We’ve had some wild and woolly weather here in the Yarra Valley; storms seem to be the new black. I’m not sure what it is about storms but they freak me out, possibly a childhood fear from watching Dorothy’s house take off in the Wizard of Oz, who knows. What I do know is that they unnerve me.

Some people I talk to about this agree and say ‘oh yes me too!’ Then we giggle nervously. Others love a good storm! Get involved, step outside and brave the wind and rain. Then there are the people who just won’t accept it. ‘There’s nothing wrong with a storm! You’re being silly.

This type of comment, whether intentionally hurtful or not, is what we call minimising. It’s taking your valid feeling (because remember, every feeling you have is completely valid) and throwing it aside. It belittles the feeling and can very often result in shame for the person having the experience.

Have you had someone minimise your emotions, thoughts or experiences? If you have, you’ll probably know it’s a challenging one to navigate.

For example, you might tell someone that you’re really struggling with a friendship, how it’s keeping you up at night and you feel sad.

A minimising response looks like:

  • Don’t be ridiculous
  • You shouldn’t feel like that
  • It’s not that bad!
  • Why would you get upset about that?!

Ouch. Considering that these comments usually come after someone has expressed distress or upset, it can be a very confronting response.

When we express our emotions there is often a vulnerability that comes along with it. We’re exposing our inner workings to someone, sharing a unique experience and trusting that it will be met with respect and support. But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes that vulnerability is met with a jarring minimisation.

I see this happen with both counselling clients and in the workplace. Staff whose Manager minimises their requests for help, tells them that it’s not a big deal or that they need to toughen up. It can create such a big divide in the relationship. Trust and connections can be damaged.

It’s very true that we all have a choice about how we respond to a situation. As we looked at in Same Same But Different, our response will be totally different to another persons. So how do we protect ourselves from these situations?

Here’s a few things we can do when we acknowledge the negative effects someone’s minimising is having on us:

  • Stand strong. Literally plant your feet on the ground, wherever you are, and feel yourself connected to the earth. Take 3 deep breaths into your belly. Say to yourself “I am valid. I have the right to feel what I feel.”
  • Be curious. Once you’re steady, ask yourself, why might this person be trying to bring me down? Do they know that it’s hurting me? Perhaps there’s something about this situation that has triggered them. You may never know the answer, but send that person a bit of compassion anyway.
  • Speak up. If you feel ready to, and maybe you might take a bit of time before you do, talk to that person about what happens for you when they minimise your feelings. Don’t point fingers – just share your experience again. Don’t have any expectations.

Whatever you decide to do, whatever feels best for you, know this: you have to the right to feel what you feel. No one person is better than another when it comes to experiencing emotion.

Lastly, if you’d like to talk to someone, come and talk to me or to another Counsellor. I can assure you that I’ll respect your experience 100%.

Take care out there.