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Have other people shamed, minimized, or made you feel as though your feelings were unimportant?
Emotional invalidation can be a painful, sometimes abusive, experience when you’re just looking for someone to acknowledge how you feel.
The harm that emotional invalidation causes fosters distrust and resentment between people. That’s particularly troublesome when it’s friends or family who refuse to acknowledge the validity of your feelings.
And sometimes, those feelings may be extremely bright or difficult to navigate. Highly-sensitive people, trauma and abuse survivors, and other people with mental health challenges may all need that extra bit of support to navigate their feelings.
The big problem is that people aren’t all that emotionally intelligent unless they’ve devoted some time and effort to learn how to navigate those kinds of emotional spaces. They may be emotionally invalidating you because they don’t know how to be supportive or accepting.
Many people tend to jump to the immediate conclusion that they need to fix their loved ones or filter the problem through their own emotions. Both approaches might make you feel like your emotions are not reflective of the situation, even if they are.
That’s assuming ignorance in a best-case scenario. On the other hand, emotional invalidation is a tool of control that abusers use to manipulate and gaslight their victims. They may be fully aware of their negative actions, then turn around to invalidate them as it causes the victim to question the validity of the experience.
There are different ways to handle these kinds of scenarios. But before we get to that, we need to discuss what emotional invalidation isn’t.
Emotional invalidation is not just disagreeing or having a different opinion.
There is a common misconception that emotional validation implies agreement. It does not.
To accept another person’s emotions as valid is to say that, “Yes, I understand that this is the way you feel about the situation.”
It’s not to pass judgment on the situation and what they feel about the situation. A person does not have to agree with those emotions to be supportive at the moment. The person who is looking for support may realize that their emotions are not grounded in reality at the moment.
Consider a person with depression. They are having a hard time keeping up at work and may feel as though they are not good enough, that their boss is going to fire them, and that their life is just going to spiral out of control if they lose their job.
They may be completely aware that they are doing the best they can, that their boss told them that it’s alright, and that they aren’t in danger of being fired, but that doesn’t necessarily change how they feel.
They may just need some time to sort through those feelings with a friend by their side. And if you are the person who is in that position, communicating that to the person who is trying to listen may make the situation easier for both of you.
What does emotional invalidation look like?
Emotional invalidation is more about minimizing feelings through actions like judgment, blame, and denial.
The core message being delivered is: Your feelings are wrong, and because they’re wrong, they don’t matter.
Or that they don’t care about your feelings, which is also a possibility. A lot of people are jerks like that.
Some common emotionally invalidating phrases are:
– Don’t be sad.
– That’s not a big deal.
– Get over yourself.
– Everything happens for a reason.
– Let it go.
– You’re taking it too personally.
– Don’t you think you’re overreacting?
– It’ll pass.
– Why do you make a big deal out of everything?
– Well, it could be worse.
The person may also just distract themselves from dealing with what you have to say. That may be watching television, talking to someone else, leaving the room, or focusing on their phone instead of paying attention to what you have to say.
How do you handle emotional invalidation?
There are two types of emotional invalidation that you may experience – accidental and purposeful. A person who is accidentally invalidating your emotions likely doesn’t realize that’s what they’re doing. They may not have a strong emotional intelligence, know how to be supportive in a way that you need, or it’s just way outside of their scope of skills.
Usually, you can fix that problem by just being direct and telling them, “I feel like you’re invalidating the way I feel. I don’t need you to fix it or judge it. I just need you to listen to me right now.”
Of course, you can encourage them to look into how to be supportive or provide them with resources if they are receptive to the idea. Most people aren’t malicious. They’re just wrapped up in their own world and problems.
A person who is purposefully invalidating is another matter altogether. This is a person who is making an active choice to be malicious. In that scenario, you’re better off not showing that person vulnerability and putting distance between you, if possible.
It may be best to sever the relationship entirely in some severe cases because their actions will harm your mental and emotional health. This kind of focused, malicious behavior is abusive and shouldn’t be accepted.
In an ideal world, we would all be kind and supportive to one another. But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a very messy world, where people make bad decisions all the time. The ideal solution is not to require external validation from anyone else at all. A person shouldn’t need another person to tell them that their emotions are valid.
It should just be something that we accept as part of our truth, but it’s okay to need support sometimes. That’s part of what communities, friends, and families are supposed to be for.
Should you care?
“Should I care?” is the first question you should ask yourself when someone else invalidates your emotions or experience.
It’s normal to feel attacked, defensive, and even angry when someone questions our feelings or experiences. However, that doesn’t mean that you should jump straight into conflict with that person.
This is a common tactic that manipulators use to shift the narrative. If they can make you angry and pull you into an argument, they can then focus on the argument and tell you how unreasonable you’re being for getting angry at them for just having an opinion.
So, when someone emotionally invalidates you, stop and think, “Should I care what this person thinks? Are they the kind of person I should expect emotional support and understanding from? How have they handled these kinds of problems in the past? Will having this discussion have any positive effects at all?”
Maybe you’re not good enough friends for that kind of support. Maybe they aren’t comfortable with providing that kind of support. Or maybe, just maybe, they’re a jerk, and it would be a bad idea to expect them to be anything other than that.
Stop and think before you respond. Don’t show your vulnerability to people that would use it against you or harm you for it. Your feelings are valid, and they matter, even if other people cannot appreciate that.
Still not sure what to do about the emotional invalidation you are experiencing? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.
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