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Stop Minimizing Your Pain..

I’ll never forget picking up a copy of the Chicago Tribune off of my grandfather’s table when I was about 6 or 7 years old and reading a story about a little boy rescued from an abusive household.  At the time of rescue, the 8 year old boy weighed a mere 30 pounds and when his parents found him to be acting especially bad, they would hang him naked, upside down in their hallway coat closet.  The boy was found with bruises and cuts all over his body and my eyes filled with tears as I imagined the terror he must have felt hanging upside down, alone in the dark, waiting for his abusers to open the closet door and dish out his next punishment.

I never forgot that story, because that story is what would help me deal with the abuse Mom inflicted on me.  No matter what Mom did to me, no matter how badly she hurt me with her fists or with her words; I would always think, “It’s not as bad as that kid that they found in Chicago.”  I would downplay my own abuse and find a way to make it acceptable in my head because I didn’t have it as bad as that little boy.  At least Mom didn’t hang me upside down in a closet and compared to those parents, Mom was an absolute saint.

But I made a huge mistake comparing my abuse and my pain to anyone else’s.  Because what I ended up doing was giving Mom a free pass to treat me like dirt; I justified my abuse and justified Mom’s treatment of me because I didn’t have it as bad as that little boy in Chicago.  In my head, who was I to complain about bruised ribs, fingernail marks on my neck, or a swollen face?  I didn’t have the right to complain when there are kids out there being hung upside down and being starved and beaten.  I didn’t have it that bad.

But my abuse was bad and the pain I felt during and after the abuse was real and it was my pain.  By shrugging off my pain and comparing my abuse to someone else’s, I was denying myself the opportunity to feel and minimizing how badly Mom hurt me physically and mentally.  I was justifying her terrible treatment of me and ignoring how it made me feel by constantly saying, “It’s not that bad.  It’s OK. I can get through this.”  As long as she didn’t put me in a closet and starve me, I could handle anything she threw at me.

And what happens when you minimize your pain as I did?  You make excuses in your head for the abuse, you take responsibility for your abuser’s actions, and you walk around with your head hanging down because you are so ashamed to feel anything when you think that so many others have it worse than you do.  You put on a strong front to cover up how weak and helpless you feel on the inside and you end up lying to yourself and everyone else about how “great’ your life is.

Your pain is yours and yours alone.  Unless someone is living your life and experiencing what you are going through, they truly have no idea how you feel or how your experience has made you feel.  There are always bad things happening to good people, but that doesn’t mean that we need to compare stories on who had it worse.  We need to recognize and own our own pain, because it is only then that we can even begin to heal from our traumatic pasts.

Stop Minimizing Your Pain..

Sarah Burleton NY Times bestselling author

Victoria Gigante Writes For Psych CentralSarah Burleton was born in a little town in Illinois to a very emotionally disturbed woman. Her first book, her child abuse memoir "Why Me," spent 26 weeks on the New York Times and the print version is endorsed by David Pelzer, author of "A Child Called It." Sarah is now realizing her goal in becoming an ambassador for abused children and adult survivors and is currently conducting workshops and seminars throughout the state. Her message of strength over adversity and her story will help counselors, teachers, and other professionals identify signs of abuse and learn ways to establish trust with an abused child.

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APA Reference
, . (2016). Stop Minimizing Your Pain... Psych Central. Retrieved on January 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 31 Mar 2016
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