Why do we rationalize our behaviour and make excuses?

People can rationalize every action with spurious excuses. We make evasions, create counter factual causes, deception. Moreover, we also produce our own reality, as reason to continue life, necessary illusions to comply with the external reality. What causes that? Human life is enveloped with unknowns. We’re knowledgeable for some part of it, however the majority remains obscure. To cope with the unknown, to console ourselves; we make up excuses and try to rationalize our behaviours through false explanations.

We just seem to fill in the gaps that we’re not knowledgeable. This is a defensive, as well as an ordinary habit. The worst form of rationalization though, comes after exhibiting the behaviour. We act and than find unrealistic explanations for the motives or the results of the action. This is more of an evil than an ignorant act.

The ignorance that causes rationalization is mostly due to our incapability(internal) and lack of opportunity(external) and less often due to lack of motivation. We can solve the lack of motivation through analysis but capability and opportunity problems need action. You have to handle them through extensive effort.

A man spotted that the elephants weren’t being kept in cages or held by the use of chains.

All that was holding them back from escaping the camp, was a small piece of rope tied to one of their legs. He was completely confused as to why the elephants didn’t just use their strength to break the rope and escape the camp.

He asked a trainer nearby why the elephants were just standing there and never tried to escape. The trainer replied;

“When they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”

It’s same with all the circus animals. Dancing bears, singing lions; show horses. They’re all accustomed to behave contrary to their nature. Humans can also behave contrary to their nature with fake explanations. We occasionally deceive ourselves like the show animals. Admittedly show animals work for some purpose, we may be working for some purpose that we’re not conscious of. Animals don’t behave to make a show, we also don’t behave for the reasons that we say we do. Rationalizations and defence mechanisms can also be the showcase of required behaviour. Who knows? There was a student and a teacher…

Student: “Sir, what is the secret of your success?”
Teacher: “Two words.”
Student: “And, Sir, what are they?”
Teacher: “Right decisions.”
Student: “And how do you make right decisions?”
Teacher: “One word.”
Student: “And, What is that?”
Teacher: “Experience.”
Student: “And how do you get Experience?”
Teacher: “Two words.”
Student: “And, Sir, what are they?”
Teacher: “Wrong decisions.”

The wrong decisions and explanations go together with the right ones. They imply each other. However, just like every thought, you need balance. Moderation is the key to success, moderation between you and the external world; moderation between thought and reality; moderation between excuses and facts.

A master received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Master served tea, pouring his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he could no longer restrain himself. “It is overflowing!

“Like this cup,” The master said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

If you’re unhappy, the cause is probably “you.” Maybe the causes did not originate from you, but the endpoint, the agent that chooses to suffer is something that we call “ego.” A picture of one’s self. To overcome the issue you have to get rid of your illusions, and find better ones. Reset, as the planet does, and the body, and humanity with death-birth cycle. Remember, whatever you do, you’ll eventually end up with unknown. You won’t succeed in controlling life, something that we don’t know.

It’s okay to feel insecure. It’s okay to make excuses and notice that you had excuses all along. I suggest you to start moderating your excuses for better ones and more suitable to your environment. Another suggestion would be reading enlightening people such as Alan Watts, which is my inspiration. He makes philosophy that can only be intuitively grasped, and cannot be grasped completely. A philosophy that can never be wrong!

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