A treacherous tendency of the limerent brain, of which we must all be wary, is rationalisation. This takes the form of self-justifications for why interactions with LO are necessary (when they aren’t), why text or emails messages must be retained (when they should be deleted), and why it’s fine to just think about them for a while (rather than getting on with something useful).
Rationalisation is a very powerful force for preservation of self-esteem. Even the flimsiest excuse can be enough to knock on LO’s office door, wander over to their cubicle, or sit next to them in class. We all of us do this, but limerents are often masters of the art.
While one has to acknowledge that rationalisation is an impressive display of high-level executive function, it’s also an impediment to living with limerence, and living purposefully.
If you work through the behaviour step by step, this becomes clear.
1) You feel the first impulse to seek LO
This happens faster than conscious thought can intervene. It may be triggered by discomfort or stress, causing a subconscious seeking of relief through pleasure. The reward circuits flicker. You experience a low level craving, and if you’ve been limerent for a while, the association with LO is very strongly embedded.
2) Your mind jumps away from what you were concentrating on and focusses on LO
The sensation of pleasure leads seamlessly to thoughts of LO. Your mind starts to cast about for reasons to think about, or seek, them. This is the critical moment. Now, your conscious mind has caught up and is assessing the situation. You have a moment to override the impulse to reinforce LO-related pleasure.
3) You crave them
Limerence has you. You want to connect with LO somehow. Physical or electronic contact may be possible. If not, reverie beckons. Now is the moment for you to override the impulse, recognise your craving as an unhealthy addiction, and enforce no contact. Unless you can think of a good reason…
4) The rationalisation starts
Pit the craving for limerent reward against the knowledge that LO is not good for us, and the result is cognitive dissonance. One solution to the pain that causes is rationalisation. If there is a reason why we need to spend some time with LO, then we are not weak willed and unable to maintain no contact.
Our minds are fantastic idea engines. They’re really good at devising narratives that have at least the outward appearance of consistency and rationality, even if they are made up on the hoof as we walk into the jaws of doom.
Given time, and the chance to slightly rewrite events in our own favour, our memories are even better at post-hoc story telling to justify our behaviour.
Rationalisation is a self-indulgence, in much the same way that limerence is a self-indulgence. It stems from a desire to avoid feelings of discomfort by telling ourselves helpful white lies to avoid facing the actual cause of the discomfort. For limerence, it’s using an LO-hit as stress relief. For rationalisation, it’s using cleverness to diffuse embarrassment or shame, and continue with behaviours that we know, deep down, are not good for us. And as with many dysfunctional behaviours, if we cut off rationalisation to help with limerence, we gain additional benefits in all aspects of life.
At it’s heart, rationalisation is self-lying. It’s an attempt to maintain self-esteem after doing something we wish we hadn’t. That keeps us from properly understanding our emotional drives, and stops us developing as purposeful humans and healthy adults. Self-honesty is the key to liberation.
So next time you find yourself constructing a narrative to justify LO-seeking behaviour, seize that crucial moment when you have a chance to stop yourself before you act, and tell yourself the truth.