I have been having a very hard time with coming to terms with invalidation and realizing I get pulled into this repeatedly and I continue to believe and react to it when I know better. The annoying part is that I know almost all of this but there is a part of me that loves and cares for people close to me that wants them to understand, wants so hard that I put myself into the invalidation game. But I KNOW, I know it is invalidation but I keep waiting for a change, an understanding. How many times do I put my self there before it really is shame on me. It should have been after the first time, not the 50th time and yet here I am, still repeating the same pattern of allowing invalidation into my life and feeling shame of there being something wrong with the way I feel because someone else, that cannot feel my pain, frustration and sadness, says logically they should not be so.
These are my emotions and feelings, they are not wrong, this is me, why would I let you step on that? Why would you want to tell me what I feel is wrong? Explain how they are wrong? You are breaking me by not listening to what I truthfully feel, I don’t want anything but empathy for how I feel in a situation (for instance I am sad, its OK to be sad, maybe you would not be, but that does not mean I cannot be), that comes from inside of me, is not something you say is silly, or fix, or change, or devalue or take apart to find the flaws. Because when you do that, you are killing me, with your words, over and over again to the point that I do start to wonder, why am I here if what is at the heart of me, what makes me, is so hard to empathize with that you so strongly want to change, de-value and control it.
Emotional invalidation is when a person’s thoughts and feelings are rejected, ignored, or judged. Invalidation is emotionally upsetting for anyone, but particularly hurtful for someone who is emotionally sensitive.
Invalidation disrupts relationships and creates emotional distance. When people invalidate themselves, they create alienation from the self and make building their identity very challenging.
Self-invalidation and invalidation by others make recovery from depression and anxiety particularly difficult. Some believe that invalidation is a major contributor to emotional disorders.
Most people would deny that they invalidate the internal experience of others. Very few would purposefully invalidate someone else. But well-intentioned people may be uncomfortable with intense emotions or believe that they are helping when they are actually invalidating.
How it Feels
Invalidation often deals an unexpected blow to your self-esteem. You may approach a conversation looking to improve a relationship or work on a problem only to find yourself on the defensive, feeling lost, confused, scared and with no resolution in sight.
You may wonder “What’s wrong with me that I can’t get through to him/her?” or, “What’s wrong with him/her that they just won’t listen?”
Nons often reach for their instinctive fight or flight responses when confronted with an invalidating comment. That can lead them to respond in an inappropriately aggressive manner, with anger and exasperation, or they may feel a defeatist urge to just give in. Either way, the perpetrator gets what they want and the diversion is established. What generally works better is an unemotional, yet assertive response.
Coping with Invalidation
If someone uses invalidation on you it is important to recognize it and to understand that they are not looking for a compromise or a way to meet you in the middle at that particular moment. Recognizing invalidation should be a cue to calmly reject the falsehood in the accusation and quickly exit the conversation.
When someone uses invalidation, you are temporarily released from any moral obligation to compromise or try to further resolve the problem. Instead, it is a time to focus your energy on protecting yourself and your dignity. Compromises and resolution can be attempted later, if and when the other person decides to adopt a different approach and communicate with you in a respectful, validating manner.
What NOT to Do
- Don’t accept the premise of an invalidating statement or comment.
- Don’t take the bait and be drawn into a fight or a circular conversation about an invalidating comment. Stay focused on the issues that really matter.
- Don’t argue or debate or repeatedly go over the issues with someone who is invalidating you. You may end up arguing for a very long time and get nowhere, and, the harder you try the more opportunities they have to further invalidate you. State the truth once. Then save discussion for a time when they are ready to listen with respect.
- Don’t stay in the same room with a person who speaks to you with anything less than the respect you are worth. Don’t wait for them to understand your point of view. Take a break. Remove yourself politely and tell them you’ll be back at a later time when you feel safe.
What TO Do
- If you find yourself feeling shame over the statements another person is making about you then it is possible that the problem is them – not with you. Healthy people don’t go around shaming others.
- Confront invalidation once, calmly with truth and without emotion.
- End the conversation as soon as an invalidating statement is given.
- Allow the other person their feelings and thoughts – without taking responsibility for making them see the truth.
- Focus on seeing yourself in a validating way. Remind yourself of your qualities and strengths. Strive for excellence – not perfection.
- Surround yourself with healthy people who will tell you with kindness what they see of your strengths and weaknesses. Find a few supportive friends who will lift you up when you are down and of whom you can safely ask – “Am I really that bad?”
- Write down the qualities you like about yourself – remind yourself that you have gifts and talents – that you are unique in this world and there will never be another you.