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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings



In my psychotherapeutic practice, I use Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) to help people achieve a standard of rational living. Here, the term “rational” (also “rationality”) relates to that which is in accordance with logic and reason.


When hearing I practice REBT, I’ve been asked by some people whether or not rationality is the same concept as rationalization. It is not. When describing the latter psychoanalytic term, one source states:


Rationalization is a defense mechanism (ego defense) in which apparent logical reasons are given to justify behavior that is motivated by unconscious instinctual impulses. It is an attempt to find reasons for behaviors, especially one’s own. Rationalizations are used to defend against feelings of guilt, maintain self-respect, and protect oneself from criticism.


Whereas rationality uses reasoning based on principles of validity, rationalization uses explanations to justify one’s experience with uncomfortable emotions and behaviors. Regarding the latter, REBT uses the ABC model to demonstrate how irrational beliefs cause unpleasant feelings (emotions and bodily sensations) and behaviors.


Because unhelpful beliefs create uncomfortable consequences, one can dispute these unproductive assumptions in order to yield more adaptable emotions and behaviors. Without knowledge of this belief-consequence (B-C) connection, one may repeatedly self-disturb while using rationalization to cope with the consequences of unfavorable beliefs.


Regarding the concept of rationalization, there are two types I find particularly interesting. Forgive my appropriation of full paragraphs, as I value the entirety of how one source describes these fascinating types of rationalization:


Sour Graping and Sweet Lemoning Defined


‘Sour graping’ is a term derived from Aesop’s Fable “The Fox and the Grapes,” where a fox, unable to reach some grapes, declares them to be sour, hence not worth having. In psychological terms, sour graping refers to devaluing something one desires but cannot have. It is a defense mechanism to protect our ego and self-esteem when we fail to achieve our goals.


On the other hand, ‘sweet lemoning’ is the opposite of sour graping. The term is less well known but illustrates a similarly important psychological process. It refers to overvaluing something that one has but did not initially want. Like sour graping, this is a cognitive strategy to manage disappointment and make the best out of less favorable situations.


To illustrate the concept of sour grapes and sweet lemons, consider the following examples:


Person X’s intimate partner left him for another romantic interest. Unaware of the B-C interplay that results in shame and anger, person X convinces himself, “I didn’t want him anyway, because he stopped going to the gym and isn’t as fit as he was when I met him.”


Person X’s use of sour grapes (or “sour graping”) is an attempt to pretend as though he didn’t actually desire his boyfriend. Rather than deluding himself in such a manner, person X could dispute the unhelpful belief that causes his uncomfortable emotional experience.


Person Y is in an intimate partner violence (IPV) relationship, as her girlfriend uses manipulation, coercion, and physical violence against her. Unaware of the B-C connection that creates guilt and sorrow, person Y convinces herself, “This isn’t too bad, because every relationship has problems and at least my partner expresses remorse for her behavior.”


Person Y’s use of sweet lemons (“sweet lemoning”) represents insistence that her relationship is comparatively well, even though she never wanted to endure abuse, and that the maltreatment is absolved through expressed remorse by her girlfriend. Rather than remaining in an IPV partnership, person Y could dispute the unproductive belief that creates her unpleasant emotions and unproductive behavior.


Highlighted herein are two specific types of rationalization. Having illustrated how ignorance of an REBT approach to rational living may result in unpleasant feelings and behavior, are you willing to continue sour graping and sweet lemoning? If not, I’m here to help.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




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