Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) in “Casablanca,” minimizing their relationship issues compared with how the Nazis were conquering Europe and slaughtering people

Minimize me

My problems don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world

Jeffrey Denny

Minimizing: A cognitive distortion consisting of a tendency to present events to oneself or others as insignificant or unimportant. — American Psychology Association

We’ve all had a friend or family member we wanted to strangle.

To me, the most stranglelicious are the classic “minimizers.”

You know the type.

They check in, “What’s up?”

You reply, “Well, after two years of not catching Covid, I have this terrible cold, maybe a flu. I’m flat on my back. Fever. Chills. Aches. Wracking phlegmy cough. Head feels like a lead zeppelin. But I tested — it’s not Covid.”

They say, “You’re fine. Shake it off. Don’t be a whiner. It’s probably allergies. I have terrible allergies this time of year. Oak pollen. Get some Zyrtec.”

Or you say, “Holy cripes — I just heard. My cousin lost a leg in a bizarre rototiller accident!”

Minimizer says, “Don’t worry — it’ll grow back. Even if it doesn’t, the prosthetics these days are amazing. Olympic athletes have them. They’re just like real legs. He won’t know the difference!”

Just to have fun with the minimizer, you say, “My house burned to the ground. I lost everything including my wife, children and priceless family keepsakes. I found out my homeowner’s insurance expired so I won’t get a dime. I had to move into my car.”

Minimizer says, “Buck up! You’re resilient. You’ll find a place and be back on your feet in no time. You’ll find a new wife and make new children. And car camping is fun!”

Then you say, “I’m really struggling with this impulse to strangle you for minimizing my problems.”

Minimizer says, “No biggie — I get that all the time. Let it go. Life’s too short.”

It’s not right, or legal, to strangle friends or family members.

But no jury of my peers would convict me.

For me to call someone a peer, they’d have to find minimizing just as murderlicious as I do.

A jury of my peers would go well beyond finding me innocent. They’d give me a standing O until the judge, who joined in, said that’s enough, order in the court. Several of my juror peers would ask if I could get together for drinks or a romantic weekend getaway.

I understand that minimizers mean no harm.

They’re wonderful, giving, caring, selfless saints who don’t poison humanity whatsoever with their deadly toxic positivity.

The minimizer’s impulse is to help. The lovely Carole King/James Taylor song, “You’ve Got A Friend,” is their anthem. When you’re down and troubled, and you need a helping hand, and nothing, nothing is going right, they’ll come running, with their gaslighting narcissism, to make you feel worse. Winter, spring, summer or fall.

Wanting to strangle someone who’s simply trying to help is not about their emotional damage, their clinical sociopathology, or their acting out of childhood trauma. It’s about your issues. You’re the one who needs help. If you can find a therapist who takes insurance and isn’t already slammed helping minimizers who wonder why they have zero friends and their family avoids them.

Garden-variety minimizers are bad enough.

Not to get political, but people who get their news and views from Fox offer a master class in minimizing. They can turn irritating into deadly.

They minimized Covid and the need for shutdowns, distancing, masks and vaccinations, and spread the disease and deaths with their denial.

They still minimize the violent J6 attack on our Capitol, Blue Lives, elected lawmakers and our democracy. They minimize the treasonous attempt to overturn the election and Trump’s bald-faced lies that sucker stupids about voter fraud.

They minimize the climate crisis, even though, like Covid, it’s devastating to their communities. They minimize mass shootings and the obvious need for stronger gun controls. They minimize America’s racist history, ongoing structural racism, harm to fellow Americans, and the rise of righteous white supremacism.

They minimize online hate and incitement, calling curbs liberal censorship. They minimize LGBTQ+ plights, rights and fights for respect and freedom from abuse and ignorance. They minimize women, #MeToo perping, misogyny, and the right to reproductive privacy from government intrusion.

They also minimize how Trump’s regal reign of error handed Joe Biden a nation left in tatters to fix, then blame Biden for what Trump wrought and minimize what it takes to fix it.

Trumpers minimize fellow Americans like me who don’t love Trump or Trumpy politicians. They call us stupid Leftist Never-Trump America-hating Democrat Socialist sheep following our media sycophant stenographers. They minimize our love for America and fright that they’re making America worse.

Yep, for Trumpers, the problems of other Americans don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world they made.

I’m not saying there’s a special circle of Hell for them. Even Satan has standards.

But if they do qualify for Everlasting Torment, don’t worry—it’s not so bad. There’s even a Starbucks in Hell where you stand for eternity behind a gaggle of tweens trying to decide and order complicated coffee drinks.

Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer

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