By: Kaleigh Nobbe, Counseling Intern

So you didn’t mean it like that. In many situations we can believe that a person’s words or actions were intended to hurt us, but they brush it off like nothing ever happened. What does this mean and how do we move forward? It could be as simple as learning to mentalize or  reflect on the experience to understand the misunderstanding.

How does this work? Take for example a child, thrilled that they get to play at the park. They run from the house and make a beeline for the slide until suddenly they’re pulled by the arm and scolded. The child may be thinking the parent was just being mean and intended to hurt their poor little bicep, unable to understand that they were running into dangerous traffic. The parent didn’t intend to cause pain but reacted in a way that may have just saved a life.

We won’t always be in this drastic situation however we can scale it down. Recently I was walking down a sidewalk and nearly collided with a bike. Instead of knocking the biker to the ground (more likely I would have been the one to fall), I quickly shifted right and came in contact with another person. Apologizing profusely, I pointed to the biker up the street and explained. There was no harm intended and we were able to walk away without hard feelings.  

This ability to understand an action from one another’s points of view is mentalization. We develop this ability, this skill, as time goes on and as we open ourselves to others. Even if we are filled with automatic emotion at first, reflecting and being mindful of causes we may not have seen helps prevent our feelings of animosity. One of my personal mottos is “if you can take it two ways, take it the way that doesn’t offend you.”   

I’m aware that these interactions and hurts can build up and get in our way. If you think you could benefit from working through hurts or hardships please call Owens Counseling at 847-854-4333, or email me at


For more information on mentalization, consider exploring The Center for Mentalization.