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Intellectualization is a kind of defence mechanism in which reasoning is used to block confrontation with the help of unconscious conflict. It is linked with emotional stress, where thoughts are used to avoid emotions. This mechanism involves separating your own self from a stressful thought emotionally. Intellectualization may come along with rationalization, but it is different from it.

Intellectualization is an original defence mechanism by Freud. He believed that memories have conscious and unconscious aspects. The conscious analysis is done in intellectualization in a way that does not trigger anxiety. CLICK HERE GET SUPPORT NOW

This article is all about Intellectualization; you will be able to learn about some examples, psychology and other factors related to intellectualization. So, let’s get started:

What is an example of intellectualization?

What is an example of intellectualization? Intellectualization is a kind of defence mechanism a person uses in which he tries to avoid anxiety-provoking or uncomfortable emotions with logic and reasoning. It is an excellent way of understanding and explaining negative emotions and events. For instance, a person has to deal with the rudeness of a loved one, colleague etc., he will think about the possible reason behind their behaviour. He may think that person was having a bad day; that’s why he  or she acted like this.

Although thinking logically might seem like a healthy mechanism still it can cause people to ignore the value of their own emotions and focus on dealing with difficult situations as “problems” that must be solved. This way, he  or she  might be unable to understand how to deal with his/her own complicated emotions.

Intellectualization defence mechanism example

Defence mechanisms were divided into a hierarchy of defences by Valliant that ranged from immature via neurotic to healthy defences and placed intellectualization. Intellectualization can provide a link between mature and immature mechanisms while growing up and in adult life.

However, it was proposed by Winnicott that childhood care can be a reason behind over-dependence on intellectualization as a replacement for mothering. He also saw over preoccupation with knowledge as a kind of emotional impoverishment goal at self-mother thought the mind. Similarly, Julia Kristeva explains a process stating: “symbolic itself is cathected…Since it is not sex-oriented, it denies the question of sexual difference”.

Another answer to over intellectualization can be the sense of humour, and according to Richard Hofstadter, it is a significant quality of playfulness. Freud also has said that: “Humour can be regarded as the highest of these defensive processes”.

There are plenty of examples of intellectualization defence mechanisms. Let me share an intellectualization defence mechanism example with you:

  • A person was told that he had cancer; he asked for details like the success rate of different drugs and the probability of survival. A doctor may join and use words like the terminal in place of fatal and carcinoma instead of cancer.
  • A woman who has been raped by someone looking for information regarding other rape cases, the psychology of victims and rapists. For feeling better, she goes for self-defence classes instead of directly addressing the emotional and psychological issues.
  • A person who is in debt starts building a complex spreadsheet regarding how long it will take to repay the whole debt using different interest rates and payment options.
  • Take another example of someone named Mark who has been brought up by a really strict father, feels hurt and, as a result, is angry. Although Mark might have feelings of hatred towards his father when he talks about his childhood, he would say things like, “My father was a firm person, I feel antipathy towards him still”. Mark tries to use emotionally rational words for sharing experiences that are very painful and emotional.
  • A woman who is seeking professional help from a therapist tries to explain her experience to her therapist like, “It seems to me that being psycho-analyzed is essentially a process where one is forced back into infantilism…intellectual primitivism”.She is trying to explain she is slightly uncomfortable

Intellectualization psychology

Emotions can be disruptive sometimes, and intellectualization gives us some time to face reality. Possibly it can be assumed that this is done to eliminate out uncomfortable thoughts or reduce the intensity of these emotions instead of letting this sense of hopelessness or helplessness as a result of the death of a loved one or diagnosis of a fatal disease or any such negative situation that is unexpected.

We must understand that different people deal with difficult times differently. Like other defence mechanisms, intellectualization can be healthy and unhealthy depending on how long you try to ignore your emotions. Using this tactic in the short run will be beneficial, but if you use it for the long run, it can cause trouble in the future.

Why you should not intellectualize your emotions?

Being an intellectual person is sexy, but not if you use intellectualization as a defence mechanism. Often, the line between using your brain for some wise action and using intellectualization to suppress your emotions is blurry. Intellectualization makes us feel wise and smart but if you bury all emotions under the surface, and the scenario becomes different. Here is why you should not intellectualize your emotions

Is intellectualization a form of dissociation?

Is intellectualization a form of dissociation? Yes, it is a form of dissociation that is the reason a person should never over-intellectualize.  It dissociates us from our emotions, and emotions like grief, sadness, anger do not only affect us mentally but also physical. Ignoring or suppressing them with intellectualization will not make them go away. If this was possible, intellectualization would not be classified as a defence mechanism but treatment.

It is not a therapy

What happens in therapy? We talk, we analyze our childhood, cause of behaviour, and try to come up with a strategy to not repeat the same mistakes again and again. It makes sense. We do not ignore emotions; we talk about them and find a solution to deal with them. That does not happen in intellectualization. You just make yourself realize that you should deal with it like an adult, and it will go away; you do not try to find a solution.

