Dictionary.com defines minimization as "to reduce to the smallest possible amount or degree." In psychology, I suppose it might be defined as the cousin of denial, a subconscious reducing of the significance of psychologically distressing events. It leads us to proclaim that our lot is not that bad, that his yelling doesn't get to us that much, or that she doesen't really know what she is doing, or that they don't really mean it.
Minimization helps us to survive events we feel we cannot escape and must somehow survive. But even after we have removed ourselves from the reach of an abuser this former survival tool doesn't die quickly--it morphs into something that can impede our maximum recovery and healing.
Telling myself that my abuse was minor compared to what some people have endured does not lead to healing. To heal I must look honestly at what happened, how I reacted, how I was injured, how I have responded to the wounds, and how those responses are helping or hurting me at this point in my life. Honest observation is needed--not the distortion and foggy feelings of minimization.
I am learning to accept that minimization still creeps in from time to time, as an old acquaintance who once helped me survive but now is annoying. I've learned to accept it as a normal by-product of abuse and then gently escort it out the door. Most of the time, I no longer judge myself when I catch myself minimizing. I simply remind myself that I no longer need it.
I much prefer to confront reality head on these days. Face-to-face with my past I can make decisions for my present that are life-affirming.
If you, like me, find yourself reducing the pain and the damage of abuse with your old friend M, be gentle with yourself. It's alright. It happens. But you can dismiss minimization at any time and take an honest look at your memories and at your current life. Ask God to help you. He is great at shining the light of truth on a matter. Together, you and God can take action that will speed healing!
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Lure of Minimization
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- Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
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Minimization is such a confusing word to be put into plain words in a discussion on the topic of domestic violence, yet the definition in Thursday's post fits perfectly. However, society sometimes applies a different meaning or uses a term such as "ridicule" in a pathetic attempt to describe the injured party of domestic violence.
Our society does "belittle" the person who remains submissive in such matters; does "make fun of" the meaning of abuse so as "to reduce it to the smallest possible amount or degree." So easy it is for our society to dismiss the hurt if that hurt had been lessened through "mockery" or by "disparaging" remarks made to "humiliate" the accuser; to "laugh at" the abused or comparable methods of minimization.
For if one were to apply the word "shame" in its true meaning, there would be no minimization for the abused; there would be only "pain arising from the feeling of one's own guilt." The abuser would win, the abused would always take the blame and it would never matter if it were the man in conflict with the woman or the other way around.
For me, I did not comprehend the victim's point of view, until I myself was battered. I then felt as if something had been taken from me without my permission; something that no one had any right to "steal" from me. It was something that my abuser could never give back no matter how many times she said she was sorry. My innocence was now gone, forever.
My abuser used the minimization principle to try to make me believe abuse was "no big deal, it happens all the time in her family!" But it didn't happen all the time in my family and I felt such a loss that my spouse, the mother of our two boys (one of whom would later become an abuser himself), would compromise my Christian values and make them minimal if not outright trivial.
Nine years I worked through domestic violence therapy only to finally accept the one true counseling of Jesus Christ as the proper answer. I prayed for him to accept my decision to end my marriage of twenty-eight years and suddenly it was as if the whole weight of the world was lifted from me. I FELT ABSOLUTELY NO SHAME FOR MY DECISION TO END MY MARRIAGE!
Instead of minimization I received an overwhelming maximum dose of God's pure love from the Holy Spirit that even today as I write to you, comforts me again with the peace of Jesus Christ.
To those of you who are having trouble finding your right answers through domestic violence therapy, don't stop! Just add the maximum allowable dose of prayer to your daily meditations and you too can benefit from the blessings of The Holy Spirit.
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