- Mental Health
Random Ramblings: Thoughts on Rationalization.
Negativity Feeds on Itself
You can rationalize anything into being okay. It’s a fascinating thing to sit back and watch, once you are aware of it. Everybody does it, to a point; but some people can make a serious art out of it.
Like going to see a family member you really don't want to see. You can get out of it. A million excuses can be made, and all of them will be reasonable excuses. A person can find themselves becoming angry and insulted when the family member calls them on it. How dare they get mad at you for avoiding them! I mean, you aren’t really avoiding them! You are busy! All of your reasons are perfectly realistic and acceptable. Coming home late from work, or just too tired – had a hard day. The car doesn’t have enough gas in it. Got a bad tire. Brakes are acting iffy. Kids aren’t feeling well. You’ve got company coming over. They're all… possible. I mean, they don't KNOW if what you told them is true or not - you COULD be held up by the thing you said... they really have no right to get mad about it, maybe you really couldn’t help it! They don’t know!
Like having an addiction. You can quit, any time you want to. You just don’t want to. If you are trying, can anyone really fault you for slipping? You have loads of reasons why you can’t quit right now. Life is just too hard, too stressful. You have an argument with a friend. You shut your finger in a door. Something weird happens at the supermarket you find embarrassing. Anything that happens that makes your heart beat a little faster, and you absolutely must have something to help calm you down, just this one last time. I thought you were quitting, says a friend. Yes, but… but why should you have to explain yourself? They don’t understand what it’s like, how stressful your life is. You find yourself getting angry and insulted, and rightly so! You have perfectly good reasons for what you do.
Or you are too sick to leave the house. Fibromyalgia. One of those weird fatigue syndromes no one can explain - but they are real, they are painful, you are tired, and you just don't have the energy to get up and go out and do anything. Maybe you have depression. You look in the mirror – that was enough to make you go lay back down on the couch. And while you lay there, your hips start to ache from sitting in one position for too long, your eyes start to hurt from looking at a screen all day, then here comes the headache. No point in trying to get up and do anything. A person can find themselves becoming angry and insulted when people tell them maybe getting out of the house will do them some good. How can they possibly say that? They don’t understand your condition. You have a million reasons why you can't leave the house. All of them perfectly realistic and acceptable...and they ARE. Realistic. And acceptable. No one can really question your reasons. They don’t know!
Procrastinating. You can find a million things that need to be done before starting to work on that essay you need to write, before doing the laundry. All of them are perfectly realistic and acceptable reasons.
A few people may start to get angry just reading this. But – those are real things! Addiction and fibromyalgia, and migraines and arthritis, and I really am too busy to stop and visit with people, they need to understand I have a family of my own to take care of! That’s real!
But no one said these things aren’t real. Every single one of them is a real and acceptable excuse. No one really knows if they are true or not. Only you know if they are true, and you get angry because of course they are true, and people don’t believe you. Isn’t that why you get angry? Isn’t it?
This can just be the beginning of a long future filled with self-righteous anger and indignation. Because the truth is, you can rationalize anything into being okay, and after a little practice, you find that pulling out the indignation and anger causes people to back pedal, apologize… and leave you alone. Because the truth is, they don’t KNOW. We can use this not knowing as a cloak to wrap ourselves in safely. And besides. We know what we say is the absolute truth!
Here is a different kind of rationalization. You will hear friends, family, co-workers… yourself… say, “Treat me like an adult, I’m not a child!!” with that same kind of righteous indignation. People say this when they want other people to treat them like responsible human beings. They say this when someone insinuates they aren’t being responsible, or acting in a mature fashion. They are responsible! They are mature! They have a driver’s license!
But curiously, these same people don’t really behave in the manner they wish to be treated. They do things – they toe the line. They play right on the edge of the house rules, or the company rules. They test, then they stop and look around to see if anything is going to happen. Nothing happens. So they test a little bit more. No reaction. So they start using the computer for personal reasons at work. They stop doing their chores at home. They call in sick or come in late. They break curfew at home. Nobody says a word. So they keep pushing the envelope, basically begging for someone to notice what they are doing. And when no one says a word, they just keep on doing whatever they are doing - no one has told them to stop, so it must be okay, right? No one cares. But then, finally, someone does tell them to stop. Immediately the anger and indignation manifest. They say, "We don't need you to tell us what to do - we aren't children!"
