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Minimizing my own issues

LifeDestroyer posted 1/10/2020 06:58 AM

During my IC session last night, she pointed out that I really minimize my own hurt. I do it with my CSA experience, the crap that happened during my childhood with my parents, the lack of parenting, issues with myself, and the things that happened in our marriage in the past. While from the outside I can see how it was all very significant and severe, I can't own it for myself. I compare what happened to me to what has happened to others and think since theirs was much worse, mine really isn't that important.

She asked me what it would feel like if she labeled me. I said I had no idea, so she started writing down labels. They were survivor of child abuse, lack of emotional support from parents, child of alcoholic dad, she has written some more. As she was reading them off, I started to feel very tense and defensive. I actually stopped her to tell her that, which she was very happy that I admitted it. She said she could see my body starting to shift and tense up as she was reading the labels. I wanted to defend those who hurt me because it wasn't that bad as other people's experiences.

I even did it with hypothetical people. She created a scenario where there were two other versions of me: one who never experienced CSA, who had a mom who treated me more like a best friend than a child, or had an alcoholic dad and then a version of me who had two family members who sexually assaulted her, had two alcoholic parents, but had a mom who did discipline her and always wanted to know what she was doing. She then asked me if I thought my stuff was important after hearing the one who had it "worse." I told her no, that she had it worse because two people abused her and had two alcoholic parents. So even with an imaginary person/experience I minimized my own.

That's something that she wants me to work on, owning that what has happened in the past is severe and stop minimizing my own issues.

hikingout posted 1/10/2020 08:02 AM

This was my experience as well.

I have a huge problem feeling anger or taking up for myself. I still don't do very well with it. I am always too understanding of the other person. In terms of the biggest perpetrator of my abuse, I used to say all the ways he was a victim and that I understood he was just acting in the way he was taught.

Unfortunatley putting those things aside and that always being the way we deal with things is we end up with a pile of unprocessed, rug swept trauma. Unaware of how this has shaped us. Unaware how it sends a message that "we are less than", our issues "are not as important" and it's all part of a very deep rooted lack of self worth.

For me, I was able to get a false sense of it by over doing, becoming more valuable to someone for what I could give. Until the tank was empty, I was resentful, and I stood on my hill saying I was finally going to do what I wanted. An anger that welled up to the point that I didn't want to hear or think of anything else.

It sounds to me like your IC is on a very good track with you. I don't have any advice, I just wanted to chime in and commiserate. To trace these patterns closely. I will say that what you are talking about is still something I struggle with, but being aware of it can make a lot of difference. If you are aware, it will allow you to keep flexing that muscle when you see you are doing it. It will be uncomfortable, and you will have a huge resistance inside because it's so much easier to let things go rather than to speak up, feel validated in your hurt, and to negotiate something better for yourself. But, every time that you do it, you will be protecting that little girl still inside of you that never was protected when you were going through these things. You will be the adult for yourself that you never had as a kid. Your boundaries will get stronger, what you will tolerate will be much less, and when we demand more from life we get more from life. Keep going this is good stuff.

Hippo16 posted 1/10/2020 09:00 AM

Good News for you!

I had a thought reading your post.

There is night and day - and for various reasons there is some special names for the time of transition from night to day:

Astronomical twilight - first bit of light from the Sun starts to lighten the sky. Stars are still visible against a slightly less than dark sky

Nautical twilight - there is enough light to clearly see the horizon and bright stars - so a sailor can see enough to navigate by the stars

Civil twilight - there is enough light to carry on outside activities without man-made light. Stars are not visible except for the very brightest.

Your path to the "light" is now in the Astronomical twilight zone - and moving towards the Nautical!

Keep up the good work.

I hope you read Wishes story

landclark posted 1/10/2020 09:31 AM

because it wasn't that bad as other people's experiences

To be fair to you, we get hit with this all the time in life. "Oh, that bad thing happened? Well, it could always be worse!" It's a pretty commonly accepted response for some reason. You even see it on this site. Questions of what's worse, EA or PA? ONS or LTA? Sometimes it's even indirect, like people saying an EA or cyber affair is not a real affair. It all minimizes what people are feeling and going through.

I am personally not a fan of the comparing pain/experiences mentality. Just because you may look at somebody else's pain or experience and say that's worse than what I am dealing with or feeling, it in no way should minimize what you're dealing with or feeling. (hopefully that makes sense) We are allowed to feel what we feel, even if "it could always be worse".

In your case, your past is part of who you are today. Part of what lead to where you're at today. So of course, it can't be minimized and needs to be worked through. I'm glad you have an IC that recognizes that and is helping you through it.

I am also glad you put this out there because I think it's important for all us to remember!

EvolvingSoul posted 1/10/2020 11:24 AM

Hi again LifeDestroyer,

It seems like a lack of self-compassion is at play here. And you would not be unique in that. It is tricky as a wayward because we spent a lot of time being self-absorbed, entitled, self-pitying, etc., all things that helped us justify making destructive choices to have the feelings we wanted in the moment. Self-compassion is not that, rather it's a combination of mindful awareness of the feelings that you are having, a shared sense of common humanity that all people have these feelings at some time or another and treating yourself with loving kindness to help you tolerate the feelings until they pass. Minimizing your trauma of the past is just a way of refusing to feel and process pain. Pain unprocessed, though, just sticks around and manifests in all other manner of fucked-upness.

