It’s something most of us have done at one point or another. We find reasons to fulfill urges that we know are not necessarily good for us. Maybe we justify having the dessert we know we should avoid; or we find an excuse to buy that piece of furniture we know is too expensive and don’t necessarily need; or we justify having that sushi dinner that’s beyond our financial means; or we talk ourselves into having just one more drink or smoking when trying to quit; and so on.
We’re so good at finding justifications, too. Maybe we’re deciding to celebrate a good day at work; or maybe we’re remembering that time three months ago where we were well ahead of the budget line; or maybe we justify cheating on our partner because we’ve felt so neglected by them, so we feel we’re owed something; or maybe we remember the discount we received a couple weeks ago that saved us $50, so now we feel we can safely spend that extra $50 on clothes.
Justifications are basically excuses that enable us to do things we know deep down aren’t a good idea. At times, justifications can be helpful to give us a little push when it’s healthy (e.g. maybe a person who works long hours finds a way to justify taking some time off to spend with family, knowing it will be a good thing; or someone who is generally frugal with money finds a way to justify buying something that they’d usually justify not buying.).
But, when we justify unhealthy behaviors, we are essentially hiding from our emotions. The truth is, we may want that sushi dinner, or to have that drink or cigarette, or have that piece of furniture, but we subconsciously know that it’s not a good idea, so we find a way to convince ourselves that we’re actually doing it for other reasons.
Justifications often get people into trouble, and at a certain point have consequences mentally, emotionally and physically. They can hurt relationships, empty bank accounts, or jeopardize our medical health. Every time we justify doing or not doing something, we actually strengthen the avoidance of emotion. We keep ourselves in denial of the true emotions.
When we give in to our justifications, we are giving ourselves permission to do things that take us away from emotional balance. This makes it easier to do so the next time, especially if the consequences aren’t immediate. For example, if we spend money on a credit card, the impact won’t be felt until having to pay the bill later.
The delay in consequence helps us feel like our justifications aren’t a big deal. However, when later comes around, the consequences lead to greater emotional distress. Depending on the behavior and consequence, we could end up with increased anger, depression, frustration, worry, anxiety, etc.
Next time we find ourselves creating reasons to do or not do something:
Breaking through denial takes motivation because we aren’t fully conscious of what we are suppressing. If we’re passive, we’ll remain in denial, until the consequences force us to give attention to the issue. With some effort and courage, we can become aware of our tendencies to enable ourselves to make unhealthy decisions. This would be a positive step in achieving mental and emotional balance in our lives.
Woman eating a donut photo available from Shutterstock
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From Psych Central's website:
How Justifications Impact Our Mental Health – PsychCentral.com (blog) | Health News (August 11, 2012)
Giant Comfort » How Justifications Impact Our Mental Health (August 12, 2012)
Last reviewed: 11 Aug 2012