The invalidation of feelings is a form of emotional abuse that occurs when a person’s thoughts and opinions are dismissed or denied. This can be done through words, body language, or other non-verbal cues. It can include belittling someone’s ideas, telling them their feelings don’t matter, denying their worth or importance, or minimizing their experiences.
The invalidation of feelings can be extremely damaging to relationships as it causes the victim to feel unheard, insignificant, and unimportant. Invalidation can lead to low self-esteem and self-doubt in the individual as well as create an unhealthy environment.
The most dangerous part about the invalidation of feelings is the effects can build up gradually over time. This means that people might not be able to notice the effects because they build up slowly, which is exactly why it’s important to nip it in the bud as soon as possible.
Some people have an ‘aha’ moment where they suddenly realize that they are a completely different person from who they were before. Other people might never notice the effects until a friend or family member expresses concern.
The longer a person is subjected to the damaging behavior, the more damage it can do to their mental and emotional health. The invalidation of feelings isn’t something to be taken lightly. There are many potentially harmful consequences, which will discuss now.
It’s worth noting that you don’t need to agree with someone’s feelings in order to validate them. You can simply acknowledge and respect their right to feel the way that they do without judgment. Validation is an important part of any healthy relationship and can help to create a safe environment where individuals feel comfortable expressing themselves.
Why can the invalidation of feelings be so damaging?
Let’s take a look at the consequences of the invalidation of feelings. this damaging behavior.
1. It can cause people to feel unheard.
When someone tells us that our feelings are irrational or minimizes them by telling us they aren’t important, it can leave us feeling unheard and misunderstood. This type of invalidation can be particularly damaging when it comes from someone we trust and care about, such as a romantic partner or close friend.
2. It can severely damage relationships.
The invalidation of feelings can also damage relationships as it causes a lack of trust between the two parties. The individual may start to wonder if they can depend on the other person or not. After all, if this person won’t listen to and validate their feelings, it’s reasonable for them to question if this person truly cares about their happiness and well-being. Trust is built on a foundation of mutual respect and understanding, so invalidation can cause irreparable damage to a relationship.
3. It can create an environment where it’s hard for someone to open up.
The invalidation of feelings can make the individual feel like they shouldn’t open up or express themselves out of fear that they won’t be heard or respected. This can lead to a breakdown in communication, as they may become too afraid to express their needs, feelings, and thoughts. They might be afraid to “rock the boat”. This is a distressing position to be in and it almost always results in a poor communication dynamic between two people.
4. It can cause self-doubt.
The invalidation of feelings can cause us to question ourselves. We might begin to wonder if maybe we really are wrong and our feelings really are irrational—even though they feel real in the moment. This leads us down a dangerous path of self-doubt that can spiral out of control if it’s left unchecked. People can end up losing themselves and forgetting who they are.
5. It can result in feelings of insecurity.
If the invalidation of someone’s feelings occurs repeatedly, it can create a deep sense of insecurity and fear. The individual may start to believe that their feelings are invalid and that they don’t have any value. It can impact their life outside of the relationship by slowly chipping away at their self-worth.
6. It can lead people to believe that their opinions don’t matter.
The invalidation of feelings can also lead to the belief that their opinion does not matter, which can create deep-seated feelings of being insignificant. After all, if your opinions are constantly dismissed, it can make you feel as if they simply don’t matter. The lack of acknowledgment can be damaging to someone’s self-esteem and make it hard for them to trust in their own judgment or decisions.
7. It can cause mental health issues.
The invalidation of feelings can result in a wide array of mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. It also can lead to psychological problems such as an eating disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or even paranoia. It can be incredibly difficult to cope with the feeling of being unheard and unseen. It’s a core need for us as human beings. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important that you reach out to a mental health professional for help.
Examples of the invalidation of feelings
Let’s now take a look at examples of the invalidation of feelings.
