Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill?

When we experience covert abuse, the very subtlety of it can make us feel embarrassed or even apologetic to bring it up. We — and others — may make us feel silly as if we were making a big deal out of nothing.

Trivializing is a kind of invalidation. It is one of the techniques covert abusers use to abuse you. Be careful you do not do that to yourself.

Manipulation, deception and the punishing nature of covert abuse, whether from a single source or multiple as in the case of relational aggression, is no small thing. The impact it can have on you, especially as the abuse continues over time, can be a very big deal.

Covert abuse hurts. It’s not silly. What’s silly is to expect that that should have no impact on you! If you find yourself on the receiving end of covert abuse, you are not being petty for objecting or “too sensitive” for hurting or somehow failing yourself for “letting” other people get to you.

When it rains, you get wet. When people are mean, it hurts. It’s not your shortcoming for feeling hurt or confused or upset! It’s their shame for being mean! Yes, you are responsible for what you do with your feelings, but you are not guilty or weak for having them.

Do not diminish what you feel. In whatever form covert abuse takes — subtle put downs, darting glances, muffled laughter at school, reputation damaged at work or smeared by an ex — acknowledge its impact on you.

The law does. The law calls malicious gossip and false assertions slander when spoken and libel when written. The law recognizes these things can inflict considerable damage to a person’s peace of mind, reputation and social standing to the point of allowing for legal recourse and monetary compensation.

Can it be any less injurious because you’re a kid in school or less devastating because the rumor spread isn’t published in a tabloid? You don’t have to be a target of covert abuse or relational aggression in the world to feel devastated — just your world.

Victims of covert abuse and bullying suffer the same long-term effects as victims of physical abuse and bullying. Targets can suffer emotional and psychological distress. The very foundation of trust, the willingness or ability to trust again, is often damaged, and how you see yourself, as well as your sense of self-worth can be severely shaken.

A traumatic experience can set up an expectation of failure in all relationships, including with life. But an experience doesn’t have to be traumatic to have a long lasting affect. Abuse, covert or otherwise, only needs to go deep enough into a person’s psyche at a vulnerable moment to impact a person in significant ways.

This is referred to as “learned helplessness”. Dr. Charisse Nixon, assistant professor of developmental psychology at Penn State Erie, and Director of Research and Evaluation for The Ophelia Project, illustrates this phenomenon in a video on YouTube, the Ophelia Project Channel.

Neither covert abuse or relational aggression are trivial, and neither are the feelings you feel as a result.

Own your feelings. They’re real and they’re yours, but so are the choices you can make to deal with them. You are not powerless.

Even when it pours, you can get out of the rain. Or you can take out an umbrella. You can put on a rain coat…and if you choose, you can dance in the rain! You have options, and we will explore them later. But for now, it is important to remember that it’s normal to feel hurt when someone is hurting you, and when they’re hurting you through others. It’s nothing to feel ashamed about.

Enlisting others to hurt someone is devastatingly effective…and calculatingly so, even if the methods used are childish as they often are.

It’s difficult, though, to tell someone about your experiences without feeling or coming across as childish, yourself, isn’t it? The nature of covert abuse sets it up that way. It is rather incredulous to believe in this manipulation and subtle aggression that is never quite out in the open, and just as quickly denied. The temptation to trivialize what you are experiencing is great.

And remember, no one will maintain “it’s nothing” more than the abuser.

So, is it nothing? Are you childish? No. You’re a target, and there’s nothing childish or trivial about that or the pain you feel as a result. You are not making a big deal out of this.

It already is.


What is your level of comfort in accepting your emotional reality? Can you be with it and listen to what it’s telling you or do you try to ignore its voice by trivializing or diminishing it?

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About the Author

About the Author: Demian Yumei, author, singer/songwriter and artist activist, uses spoken, written word and original songs in her human rights activism. She's a long time traveler on the healing journey and has a lifelong love affair with the creative process. .


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  • The Path To Peace-Recovery From Psychopathic Manip says:

    Demian, excellent article and good questions to ponder. I think the abuser puts us into a position, while trivializing the abuse, to “teach” us how to become habitual in trivializing our own. Whatever the abuser does to us, becomes a habit we do to ourselves, long after the abuser is gone. Like other brain washing tactics, it takes time, patience, validation and tons of support for us to even begin to walk out of the fog and untie the knots the abuser put into our heads. It is an extremely traumatic experience.