Let your emotions exist.

Your emotions are not worthless; they are there for a reason. They want to exist, so just give them space. You may not like these emotions and wonder why they have to show up. The answer is more you ignore your emotions via intellectualization more they will appear. So, what you can do? Just allow them. Accept them, and it will be easier for you to deal with them.

Intellectualization vs rationalization

People sometimes use the words rationalization and intellectualization interchangeably, which is wrong. So, what is rationalization, and how can we explain intellectualization vs rationalization? Rationalization is a kind of unconscious justification of troubling thoughts and resulting actions. On the other hand, in the case of intellectualization, a person is familiar with his thoughts and aware of situations consciously but simply try to be emotionally away. They do not live in denial at all and do not try to justify what has happened makes some sense at some point.

It is just like cutting a cake and saving a piece separately. Mostly a person does not have any idea about the cake he has kept in the fridge as his main focus is on the distribution of the rest of the cake. It is necessary for a person to eat his cake in time.

Importantly it is necessary for a person to deal with suppressed emotions before it is too late. If emotions are suppressed for a long time, they will start interfering with our well-being and will cause a breakdown. When it is too late, it will affect your emotions and mental health and affect you physically.

What will help you?

Intellectualization can be a valuable emotional defence mechanism when you have to put yourself together while dealing with complicated times. If you find that you cannot overcome it, you need to look for alternative approaches to deal with your feelings without totally ignoring them. Being completely aware of our experiences, figuring out how to distinguish our feelings, and asking for support from individuals in our lives can help us change our response towards complicated emotions. Here are some suggestions if you over-intellectualize every situation:

Clarity of emotions

When you get comfortable with utilizing intellectualization for every tough situation, a difference you will feel between how you actually experience emotion and how you think about that feeling. Advising yourself, “I’m just drained”, or to intellectualize as a substitute for bitterness or disappointment muddies your capacity to realize what you’re feeling. Being able to explain how you feel, even if just to yourself, can help in dealing with it. Various feelings call for various reactions. Working out which feelings are actually behind stress or other such things as grief or anxiety can help in improving our ability to deal with them.


Practising mindfulness is extremely helpful in understanding what we’re feeling at the time. This includes keenly observing your thoughts, feelings, and body without assessing or attempting to rationalize or make sense of them. You just try to accept the sensations as they occur. Non-critical mindfulness can give you signs of whether anxiety is affecting your mindset. Do you feel the tension in your body or a certain part of your body? Why are you feeling that strain? Is sitting with ease tough with it?

Asking for support

Complicated feelings will, in general, cause us to separate ourselves; however, support from social circles like friends and family can remarkably improve our mental health. Studies show that getting support from individuals in our lives increases our ability to cope with loss, anxiety and illness. Seeking help from people you trust will provide you with a safe place to share your feelings and your experiences. Sharing things will also help see things from a fresh perspective and help point out complex behavioural patterns that we might ignore. Most importantly, you will feel heard, and that is rare these days.

Addressing intellectualization in therapy

Emotions are really important. When you refuse to acknowledge them, you may fail to integrate beliefs or experiences into their identity and make better decisions regarding their relationships, health and career. For instance, a person recovering from a severe heart attack will start researching risk factors, organize the whole information, and plan a strict new diet; still, he might not be able to acknowledge that his habit of smoking is the root of the problem. A therapist will help patients confront complicated truths and making different choices with helpful self-knowledge.

Intellectualization trauma response

Here are some of the best intellectualization trauma response quotes that you will find most relatable:

  • “One of the unfortunate consequences of the intellectualization of man’s spiritual life was that the word “spirit” was lost and replaced by mind or intellect and that the element of vitality which is present in “spirit” was separated and interpreted as an independent biological force. The man was divided into a bloodless intellect and a meaningless vitality. The middle ground between them, the spiritual soul, in which vitality and intentionality are united, was dropped.” Paul Tillich
  • “The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the disenchantment of the world. Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations. It is not accidental that our greatest art is intimate and not monumental.” Max Weber
  • “In this sense, genuine artists are so bound up with their age that they cannot communicate separated from it. In this sense, too, the historical situation conditions creativity. The consciousness which obtains in creativity is not the superficial level of objectified intellectualization but is an encounter with the world on a level that undercuts the subject-object split. “Creativity”, to rephrase our definition, “is the encounter of the intensively conscious human being with his or her world.” Rollo May
  • “The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the disenchantment of the world. Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations. It is not accidental that our greatest art is intimate and not monumental.”
  • “Today, we demand justice for the oppressed. We no longer accept atrocities as the inescapable fate of the defenceless. We desire and expect a better future. But when confronted with the enormity of injustice and what it demands of us, we retreat into the familiar ritual of intellectualization and moral posturing, recycling lofty liberal ideals from a safe distance. We avoid the intimate knowledge of suffering without which we will never understand the imperative of human rights.” ― Payam Akhavan, In Search of A Better World: A Human Rights Odyssey.
  • Some lose all mind and become soul, insane. Some lose all soul and become mind, intellectual. Some lose both and become accepted. — Charles Bukowski
  • Intelligence is what you use when you don’t know what to do. — Jean Piaget
  • It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement, the greatest source of visual beauty, the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living. — David Attenborough
  • Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge. — Isaac Asimov
  • Human learning presupposes a specific social nature and a process by which children grow into the intellectual life of those around them — Lev S. Vygotsky
  • Give up identification with this mass of flesh as well as with what thinks it a mass. Both are intellectual imaginations. Recognise your true self as undifferentiated awareness, unaffected by time, past, present or future, and enter Peace. — Adi Shankara
  • A man rejects God neither because of intellectual demands nor because of the scarcity of evidence. A man rejects God because of a moral resistance that refuses to admit his need for God. — Ravi Zacharias
  • If you are discouraged, it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own power. Your self-sufficiency, selfishness, and intellectual pride will inhibit His coming to live in your heart because God cannot fill what is already full. It is as simple as that. — Mother Teresa
  • Growth comes from activity, not from intellectual understanding. — Maria Montessori
  • My dear young fellow,’ the Old-Green-Grasshopper said gently, ‘there are a whole lot of things in this world of ours you haven’t started wondering about yet. — Roald Dahl
  • Pimp stands for Positive Intellectual Motivated Person. It has nothing to do with selling sex for money. — Christian Finnegan

