“I don’t know anyone who can get through the day without two or three juicy rationalisations. They’re more important than sex.”
“Ah, come on, nothing’s more important than sex!”
“Ever gone a week without a rationalisation?” – The Big Chill
I love this scene from “The Big Chill”. Jeff Goldblum’s character is an arsehole. He spends the entire movie selfishly trying to raise money for a club he wants to open and hits on every female in the movie. Even the married ones and they are married to his best friends. He’s a dick, he’s in denial and thinks because everyone wants to get what they want it’s OK to be a selfish arsehole. IT’S NOT!!
He’s in denial, but he does make a few really good points and his self-awareness about how his “style” is perceived is really insightful.
One of the three foundations of STRESS TEFLON is to have honest self-awareness. This involves understanding your good parts, accepting the bad parts of yourself that you can’t change and changing the bad parts of yourself that you can. Sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as that.
The first part, understanding your good parts is simple enough.
Accepting the unchangeable parts is a bit harder, but do-able.
It’s the last part of the self-awareness puzzle that we struggle with. Changing the undesirable parts of ourselves that we CAN change. This is where denial is born.
Humans are biologically designed to be in harmony, to find an equilibrium. In biology, it’s called homeostasis. If you have conflicting ideas in your head, it disrupts this equilibrium and that can be uncomfortable. Psychologists call this cognitive dissonance, a mental tug-o-war that occurs when conflicting ideas are co-existing in our head.
“I know smoking is bad for you but I am going to light up anyway.”
“I am a kind person but I chose to ignore my friend who needs help.”
“I know I need to do this assignment, but I’m going to watch Youtube videos of cats instead.”
Whatever the situation, you always have choices. Change your actions or rationalise to get more comfortable with your actions. Unfortunately, we do the later way too often.
So, what do we do when we see things about ourselves that aren’t ideal? We rationalise! We make excuses and we lie to ourselves, in whatever way we can, to stop the tug-o-war. We decrease our accountability so we can return to homeostasis.
What’s the other option?
Own it! Own your flaws, look at them honestly and put a plan in place to change your actions and behaviour to improve the things that you have control over. If it’s part of you that you can’t change, own that too.
On the rare occasion that you have an honest look in the room of mirrors, what do you see?
Do you see a characteristic of yourself that you CAN change but haven’t because of denial and rationalisations?
Are you making excuses for doing the things that conflict with your inner values?
When most people see something they don’t like, instead of tackling the problem and changing their actions, they rationalise it. Rationalising allows us to do or say things that don’t align with our inner values. Things we know are wrong. Betraying your inner values causes toxic, sticky stress. This takes us down the fork in the stress road that doesn’t lead to a good place.
Being an arsehole is stressful and the way that a lot of people deal with their arsehole tendencies is denial and rationalisations. Stop doing that! Denial and rationalisations just delay toxic stress for another day.
Achieving eudemonia (objective flourishing) and becoming STRESS TEFLON requires the three foundations of Security in your tribe, Pride from contribution and Honest self-awareness. Doing things that are nasty, mean or dishonest decreases your pride, can get you kicked out of your tribe and results in you having to make rationalisations to feel good about yourself (ie. less self-awareness). These arsehole tendencies move you outside all three foundations of STRESS TEFLON.
Denial and rationalisations are short term fixed that decrease immediate stress and add to long term disappointments in yourself. Denial….it’s not just de river in Egypt.