Understanding and Overcoming Traumatic Invalidation

A form of emotional abuse known as “traumatic invalidation” is when someone’s ideas, emotions, or experiences are invalidated, rejected, or ignored by close ones. This can occur anywhere, but carers or other individuals in positions of authority frequently go through it when their children are young. The effects of traumatic invalidation can be substantial and long-lasting, resulting in symptoms like shame, PTSD, and stress.

However, expressing your feelings and being invalidated or told you’re exaggerating or unreasonable might hurt. People invalidating you might lower your self-esteem and mental well-being.

Traumatic invalidation is extreme or continual social invalidation. Your feelings, experiences, and memories might be disregarded or rejected. Intentional or not, severe and frequent invalidation can produce post-trauma stress.

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Examples of Traumatic Invalidation

Traumatic invalidation can have a profound and lasting impact on a person’s mental health, leading to feelings of shame, self-doubt, and emotional dysregulation. Here are some examples of traumatic invalidation can include:

1. Dismissing Emotional Expression

Emotional invalidation is when your feelings and emotions are not recognised by your loved ones as;

  • “You’re overreacting.”
  • “Don’t be such a baby.”
  • “You’re being too sensitive.”

2. Minimizing experiences

  • “That was nothing compared to what I’ve been through.”
  • “You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
  • “You should just get over it.”

3. Denying reality

  • “That never happened.”
  • “You’re imagining things.”
  • “You’re mistaken.”

4. Blaming the victim

  • “You brought this on yourself.”
  • “It’s your fault.”
  • “You’re overreacting.”

5. Silencing or Discouraging Communication

  • “Don’t talk about it.”
  • “No one wants to hear about your problems.”
  • “Keep your thoughts to yourself.”

6. Disregarding Boundaries or Preferences

  • “You’re being unreasonable.”
  • “You should just do what I say.”
  • “You’re being too controlling.”

7. Rejecting Identity or Self-Expression

  • “You’re being weird.”
  • “That’s not who you are.”
  • “You should just be yourself.”

These examples highlight how traumatic invalidation can manifest in various forms, often invalidating the individual’s emotional experiences, perceptions, and sense of self. If you have experienced traumatic invalidation, seeking support from a mental health professional can help you process your emotions, develop coping mechanisms, and rebuild a sense of self-worth.

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Where does invalidation come from? 

Invalidation can originate from various sources and often from a combination of factors. Here are some common contributing elements;

Early Childhood Experiences

Caregivers who disregard, reduce, or deny a child’s emotions or experiences might invalidate them. This might cause internalized self-invalidation and trouble recognizing and validating feelings.

Relationship dynamics

 Family, friends, love partners, and coworkers can all experience invalidation. It can be caused by communication, emotional intelligence, or empathy difficulties.

Society and expectations

 Social norms might encourage invalidating actions such as denying emotions, ignoring experiences, and suppressing marginalized voices.

Unintentional invalidation

When people don’t realize the consequences of their words or deeds, they might unintentionally cause invalidation. Cultural differences, insufficient awareness, or low emotional intelligence can all contribute to this.

 Manipulative behaviour

When someone purposefully invalidates another person to establish their superiority or acquire power, it can be utilized as manipulation or control.

Mental health disorders

A cycle of invalidating events can be intensified by some mental health conditions, such as borderline personality disorder, which can also make people more susceptible to invalidation.

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How do we deal with traumatic invalidation?

It might be challenging to deal with devastating invalidation, but you can recover from the psychological wounds and regain your identity if you have the correct resources and support. You can deal with painful invalidation by following these steps:

Acknowledge and recognize the invalidation: Acknowledging and realising that you have been invalidated is the first step. This can be challenging, mainly if you’ve been raised to believe that being invalidated is the norm. But before the healing process can begin, it must be acknowledged that the invalidation occurred.

Validate your own experiences: It’s fundamental to validate your own experiences after realizing they have been invalidated. This entails accepting your experiences, feelings, and ideas as genuine and authentic. Don’t let other people’s invalidation cause you to question your observations.

To cultivate self-compassion, treat yourself with kindness and extend forgiveness for any mistakes you may have made. Remind yourself that you are not accountable for other people’s invalidation.

Establish boundaries: It’s critical to do this if you continue to communicate with the person who invalidated you to shield yourself from more abuse. This could entail keeping communication to a minimum, being explicit about your needs, or withholding personal information.

Acquire knowledge about traumatic invalidation: Gaining knowledge about this phenomenon can assist you in comprehending its impact on your life and developing coping mechanisms. Information regarding traumatic invalidation can be found in many books, articles, and websites.

Seek expert assistance: A therapist can provide you with the encouragement and resources you need to recover if you are finding it difficult to deal with the consequences of painful invalidation. You can regain your self-esteem, learn coping skills, and process your emotions with the assistance of a therapist.

Although recovering and regaining your sense of self following severe invalidation requires time and work, it is achievable. You can transcend the hurt of invalidation and create a better, more satisfying life with the correct tools and assistance.

Takeaway Message

When your emotions or experiences are severely and repeatedly disregarded, it can lead to traumatizing invalidation.

It could be detrimental to your physical and emotional well-being. Fortunately, traumatizing invalidation can be overcome. Think about visiting a therapist or becoming a member of a support group.

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