The Montfort Group

Minimizing Feelings

Have you ever caught yourself minimizing feelings, saying things like, “Oh, my problem isn’t that big of a deal, there are people in the world who go through worse.” What about, “I shouldn’t feel this way. I have so much to be grateful for.” Or, “If I can just postpone these feelings, when I can just get to XYZ I will most definitely feel better.” 

Rationalizing Feelings

Rationalizing feelings is called minimization. It is a form of deception that involves denial in situations where complete denial of reality is not possible. It is the downplaying the significance of emotion, especially when feelings of guilt are involved. Minimizing feelings is a coping mechanism meant to make the pain more manageable in the short term, which can be helpful to a degree. There are times in life we have to move through challenging phases in order to get to the reward parts. 

Minimizing becomes harmful when feelings are continually pushed aside and never processed. When emotions are ignored for long enough they become bigger and bigger and increasingly uncomfortable until there is no choice but to face them. When emotions are stuffed, dismissed, or deflected they eventually become toxic and take a psychological toll. 

Preventative vs. Reactionary

How can we change this propensity toward a culture of silence? “This is the way it’s always been” and “how people have always handled their business” is no longer a sufficient reason for ignoring the importance of mental health. Instead of pushing feelings down and aside, being aware of the pain. Work to understand what is there to learn from it can be a preventative rather than reactionary practice.

One way to get in touch with your minimized feelings is through grounding exercises. It’s as simple as checking in with yourself and attaching a feeling word for your present state.  “I feel _______.” If you’re like me, you might notice some difficulty with this exercise at first, but after a few days of intentional awareness, you’ll be a pro. When feelings are labeled, you are one step closer to telling yourself that you are seen, heard, and understood by yourself. By taking this step your emotions don’t have to continue growing in intensity to get your attention. The sensation of the feeling can flow through without getting stuck inside you. 

Therapy provides the opportunity to release the weight of struggle, conflict, and trauma we tend to collect over time. It teaches us how to stop minimizing feelings and to practice learning to talk about our feelings.

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