If someone expresses their feelings but they are ignored, it’s a form of invalidating them. It’s a way of dismissing them to such an extent that the invalidator doesn’t give a response of any kind at all.
2. “That’s not a big deal.”
Telling someone that a situation isn’t a big deal is a way of invalidating their emotions because it implies that their feelings are irrational. It’s a way of saying someone’s emotions are out of proportion to the situation at hand.
3. “You’re overreacting.”
Telling someone that they are overreacting is another form of invalidation. It implies that their emotions are exaggerated or out of control, which is another way of questioning the validity of someone’s feelings.
4. “Calm down.”
Telling someone to calm down is a classic example of invalidating their feelings. It communicates that their feelings are out of line and that they should try to get them under control.
5. “You shouldn’t feel that way.”
This one should be pretty clear. Telling someone that they shouldn’t feel a certain way is telling them that their emotions are wrong. It’s directly stating that they don’t have a right to feel the way that they do.
6. *Not paying attention.*
Not paying attention when someone is expressing their feelings is a subtle but powerful form of invalidation. By not engaging with them, it communicates that their emotions don’t merit any attention or value.
Interrupting when someone is trying to express themselves emotionally is another way of invalidating their feelings. It interrupts the flow of communication and disrespects the individual by not allowing them to share their emotions.
8. *Changes topics.*
Changing the topic of conversation when someone begins to express emotions or vulnerability is another subtle way to invalidate someone’s feelings. It’s a way of saying that their emotions don’t matter enough to focus on them and that other topics are more important.
9. “Don’t cry.”
Telling someone that they shouldn’t cry is a form of invalidation. It implies that their emotions are wrong and they should be ashamed or embarrassed for expressing them.
10. “You’re too sensitive.”
Telling someone that they are too sensitive can be one of the most damaging forms of invalidation. It implies that their feelings are irrational, and it can lead to them feeling like they need to suppress their emotions in order to fit in.
What to do if someone is invalidating your feelings
How you deal with someone invalidating your feelings ultimately depends on the context. Most commonly, it’s a romantic partner who is invalidating you, so that’s the scenario we’ll explore today.
If your partner is in the habit of invalidating your feelings, it’s important to first recognize this behavior and understand why it is so damaging. Once you’ve identified it, you can take steps to protect yourself and create a healthier environment.
The first thing to do is communicate firmly but gently. Let your partner know how their behavior is making you feel and why it is so hurtful. Use specific examples if you can to help them understand your perspective.
In some cases, your partner might not know that their behavior is invalidating. Not everyone has the awareness to intuitively understand how their words or actions impact others. Either way, it’s important to explain why their behavior is not okay and let them know what you would prefer them to do.
If your partner takes your feedback on board and starts to change their behavior, that’s great. You should end up with a much more fulfilling relationship. However, if they continue to invalidate your feelings despite your efforts, it might be time to re-evaluate the relationship.
At the end of the day, respect and understanding are essential components of any healthy relationship. If your partner is unable or unwilling to provide that for you, it might be time to move on.
It’s worth noting that it can be helpful to have a professional help you and your partner work through this issue. They can provide a safe space and an objective perspective that can be invaluable in navigating difficult conversations. A therapist can also help you understand your emotions and develop healthier behavioral patterns if needed.
Final thoughts on the invalidation of feelings
One of the most important points to remember is that just because an emotion isn’t seen as rational by one person, it doesn’t mean it isn’t valid to another. Everyone experiences emotions differently, and it’s important to respect that this is the case. All feelings are valid, regardless of how well they can be explained or if they can be “justified” — this is highly subjective anyway.
The invalidation of feelings has the potential to be incredibly damaging and can have lifelong implications for those who experience it. This is why it’s so important to address the issue as soon as it arises.
So remember, mutual respect and understanding are key when it comes to relationships of all kinds. Both of these involve validating people’s feelings. If you can keep this in mind, you’ll have a solid foundation for any relationship.
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