My ex-husband left me several years ago. In the months that followed, I spent the days engaged in intellectualization of his reasons. Logic dictated that some fault existed in one or both of us to cause his divorce request. After all, I couldn’t allow myself to fall to the rage, pain, and sadness his actions caused.
Fast-forward to the present. I am happily married to another man and I spend almost no time agonizing over my ex. What often remains unsaid is how much work it takes to overcome a wound without closure. Likely, it wouldn’t be possible if I hadn’t learned to feel again.
What is Intellectualization?
Intellectualization is a defense mechanism in which people reason about a problem to avoid uncomfortable or distressing emotions.Psychology Today
To put it another way, it’s thinking to avoid feeling. Intellectualization involves analyzing the logic and reason aspects of a situation to avoid or disregard the emotions the situation causes. According to ScienceDirect, it’s an over-focus on conscious thought processes. The reasonable mind in dialectical behavioral therapy takes over.
So what does it feel like? Watching an inferno rage just behind a frosted window. The heat flares to life even through the glass, but finding the intricate details of the flame proves impossible. That window justifies the emotional fire without allowing the full brunt of its heat to scald the heart.
Unfortunately, though, the process can mistake positive emotions for a destructive fire rather than a tempering one. It’s a blatant disregard of the relationship between genuine emotion and the core self.
Core Self & Emotion
How would I define the core self? Honestly, PsychCentral has a great article on it. To sum it up in one concise concept, the core self is the ultimate place of personal vulnerability, without shame, without reserve. The wise mind.
Often our life experience challenges us to cover and create protective layers over DBT’s wise mind. Either the reasonable mind takes over and logic suppresses emotions or else the emotion mind controls thought and behavior, leading to outbursts and other issues.
The difficulty of removing layers of life experience such as trauma from self-perception is a long, painful, difficult adventure often perceived as dangerous. Many people never attempt the feat, remaining comfortable in a thick overcoat of issues despite the heat of those emotions both negative and positive beating at the frosted window.
I find it vital to reconnect with that vulnerable place where I can observe my thoughts and my emotions without judgment. Thanks to the triple threat of disorders of mood, personality, and behavior, I cannot afford to be passive about my moods and emotions. Containing my actions regardless of my feelings can be immensely difficult.
Observing in Order to Act
The wise mind balances thought and feeling. When functioning from this place of balance, it’s possible to be genuinely vulnerable. To see the next step without shame is to satisfy the emotional reaction and the logical side of life.
Choosing a wise-mind action is rarely easy. Such a move involves effort and dedication to the balancing act. It requires stepping away from both thought and feeling, observing them without judgment, and taking steps accordingly. This can be done while still feeling the full fervor of an emotion.
Take a few deep breaths. Continue through the fire of emotion to the other side, where feeling lessens and thought brightens. Not too far, though. Humans are emotionally rational beings. We belong in both worlds.
Have you ever experienced a wise-mind moment? A rational mind moment? What about an emotional mind moment? I sincerely believe each of us has experienced all three. What is your best technique to access the wise mind and balance emotion and logic? I can’t wait to read the comments below.