Beware the minimizer

The self-minimizer, that is. People who minimize others tend to look like this.

Bring Myron Reducto back, Stephen Colbert!

Bring Myron Reducto back, Stephen Colbert!

No, what I am talking about is a psychological tic known as self-minimizing. When a person has low self-esteem (yup, we’re talking about that again), sometimes they have a tendency to self-minimize. That means that they always minimize their own needs and desires and treat everyone else’s needs and desires as more important than their own.

What they want isn’t important. They want to know what you want. It can seem like selflessness, and in a sense it is, but only in a very unhealthy and unbalanced way.

It partially comes from a very low sense of self due to intense self-loathing. To even ask the question of what one really wants or needs is to look at oneself, and for the depressed, that gives rise to an extremely high level of psychic distress as they gaze upon the object of their greatest loathing, themselves.

Thus, a lack of self-reflection retards the individual’s ability to perform the kind of soul-searching and examination of life experiences that leads to a stronger sense of self. The depressed person might spend hours ruminating over a painful incident from the past, or contemplating their fears about the future, but because of this intense self-loathing and hence self-aversion, they cannot put any of their ponderings into the context of the self.

Then there is the fact that depression itself is caustic to the self. As I mentioned last night, one definition of depression is “anger turned inward”, meaning that depressed people have a tendency to take their anger and frustrations out on themselves. This is not only detrimental to the self-esteem, but to the vry frabric of the self. It’s hard to build a solid sense of self when one is always tearing oneself apart.

Another route by which self-minimizing behaviour arrives is through a toxic childhood environment where the child’s needs and concerns are treated as trivial or even so unimportant that it’s a crime just to bring them up. Children write down everything that happens to them on those impressionable little minds of theirs, and it is from these notes that the child learns who they are and what their place in the world is.

Treat the child as unimportant or obtrusive, and they internalize this message and end up treating themselves the exact same way you treated them.

Now that we’ve established a few theories of origin, let’s look at the phenomenon itself. It is characterized by an unwillingness to express any sort of desire, need, or even preference in any matter. The overall message is “Oh, what I want isn’t important!” and, relatedly, “Oh, don’t worry about me, I’m just fine. ”

This is the person who says “Oh, it doesn’t matter to me. Whatever you want is fine!”. Or “I’m just happy to get anything at all. ” Or “I’ll just have whatever you’re having!”

And if, by some bizarre brain abnormality, the person genuinely did have absolutely no needs, desires, or preferences, that would be fine. But of course, they are human beings who actually do possess the usual complement of needs.

That too would be fine if the person lived in a world of total sociopaths. But in the real world, there is bound to be at least a few people in your life who care about you, and that’s where the trouble begins.

Because if you care about someone, you want to make them happy. That means seeing to their needs, catering to their desires, and respecting their preferences.

And if you are dealing with a self-minimizer, none of that information is available.

What seems superficially to be selflessness and compassion is revealed to be something darker and deeper. No matter how much you love and care about the self-minimizer, you will be unable to get the information about their desires etc straight from the source. You will have to get it via observation and deduction.

So already, this “selflessness” is actually forcing people who care about you to work a lot harder than they have to with other people who are not so “selfless”.

But it is actually much worse than that, because the self-minimizing behaviour comes with an even heftier price-tag, namely the total abnegation of personal responsibility. By withholding all information about their own desires etc, the self-minimizing person guarantees that they are not responsible for anything that happens.

And this would be fine if it was possible for responsibility to simply disappear, but it does not. For the most part, responsibility is preserved, and what responsibility is not taken for oneself is inevitably forced upon others.

Also, self-minimizing people lie. They lie all the time without even thinking about it. When someone expresses no preference when some part of their mind knows damned well that they have a preference, that’s a lie. When someone says they don’t care about what happens to themselves and (of course) they do, that’s a lie. And worst of all by far is when someone says they don’t need anything when they in fact they desperately need many things, that’s a lie.

Think of what a position it puts people who care about you when they can’t even ask you how you are and get a straight and reliable answer. Helping and pleasing a loved one isn’t merely a desire, it’s a human need, and by denying someone you claim to love and care about the information necessary to do so, you cause them immense and needless distress.

And that’s the message I want to leave for you, gentle readers. When you compulsively self-minimize, you are not being selfless. You are in fact being incredibly selfISH and causing untold pain and suffering to those poor souls unfortunate enough to care more about you than you do yourself.

For their sake alone, fellow self-minimizers, you need to get over your self-aversion and, if not exactly get in touch with who you really are, at least make up a plausible set of preferences et al to use when the situation calls for it.

I think you owe it to those who care about you to give them at least that consideration.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

(Also, remember what it means when I shift into the second person…. )

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