In psychology rationalization is a defense mechanism in which ill behaviors or feelings are justified and explained in a seemingly rational or logical manner in the absence of a true explanation. Rationalization is an attempt to logically justify generally unacceptable behavior.
Rationalizing an event may help individuals maintain self respect or avoid guilt over something they have done wrong. Many a time rationalization is not harmful, but continuous self-deception, when a person consistently makes excuses for unacceptable behavior, can become dangerous.
In as much as rationalization is a defense mechanism, rationalization can be adaptive. In that it protects people from unsafe emotions and motivations, but it can also contribute to maladaptive behavior.
It’s safe to say that, most if not all of us rationalize at one point in time or the other. But most of us engage in rationalization on semi-regular basis.
Examples. A person might attribute their inability to show up to an event, to the heavy traffic and also hence their foul mood. Another person who’s passed over by a promotion at work, would easily justify that by saying that they’re not even ready for such added responsibility for now.
I’m sure that at this point you’re gradually getting that hang of how rationalization works. So let me ask, do you practice rationalization? Well I know that I do, and so that makes two of us.
Rationalization is actually a defense mechanism that allows you to justify bad behavior or feelings. It’s a way to distort facts to make things look better than they do, to convince others and yourself that your motives and actions are good, not bad.
In other words rationalization equals “making excuses” (justifiable ones at that), which is the opposite of reason and logic.
Benefits of Rationalization
Rationalization can serve a number of purposes. It can;
- Protect your self esteem.
- Help you put worries behind you.
- Help you move out of an unhealthy situation.
- Improve your mood.
- Give you the courage to face life again after a devastating blow.
- Help you succeed when the odds are against you.
Negative side effects of rationalization
Like every other thing in life, there are negative side effects to Rationalization. And this can cause some problems in your life even though it you feel better at the moment you do it. Let’s take a look at some possible effects of rationalization;-
- Hiding your emotions from yourself can have long term negative effects
- You use faulty logic to tell yourself something negative is better in the long run
- You focus on your accomplishments without acknowledging your failures
- You tell yourself everything will work out fine, truth is that everything always doesn’t work out fine.
How to stop rationalization
- Remove emotion from your decision making-your decisions need to be based on logic rather than emotion because emotions will shroud your decision.
- Be honest with yourself. Stay off the excuses and just do what needs to be done. If you can’t, admit it to yourself… and do it anyway. Own your responsibilities and come to understand why you dislike the things you do, and what you can do to improve how you feel, and implement those solutions.
- Take a small step forward. If you have a project you just can’t seem to start, implement the Pomodoro technique and force yourself to work on it for five, 10, or 15 minutes at a time. You may build enough momentum to complete the task. If not, stop at the end of the set period, knowing you’ve accomplished something.
- Increase your forward motion gradually. The next time you work on the task, increase your Pomodoro time by a few minutes, and keep increasing it daily until you hit the full time you’ve estimated for the task.
- Refuse to let anything get in your way. Put your head down like a rhino and charge. Work around physical blockages as necessary, and power through the mental and emotional ones —whether dislike, writer’s block, or fear of failure.
- There’s Always an Excuse. Though sometimes there might be genuine reasons for excuses, when you struggle with rationalization, it best you avoid making excuses.
Rationalization is a process of not perceiving reality, but of attempting to make reality fit one’s emotions.” – Ayn Rand, Russian-American author and philosopher.