JWR Outlook

Jewish World Review April 24, 2001 / 2 Iyar, 5761

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“All the ways of a person are right in his own eyes.”

                        —   Proverbs ( 21:2)

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- The wisdom of King Solomon is legendary. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are treasuries of wisdom, and they are only a fragment of his teachings. If Solomon had never said anything other than the above verse, his claim to superior wisdom would be justified.

This verse describes the most common fault in our thinking: rationalization. Rationalization means we give good reasons instead of true reasons for what we did or want to do. The mind is exceedingly clever and efficient, beyond our wildest imagination. For example, the alarm clock rings to awaken you. With the very first ring you dream of a scene in which there is a bell ringing, such as the bell of an ice cream wagon. For a few moments you continue to sleep because the alarm bell is just part of a dream.

The scene in the dream is not isolated, but is part of a sequence in which the bell fits nicely. The entire scene was conjured up with the very first sound of the alarm. Within a fraction of a millisecond, the brain concocted a scene which you could swear was part of an ongoing story. Why did the brain do this? To protect your sleep. The most sophisticated computer could not equal this.

The mind is capable of performing the most intricate and amazing maneuvers to keep us comfortable, whether to allow us to sleep a bit longer or anything else that we would like. Rationa-lization is one of the mind's defensive maneuvers. However, whereas the alarm clock's ringing eventually overcomes the brain's defense and wakes you up, rationalization is stronger and more durable. We may never recognize that we have been rationalizing.

Abraham J. Twerski, M.D. is a psychiatrist and ordained rabbi. He is the founder of the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh, a leading center for addiction treatment. An Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, he is a prolific author, with some 30 books to his credit, including Wisdom Each Day, from which this was excerpted (Sales of this book help fund JWR). Send your comments by clicking here.

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