How does Rationalizing and Justifying affect my Recovery?

When a person engages in unwanted sexual behaviors, especially if they are hiding it from their partner or loved ones, they often feel so much shame their brain creates power defense mechanisms, including rationalizing and justifying. In the training we teach that people often exaggerate and justify the perceived positives of engaging in the behavior, while downplaying or ignoring the real consequences. This thinking error is actually a hallmark of any addiction.

People struggling with any unwanted behavior can be very myopic or shortsighted. Overwhelmed by the urge to act out their behavior, they temporarily forget the pain and suffering to self and others that will surely result. This is because the brain\‘s emotional center is in control, and it\‘s only focus is on instant gratification, pleasure and escape with no concern for consequences.

All reason, values, consequences, future thinking and self-control are found in the brain\‘s logic center. But when the emotional center of the brain is running the show, the logic takes a back seat and simply follows the emotional center’s lead. With the emotional center in control, past pain is forgotten and the individual puts all rational and logical thought aside and narrowly focuses on accomplishing the emotional centers goal.

In this \“brain state,\” it\‘s easy to blame, rationalize and justify.

To overcome these thinking errors follow these steps:

1. Become Aware – You need to admit to the fact that you sometimes think this way. Then you need to become aware of these kinds of thoughts when they first appear in your mind.

2. Become Accountable – You also need to acknowledge that blaming, rationalizing and justifying will not help you overcome your unwanted behaviors, but may actually lead you to indulge in them. Accountability means taking an accurate accounting of what happened. When you have a setback with the behavior, in order to get back on track, your brain needs to account for the entire process in honesty – no excuses or minimization of the behavior. Once you have made an accurate accounting, then you can truly assess what worked and what didn’t. But if you deny, rationalize or blame there is not an accurate accounting.

3. Move Forward – Once you have a ‘clean slate’ from the accountability exercise. Then from your accountability assessment of what worked and what didn’t. Consciously engage in those things that work more often and decrease those things that do not work. With a new slate you can put your energy in moving forward and not spend your time covering, blaming or rationalizing.

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