Invalidation, p 2 p 1
|That's Not How Things Are, Jessica.
One evening in Peru I started talking to two sisters. Jessica, age 14 and Odalis, age 27.
Jessica was talking about how it was not fair that her father punished her other sister, Fabiana, and made her come back home from school in Lima where she was happy studying psychology. She also was crying as she said her father will never understand her and she would rather talk to her dog than to her parents and she doesn't want to tell them anything anymore.
The older sister, Odalis, was sitting there with a cold look on her face while Jessica cried. When Jessica stopped talking, the first thing the sister said was "Las cosas no son asi, Jessica" - That's now how things are Jessica.
S. P. Hein
Note, this is also a good example of a lack of understanding. It is not hard to imagine what Jessica would have said if we had asked her "Jessica, how much do you feel understood by your sister right now, from 0 to 10?"
Here is what I saw in an ad for a movie called "Jack and Bobby" (Kennedy). In the scene Bobby and his older brother were talking. Bobby looked about 12 years old at the time.
Bobby said, "I'm scared, Jack."
Jack replied, "Don't be."
S. P. Hein
Jack Kennedy was more commonly known as John F. Kennedy. He became president of the USA around 1960. He was later murdered. Bobby was his younger brother.
Just Being Stupid
Here is part of an email which was sent to me by a 13, almost 14 year old in England.
This girl is suicidal. She self-harms regularly. She has thought seriously about running away. She has a very, very low self-esteem and has been convinced that she is stupid. But when we chat, it is obvious to me she is exceptionally smart.
This girl is being psychologically destroyed. And at this point in her life she is defending her mother, saying she is a "good mother." If she kills herself at some point in the future, we should not be surprised or ask "How could she do such a senseless thing?"
What is even worse, is that she goes to a very expensive, very elite, private school. But she has never been taught the meaning of the word "invalidation." And it is unlikely this word will ever be used at her school unless she herself introduces it. And it can be expected that if she were to use it, she would only get invalidated and dismissed by an insecure, defensive adult who would say something like, "Stop trying to act so smart." Or, "You are just looking for attention." In fact, when they found out at her school that she cuts, this is exactly what she was told."
Let's also remember that all of this is perfectly legal. No mother has ever been convicted of abuse for invalidating her teenage daughter, even to the point of daughter not wanting to hare anything with her and instead trying to keep everything inside until she can no longer stand the pain and pressure and then tries to kill herself to stop it. And I think it is fair to say that no teacher has ever been fired for invalidating an intelligent, sensitive young teenager.
I'll say again, if this girl kills herself, no one should be surprised.
S. P. Hein
Don't Find She Is
I was just talking to someone. I said "Susan is a bit annoying". Then my friend said "I don't find she is."
When people say something like this we don't feel understood. We might start to debate with them but this imediately creates a conflict. Or we might just be silenced. We might just drop it. The other person then will never know why we felt annoyed by Susan. They miss out on a chance to get to know us. We also feel more alone in the world.
All these little things, these small interactions add up. A sensitive person will just stop sharing their feelings if they get too many of these kinds of responses.
|Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself
Once, when living in Peru, I was trying to explain what the expression "Stop feeling sorry for yourself" means. I was writing about it because that is what a teen told me her mother and sister say to her when she feels depressed. (See convo)
In Spanish they say "Lo siento" when they say want to convey something like the feeling that we say when we say "I'm sorry." Translated literally it means "I feel it." To say "I feel sad" they say "Me siento triste." Sentir is what is called a reflexive verb in Spanish. So they say "Me siento..." "Te sientes" or "Se siente". Kind of like saying "I feel myself sad" or "You feel yourself sad."
So feeling sorry for yourself would be something like "Lo siento me siento". But this would make no sense in Spanish. To try to tell someone not to feel sorry for themselves would be kind of like telling them not to feel anything at all, or not to feel their own feelings. And really, this is what the message is in English, too. Don't feel anything for yourself. You don't matter. Your feelings don't matter.
