Rationalization, minimizing, and denial

*Trigger warning. This post deals with some child abuse issues. It is not graphic, but may be a trigger. Please proceed with self-care and caution.*

Rationalize [ rash-uh-nl-ahyz, rash-nl-ahyz ]verb (used with object)
1. to ascribe (one’s acts, opinions, etc.) to causes that superficially seem reasonable and valid but that actually are unrelated to the true, possibly unconscious and often less creditable or agreeable causes. Dictionary.com

Minimize Pronunciation: \ˈmi-nə-ˌmīz\
Function: transitive verb Inflected Form(s): min·i·mized; min·i·miz·ing Date: 1825
1 : to reduce or keep to a minimum
2 : to underestimate intentionally : play down, soft-pedal
— min·i·mi·za·tion \ˌmi-nə-mə-ˈzā-shən\ noun
— min·i·miz·er \ˈmi-nə-ˌmī-zər\ noun Merriam-Webster

Denial noun
• The action of declaring something to be untrue: “She shook her head in denial”
• The refusal of something requested or desired: the denial of insurance to people with certain medical conditions
• A statement that something is not true: official denials, “His denial that he was having an affair”
Psychology – failure to acknowledge an unacceptable truth or emotion or to admit it into consciousness, used as a defense mechanism: “You’re living in denial”
• Short for self-denial.
• Disavowal of a person as one’s leader. Oxford Dictionary~American English

I thought I would start with definitions because these words can be so emotionally charged; probably due to the fact that so many of us consider ourselves to be qualified to diagnose and identify these characteristics with others and tend to use them in condemning and judgmental ways.

Here is a humorous and common example:

However, these are also the coping skills and mechanisms that gave many of us the strength and fortitude to survive our childhoods and manage to get as far and live as long as we have. Our current lives may no longer be served well by these skills and defenses and we may need to learn how to think and react in new and different ways, but we do not need to judge ourselves or others harshly for developing and utilizing these things to get us through. My friend Tasha reminded me of that in her comment to yesterday’s post.

This is my third and final attempt to finish this post. I started it 18 hours ago and just lost two versions in the past three hours. 😦

I have definitely had my Cleopatra moments, however, I consider myself more a Royal Rationalizer or the Mistress of Minimization. These coping skills and defense mechanisms were fully developed and highly functional by the time I was ten.

It was how I got through the molestation by my stepfather from the time I was 8-10 years old. It was how I dealt with the overwhelming feelings of rejection and abandonment when it was suddenly over. I punished him by telling my mom when my little Lolita efforts failed to revive the attention. As soon as she was told, my mom took action. We moved out, the police were notified, an investigation initiated, and treatment obtained. Rationalization and minimization helped me navigate and get through it all.

When interviewed about it, I scoffed and felt contempt towards my stepfather and/or his defense attorney because I was questioned about my mom’s supposed interest in the occult. I was savvy enough to understand they were trying to discredit her. I knew enough to tell them she was doing research because she was interested in writing about the wave of occult related crime reports that had arisen in the wake of the Manson Family murders. I also knew enough to inform them that his friends were the sources for the books she had on the subject. Since I was reading at a fifth grade level by the time I entered third grade, it’s possible I was verbally communicating at a high level as well. I’m pretty sure there was a trial and conviction, but can’t say for certain – especially in light of the fact that the investigator’s report from my mom’s suicide a couple of years later said his whereabouts were unknown.

In spite of it all, I minimized and rationalized my way through the therapy group for incest survivors. He was a psychologically disturbed and mentally ill man who had a steel plate in his head from his time in Vietnam. Mom couldn’t have known what was happening for two years because we had been so careful and discreet. No one was at fault or to blame. Besides, I knew it was wrong and made the choice because I liked the attention. It wasn’t really incest because we weren’t blood related, and it wasn’t really that bad because he stopped when I felt pain and we never went all the way. Besides, he didn’t threaten or terrorize me the way everyone else had been.  My mom believed me and didn’t blame me or criticize me, unlike other mothers. So, I didn’t really have anything to feel bad about or a good enough reason to be in the group. I wasn’t mad or sad, I didn’t hate or blame anyone.

One of these girls was not like the others. We all knew it was me. I was criticized, targeted, and ostracized by the others. This was probably one of my earliest lessons in learning to adapt and blend in by simulating emotion and portraying socially acceptable behavior in challenging and difficult situations. I became a social chameleon. Yet another survival tool.

However much damage and dysfunction these mechanisms, defenses and tools have contributed to my life and the lives  of my children, they are also the reason we are alive at all. Without them, I could have been dead many times over and could have taken my children along with a couple of time because the ideations were there. Thank God neither ever happened.

Gratitude Day 11

Coping mechanisms and the service of all veterans and the  sacrifices they and their families have made.



  1. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” -Plato

    It must have been very difficult for you to share your hard battle. Thank you.


    1. James,
      Believe it or not the struggle to write this was more technical one than an emotional one. Another survival tool was the separation and segregation of feeling from fact. I had much more emotional difficulty and attachment to Friday’s post about my son’s entry into the world.

      Although, the amount of work I had to do to actually get this post written had me strip away some of the shiny, distracting, things and really face and identify some of the foundational issues that drive my dysfunctions and relationship problems.

      So, yeah, it was definitely a challenge, and I came close to quitting more than once.



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