Rationalizations and compartmentalization

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Rationalizing is defined as devising self-satisfying but incorrect reasons for one's behavior and many people have become self-defined experts in doing so. It has become an integral part of their lives. Jeff Goldblum said in the movie, "The Big Chill" that rationalizations are more important than sex because we can go days without sex but it's hard to go even hours without a rationalization.

We see this happen on the job, in the classroom, among friends, and especially between lovers. Making up reasons for why we do the things we do, even though the reasons are not right or accurate, because they justify our behavior and absolve us of any personal responsibility.

I have encountered this a couple of times in my own life recently. A few weeks ago I confronted a friend over something he had allegedly said about me and, rather than dealing with the situation and accepting responsibility for his own behavior, he turned the whole situation around and tried to blame his behavior on me.

A very similar situation occurred the other day when I was talking to the woman I've been in love with for six years. She was accusing me of doing things that she had, in fact, done herself. But because she was unable to accept responsibility for her own behavior, the blame was placed on me. I didn't think she was capable of doing that but she proved me wrong. It's not a very attractive trait.

People also compartmentalize their lives in order to compensate for their own shortcomings. The woman previously mentioned is very good at doing that as well. She has led two separate lives; one with me, one without me. She once left a message on my phone that said, "Sometimes when I'm not with you, I forget how you make me feel when I am with you." Many people literally compartmentalize and rationalize their lives away, especially when they live their lives only in the short term. That, by definition, makes it impossible for them to see the big picture which includes the ultimate and final consequences of their behavior and the choices they have made.

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I played golf with Bob Christie and Lyle Moskel yesterday, both retired instructors from McCook Community College. While we were playing, Bob reminded me that he had chaired the search committee that had hired me twelve years ago. He also said, tongue partly in cheek, that some people had never forgiven him for that.

I'm sure that's true.

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If you don't have plans for Sunday afternoon and evening, you're invited to drive over to the Rocket Inn in Indianola for a benefit for Rodney Ellis who recently had major heart surgery. Dave, Carol, and Scott are spearheading the effort to help out Rodney who has been an important member of the Indianola community for years and a friend to just about everyone he comes into contact with. Rodney is the owner-operator of Lee's Body Shop and is a member of the Indianola volunteer fire department.

Scott says that Rodney has helped out nearly everyone in the community at one time or another, no matter what the occasion or time of day, and often without any financial compensation at all.

Because of the surgery, he will obviously be unable to work for some time and the citizens of Indianola have identified Sunday as the day to "pay it forward" for everything Rodney has done for the town over the years.

The benefit at the Rocket Inn will go from noon to midnight. Live music will be supplied by the bands "Rope" and "Jackass Penguins." Karaoke will be featured when the bands aren't playing. There will also be a charity poker tournament, a bean-bag toss, games and more.

More than 25 individuals and businesses have donated items for a charity raffle and auction, including a donation by Rodney's favorite NASCAR driver, Mark Martin.

A cover charge will be assessed that includes drinks, food buffet, and entertainment with all proceeds going directly to Rodney.

If you are unable to attend, cash donations can be sent to or raffle tickets can be acquired from the Rocket Inn.

This is a good cause for a good guy and I hope many of you will attend.

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