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Intellectualisation – a psychological defence mechanism

Some say the ‘human mind’ is a wonderful thing. I’m not so sure about that. Lots of wonderful things have not so wonderful things about them. Those who look only at the brighter side of things will be more certain than me. I look at both sides and I consider human nature. I’ll avoid a debate on what is ‘the mind’ – as I’ve explored that before – and it’s endless.

I know some readers will be itching for me to get on with it. Everybody wants it now – it’s such a mad rush these days to get back to Netflix and Facebook, or just scratching; doing bugger-all.

So what’s this defence mechanism thing? Head straight over to Wikipedia and read up if you know nothing about it, unless of course you want to say ‘I’m not a psychologist! FFS!‘ – and stay right there – not a problem. I’m not gonna get bogged down with Freud and other rubbish. Others can continue reading up on Freud if they want. Freud doesn’t rule me! I do my own thinking. How arrogant! Or is that patronising? Do I give a flying banana? I do not. It’s my blog and I say what I want! If you’re a ‘simple person’ who likes the authority of dictionaries go here, accept what they say and move on to avoid a headache.

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The defence mechanism

Right – so I’ve been reading up on stuff that I studied.. hmmmm .. that’s freaking 20 years ago! I was searching for a term that conceptualised or defines a certain phenomenon. I’ll come to that in a few minutes – hold on – or head off to bathe that dog!

So I reviewed some the topic of defence mechanisms and couldn’t find what I wanted. Freud & Co are stuck in the dark ages. We’re in a new era where I needed something to describe all of the following:

  1. Contradictory behaviours.
  2. Contradictory cognitions.
  3. Defective reasoning.
  4. No expression of anxiety or fear.
  5. All the above in a perfectly sane person.
  6. All the above in a novel situation, unknown to the individual. (Yeah a situation that they don’t know about or are out of their depth).

Freud et al would say that it’s about anxiety, unconscious factors and defence mechanisms. How the devil would Freud et al know? He doesn’t know who I’m talking about. But the appeal to psychobabble is what rules people.

In the above 6 points I have the evidence of what I’m talking about. And no – I’m not at liberty to share it here. But I can describe it.

Riding a bicycle

Say you never rode one before. You’ve seen them. Someone tells you how to do it. You go to a park with your coach. He has his bike in the car boot.  As you get it out of the boot of a car, you see somebody fall off a bicycle. Did I say cuts and bruises? I did NOT! The person gets up off the soft ground – it’s plush grass – with a smile. No injuries. Gets back on their bike and rides off. So your coach says, “Ready to try it?

You’re not anxious. In a totally non-anxious state of voice or mind, you say, “That chap just fell off. He was lucky.” But no expression of anxiety from you. You say that you don’t need to ride bikes at all.  You’re not sweating or shaking. Your coach holds your wrist gently. He’s checking your pulse but you think it’s a comforting gesture. So he’s noticed that your heart rate isn’t up. Perplexed – he still asks ‘Are you anxious?‘ To which you reply, “No – I just realised that I don’t really want to ride bikes.

Medication in hospital

I kid you not – this situation is a real one. A patient develops post-injection syndrome (PISynd) 3 years after being on depot olanzapine at 300mg every 4 weeks. So that was rightly stopped. But doing so indefinitely would risk relapse. Stop trying to be a doctor! You can’t just swap medications like you would your mobile(cell) phones. So the suggestion was to restart at a much lower dose so as to reduce risk of PISynd. The next lowest dose was 210mg. So I said “How about 105mg?“. Well you should have seen the panic that was not panic. People began muttering about their PIN numbers, whilst going “How are we gonna draw up 105mg?” And I go, “You estimate half of 210mg.” That was followed by all sorts of expressions of doubt. I go, “I’m not sure what there is to fear?” And they go, “It’s not fear. How will we know it’s not 110mg or 120mg we’d be drawing up?” And I go “You won’t but at least it would be closer to half of 210mg.” Well that went nowhere. So I go, “Right – I’ll draw it up and give him the injection.” Then there is muttering in the room that “Doctors don’t get struck off as easily.”

I can sense some who read this going, “Well, I’m not a doctor so I don’t understand any of this.

Rude interruption

Stupid: I don’t understand it either. I’m not a doctor.

CW: That’s for sure.

Stupid: You don’t have to be insulting.

CW: I’m just confirming the fact that you stated.

Stupid: You expect everybody to understand all this technical medical stuff.

CW: No. It’s neither technical or medical.

Stupid: Yes it is. It’s about medication.

CW: Yes it is about medication but when you break it down – if you had the brains to do so – you would see that it is basic mathematics.

Stupid: I don’t understand.

CW: Of course. It’s this simple: 100% is likely to cause serious problems. Therefore 50% is likely to cause much less problems. It could be water I was talking about. But because you and others saw stuff that sounded ‘medical’, you run off squawking “I’m not a doctor!” I’m not asking you to make a medical decision. That’s my expertise.

Stupid: That is totally insulting, arrogant and condescending!

CW: Really? Tha’s why I always have the cage totally ready for you. Off you pop!


Sorry about that rude interruption. What emerged in the above situation was basically this:

  1. 210 is less than 300 obviously.
  2. Approximately half of 210 is very much less than 300.
  3. Fear about PIN numbers was more important in relation to getting it precisely at half of 210.
  4. ‘They’ would prefer to give 210 and present a higher risk of killing the patient, than to get closer to half of 210.
  5. But note that the talk about PIN numbers was denied as ‘fear’.

The fear was intellectualised. The defence was a conscious act (unlike what you read in stupid dictionaries) and the fear was not unconscious either. Defence mechanisms all work to trick the mind into a lesser state of discomfort.

Rude interruption

Stupid: Are you an expert on all this?!

CW: How did you get out so swiftly?! Yes I am an expert on all this.

Stupid: That’s your arrogance again.

CW: Arrogance is your perception which I am not about to argue. I am factually an expert in this area.

Stupid: Oh really?

CW: Yes. Now begone! You are put on notice of being permanently terminated, or put into dormancy for a long time.



  1. Intellectualisation is not always an unconscious phenomenon.
  2. Most psychological defence mechanisms are unconscious but there is a group of conscious defence mechanisms (no lists today).
  3. Intellectualisation may be used to relieve or resolve any state of psychological tension; not just fear.
  4. Users of intellectualisation are quite often oblivious – and will not admit – to the use of it.
  5. The above is my broad experience after years of studying all the ‘theory’.  Anyone reading this is not obliged to agree or believe what I say.
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