“Minimization: Trivializing Behavior as a Manipulation Tactic” Comments, Page 1

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19 Comments (5 Discussion Threads) on “Minimization: Trivializing Behavior as a Manipulation Tactic”

  1. Oh brother am I familiar with this one. And it certainly does work. My father used to minimize his brutal verbal and physical attacks to the point of laughing at me for getting so upset over such a “trivial argument”. I always ended up feeling foolish, too sensitive and crazy. Thank you so much for these great articles, they are so helpful!

  2. I’m in this position. Had a row with my partner today about something I’d done, which he then went on to use as justification for his possessiveness. He’d accused me of staring at someone else (I hadn’t), his response was “can you blame me the way you’re acting?” My “acting” had been me being angry and uptight as my mother is dying, and it was a rare time I’d taken it out on him.

    The minimization can really make you feel like you’re going nuts, I end up questioning myself and thinking “is it me, am I mad”. Think it’s better to leave sooner rather than later before you lose sense of reality, I’d always say that to anyone now (one day I’ll learn that myself!).

  3. One of the worst impacts minimization has on adult life is that when parents minimize children’s problems they grow to accept big issues as “normal issues” they have to put up with.

    1. It’s one thing for an adult to deal with a person who minimizes and manipulates through various methods, but quite another for a child to learn to deal with a parent who operates this way. It’s taken me several years of therapy to recognize what was going on in my marriage relative to the abusive behaviors of my husband. Was the problem with me, I wondered? So, my struggle is to go through the separation/divorce process – difficult enough on its own – but the real challenge is to empathize (so they know they aren’t nuts) with the children in their problems with their father, but also support them in having some kind of healthy relationship with their father. Is that possible?

  4. Great comments, all. I so much appreciate the feedback. I use every bit of feedback to further refine my work. Thanks.

    1. Dr. Simon, thank you so much for this well written example of manipulation. I lived through it for 8 years with my ex-husband and am now living it through my new husband (soon to be ex too!). But what I loved the most about your article is that you recognized that not even trained professionals understand the magnitude of the well-woven tactic used by these manipulative man. How can we?

      My ex and I saw a PhD counselor (#7 as none were able to see through the real issue) who explained that our problem was “communication”, after I clearly described how he had slapped me on the head and kicked while I had my back to him and our baby in my arms, clenched fists over me, punched walls and kicked things, etc….The counselor, after hearing me, asked my ex: “This is her version of the story. What’s yours?” I was speechless! Version of the story?! It was as if he had given him permission to minimize and distort, as I’d seen him do countless times. History repeated itself precisely as you described. But, you see, in the end, his conclusion was that our problem was “communication”….Needless to say I never went back but my ex saw an opportunity to go 1 more time to use it as a tool to attack again. After he came back from his lone session, he confirmed that the counselor had affirmed that I was the problem. I picked up the phone and called the counselor, who denied having said such a thing. When I confronted the ex he calmly said: “I must have misunderstood him”. My ex’s ability to lie was absolutely incredible!

      I now see myself in the hands of yet another narcissist, who gas lights, minimizes, lies, distorts, can go a week or more without talking (and think it’s ok)….He’s just a slightly different version of the 1st. Even as we’re going through the divorce, he’s gone to neighbors and family smearing my image while presenting a story that is so far from reality I’m not sure how anyone can contemplate it as truth. But he’s very convincing…Well, he fooled me too.

      I feel as if I fell in the same trap twice. Is there a way to avoid such characters? How can we avoid being lured by their charm?

      I appreciate you very much!

  5. Hello Dr. Simon,

    Thank you so much for writing In Sheep’s Clothing. It’s a book that I keep turning back to whenever I’m trying to help others learn how manipulation works. And now that you’re continuing your work on the web, that’s even better.

    If I may be so bold to make a recommendation (since you are seeking feedback), I think you could add Catastrophizing to your official list of manipulation tactics. As you know, it’s the opposite of Minimization and can be thought of as “making a mountain out of a molehill.”

    You mention how it pertains to neurotics’ interpretation of their own behavior, but I’ve seen this tactic used effectively to manipulate others both on a personal level and on the world stage. For example, in the run-up to the Iraq war, Americans were manipulated, in part, into supporting the idea of going to war with Iraq through statements like these:

    “America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”
    – George W. Bush, October 7, 2002

    “The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly Saddam can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”
    – Condoleezza Rice, September 8, 2002

    Moreover, Vice President Dick Cheney created an entire policy doctrine based upon Catastrophizing called the “1% Doctrine” or the “Cheney Doctrine”:

    “Under the Cheney Doctrine, Mr. Suskind writes, ‘a one percent chance of catastrophe must be treated ‘as a certainty,’ where firm evidence, of either intent or capability, is too high a threshold; where the doctrine is, in essence, prevention based on suspicion.'”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/08/timestopics/cheney-books.html

    Catastrophizing works by presenting the world or a situation in stark, black and white terms so the manipulator gets what he/she wants from the victim. Only the most distorted or extreme possible outcomes are presented in order to effectively limit and distort the victim’s perception of reasonable options. Outcomes contrary to the manipulator’s agenda are exaggerated to foment fear and dissuade the victim from their consideration.

