In today’s script, I’ll give a few examples of #minimizing. This power/control tactic is often understated, I think, because many people don’t realize the intent behind the minimization. Sure, there is the intent to make abuse seem “not that bad”, or like it’s “not a big deal” but, on a more serious level, constant minimization often leads to the target of abuse having to- ultimately- fend for herself, without the much needed support of her family/community.
At first, there may not seem to be much of a connection between ‘victim-shaming’ and the tactic of minimization. You’d think that, even when minimized, abuse is abuse, and people see right through that. And you’re right, they do…sometimes. Obvious, or overt, abuse is easily spotted, even if an abuser were to try to minimize it. For instance, people could very easily see that a minimizing statement, such as “I only sprained her wrist. It’s not like I broke it”, doesn’t exactly do much to cover up abuse, or let the perpetrator off the hook. The thing is… narcissists are far more underhanded. They are masters of subtle, or covert, abuse.
The abusive behaviors, of a narcissist, can often look rather innocent, to an outsider. The best example I can think of is to liken #narcissistic abuse to water torture (or whatever it’s called). With the water torture, the target has drops of water, dripped onto the center of their forehead (I believe). At first, an observer might laugh at this ridiculously innocent act as being labeled “torture”- much the same as outside observers scoff at a target who’s trying to explain the pain inflicted by a seemingly bland behavior of the narcissist. Yet, after a while, though, that little innocuous drip, hitting the same spot, over and over and over again, becomes irritating. Then painful. Then absolutely torturous. Same goes with the way a narcissist abuses his target.
Given that the abusive behaviors of the narcissist often seem totally innocuous- and sometimes, could be written off as being simply “forgetful” behavior- the target has a very hard time explaining the abuse to outsiders, and even worse, she can even find it difficult to explain it to herself. In addition, the narcissist uses minimization, not only to disguise any malicious intent behind his actions but, also to diminish the damaging effects that those actions have on his target.
Put all of that together and, basically, you’ve got a situation were the narcissist is able to “drip” out his abusive tactics, on a daily basis, for years, and no one is the wiser. Over time, just like with water torture, the narcissist’s target becomes increasingly sensitive to his constant ‘drips’ of subversive & abusive behavior. So, while the behavior is still that same little, innocuous ‘drip’, the target’s response to it, only escalates. This is a huge factor that plays into the devaluing and discard stages of the relationship, as it helps to set the target up for when the narcissist inevitably decides to smear her.
It is then that the target’s increasingly extreme (though completely normal) emotional reactions, to the overall environment of prolonged abuse and torture, are used (by the narcissist) to fuel his smear campaign against her. When it’s time for the narcissist to deliver the final blow… to discard his target… he can provoke her, with a seemingly innocent ‘drip’, and allow outside observers to witness what seems to be an extreme, and grossly disproportionate response…thus, effectively helping to validate his claims that she is ‘crazy’, or ‘bipolar’ (the two most common labels that the exes of narc’s carry).
What the outside observer most often fails to see, or comprehend, is that the target’s response is to accumulated abuse… yet, the narcissist frames it as though her response is based on one, single infraction.
Minimizing another person’s pain is devaluing, and degrading to that person…period. And it doesn’t matter what the behavior is that provokes it. If a person is in pain, especially severe emotional distress, over something that, to you, seems like a rather ordinary event… you might want to look into the situation a bit more. Maybe sometimes, you’ll find a “drama queen” at the source of the problem but, there’s a chance that you are witnessing an easily triggered target of narcissistic or psychopathic partner. And, the target is reacting that way because she’s been enduring mental & emotional torture, maybe even physical abuse- and probably right under your nose- for far longer than you’d want to know.
Also, because of the survivor’s seemingly unstable behavior, her claims of abuse- and subsequent attempts to get help- are most often not believed, or ignored completely… which was the narcissist’s entire purpose from the start. I’ve got to take a second to say here and now, that dismissing a person’s claims of abuse is just careless, reckless, and selfish behavior. Every claim deserves, at the very least, a chance to be fully heard.
