INTELLECTUALIZATION

The unconscious defense mechanism of concealing feelings through intellectual activity.Intellectualization takes many forms. One individual may protect himself from guilt feelings by “analyzing away” the difference between right and wrong. Another may sidetrack emotions that cause him distress by becoming totally preoccupied with minute and meaningless details. Still another may work on his emotional problems as if they were problems in accounting—for example, he might try to make decisions by adding up all the “reasons for” in one column, and all the “reasons against” in another. When an approach of this kind is applied to personal problems, such as choosing a mate, it usually indicates that an emotional conflict exists well beneath the level of awareness.Many healthy individuals resort to intellectualization in coping with difficulties. This is not surprising, since most of us have been exhorted all our lives to “Use your head,” “Reason your way out of your problems,” and “Don’t be swayed by emotion.” We may also have discovered that when things get to be too much for us, it helps to lose ourselves in a book, a serious discussion, or an intellectual hobby. These are normal devices which, if used with discretion, usually help rather than hinder adjustment But if intellectualization is repeatedly employed as an automatic, unconscious response to inward threats, it is likely to be a pathological reaction. A typical example is the man who occupied himself all day long with making philosophical distinctions between love and hate. Although he struggled against this compulsion, he could not give it up and in time it obsessed his mind so completely that he had to quit his job. He eventually undertook treatment, in the course of which the therapist uncovered a deep conflict which, significantly, involved hateful impulses toward a person he loved. See OBSESSIVE- COMPULSIVE REACTION. For other defense mechanisms that border on intellectualization or overlap with it

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "INTELLECTUALIZATION," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/intellectualization/ (accessed March 20, 2019).
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