Yet, your family and co-workers have watched you do these things for months, and said absolutely nothing to you about it. That must make it okay, right? They should have said something earlier? Why didn’t they say anything when they first saw you do it? Because - they have been treating you like the adult you say you are for all that time – waiting for you, as an adult, to adjust your behavior on your own. But you didn’t. Instead, you kept pushing to see how long it would be before someone did finally say something. Then you get indignant, because they aren’t treating you as an adult.
Does anyone see the irony in that example? In this example, you are rationalizing that it’s okay to take liberties, because no one is saying you can’t. Being able to take liberties is one of the privileges of being an adult, and so you must be very favored when no one says you can’t. So, you rationalize, that must mean you can take a few more privileges – after all, if they don’t want you to do that, they will say something. Then when they do say something, you are shocked and belittled, and made to feel like a grade school kid. No one tells adults what to do! Yes, but adults are supposed to play the part of an adult, and to do that, they should not need to be told what to do. Even if they are getting good grades in school, they should do their share of the work at home. Even if they are an excellent worker, they need to follow the company rules the same as everyone else.
But they have rationalized themselves into believing they deserve special privileges. They have rationalized themselves into believing being an adult is not being told what to do, rather than the truth; being an adult is not having to be told what to do. You wouldn’t do them in the first place, because as an adult, you respect the rules of the environment you are in.
We all do this. Admit it. Every single one of us. Every single one of us rationalizes the choices we make into being okay, when we know… WE KNOW… they are not. And the anger and indignation that manifests? You know who it is really directed at. You KNOW.
In all of the instances above, we can get away with our rationalizations for a pretty long time. But we all know that’s not what we really want. You may think it is, but look. Look inside yourself. Do you really want to alienate yourself? Do you really want to be addicted to drugs? Do you really want to lay on the couch all day, be depressed all the time, stay home and do nothing because of pain? I can hear the clamor in my ears already, “You don’t get it! You don’t understand! I really DO have…. She drives me nuts! It’s real! You don’t understand, you don’t live my life, try being me for a day or two…”
Pull the positive to the front.
Once again, no one said it wasn’t real. No one said your reasons weren’t absolute truth. Ask yourself the question again. “Do you really want this… thing, that angers you so much when other people ask you about it… do you really want to go on like that?”
It's almost like we WANT someone to tell us to stop. It’s almost like, by the actions we take, we are screaming for someone to notice us.
Some people, being polite, say nothing. Some people feel it is not their business, not their place; they say nothing. Some people are actually just treating you like an adult; they shrug, maybe shake their heads, and walk by. The people of America today nod sagely and say, yes, this is how it should be. We are free to do anything we want. So we sit back and quietly watch with growing concern, but say nothing, because it’s not the polite thing to do. Freedom – being allowed to be an individual - is much more important.
On the opposite end, we have some people who are not polite. They need to be in control of the situation. They have experience and really care; they want to stop the train wreck from happening. Or maybe you are just annoying the crap out of them with your antics, and they can’t concentrate on their own lives until your situation is dealt with. They are rude, nosy busy bodies that can't keep their noses out of your business, and won’t leave well enough alone.
Once again, it is a matter of extremes. Today’s world insists on left or right thinking, and there is no place for balance. It truly makes no sense, because balance is the ultimate goal, and always has been. We have forgotten what we are, and what it is we are supposed to be doing. We are supposed to help each other, but we aren’t supposed to force each other. We are all here for our own reasons and must follow our own paths. But if we remember what it is we are here for in the first place – to tweak and improve the evolution of all life – we know that includes tweaking and improving each other. We need to share the experiences we have had so we can all use this knowledge to continue the evolutionary process.
We aren’t doing that. We need to remember.
So, people are screaming for someone to notice them, and nobody seems to. So we push the envelope, further and further, waiting for someone to tell us to stop. No one does. If they do, we rationalize, and they accept our reasons. So it must be okay.
