Raymond Holmes / 04 DEC 2014 – When we are young, we experience pain. How we respond to that pain develops into coping mechanisms – how we choose to cope, handle, assimilate the stresses we face. They can be a healthy choices such as communication, expression, and acceptance; or it can be unhealthy ones like denial, rationalization, projection, and escapism. Unfortunately, as a child our responses are heavily predicated on the behaviors of our parents, guardians, and care givers – and hurt people hurt people. We all take some coping mechanisms into adulthood. The process of resolving them and discovering healthy responses is emotional maturity.
This is from a collection of notes I have kept through my recovery journey – breaking free from pornography and sexual sin and restoring my relationship with my wounded wife.
Rationalization (i.e., making excuses)
A fairly reliable rule of thumb is that when people offer more than one reason for doing something, they are probably rationalizing. Usually the true reason for any action is a single one.
As a child I was largely left to fend for myself. My parents divorced when I was young; my mother worked, my father didn’t come around, and my only sister was a bit older than me. I rationalized the neglect (“I’m not lonely – I like to be alone…”) in order to maintain a sense of order in my life. While it developed in my personality as way to protect myself, I became a slave to it. I got so used to hiding behind my excuses that I started to believe them. As an adult, rationalizing why I did things (“I need it…”, “I deserve it…”, “it doesn’t hurt anyone…”, “if you didn’t do ‘x’, then I wouldn’t need to do ‘y’…”) blinded me to my own choices and behaviors.
What it did was create a situation in which I couldn’t know myself and so I couldn’t know others. There is no relationship without revelation. This applies to our relationships with each other and our relationship with God.
If the addict were indeed error free, how did things end up in such a mess?
I had to stop failing to do the right thing and then blaming others (especially my wife).
My rationalization manifested it in other ways as well:
- I am Defensive – When she would say something, I would not confirm her. I would simply explain her concern away (“That is not the case…”)
- I am Unteachable – By being defensive and resistant, I lost the learning opportunity.
- I am Unjust – I can’t see or won’t admit my behavior. I will project the blame on others and not see that I am mad at them for the very things I am doing. (“STOP YELLING AT ME!!!”)
- I am Hostile – When approached I would raise my voice and respond in sarcasm. I create a fearful environment.
In order to break through this, I had to sacrifice what I saw as “my rights”.
- I DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO DEFEND MYSELF RIGHT NOW.
- I HAVE FORFEITED THAT RIGHT BECAUSE I HAVE CREATED A SITUATION IN WHICH I CAN’T LEARN.
This is the beginning of humility. My pride had to be broken. God works in our lives by first breaking us so he can rebuild us. We can cooperate with Him, or be dragged along kicking and screaming. Regardless of our choice, we will be broken. It is better to cooperate.
- Twerski, Abraham J. Addictive Thinking: Understanding Self-Deception
- Priolo, Lou. The Complete Husband: A Practical Guide to Biblical Husbanding