“When we invalidate people or deny their perceptions and personal experiences, we make mental invalids of them. When one’s feelings are denied a person can be made to feel crazy even when they are perfectly mentally healthy.”
(R.D. Laing, MD, psychiatrist)
Invalidation is considered the most damaging form of emotional abuse. If you were involved with a psychopath, there is no doubt you experienced it in the extreme. Your feelings and perceptions may also have been invalidated by friends and family when what you needed was support, although they may not have done it purposefully.
What is invalidation?
“Invalidating someone else is not merely disagreeing with something that the other person said. It is a process in which individuals communicate to another that the opinions and emotions of the target are invalid, selfish, uncaring, stupid, most likely insane, and wrong, wrong, wrong. Invalidators let it be known directly or indirectly that their target’s views and feelings do not count for anything to anybody at any time or in any way.”
(David M. Allen, MD, Psychology Today)
Invalidation is so pervasive and insidious that we may not even know it’s happening. We know that something doesn’t feel right, but we can’t put our finger on it. One reason is that we’ve learned to think invalidation is “normal,” because it’s so common. It might be common, but it’s not healthy. Think of how often you’ve heard people say things like “it could be worse,” “lighten up,” “don’t let it get to you,” “just forget about it,” or “you can choose to be happy.”
People invalidate others for a variety of reasons, sometimes purposefully and sometimes not. An abuser will use invalidation as a tool of manipulation and a weapon. Others may be short on empathy. Some may feel uncomfortable with your pain, or feel powerless to do anything to help you. Some are simply jealous when you share something you’ve achieved or are excited about–“It’s not such a big deal.”
The bottom line is this: When you’re invalidated, you are not having your emotional needs met.
These are some of our fundamental emotional needs:
To be acknowledged.
To be accepted.
To be listened to.
To be understood.
To be loved.
To be appreciated.
To be respected.
To be safe.
To be valued.
To be worthy.
To be trusted.
To feel capable and competent.
To feel clear (instead of confused).
To be supported.
Now think back to the idealization or love-bombing stage of your involvement with a psychopath:
What made it so marvelous was that our emotional needs were being met, and then some. We felt loved, appreciated, understood, valued, and all the rest… like never before. Psychopaths know what our emotional needs are, and they know what to do to appear to fulfill them.
By seeming to validate us, they demonstrated that they cared and that our feelings mattered to them. It seemed to show that we mattered to them. By “mirroring” our feelings, they showed us they were in tune with us. That made us feel connected to them. That’s how they got us to bond with them.
Now think back to the devaluation stage.:
What changed? Our emotional needs began to go unmet. We felt confused, unappreciated, unloved, misunderstood, unworthy, rejected, incompetent, unsafe, etc. Our needs, emotions, thoughts, and perceptions were being invalidated.
The basis of the whole charade was first being validated, and then being invalidated.
Now that this is distinguished in your awareness, you can use it for future reference. You can also use it right now to determine the health of your current relationships.
“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive.”
~ Danielle Bernock, Emerging with Wings: A True Story of Lies, Pain, and the Love That Heals
Invalidation needs to be recognized and taken seriously because it can lead to mental health problems. Researcher Thomas R. Lynch, Ph.D. found that “a history of emotion invalidation…was significantly associated with emotion inhibition (i.e., ambivalence over emotional expression, thought suppression, and avoidant stress responses). Further, emotion inhibition significantly predicted psychological distress, including depression and anxiety symptoms.”
When we experience invalidation, we defend ourselves either through withdrawal or counter-attack. “Repeated withdrawal, though, tends to decrease our self-confidence and lead to a sense of powerlessness and depression. On the other hand, going on the offensive often escalates the conflict. A healthier response, one which is both informative and assertive, without being aggressive, is to simply express your feelings clearly and concisely. For example, you might respond, “I feel invalidated,” “I feel mocked,” or “I feel judged.” ~ Steve Hein, MSW: Invalidation
The following are all invalidating statements that either minimize your feelings, deny your perceptions, order you to feel differently, tell you how you should feel, or put you on a guilt trip for thinking or feeling the way you do:
I thought we already talked about that.
I can’t believe you’re going to bring that up again.
I refuse to have this discussion.
You should be ashamed of yourself for feeling that way.
You need to realize how lucky you are.
It could be worse.
You shouldn’t feel that way.
Think about those who have it worse.
Just don’t worry about it.
Get over it.
Stop taking everything so personally.
Get a life.
Don’t look so serious.