PS - What they say a lot here in Peru a lot is "Don't be so egotistical." This is pretty much the same idea. It is telling you not to think about your own feelings or needs.
|There are other things in life
Here is part of an email I got after Laura left me. It is from someone who I have never met and had only written me once before, and obviously doesn't know me very well and hasn't read much, if anything, from my page on invalidation.
To me it is almost incredible someone could say this. I feel sorry for this person. Not only do I feel invalidated but I feel almost totally not understood. Laura leaving me hurt me so much, and this part of the email shows zero empathy or understanding of how much the relationship meant to me. I feel sorry for the person that wrote it because she said "There are other things in life besides relationships."
I have lived long enough and suffered enough to know that relationships are far and away the most important thing in life. Especially a loving romantic relationship. Laura didn't realize how important love was. In her heart she knew it, but she was confused by what her culture taught her. Her culture taught her that degrees and jobs and houses and material things and "family", even it means an abusive mother, is important.
It is really almost incredible someone who doesn't even know me would be telling what do do. "..then accept that and move on." As if it were that easy. I hope that this person learns something about validation and invalidation before she has children.
Also, what is this about "Everybody has to be happy"? What does that mean? Does it mean I "have to be" happy? In other words I am obligated to be? Forced to be? How can you order someone to be happy and tell them "You have to be happy!"
There is a reason we feel pain. It is so we can know what is important, and so we can change things that need to be changed.
This person who wrote me, by the way, is also from a Latin American, country. She was taught that to help someone you give them advice. If she doesn't learn some new things she will most likely destroy any relationships she has in the future.
I feel really frustrated right now. I feel offended by what this person said. Laura was so important to me. She was the most important thing in my life. I went years looking for someone like her. I have felt suicidal since she left. I don't appreciate advice like this. I resent it. But I also feel frustrated that I can't change the person who wrote this email. I imagine she will feel defensive when she reads this, if she does. It would take too much work to try to teach this person not to invalidate people, and to change her misguided beliefs about what is important in life. It is probably too late for this person. But on the other hand I don't want to say that as if I don't think she can learn new things. Yet from this email it shows she has a long, long way to go. I can only offer her my site and wish her the best.
S. P. Hein
|The Invalidating Professor
This is from a university professor's website. I am not sure of the true motive for the professor posting it but, I suspect part of the motivation was that he felt guilty about invalidating the student so he was trying to defend and justify himself, or we might say convince himself that what he did was ok. Clearly, though, it is very invalidating.
A little more analysis of this...
This is another example of how someone can be very "educated," yet still lack emotional knowledge and skills. In this case the professor was also probably fairly insecure since he felt such a strong need to defend himself. His innate emotional intelligence, though, or what we might say in this case his "conscience," was still was sending him messages of discomfort what what he said to the student.
Once I felt very depressed about something. I called someone I knew. We met and she sat down next to me. I started telling her how sad I was. Before I was finished explaining why it I was so sad, she said "Maybe it isn't that bad..." Then she started talking.
I know she cared and was trying to be helpful, but what she said didn't help me. In fact, I felt more alone, less understood, amd more afraid to share my feelings.
S. P. Hein
|Nothing To Be Depressed About - From a High School Student
From a High School Student
My friend told me I have nothing to
be depressed about and now I'm really upset she said
Then she said to me, "You have
nothing to be depressed about." Then she added,
"Yeah, so your mom yelled at you today but my mom
Written by S. Hein, 2007
Today I was talking to a 26 year old girl named Melissa. Melissa told me she had lunch with her mother the other day. Melissa has never met her father and it has been bothering her for years.
Melissa asked her
mother why the mother had three children with men who
were not responsible enough to be fathers. Melissa also
asked her why the mother lied on her birth certificate,
saying Melissa had been born in one place when actually
she was born in another. Melissa was just trying to make
some sense of her life, as many girls from dysfunctional
smokes, has used drugs and has thought of killing
herself. And none of this is because of her lack of
emotional intelligence, as Mayer and Salovey mistakenly
suggest. In fact, Melissa is intelligent and sensitive.
She reads people quickly. Yet she is emotionally
unskilled and emotionally needy. She has learned to be
verbally hurtful when she feels hurt.