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Explanations > Decisions > Closure

The resolution of tension | Capitulation is closure | Closure closes the doors | So what


When a decision is made, then closure occurs. This is more than 'shutting the door behind you' - it involves significant neural and emotional elements that are important for changing minds.

The resolution of tension

One of the characterizing factors about tension is that when we experience it, we will drive towards its resolution. When we are threatened, we will seek the closure of safety. When we are watching an exciting crime film, we find satisfaction in the closure of knowing 'who dunnit'.

The pleasure of tension is in the anticipation of closure. A roller-coaster is a series of tensions as you clank up the slope, anticipating the drop the other side. As you reach the summit there is a relief at having reached the edge, followed instantly by 'will I survive' tension as you plummet over the edge, with closure of relief  

Even death can be a welcome closure, as  condemned people and the terminally ill well know.

Any closure can help relieve any tension

When someone makes me tense by shouting or disobeying me, there are more ways of resolving this tension other than direct interaction with them. Slamming the door helps. So does driving fast and chopping wood. It's almost like we create other tension and subsequent closure in order to try and snag the broader closure.

Closure is the brain's way of saying thank you

When you achieve closure, your brain gives you a nice squirt of seratonin from your own private supply of this natural opiate. This is its way of telling your that we are doing the right thing. You feel good, of course.

Closure can be addictive

Closure is so nice, we will even seek tension in order to experience the pleasure of closure. Children are naughty to get the closure of attention. Unhealthy habits from over-eating to excessive sunbathing are all driven by the search for closure. Once the habits are  

A classic closure-seeking pattern is the rescue triangle where, for example, one child experiences closure of persecution when they hurt a sibling, whilst the sibling feels closure of being rescued by a parent. The rescuer can also get closure in the rewards of moral superiority. Such behavioral patterns are played out endlessly in families, workplaces and public places.

Addicts find closure in using the needle, even when they are in a reasonable state of mind and they know how bad they are going to feel later.

The 'aha' moment

Legend has it that Archimedes, when asked to determine the value of the Syracuse king's crown, went for a bath to think. As he sunk into the waters, he noticed the water spilling over the edge of the bath and suddenly realized how use this to calculate the volume of the crown. This was the point of closure, the aha moment, the point of realization.

Capitulation is closure

When you give in to somebody else's argument or pressure, then you achieve closure, which can be quite a relief, literally.

The 'phew' moment

When we give in, we relax, maybe with regret, but at least with the pleasure of having the pressure of attention removed. Some people enjoy this in some ways, and it is a reason why people argue and then give in.

Mutual apology

One way that giving in happens is when one person apologizes and then, in return, the other person person does likewise. There may then follow an odd game of seeing who can apologize the most ('It's my fault', 'No, I'm the one most to blame'). This 'making up' is one reason why couples fall into patterns of argument, because the make-up is so nice.

Closure closes the doors

Closure is a literal event in more than one way. When we experience closure, we close the doors on the confusion of the past.

What a relief!

Closure causes a transitional emotion of release that relieves tension and which we call, perhaps unsurprisingly, 'relief'.

Closed doors are hard to re-open

Perhaps unsurprisingly, after feeling good at reaching a state of closure, we are often unwilling to go back to a state of tension. Closure thus tends to be one-way street.

If we are forced to go back to an open state then the discomfort and contrast against the comfort of closure may well make us frustrated, angry and aggressive. It may also make us desperate to get back to closure.

So what?

Creating closure is a critical skill in changing minds, as this is indeed where minds are changed.

False closure, moving people back and forth between tension and closure, causes significant discomfort and destabilisation. This can lead the person into desperation for stability and agreeing to things they might not normally consider.


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