Emotional invalidation occurs when an individual’s feelings and emotions are rejected, dismissed, or ignored. In other words, when someone is told that their feelings are inappropriate, worthless, or out of place. It’s a form of psychological violence that often goes unnoticed.
As a matter of fact, it’s common for emotional invalidation to be exercised ‘with good intentions’. For instance, when someone says that they’re feeling sad and another person tells them that there’s no need for it or that they’re being silly. Or, they tell them simply not to think about it and let it go.
In many cases, these words are said with the intention of making the individual feel better. However, in practice, they have the opposite effect. Indeed, the minimization of someone’s feelings and emotions is only ever useful to those who aren’t willing to listen or don’t want to bother with others’ problems. We’re going to explain three types of emotional invalidation that should never be tolerated.
“Emotional invalidation, in its different forms, ends up making the other person feel alone, misunderstood, invisible, and small. When we trivialize, minimize, or repudiate the feelings of others, we are contributing to their growth.
1. Denying the other the right to feel
The denial of the right to feel is one of the most common forms of emotional invalidation. It corresponds to the examples we talked about above. Situations in which phrases like “It’s not even worth thinking about”, “It’s really not that bad” or “I’ve been through far worse” are common.
Although these kinds of messages apparently call for calm, the truth is that they demand that the person shouldn’t feel as they do. It’s as if their subjective experience isn’t valid. In fact, there’s a tacit contempt for their feelings and their emotions. These types of statements are typical of someone who intends to exercise a position of superiority.
No one has the right to say to another how important or not something is that they’re feeling. Nor should they compare their experiences with their own. Everyone has the right to experience any and every kind of feeling or emotion. In fact, they’re an expression of how unique we all are.
2. Judging the other for how they feel
All forms of emotional invalidation are similar. That said, there are certain differential nuances between them. Judging someone for how they feel refers to the kinds of situations in which an arbitrary conclusion is drawn about an individual, based on one of their moods, feelings, or emotions.
For example, it occurs when someone expresses that they feel shy and another responds “Don’t be silly”. Or, in those cases when a person feels bad about what someone else has said or done and receives comments such as “You’re far too sensitive”. Or, when someone is really concerned and is told “You take everything so personally.”
No one can judge how another feels. They haven’t lived their lives, nor do they know how they should react to a specific situation. We should remember the old saying, “Don’t judge me unless you’ve walked in my shoes”.
3. Expressing rejection of their affective states
The rejection of someone’s affective state is also a form of intolerable emotional invalidation. It happens when someone expresses a negative opinion or stigmatizes someone because of what they’e feeling. It’s a form of direct psychological violence. In effect, their objective is to impose their own vision of the world on someone else.
One example might occur when someone says: “Only fools fall in love.” Or, they use expressions like: “Boys don’t cry.” In these cases, and many others, certain feelings or expressions are associated with a negative disqualifying generalization.
The rejection of an affective state usually corresponds to prejudice. The problem doesn’t lie with those who experience these states, but with those who qualify them negatively, based on preconceived ideas or unfounded beliefs.
These are just three forms of emotional invalidation that shouldn’t ever be tolerated. However, they’re not the only kind. That said, no kind of emotional validation is ever acceptable. Every person has the right to experience any kind of feeling without being ridiculed for it. This is a completely non-negotiable premise.
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