Audible has a short "Great Courses" on self-compassion that is pretty good and if you're a member it's free right now as one of their January freebie selections. There's also a book by Kristen Neff that goes over much the same material. In the teachings of Pema Chodron she refers to this kind of loving kindness as "maitre" (pronounce my-tree) and she talks about specific ways to cultivate it.

The beauty of cultivating self-compassion is that it makes life better for you and for other people. It lowers anxiety and depression, increases optimism and conscientiousness and awakens empathy and compassion for others. It's very much worth exploring.

Proceed with conviction and valor.

gmc94 posted 1/10/2020 15:18 PM

LD- I will try and find it (or maybe someone on SI remembers which book), but Brene Brown talks about this too - the minimizing our own experiences bc someone else's is always worse.

I think she touches on it a bit in the video (cartoon) on empathy, but I'm darn near positive she talks about it at length in one of her books (maybe gifts of imperfection?) . I remember reading it and really opening my eyes to how much I do that - not only with myself, but with others too (ie when someone tells me about something they are hurting from, I respond with the old "well at least......" [fill in the blank] bologna). I'll edit if I can find it, as I recall whatever she said as being very helpful (and now that I've kind of assimilated the lesson of don't minimize, I've forgotten her discussion about it).

LifeDestroyer posted 1/10/2020 20:57 PM

I was able to get a false sense of it by over doing, becoming more valuable to someone for what I could give. Until the tank was empty, I was resentful, and I stood on my hill saying I was finally going to do what I wanted. An anger that welled up to the point that I didn't want to hear or think of anything else

I always did this growing up with friends and little boyfriends. I never had confidence, but felt ďvaluedĒ because I gave to them. Is it possible to have an empty tank, feel resentment, and have that anger without knowing it??


To be fair to you, we get hit with this all the time in life. "Oh, that bad thing happened? Well, it could always be worse!" It's a pretty commonly accepted response for some reason. You even see it on this site. Questions of what's worse, EA or PA? ONS or LTA? Sometimes it's even indirect, like people saying an EA or cyber affair is not a real affair. It all minimizes what people are feeling and going through.
I am personally not a fan of the comparing pain/experiences mentality. Just because you may look at somebody else's pain or experience and say that's worse than what I am dealing with or feeling, it in no way should minimize what you're dealing with or feeling. (hopefully that makes sense) We are allowed to feel what we feel, even if "it could always be worse".

I want to say we do this because we are competitive by nature, survival of the fittest maybe. I am 100% guilty of this. When someone is telling me about an experience they had that I may have also had, I will tell them about mine too, but in my mind I would think about how mine may have been worse. Sometimes I would actually spew that crap at them, and sometimes I would keep in because I would remember how frustrating it was when people did it to me. We want to be the best, even if it means we had a harsher experience. I hate that I compare myself to people. I hate that I refuse myself to acknowledge the shit that I went through for it truly was. I just canít. I know I should. I told my therapist throughout it that I absolutely know that what I went through was awful no matter the extent and I also know that I am minimizing it.


Minimizing your trauma of the past is just a way of refusing to feel and process pain.

Iím starting to feel and process the pain. When Iím sitting in her office and the topic of my uncle comes up, I instantly start getting choked up. As soon as I say a few words about it, I start to cry. Iíve never done that before. Granted, I havenít really told many people about what happened, but when I did, I never cried while talking about. I had the feeling of ďitís not that really important or big.Ē But now, Iím starting to realize that it was a big deal and that is scary. Itís scary to think that it happened to me and was big and wasnít acknowledged properly by my parents. That is really pissing me off, buuuuuuuuuuut then I start to defend them. It freaking sucks.

Zugzwang posted 1/11/2020 14:40 PM

I would be interested in seeing where we make the path change (I too minimized my childhood) from becoming perpetrators/abusers where others become more hopeful and nurturing. My wife went through similar hell like yours including finding her sister after committing suicide and her minimizing is not toxic for her, it gives her strength. It is more hopeful if it makes any sense. She took a very different path in life. She does her best every day to do no harm to others and to help ease their pain. Her other sister is much more selfish and could be right at home here in the wayward board. We are very much alike. What intrinsic force or drive made the minimizing a positive thing? I used it instead to be more entitled? Does any of that make sense? That the minimizing made me more entitled and less thankful?

Zugzwang posted 1/12/2020 08:57 AM

The more I thought about this another thing came clear to me. We are taught to minimize at an early age by society itself. So that we don't sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. How many of you had parents or teachers that when you complained about something you were unhappy about or felt unjust about (even though you might have been displaying some selfish attitudes) just said "It could be worse, you could be ...."? I think many can process it that way. Bounce back and stop feeling sorry for themselves and not take it to heart. For the ones that find themselves in this particular part of the forum we can't.

LifeDestroyer posted 1/12/2020 09:11 AM

Zug, I had the mom who always had to one-up my issues/complaints/experiences.

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