- Reviewed By Priyanka Bhattacharjee, Licensed and Practicing Clinical Psychologist
What is Rationalization?
It’s something we pretty much do every day and most of the time it goes unnoticed. Rationalization is when you make excuses for yourself . You believe that the excuse made is logical and “rational”. I’ll give you an example: “Oh, I’m feeling quite down today.
I’ll have a cheat meal to make myself feel better, even though I’m on a diet.” Now don’t lose your heart we’ve all been there. But this behaviour can sometimes be detrimental.
Rationalizing every day thoughts can be helpful, sometimes. But most people use it to deceive themselves on a regular basis.
Ernest Jones introduced the term to psychoanalysis. He defined it as “the inventing of a reason for an attitude or action, the motive of which is not recognized”. In simple words it means we are making “reasons” or excuses to excuse our behavior.
Rationalization as a Defence Mechanism
One of the major methods of Rationalization is Defence Mechanism. When things don’t happen in the way we want , we will console self saying “ that wasn’t meant for me”.
It is a mechanism of shielding self from reality.
Psychologists state that rationalization is a way the brain suppresses ‘cognitive dissonance’.
Cognitive dissonance is a feeling of contradiction. The conflict between your thoughts/actions and your morals or belief system. An example of is ‘you love the environment but you still use plastic water bottles’.
This can cause a feeling of mental distress as you feel a little conflicted with your actions.
In what ways is rationalizing affects me ?
Rationalizing every impulsive act can turn into a toxic trait. As every act is a plain reason or excuse, people deny or ignore the truth of reality.
This is harmful for a person’s decision making capabilities.
6 common instances where rationalizing negatively affects your mental health
Let us look at some common instances of Rationalization :
1. Rationalizing Poor Decisions
It may be buying something you can’t afford or waking up late even when you know you will be late to the office. You have to hold yourself accountable for your actions.
It is remembering that your actions have consequences. They affect you and others in certain instances. There are many times where we try to blame others to get a sense of relief for self.
For Example : “Oh, I was rude to her because she deserves it”
Hilarious, I know! Sometimes people are delusional and it is good to always remember the consequences.
2. Rationalizing Abusive Behavior
Well, you would have found this abusive dynamic’ in the movies. But, you will be surprised to know that abusive behaviour is in any kind of relationship. Be it platonic or romantic, even between friends and family.
‘Gaslighting’ is a very popular term that has been popping off on social media. It means to manipulate or to make a victim believe that they must not trust their own judgment. It will rely on the oppressor and create a false sense of reality.
People who gaslight almost always tend to rationalize their destructive actions. As it is necessary or appropriate though they might be causing physical or mental harm to someone else.
3. Rationalizing Situations You’re Stuck In
Now this can be something that a victim feels while in an abusive relationship. They will rationalize being with that person by saying things like, “Oh, he/she loves me they didn’t mean to hurt me” or
“This person means a lot to me and I have history with them and thus I must stay”. Saying things like this may comfort you at the moment but there is no progress in saying it.
Other situations like your career and education you may say things such as “Meh, that job wasn’t good for me anyway”.
Instead, we ought to realize that not have qualified for a certain post or gotten into our dream school. So, we must continue to work on ourselves until the next opportunity rolls around.
4. Rationalizing To Mend Bruised Egos
Ego is a concept introduced by the famous Sigmund Freud. Defence mechanism is at the peak when the Ego’s get affected.
“Oh, I didn’t win the contest because the results were rigged”. At times like this self-reflection and self-improvement helps to tame this urge.
5. Rationalizing Addictive Behaviors
In this world dopamine surges are just a click away,. Adding on addictive behaviours to our existing list becomes quite easy. The rationalization behind every addictive behaviour is this for pleasure. This most important pleasure that comes easily without any hard work.
This can be related to porn addictions, smoking habits, binging anything beyond a limit and the excessive use of social media. Situations like these can escalate to a dangerous level pretty quickly if not monitored.
6. Rationalization of Mental Health Issues
As more people spread awareness on mental health, the stigma around it is reducing. But Mental Health Issues are either branded as ‘Cool’ or hushed off.
They do not want to accept their mental health and strive to improve instead they stay put. It is always a good move to resort to professional therapy if you are going through mental health issues.
3 Things to Keep in Mind to Overcome The Problem Of Rationalization
1. Be honest with yourself
It is good to be in check with the reality of things and evaluate your situation and always have options!
Acceptance and accountability are the key words while tackling rationalization.
Accept the truth and make sure you realize the consequences of your decisions. As ,they may affect not you but also the people around you. Act on something that will make you accountable. Make sure to rectify things yourself if you make a mistake.
2. Find tools that can help
We live in the golden age of technology where everything we need is in the palm of our hands. There are multiple resources out there to help us and the internet is also a good place to start.
If you’re trying to quit porn, for example, you can install a porn blocker like BlockerX on your phone and laptop. This way you no longer have to actively avoid porn. The app will make adjustments to hide adult content from you automatically.
3. Think logically not emotionally
We as humans tend to base our decisions on emotion and this is precisely why we tend to rationalize instead try focusing on the goal and logically think of ways to reach your desired outcome. Remember, recognizing the issue is half the battle already.