Emotional invalidation is when a person’s thoughts and feelings are rejected, ignored, or judged. Invalidation includes dismissing, minimizing, teasing, diminishing, or otherwise telling someone that their internal experience is wrong. It includes saying things like “That isn’t how it happened,” “Nobody could be that hungry after you just ate,” “You should snap out of it,” “You are making this a big deal,” and “What is wrong with you?” Invalidation tends to happen around negative emotions, and folks that dismiss negative emotions tend to view them as unpleasant or even dangerous, or truly believe that they are helping the person. Many folks do not mean to intentionally cause harm when they invalidate someone, but they do not know there is a better way. They view invalidating as the same as disagreeing with someone, and they may not have enough emotional intelligence to know that there are better ways of disagreeing that still allow their to be trust and reassurance in a relationship. Invalidation, regardless of intention, is an attempt to control another’s feelings, the intensity of their feelings, and/or how long they have an emotion or emotions.
Invalidation disrupts relationships and creates emotional distance. When people invalidate themselves, they create alienation from the self and make building their identity very challenging.
Invalidation communicates to your loved one that they can not turn to you to share their feelings and emotions. It is not safe.
Invalidation communicates judgment and rejection; it is not okay to have the feelings experienced.
It demonstrates intolerance and disrespect for their perception of things at that moment. It doe not help them feel heard or acknowledged. The inability to feel accepted erodes trust, care, support, and relationships.
Invalidation shows the person that what they are experiencing is abnormal, does not make sense, is too overwhelming, not relatable, or otherwise flat out wrong.
Invalidation can deregulate emotions. It can compound the person feelings and create a sense of being alone, anxious, and hopeless. Invalidation exacerbates emotional upset.
Invalidation shows the other person that they are not important and you do not care about their thoughts and feelings and experiences. Invalidation also shows the other person that you can not go there with them.
Invalidating statement examples:
Don’t feel that way.
What’s wrong with you?
You shouldn’t feel sad/angry/disappointed because……
I wouldn’t have a problem with it, why do you?
Yeah, but if you think about it, there’s really no reason…..
At least you got out of it alive
You are making this into a really big deal
Everything happens for a reason….
You shouldn’t let it bother you
Get over it.
You can’t be serious.
That’s not how things are.
I am sure she means well.
It’s not going to happen
This is getting really old.
Have you ever stopped to consider my feelings?
Feelings and Behavior are two different things.
First accept the feelings, then address the behavior.
For more on this topic, including “how to”, see the blog “Validation Series”
Micah Brady, LICSW, LCSW-C, Certified Trauma Counselor, Gottman Educator, eRYT