Intellectualization, my defense mechanism

You should see the pile of books in my garage, many only half-read. Some highlighted with pens and sharpies, mostly obsessive research down rabbit holes that lead nowhere when I was unemployed and looking for work. When my eyes were bleeding I might throw on a podcast and just let Rogan or Petersons wash over me. Only to relieve me of my powerlessness, or help me escape the season of great emotional distress. 

Like Adam in the Garden, I grabbed from that Tree of Knowledge ruthlessly, to avoid the shame, the nakedness, the vulnerability of being fully human. 

And it has come with a great cost, this defense mechanism, intellectualization.  I have missed many seasons of life, detached from the full experience, lost in my head, void of any connection to my emotional state and simply because I willed it that way. Insensately trying to get the answers and live above the fragility of my true nature. 

I don’t even know where I picked it up, this way of coping, maybe it was in therapy somewhere around the age of 8 when my father had run out of ways to help me. Often my unhinging sadness, fear, and sensitivity made him nervous, that sea of emotion was overwhelming. 

Inside of therapy for many years to come, I learned that the way out was not through any of it, not to be with any of it, no it was a trick of rumination and hanging out in the loftier rational realms that allowed me a form of escape.  

Eventually, I mastered myself, until alcohol worked a little better, then obsession with women, then work and more work and workaholism and eventually I couldn’t read anymore about panic attacks because the more I tried to figure them out the more they owned me. A long season of depersonalization and mental collapse lead me straight to my body where I eventually would have to surrender. All that was suppressed came up and out of me.  It was the first time I wept tears compressed from childhood. I simultaneously was able to smell and taste and feel the wind on my face for the first time, in ways I hadn’t since I was a little kid. There, broken and filled with emotion, I had a type of communion with life again. I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually figure out depression is a type of response to anyone that refuses to feel their feelings. 

We all use psychic defenses when we’re hurt or scared. Especially for those of us that have grown up sensitive and learned that it was weakness. Intellectualization does not mean we’re smart. It means that, instead of the terrifying act of listening deeply to our own pain or fear we try to think and talk our way out of it. We therefore isolate our emotions from our intellect. It is the ultimate escape.