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Rationalization – Psychological Defense Mechanism – Complete Guide

Rationalization: I failed because my teacher hates me!!!
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At times people will go to great lengths to attempt to “justify” behaviour that they know is wrong or that they know others regard as wrong. This attempt to justify is what we call rationalization. We have all done this at some point in our lives, and some of us may even be rationalizing daily!

What is Rationalization?

Rationalization - Psychological Defense Mechanism - Complete Guide

Rationalization is a defense mechanism identified by Freud.

According to Freud

When people are not able to deal with the reasons they behave in particular ways, they protect themselves by creating self-justifying explanations for their behaviours.

Reasons for Rationalization?

  • It could be something that we have done or, at times, something that someone else has done, which causes discomfort.
  • We not only rationalize actions and the things we have done, but we also find a reason for our beliefs, models, values and other inner structures and thoughts.

How does Rationalization help?

Rationalization - Psychological Defense Mechanism - Complete Guide

Let us take an example of a person who applies for a job and gets rejected.

He may rationalize and say, “I did not want this job anyway”.

Temporarily this rationalization is helpful because it helps him overcome the disappointment of being rejected. Once he gets over this disappointment, he will go ahead and work towards developing his skills.

So what’s wrong with Rationalization?

There is a possibility that the man is not getting the job because he lacks certain skills. Now if this man continues rationalizing even after multiple rejections, he may not even work on developing his skills. Hence, the same rationalization that was useful for him now becomes a clutch. A clutch that stops him from improving himself.

Rationalization Process

The rationalization process can range from fully conscious (that is, to present an external defense against ridicule from others) to mostly subconscious (that is, to create a block against internal feelings of guilt). Simply put, rationalization is making excuses for one’s mistakes and, by doing so, avoiding self-condemnation or condemnation by others.

Rationalization - Psychological Defense Mechanism - Complete Guide

Rationalization and Self-Serving Bias:

Since Rationalization happens after the event takes place, it is connected to the self-serving bias.

When confronted by success or failure, people tend to attribute achievement to their own qualities and skills, while failures are blamed on other people or outside forces. For example, a student may blame the examiner for being stringent in grading her rather than lack of effort on her side or say a teacher may take credit for his students getting good results solely because of his effective teaching, nullifying the student’s efforts.

We rationalize to ourselves and others, at times to even people unknown to us. Let us say a woman trips and falls over in the street and tells a passer-by, “I have recently been ill”. Here it is helping her save herself from feeling embarrassed or maybe from being ridiculed by others for not being careful.

Types of Rationalizations

Generally, Rationalizations can be divided into two types:

  1. One is the “silver lining,” an assumption that everything happens for the best, so one should try to find the blessing in disguise. Considering the above example of the person being rejected for a job, the person may say, “I didn’t get the job because something better awaits me.”
  2. The second type of rationalization is the “sour grapes phenomenon,” a term that comes from Aesop’s fable about the fox who said that the grapes too high to reach were sour anyway. Retaking the above example, the person may say, “I wasn’t interested in this job anyway.”

Now what?

Watch out for your own rationalizations. It is important to check reality and be true to yourself. If you or someone you know has been using rationalization in a manner that is beginning to create a problem,  do feel free to call us at +91-808020-8473 or use the contact us form.

Therapists Niche:

Various techniques from Hypnosis and NLP can be used to help the client understand their behaviour from a third person’s point of view. This provides them with an opportunity to realize the situations where rationalization may not be working for them.

Hypnosis, NLP and CBT-related processes can also help the client develop skills to be more mindful about their thoughts, emotions, behaviours and situations where they are (mis)using rationalization.

If you are a psychologist who would like to learn to effectively work with clients who have been using different defense mechanisms like rationalization in ways that sustain the problem instead of resolving it, you must search for the Cognitive Hypnotic Psychotherapy® Program. It is the only program that seamlessly integrates different approaches to psychotherapy (cognitive, behavioural, psycho-dynamics and humanistic) with powerful techniques from Clinical Hypnosis, NLP, Metaphors and Mindfulness.

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