    Thanks again,

    – Tom

    1. Thank you for your comment, Tom. You are absolutely correct in your observation. I tend to differentiate the tactic of “exaggeration” from the mental anguish catastrophizing of the neurotic. I will be mentioning the exaggeration tactic in an upcoming post.

      Again, thanks for your endorsement of my work and for your comments.

  6. I recently realized that my marriage was not just physically abusive but emotionally abusive too. Your article perfectly fit the situations I faced to an extent wherein I would feel crazy and all the more apologetic and guilty. I moved out because of the peculiar problem of him not just hitting me, but also his hitting himself. I thought it was denial but its manipulation.
    Thanks for sharing this article
    G3

  7. Dr. Simon,
    Thank you so much for this article on Trivilization a Manipulization Tactic. You’ve described my Bipolar mother to a T. My mother passed away several years ago at age 84. As her only child, I took on the responsibility of having her live with me and my family when she could no longer live alone until her death.
    On the surface, she always came across as a normal type of person, but if you ever took the time to really get to know her and IF she ever let her guard down (hardly ever), you would only get a small glimpse of what she was capable of. She was the epitome of “A WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING”.
    I’m fascinated by your total understanding of how these “disturbed characters” think and how they’re capable of even manipulating their own therapists, which my mother did on many occasions with several of her psychologists.
    As you can imagine, my relationship with my mother was a very difficult one. So much so, that is decided to go into Psychology myself. I’m also in the process of writing a book called “Well…Nobodys Perfect”. Those were her words whenever I’d call her out on her devious and hurtful behavior.
    Once again, thank you so much for your insightful article.

    M.M.

  8. I am just realizing this year that I’m married to someone like this. I have known that something was wrong from the start but never knew what. Anytime I confronted him on a behavior or action that seemed off to me and hurt me he would guilt trip me, so I would back down. I have been feeling trapped and miserable for years but couldn’t pinpoint why. I am also just now realizing that he has been abusive to our kids. I have always had to be the referree when he disciplined the kids…too harsh, he says things like I’m gonna break your toys, etc. but he would get upset at me and tell me I’m over reacting or over protective, or disrespecting him in front of the children. It’s was and is still tricky because 80% of the time he’s a great dad. Then that 20% pops in there so I’m constantly on a Rollercoaster of good dad, bad dad….I’m sure the kids feel the same way. Last year he went balistic when I thought I caught him on a cheating website….it’s a long story, but he went nuts. Now I’m afraid of him…he suddenly changed after months of acting out (including cutting himself on the arms and stomach) and ssid he w as gonna get help but 5 months later (now) he’s already minimalixing the abuse from last year and telling me that I need to let go of the past. We are supposed to go see a counselor on Sunday…but I’m afraid to. I’m sure he’s just gonna schmooze the counselor…it happened last year with another counselor that we saw. He uees every single one of these tactics that are listed on the website. Hes also been known to “stalk”. I have been trying to find someone that understands this type of disorder but yo no avail. I feel lost and trapped and all i have is the internet to help me. Im so thankful for this website and others like it cuz now i know im not going crazy. What is the best/ssfest way to handle this type of person. I want a separation but I’m afraid of how he will react and I am isolated here. Should I even bother with counseling with him? Just say I want a separation in front of the counselor? Do I spill all of this in front of him and the counselor or will he use it all against me?

  9. Hello! First thanks for many nice articles on these topics. It is hard to see people as they are sometimes as I like to see the best in them and I try to cooperate. Since I got married I always thought you have to work hard n compromise n all that. I am realizing something, that I think I felt before but wasn’t sure of. My husband is a good man with dedication and generousity, kindness and smart and talented. But also egotistical, hypocritical, and stubborn as hell. I like to think that I am pretty easy going and have a lot of patience.

    Well I think it is being pushed too far. I always had that tendency and since I basically trust my husband, I often go along with what he says. I think he display these tendencies of disturbed individual. It is very hard to deal with him when he gets in that mood. Often the over all sense is asserting control in the situation and removing/explaining away anything he might did wrong and putting the spotlight on my shortcomings (rather they be valid or not), pushing me down to a level where I’m supposed to feel ashamed and then appologize. I feel I have done a lot towards his “concerns”.

    I want him to truly listen to my concern. And I say this not just because I love him and am dedicated to the marriage, but also even tho a person can have a disturbed personality, it doesn’t always make them a “bad” person right? He has so many wonderful qualities and is also very kind to me and show his care.

    So my question is, one usually cannot simply use these tactics back against them. (I tried treating him and saying things to him like he does me and it either makes him more angry and causes things to escalate or he deflects from the topic and turn it back on me by bringing something up at random. I.e. “Don’t roll your eyes at me, it’s disgusting behavior that shows your negative emotions and ppl don’t like it. I won’t talk to you if you’re gonna act like that.” Etc.

    What way can I approach him when I have concerns? How can I deal with him when he gets angry at me for “doing something stupid” or “making a mistake AGAIN”? Even tho I keep adhering to his “rules” more n more it doesn’t seem to satisfy him.

    What are the tactics of “disarming” (so to speak ) a person of disturbed character?

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