And it goes on from there. Doing worse things. Taking home a few pens from work; taking a few things from work. Drinking more, using drugs (to keep you sharp and alert, of course) and on and on it goes. When people finally do say something, it’s too late. What kind of a reaction do you get from a person who is allowed to do anything they want their whole lives, when they are suddenly told they can’t do it anymore? You get self-righteous indignation and unreasonable anger – who are you to tell them what to do? This unreasoning anger comes from a deep, visceral response they aren’t even aware of themselves: Who are you to tell them what to do NOW, when no one cared at all until it got this bad? Where were you, when I was screaming all this time for you to notice me? The door is slammed and you are completely shut out, and there is little hope for them, unless they can help themselves.
If we started a little earlier with the caring, things might be different. If we had started when they were small, instead of letting them run wild…
But we cannot lay the blame for the state of our lives on someone else – not ever. Having said that we need to offer help to others, we also need to accept the help and accept the criticisms. No one, not one single person on this earth, has the power to help you if you won’t let them in.
When people say nothing, view this from a new perspective. We are not being given permission to push the envelope; we are being treated as adults. People are waiting for us to tell ourselves that this is not okay. We need to just stop doing these things on our own. If we can’t - and we can’t with things like addiction and depression - then we need to admit it to ourselves and ask for help. Don’t wait for it to be offered. We have forgotten what we are, but we instinctively want to help; that is what we are here for. Ask, and those who have silently watched your struggles will reach out to you; they know now that you really are ready to accept that help. Ask, and you shall receive.
Ultimately, we must take responsibility for ourselves. We must see our rationalizations for what they are. To know the honest truth, without rationalization, we need only to ask this one question; who am I hurting/offending/bothering when I do this? It all comes back around to the basic Golden Rule. Cause no harm. Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.
A responsible adult is able to look at their actions and know, without being told, that cussing and horseplay are okay in one environment, but not in another. If you're goofing off at work and being paid to be there, who are you hurting? Are you stopping other people from working as well? Do you even care? Sure, no one is telling you to stop, but your raises haven't been very big - is that fair? Well, think about it. Is it?
Who are you hurting?
The truth is, you have control over only one thing, and that thing is you. What other people are doing doesn't matter, and you cannot compare your actions against theirs. You compare today’s actions against the actions from yesterday and the day before. You can't ever compare yourself to others; there will always be persons greater and lesser than you in every skill, every area, every aspect of life. You can only improve yourself against yourself, and you can always achieve more than you did before. Small steps, every day; you can and will do it.
In doing this, you will feel better about yourself. Your pain levels drop, your stress levels drop, and your confidence rises. Stop comparing yourself to the people around you; use only yourself to guide your progress. Let go of the control factor – control you. Do this, over time, and you will see; your attitude towards life changes.
Those people over there can gossip, but we can choose not to join in on it - and we can also choose not to feel all uppity and self-righteous about not joining in on it. We are not better than the gossipers - they can choose to do what they want to do; we can choose not to. We all know there are things we all do that we shouldn’t be doing. In fact, that's what they are gossiping about.
It's okay. We don’t need to call them out on it. They are adults – they will figure it out.
Sit back and watch, and you will see a change in people when they realize you are working hard not to participate in negative activities. Watch, and you will see how the negativity draws more negativity to it. You can actually see it happen, when you separate yourself from it. Sit back and watch it instead of participating in it, and you will get a completely different perspective.
You can feel magnanimous and decide you want to share this new-found information with the negative, rationalizing people; this usually results in you being rejected as a nosy busy body.
You can get resentful that they get away with these things while you are playing the martyr. But this isn’t about them. It’s about you. And what is there to resent about your increased sense of confidence and self worth? When you have accomplished these things – overcome rationalization, set a more positive course with slow and steady goals in place; when you have asked for and accepted help with the steps too difficult to climb alone, you will find yourself to be more content with who you are and more fulfilled with the knowledge that you are indeed moving on to bigger and better things.
Let people do what they like; don't resent them. That's drawing the negativity they are producing to you. Each of us will open our eyes and remember what we are in our own time. You only have control of you. Trust that they will realize this about themselves as well, exactly the same way as you did, and be ready to help when they ask for it.
Yes; I know it's simplistic, and there are exceptions to every rule, and of course, we can always rationalize all this away, and explain to ourselves why none of this will ever work for us. We can always take another pill and keep laying on the couch. But can you rationalize a brighter future, doing that?
Negativity LOVES rationalization.