other hand, recognizing when we’re experiencing sadness or anger can help us to act accordingly.

Relating Variables can be understood as linking emotional causes with behavioral effects. For example, “I get angry when my partner doesn’t listen to me”, “If I exercise regularly and sleep well then I feel happier.” By relating variables one has a sense of the motivations behind their actions.

Differentiation helps us separate our mental experience from reality. We think someone is hateful or stupid, but when we develop differentiation, we are aware that this may not reflect reality – even though it feels real for us! Someone who is developing differentiation will begin to notice when they are confusing their feelings with objective fact.

Integration is the ability to explain one’s mental states and processes in a coherent narrative form that makes sense.  This applies to self and other, and prevents us acting on an incomplete understanding of a situation.

Decentration, or simply taking the perspective of others, reminds us we are only the centers of our own experience, but not of others’. It lets us mentalize, or imagine, the minds of people around us, so we know not to take their actions personally.

Mastery is a factor that enables us to have experiences, feel any pain or difficulty in them, and yet not come off balance. This can range from seeing minor incidents as not affecting an otherwise good day, to being able to grieve in a healthy manner, or remain composed in heated conversations. Mastery, which can also be understood as personal effectiveness in cognition and emotional regulation, ranges from basic coping methods like avoiding stressful situations to a comprehensive, rational perspective that is naturally regulatory.

 

Semerari, Liotti, DiMaggio, et al, 2003,  Third Center of Cognitive Psychotherapy, Rome School’s 6 metacognitive skills

This listicle is one in a series of short-reads with practical advice on how to improve different areas of your life.

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