(The following information is from my book, “You Are Not Alone!” I did not see any reason to rewrite it for the website since I felt it is valuable information as it is.)
Invalidation is among the most sinister and subtle forms of mental abuse. It mocks, rejects, and judges someone’s feelings, and worse, implies or sometimes says directly that the person being judged is very abnormal, or even crazy. This is an attempt to control the feelings of another person, and often to distract from abusive behavior on the part of the one doing the invalidating. It destroys the ability of a person to trust his or her own feelings, perceptions, and intuition, much like gaslighting does. It creates an environment where one believes his or her beliefs, thoughts, feelings or even physical presence are flawed, difficult or of no value. It at best damages self-esteem, or at worst destroys it.
Invalidation most often occurs when an abuser is confronted about her own abusive behavior, or the abusive behavior of someone else. It is a tactic designed to take attention away from one’s flaws or abusive behavior, and often to turn the attention onto you and your flaws instead.
Interestingly, I recently have realized that a person can invalidate themselves as well. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. If you trivialize your own wants, needs, accomplishments, or feelings, I believe that to be a form of invalidation. You are basically telling yourself that you do not matter, there is something wrong with you, or your thoughts, feelings, or beliefs are wrong. This type of behavior is often learned in childhood, or can come from a psychologically abusive spouse. Even if one has come from a healthy upbringing, if he or she marries someone who constantly invalidates, that person may learn to do the same thing to himself or herself. Please listen to your thoughts and words about yourself to determine if you do this, too, then you can make the appropriate changes.
As you read this, remember: you are worthy! You are ok! You are not crazy! Treat yourself accordingly, as a woman of value, who God loves dearly!
Following are some examples of invalidating comments, all placed into individual categories.
I don’t see what the big deal is.
I was only joking.
It can’t be that bad.
I had it worse.
At least you didn’t have to deal with *fill in the blank* like I did.
Commanding You To Look Or Feel Differently
Suck it up.
Deal with it.
You shouldn’t feel that way.
Get over it.
Let it go.
Stop crying/overreacting/being so dramatic/etc.
You know you don’t mean that.
That’s not how it happened!
That’s not what I said!
No, you’re wrong. What I said/did was….
I’m not going to apologize to you forever about this.
You’re not so perfect yourself.
It’s just how I am.
I can’t change.
You’re too sensitive.
You’re too serious.
You’re blowing things out of proportion.
You are pathetic.
Attempting To Make You Question Yourself
What is wrong with you?
You need psychological help.
You’re imagining things.
What are you so sad/happy/angry about?
Defending The Person Who Hurt You
You need to be more understanding.
I’m sure she/he was just kidding.
She/he doesn’t know any better. You can’t blame her/him for that.
It’s just how she/he is.
That didn’t happen.
That isn’t how it happened.
She/he wouldn’t do that.
She/he is getting older. She/he may not be around much longer.
You have to be the bigger person!
Did I hurt your little feelings?
Oh you poor baby! You have it so rough, don’t you?
How will you go on, you poor little thing?
That is ridiculous.
You’re not the center of the universe, yanno.
I’m sick of hearing about this.
Crying isn’t going to help anything.
If you cared about me you would….
If you cared about me, you wouldn’t….
You’re making everyone else miserable.
What about my feelings? Did you ever stop to think about how you make me feel?
Statements said about oneself that are invalidating
It’s not a big deal that I was in that car accident/mugged/etc.
Yea, I’m upset that was done to me, but it’s not a big deal (when on the inside, you know it really IS a big deal.)
It’s ok that you said/did that. I overreacted anyway (when you know in your heart you did not overreact).
There are also self-invalidating behaviors.
Putting the needs of others ahead of yours, even when you are in a crisis.
Feeling guilt when someone compares their abusive marriage or childhood to yours because “theirs was much worse than yours,” then berating yourself for being upset about yours.
Any statement or action that shows your feelings are not being heard, or are being trivialized is invalidation.
The good news is there are ways to cope! Whether the person who invalidates you is a parent, spouse, friend or boss, there are some ways to deal with an invalidating person:
Pray. Ask God for wisdom and creative ways to handle this situation. Ask Him to remind you constantly of what He thinks of you.
Set and enforce good boundaries.
Decide what are you willing to accept? What are you not willing to accept?
Tell the invalidator that you are not willing to discuss this topic any further, If she/he continues:
Hang up the phone.
Leave the room.
Sever ties. Maybe temporarily, maybe permanently. Only you will know if this step is right for you, and the right way to do this.
Sometimes, repeating what the invalidator says back to him/her shows the invalidator just how ridiculous their words are. As an example: “Oh? I’m overreacting because I’m upset that you called my friend stupid. Yea, that makes sense.”
Many years ago, I wrote a book about overcoming situational depression using Biblical principles called, “Baptism Of Joy.” In it, I included some affirmations about your identity as a born-again Christian. They will help you not to accept what an invalidating person says about you. Please read them at this link: Positive Affirmations
Remember, just because someone, even your own mother, says your emotions are wrong, does not mean that person is right. As soon as you are able, get somewhere alone. Ask God, “Are my feelings wrong? I feel *fill in the blank* about a situation, and *name* says I’m wrong, that I should feel what they say I should feel instead. What do You have to say?” Then listen for His wisdom to come to you. It may be in the form of a “knowing” feeling, or a passage in the Bible that seems to jump off the page at you. Or, it may be in a less “holy” form, such as a phrase in a book or lyrics in a song that get your attention. Just be open, and know God will speak to you however is the best way to get your attention.