Minimizing is precisely what it sounds like; it’s reducing the size of something. In psychology, that something is our thoughts, emotions, or behaviours. Minimizing is a gaslighting and a DARVO manipulative technique.
Gaslighting is purposefully undermining another person’s thoughts, memories, and actions. DARVO stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender; it refers to how perpetrators of violence usually keep victims quiet and how they respond to confrontations about abuse. ‘Reverse victim and offender’ describes how abusers end up playing the victim.
Gaslighting causes a person to lose trust in their sense of reality and question their sanity. Frequent minimization can cause confusion, a lack of self-trust, cognitive dissonance, and a host of other traumatic responses. Abuse victims, particularly adult survivors of childhood trauma, often minimize the abuse they went through too.
“Once we have done something that is not in line with our thoughts, opinions, or values, we can an uncomfortable feeling. This is known as cognitive dissonance”- Unknown.
When a person confronts a narcissist about their adverse actions, the narcissist maximizes the response, then minimizes their actions. While narcissists minimize on purpose, most people have no deliberate goal to prop themselves up or hurt others; it’s often done with much less malicious intent.
Many of the following phrases are a sure-fire way to invalidate another person and their cause. Yet, we all find ourselves using them, especially on our closest friends and family members.
1. “Oh, it can’t be that bad”.
I’m sure I’ve said this one before, either calming a child down or when I’ve had enough of circular adult conversations. I’m far more discerning about what I say and many other things with age.
Yes, it can be challenging to deal with people who can’t seem to let go of a subject or tend to exaggerate situations, but minimizing their perspective can make the problem worse.
Not letting go and exaggeration can be effects of trauma, their emotional needs aren’t met, and they haven’t found a more effective way to process them.
“It can’t be that bad”, instantly says, “I don’t want to talk about this”, and “Your point of view is not only invalid but misread”. It makes a person feel incapable and belittled, which only creates a need for further attention. If you don’t feel something “is that bad”, that’s an opinion best kept to yourself; you gain nothing from minimizing someone else’s experience.
2. “Can we change the subject?”
Whether said outrightly or done subtly, changing the subject minimizes and derails the conversation. You have every right to tell someone you’re not in the mood for a particular topic, but if the person means something to you, make sure they know this and that you’re willing to make time at a better opportunity.
Blocking or diverting is a type of gaslighting technique. Gaslighting distorts another person’s sense of reality, confusing and humiliating the target. When a narcissist tries to change the subject they are less likely to say so directly. They may be subtle, not straightforward, and more likely to act dismissively or passive-aggressively.
You can reduce the harm of changing the subject by being clear about why it is not a good time to stay on topic, and again, being open to redressing the issue later.
3. “You’re dramatic” or “You’re oversensitive”.
Telling someone they are being dramatic or overly sensitive is a classic manipulative statement. Accusing someone of being melodramatic or oversensitive is shaming and instantly dismisses that person’s feelings and perspective.
While it is our responsibility, as adults, to own and manage our emotions, it is also our responsibility to respectfully maintain distance from people who provoke negative emotions.
Imagine being a child in that situation.
Narcissists are often dramatic and oversensitive, yet they’re the first to accuse other people of the same thing. Narcissists also minimize your achievements and anything that brings you joy. People who frequently accuse others of drama or being too sensitive often use it to defend or avoid discussing their negative behaviours, as in DARVO.
When you hear someone call another person oversensitive or dramatic, consider the root of their statement. Why is it necessary to share that information? What are they hoping to gain from saying it?
Sophia Dembling, in “What it means when someone tells you you’re too sensitive”, beautifully describes being too sensitive as being perceptive. So next time somebody calls you sensitive, say thank you.
Wil Wheaton illustrates what it’s like growing up with, and eventually breaking away from, two abusive parents who normalized gaslighting in the following heart-breaking account: This Is What Gaslighting Looks Like.
“I don’t know what your problem is”, “You’re imagining things”, “Here you go again”, “can’t you take a joke”, and “calm down” are all examples of minimization and gaslighting phrases that you should refrain from using.
If you hear these phrases consistently from some you know, it’s unacceptable, and you should consider spending less time with them, if possible. Learning skills in dealing with manipulators can also help.
If you are or know someone who may be a victim of gaslighting and other forms of abuse, please do not hesitate to let your closest friends and family know and contact professionals.
Family violence support services are knowledgeable and experienced and can help you to understand what you’re going through, guide you through the process of obtaining protection, and refer you to related services where necessary.
Thank you for reading❤.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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