The term intellectualization (in the psychoanalytic literature) refers to a defense mechanism. People unconsciously use excessive logical reasoning in order to protect themselves from anxiety and other unpleasant feelings linked to a mental conflict. In everyday life, however, we all use intellectualization… When enemy representatives get together to bargain and come to an agreement they utilize ‘logical thinking.’ This is expected and ‘normal.”’ But sometimes they depend on intellectualization (as a defense mechanism—and unconsciously) in order not to open up and face certain emotional issues. This time intellectualization has a negative impact.

-Vamik Volkan


Introduction by Sydney Allard

Intellectualization is the process (either subconsciously or consciously) of ignoring the emotional and psychological consequences of something and focusing on the logical, rational ones. Though in some problem-solving situations it’s good to separate reason and emotion, intellectualization can be harmful when we are trying to relate to others. Often it’s much easier for others to empathize with us when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and admit that we have emotional stake in the conversation.



How to Disagree, Respectfully

Nora Mattson writes about her close relationship with her mother, with whom she often vocally disagrees on political issues. The reason their relationship works, is that the aren’t trying to convince each other, but rather to share their differing points of view. Because they don’t try to intellectualize, they are able to engage each other in their respective opinions.


Samantha Lustig explains that often it is much easier to follow advice in theory than in practice. It’s hard to be vulnerable, but often it makes us closer.


Sinan Ozbay suggests that intellectualization in and of itself is a fallacy– the idea that there is some objective truth unaffected by our personal biases is called into question.