Intellectualization trauma response

Here are some intellectualization trauma response suggestions by some Reddit users:

  • “There’s a difference between calmly dealing with a situation and using your intellect to avoid actually dealing with your emotions. One can overanalyze the situation to come to understand it from every point of view but not deal with the emotional reasons behind the way they are acting. It’s a way to keep from admitting to yourself the way you feel. It can also be used as a way to fend of accusations by knowing so much about a certain situation that you can overwhelm your accuser and convince them otherwise.”
  • “I think you can’t know if you are doing it, but you can ignore it by assuming you’re almost always doing it. Basically, resist the urge to entertain the self-pitying thoughts which generally come in the form of “let’s analyze my life and try to figure out why I am where I am… found it it’s the ADHD! and being SCHYZOID! and SHIT MOM! and ASEXUAL! and ASSOCIATE! or mayyyyyyyyyyybe I just have a huge IQ?” when the reality is probably much closer to you are not that far from being neurotypical, it’s just that the way you think is a bit rare, after you leave high school/college and improve a bit no one will care.”
  • “And yet the house is not on fire. Though I am suffering, I can still look for reasons why while simultaneously trying to put the flames out. I guess I’m trying to understand humanity. Because if I understand them, I can predict their behaviour and therefore avoid pain. Yes, I know how foolish an endeavour this is.”
  • “Defense mechanism’s are sometimes healthy to use, and we all use different ones from time to time. It’s normal to experience them, so if you are alarmed – don’t be. It becomes unhealthy when it becomes hurtful towards ourselves or others, i.e. my main defence mechanism is suppression which is considered a mature defence mechanism, but if it’s used frequently, it can lead to anxiety and depression. Like you asked in your second question, it is exactly that. It’s about experiencing and talking about your childhood and feeling that pain. That way, you can move forward.”
  • “Can’t feel any pain hurt, anger or other emotions over your abuse if you rationalize everything. It’s a defence mechanism like others said. And that’s okay because you need/ed to do that to survive. Now it’s a matter of thriving if you’re not in survival mode anymore. Do you need to be in survival mode? It’s okay to feel. It may be time to start feeling.”
  • “One problem with overly intellectualizing as a way to minimize or avoid feeling. If you’ve been doing it for a long time, you may literally be out of touch with how you feel. Some questions you might consider: Do you know how you feel? Can you sense emotional reactions in your body? How rich or nuanced is your language for emotions? Can you understand or imagine the way other important people in your life may be feeling?”
  • “Yes, I over-intellectualize, which serves not only as dissociation from feelings but also functions as a defence mechanism for most things. I have become so accustomed to it that I often cannot identify my feelings. My therapist probably tires of my “I don’t know” responses to his questions. I am not saying I don’t know to be contrarian. Honestly, I don’t know.”
  • “I think this is partly a defence mechanism to survive in an atmosphere that lacks in the value of our feelings, aka an emotionally neglectful home. Also very related to this, I read an article recently regarding how narcissistic parents harm their kids by failing to teach them a skill known as “mentalization”. Which is a critical life skill involving knowing what one is feeling and being able to recognize how someone else is feeling as well. You can see how this would be related. It makes a lot of sense to me.”


When people deal with complicated situations in logical and cold ways, that does not mean they are stunted emotionally; they are just unable to handle their emotions at that time. Intellectualization is a healthy mechanism to deal with trauma or complicated thoughts.

So, this was all about intellectualization; I have tried my best to share useful information with you; I hope you will find it helpful.  CLICK HERE GET SUPPORT NOW.

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