  • Demian Yumei says:

    Tons of support is right. That is the most insidious thing about covert abuse. It’s the ‘training’ that goes on underneath the verbal, mental and emotional abuse. We become our own abusers so that we keep ourselves in place…kind of like the elephant trained to believe that it’s mighty strength and power can be tethered by a short rope. How much time and effort it takes to awaken to and realize our own strength!

    Break that rope!

  • Marie Garand says:

    awesome article! Made me see clear in a recent relationship. Than you for writing it.

  • Demian Yumei says:

    More than welcome 🙂

  • EstherBautista says:

    Ditto! This is awesome. A real God-send to my heart sore heart! Artists take such abuse it seems. Then I think maybe it’s just me. Maybe I am irresponsible!? No!!! Thank you.

    • DemianYumei says:

       @EstherBautista You are so welcome, Esther. Artists do take abuse, and sometimes the most abuse we take is from our own selves. I know I am hard on myself, but when you are involved in an abusive relationship or you are surrounded by people who are abusive, then it can feel like you are in a battle. In a very real way, you are.I hope you continue to embrace your creativity! Not only is it good for your soul, but the world needs it, needs you and the creativity that is uniquely yours.
      Bless you <3

  • The Path To Peace-Recovery From Psychopathic Manip says:

    Demian, it’s interesting how diehard habits can become, particularly with abuse. 18 months out and I’m just NOW learning how to self advocate and not put up with ANY abuse whatsoever. I’m very selfish right now and I know that. I think I’ve flown to the opposite of the spectrum and part of that is ANGER. I have taken and allowed so much, I simply will NOT take anymore. I don’t care what that means now. I want to LIVE, even with all the illness and enjoy a simple life with my boys and my dog. My good friends I’ve met. that’s OK with me. I know this too shall pass and I’ve been accused of being every disorder on the planet, but I’m ok with that too….I’d rather be on this end for awhile, rather than the other. I hope I can achieve balance soon.

  • The Path To Peace-Recovery From Psychopathic Manip says:

    Speaking of which, that will be the focus of my next post. Giving it lots of thought.

  • Demian Yumei says:

    You’re doing great, Kelli. This is as it should be. The pendulum must swing before it finds its center. And actually, it’s an ongoing process. The most important thing is that you are being “selfish” right now with awareness, and as such, you can choose how you will express that selfishness, which is healthy by the way. It’s not the same as just lashing out or using your past as an excuse to be abusive or to be punitive to innocent people or entitled. NOT the same thing, as I’m sure you know.

    Anger can be a good thing. Spend time with it, listen to what it is telling you, and give it your unconditional love. That will heal you more than anything – giving yourself the validation and support you desire. So many of us get stuck in the unfairness of the situation, standing there against all reason, demanding our abusers make things right or at least acknowledge something. Most often that will never happen. That validation must come from elsewhere – good friends, yes, but most importantly from our own selves.

  • Tracy18 says:

    “You’re being too sensitive” was something that I heard too many times to count.  He would say something to me and when I would call him on it, he would say I was being too sensitive.  I came to believe that I couldn’t take a joke.  I’ve since learned that I just happen to be a person who doesn’t like teasing.  I recognize that a lot of people use teasing to express negative things and when you call them on it, they say, “I was just teasing.”  Well, I know they’re not.  I realize now that you have massive amounts of good will in the bank in order to be able to tease someone, whether that person is a friend, coworker or significant other.  
    I finally recognized how ridiculous it had become when my ex actually said to me, “When you think I’ve said something critical of you, realize that I’m kidding.  Whenever you hear me say anything negative, I want you to just assume I’m kidding.”  I actually tried to do this!  Can you imagine???  He put all of the responsibility on ME and none on himself.  I’m glad to say, that the next day, I was able to see it for the ludicrous manipulation it was and I told him that I needed him to stop teasing me instead.  Needless to say, he cut back, but he wasn’t able to stop.  He still does it today (we’ve been divorced/separated for four years now).

    • DemianYumei says:

       @tracy18 Teasing when good natured is a delight to both people. Both people are laughing. Both people are smiling and it’s mutual and playful. Teasing when it brings discomfort, stress or anguish to another is a form of torment. Telling you to realize anything critical of you is only him kidding is a total cop out for his responsibility for what he says. So glad you realized that. It appears that since he cut it back he did realize that it was hurtful, however, it doesn’t seem like he was willing to see it for what it really was. Covert abusers do that all the time — rename something to make it easier for them to do.
      And yes, I can imagine. When you’re involved in good faith in a relationship with a covert abuser, tying yourself into pretzel to accommodate, placate, and understand is something we all do. I never realized I was such a contortionist!

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