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Rationalization is an Awareness Reduction Mechanisms that the Bodily Ego uses to avoid the guilt and shame that comes from engaging in unaligned and disjunctive behaviours. Rationalization involves the deployment of justification to excuse uncomfortable ideas, actions, or realities.

Other Awareness Reduction Mechanisms

Awareness Reduction Mechanisms > Avoidance, Denial, Displacement, Dissociation, Distortion, Distraction, Diversion, Gaslighting, Intellectualization, Internalization, Projection, Rationalization, Reaction Formation, Regression, Repression, Sublimation

Related Terms

Awareness Reduction Mechanisms > Bodily Ego, Cognitive Wall, Defence Mechanisms, Disjuncture, Externally Directed ARMs, Internally Directed Arms


An individual will rationalize their exploitation of child labour, for example, by saying things like "It helps their economy or their family," effectively suppressing the reality of their exploitation by covering it over with a rationalized veneer.

Rationalization occurs when we justify and make excuses for things we have done, or things we have experienced. Rationalization is a common defence response when people are being asked to remember and acknowledge their behaviour. It happens in domestic life and in the corporate world. In addition to denying, Tim Cook, the Apple CEO, made excuses for his company’s tax avoidance. He rationalized his companies practices, saying things like “we pay all the taxes we owe” and that they have always done it that way. Similarly, parents who abuse their children and who find, as the children grow up, simple denial ineffective will make excuses and come up with rationalizations. They will say, “I did the best I could” or you were a “difficult” child or whatever. The excuses that people come up with are legion.

A parent rationalizes chronic emotional, psychological, or physical assault of their own children by saying "It builds character," or "Spare the rod and spoil the child."

ARMs are invoked to handle the pain and anguish of disjuncture and trauma. You can rationalize your own trauma to yourself. When you do that, it helps you put the memories back on the shelf. Rather than remember and process the full painful trauma of an abusive childhood, for example, adults will tell themselves things like their toxic experiences made them stronger, or built up their character, or made them what they are today. When we rationalize our own trauma, we give ourselves the power to press the memories back down so we do not have to experience and deal with the pain. Of course, doing that does not solve any of your issues. If you want to properly process and heal, you have to remember and process the trauma. There is no other way.


Rationalizations often cover up fear, anxiety, guilt, and shame. Discover the client's reasons for rationalization. Are they afraid of reprisal? Are the actions out of alignment? Does honest treatment bring guilt and shame? Help them process their emotions, forgive their past actions, and change their behaviour in a way that doesn't require them to rationalize.