Below are some real-life, verbatim examples of minimization, taken from actual recorded conversations between a narcissist and his wife. You can also read some examples of blame/justification here, in a previous post. Have you experienced this in your relationship? What were your feelings about it? How did you handle it? Share your comments below. I’d love to hear from you…
Be well, Sisters,
~The Narcissist’s Wife
Narcissist= [N], Wife= [W]
[W]: My husband should treat me with respect…
[N]: Oh, come on. Please… (as though the idea is preposterous)
[W]: Would you like it if you tried to text me, and I never responded to ANY of your messages…or even bothered to read them?
[N]: Nobody’s out to get you… (implying that she’s completely over-reacting to him giving her the silent treatment)
[N]: Nobody gets upset over the shit you get upset about. (You mean, not being treated with basic respect, consideration and dignity? Yeah, I think plenty of people get upset over that… especially narcissists- ironically enough)
[W]: So…You think that if anyone listened to our conversation, they would think that I’m messed up?
[N]: No. They would think you’re crazy. (minimizing her hurt by insinuating she is ‘crazy’)
[W]: If they were to listen to….(she stops abruptly- hurt by the remark)
[N]: Yes, they would think you were crazy. Yes.
[W]: So, you’re saying that I’m acting crazy, because i feel disrespected, or disregarded even…and I’m requesting respectfully that I simply be shown the same consideration that you give other people?
[N]: Umm…well…no…but when it’s every single day, and constant (the rest is delivered in a high-pitched, mocking tone) OMG! I’m being disrespected here, and I’m being disrespected there! And, oh my God, this is disrespecting me….and omg this is hurting my feelings, and now you’re doing that…and my feeeelings… (again, implies she’s over-reacting, by feeling hurt, when she is treated with a total lack of respect, consideration, or dignity)
When you approach a narcissist with something (a behavior, an event, or maybe something hurtful they said) to communicate that it was hurtful, rude, degrading, etc., you will almost always be met with some type of minimizing statement. Usually, it’s right before they blame you for being at fault for their careless or abusive behavior. Some common minimizing statements, made by [this] narcissist which, from what I’ve gathered, are pretty common across the board, are:
[N]: I didn’t do anything to you. (this was in response to an email where the wife explained how much being given the silent treatment- for 4-days- being lied to, and not having any idea where her husband was, or if he was with another woman, hurt her)
[N]: You make such a big deal out of every little thing. Not everything is life-or-death, you know.
[N]: This sounds like someone who is depressed…severely depressed.
[N]: I think you have some kind of mild paranoia thing… Not everybody is out to get you.
[N]: See? You blow everything I do out of proportion. And you wonder why I hide things from you. So I don’t have to deal with THIS! (Double whammy. Both minimizing AND blaming)
[N]: Is this some kind of “bipolar thing”?
[N]: Nobody else would get upset about this. Just you.
[N]: You think too much about things. You over-analyze my every move and make it 100 times worse in your head.
[N]: All I did was tell one lie, and you’re holding it against me forever! (That one lie being that he hid a pain pill addiction from his wife for 4+ years, lied countless times when he went out to meet his dealer about where he was really going, spent thousands of dollars on his pills but, then blamed HER when money was short at the end of the month for “pissing his money away”. Yeah…one lie.)
[N]: You’re just trying to punish me and make me feel guilty for nothing.
OTHER COMMON MINIMIZING STATEMENTS
“You’re so over-sensitive/You’re too sensitive”
“I was just joking. Can’t you take a joke?”
“You have no sense of humor”
“It’s not like I beat you or anything, geez.”
- I’m sure there are many more, but these are a few that give you a general idea of what it looks like when someone is not valuing your feelings, and your right, to address behavior that is hurtful. If someone is doing this to you, and won’t stop when you address it, that is a pretty big sign that that person isn’t honoring you as a person, and you might want to reconsider how often you want to interact with someone who won’t value you and your feelings, the way you value them, and their feelings.