Minimizing Life’s Pain
Using the phrase “it’s just one night” to minimize the life experiences of victims isn’t new. It didn’t suddenly show up in that courtroom that day.
The real shame is that it has become part of our everyday language to minimize experiences, both of ourselves and others. We strip away the rights of another to feel and think what they want.
It starts when we are kids. We fall and skin our knees, and it hurts. We cry, the pain sharp and surprising to our still-forming brains. What were we told? To stop crying, it isn’t that bad, etc. Instead of acknowledging our pain, our parents or other adults denied the experience.
What I just wrote, and what I continue to write in this blog post, could be a slightly skewed view of my world because,
1) I was the scapegoat of my family and, as such, was emotionally and verbally abused or,
2) as a woman I was taught a level of self-deprecation that appears to be absent in the education of men
Minimizing Life Wins
It also happens with experiences that should be reasons to celebrate, like acing that spelling test or getting a promotion.
As adults, we minimize the milestones in our lives all the time. It’s just a little bit of a promotion. I just got lucky. And so on.
We make our achievements small to make it seem that we aren’t bragging, to ensure that we don’t hurt someone’s feelings, or to make people feel better about themselves. I have read this in books.
Teaching Minimizing Our Wins
Excited you want to share with anyone who will listen, instead of celebrating that win, you are told not to brag or that it isn’t a big deal. Or the person you are telling makes it all about themselves.
Either way, the experience of that moment is taken away. Unfortunately, this minimizing of experiences continues throughout our lives.
I am not the first person to realize this. Rachel Hollis writes in Girl, Wash Your Face (paid link) that she felt the need to be small, to minimize her successes. In some ways, it’s almost like gaslighting ourselves.
I am here to add to that narrative and to tell you that it’s bullshit for you, me, and us to minimize our own experiences and to do that to others. And yet, we continue to do just that, time and time again. Why?
There is never one reason for anything. Here are some reasons why I think this happens:
- Unsure of what to say, so talk about yourself
- The topic makes you uncomfortable
- That person’s pain or success makes you feel threatened
I do know it needs to stop. It isn’t about you—the person feeling jealous or threatened—it’s about the person trusting you as their confidant. Don’t take that away from them.
Think Before Speaking
Here is my challenge. Think about what you are going to say before speaking. I know that it is such a novel concept. Think before you speak. It’s like I have heard that before. Sounds simple, right? It is. It is not easy. Nothing worth doing right is ever easy.
Thinking before you speak means to:
- Actively listen.
- Pause before responding and ask yourself, “is what I am about to say helpful?”
- It requires a person to have self-awareness and self-reflection.
I know that the defense attorney I mentioned in Its Just One Night was doing her job, defending a client. I have no ill will towards her. If anything, that one statement got me thinking, and then it got me writing.
So, in a bizarre turn of events, thanks to her for saying it was just one night. That one night changed the course of three lives. One is in jail, the other is working towards healing, and the third sat up, took notice, and wrote about it.
Making myself small, being the family scapegoat, and many other experiences created anxiety and depression for me. The psychological toll it takes to move through life like that is immense. Therapy is the best start for healing.
I recommend Online-Therapy.*
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