De-minimization

Journal Date: Wednesday, December 16, 2020

I’m reading a bit in my book on CPTSD before I get started on my work today.

“Confronting denial is no small task. Children so need to believe that their parents love and care for them, that they will deny and minimize away evidence of the most egregious neglect and abuse.

De-minimization is a crucial aspect of confronting denial. It is the process by which a person deconstructs the defense of ‘making light’ of his childhood trauma.” –Pete Walker

This is part of the process I’ve been in for the past nine months.

First, I had to realize that what I experienced was in fact abuse.

And that no amount of rationalization or complaints about how I was just “too sensitive” would ever change that.

This in itself was a big deal. I’m not sure if I realized the magnitude of it at the time, but this realization was the turning point that would change everything.

Ever since then, it’s been a process of de-minimization, just as Walker speaks of in the quote above.

It’s coming to terms with the fact that it really was as bad as I remembered it (and honestly, maybe even a little worse than that).

One thing that I’ve been trying to wrap my head around recently is the possibility that my mom actually didn’t ever love me at all.

I always felt like (and half-seriously told my friends) that my mom hated me.

Now I think that was probably true.

Everything she said and did made it seem that way.

The only thing that kept me from fully believing it was my dad (and to a lesser extent, some of the other members of my family). 

The narrative I was always forced to buy into by my dad was, “she does love you, but she’s ‘incapable’ of treating you better. She’s incompetent, it’s just her nature. You need to understand that” (and accept that and act like it’s all okay).

Hm… I just had a little flash of insight: it seems likely that my dad so insistently demanded I believe this lie, because it was probably the same exact lie he was telling himself. “Your ex-wife really loved you, she’s just incapable…etc.” (And I’m sure that wasn’t true either).

The narrative from my aunts was always: “She does love you, but you’re just too sensitive/emotional/bad/etc…”

I don’t think any of that is true anymore.

I don’t think my mom ever loved me.

(Maybe as a baby, but surely not much longer after that).

I think she did hate me, whether she was willing to admit that or not.

I’ve been thinking more about my mom’s relationship with her own mother.

And I don’t think Abuelita loves my mom, either. Regardless of how many excuses my mom makes for her.

My mom is completely controlled and dominated by her mother. She always was, and she still is today, at 64. 

I don’t know what happened when my mom was growing up, but it seems my grandmother selected her to be her servant, her puppet, and bullied her into never having enough initiative or self-esteem to escape.

My mom is completely submissive to her. She complies with any of her mother’s whims and demands, and then makes excuses for her. 

Her own father was never around, so there was no one around to intervene or be another source of support or care.

When I was born, things were very different.

My dad was much more invested in the family and in being a father to me.

As a baby and younger child, my dad gave a lot of attention to both me and my brother.

And I think there may have been an element of jealousy with my mother, because she had never experienced that as a daughter to either of her parents.

It was expected that I would go to school, finish my education, and have success of my own in a way that was never considered for her. 

And it was assumed (by my dad and the larger American culture of which I was a part) that I would grow up and achieve independence from my family and have a life of my own.

These are all things that had been unthinkable as options for my mom.

And I believe that she really did resent me for that.

I’ve never wanted to believe this (even now, it still makes me feel bad to say it).

But the more I consider it, the more likely it seems that it’s true.

Maybe my mom really was determined to make sure that I never got what she never had.

It’s so hard to imagine that a mother could feel that way towards her child.

But there’s plenty of evidence, both from my life, as well as my mothers (with regard to Abuelita), to show that it’s very likely this was the case.


I can understand how she would feel upset about the loss of her own childhood and her own opportunities.

This was something that also came up for me when I was spending a lot of time with my younger cousin.

I remember seeing how well-loved she was, how cared for, nurtured and respected she was by both of her parents.

And I was sad. It put into stark contrast my own upbringing, and made very clear for me exactly what it was that I had lost.

But the last thing I would ever do is hurt my cousin.

It was just the opposite. I loved her so much (and I still do).

I put so much time and attention to being a good older cousin to her. We had pizza parties and sleepovers, we dressed up in silly costumes and wore animal face masks, and we had the best time together.

So yes, I can see how painful it is to confront what you never got, but no, I don’t make any excuses for it.

I know that it’s possible to act differently, because I did.

I loved my cousin, and while was sad, I wanted to make sure she had every opportunity to experience the things that had been missing for me.

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