You’ve got it all wrong.
Of course I respect you.
But I do listen to you.
That is ridiculous.
This is nonsense.
That’s not the way things are.
I honestly don’t judge you as much as you think.
You are the only one who feels that way.
It doesn’t bother anyone else, why should it bother you?
You must be kidding.
It can’t be that bad.
Your life can’t be that bad.
You’re just tired.
It’s nothing to get upset over.
It’s not worth getting that upset over.
You should feel thankful that ________.
You should be glad that ________.
Just drop it.
You should just forget about it.
I’m sure she didn’t mean that.
Maybe he was just having a bad day.
You shouldn’t let it bother you.
I’m sure she means well.
Don’t make that face!
You don’t really mean that.
Do you think the world was created to serve you?
Don’t you ever think of anyone but yourself?
What about my feelings?
Have you ever stopped to consider my feelings for even a moment?
Time heals all wounds.
Every cloud has a silver lining.
Life is full of pain and pleasure.
In time you will understand this.
You can choose to be happy.
You are just going through a phase.
Everything has its reasons.
Everything is just the way it is supposed to be.
This is really getting old.
This is getting to be pathetic.
I am sick and tired of hearing it.
You should be over that by now.
It’s not such a big deal.
That’s what you’re so excited about? Is that all?
You think too much.
Don’t let it get to you.
That’s nothing to be afraid of.
Stop feeling so sorry for yourself.
You’ve been upset about this for too long; it’s time to move on.
Just don’t think about it.
You need to get past that.
You need to get on with your life.
You’re _______ (jealous, insecure, crazy, unstable, a worry wart, overly dramatic, a complainer, too sensitive)
You’re making a big deal out of nothing.
You’re imagining things.
Non-verbal invalidation includes things like leaving the room, giving the silent treatment, and rolling the eyes (this indicates contempt, and it’s actually predictive of a bad outcome in any relationship).
With increased awareness, you’ll begin to notice comments and behaviors like these.
Invalidation makes us wonder if there is something wrong with us for feeling the way we do. “It seems fair to say that with enough invalidation, one person can figuratively, if not literally, drive another person crazy… This is especially possible when one person has long-term power or influence over another… Invalidation undermines self-confidence because it causes self-doubt. This in turn further diminishes self-esteem.” (S. Hein)
On the flip side… What does VALIDATION look like?
“To validate someone’s feelings is first to accept their feelings. Next, it is to understand them, and finally it is to nurture them.
To validate is to acknowledge and accept one’s unique identity and individuality. Invalidation, on the other hand, is to reject, ignore, or judge their feelings, and hence, their individual identity.
When we validate someone, we allow them to safely share their feelings and thoughts. We are reassuring them that it is okay to have the feelings they have. We are demonstrating that we will still accept them after they have shared their feelings. We let them know that we respect their perception of things at that moment. We help them feel heard, acknowledged, understood and accepted.
Painful feelings that are expressed, acknowledged and validated by a trusted listener will diminish. Painful feelings that are ignored will gain strength.
Validation allows a person to release their feelings in a healthy, safe and supportive way. It also helps us get to know them better. Thus it builds bonds of caring, support, acceptance, understanding and trust. When a person is feeling down, these bonds are sometimes all that another person needs to begin to feel better and solve their own problems.” (S. Hein)
The following statements convey validation. They are very different from the invalidating statements listed above!
That must have been hard.
I hear you.
That’s not good.
Wow, that’s a lot to deal with.
I would feel the same way.
That sounds discouraging.
That sounds like it would really hurt.
That must really hurt.
I know what you mean.
I can understand how you feel.
It sounds like you are really feeling ____.
It sounds like _____ is really important to you.
I can see that you are really upset.
You look pretty sad.
You seem a little _________ (worried, troubled, scared, etc.)
Would you like to talk about it?
That really bothered you, didn’t it.
What bothers you the most about it?
What would help you feel better?
How someone responds to your emotions and perceptions will indicate:
- how much they respect you
- how much empathy they have
- how much they care about you and your feelings
- how much they are trying to change or control you
Awareness of invalidation and the ability to identify it will help you make decisions in your best interest.
“Rejecting feelings is rejecting reality; it is to fight nature and may be called a crime against nature, ‘psychological murder’ or ‘soul murder.’ Considering that trying to fight feelings, rather than accept them, is trying to fight all of nature, you can see why it is so frustrating, draining and futile.”
~ Steve Hein, MSW: Invalidation
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66 thoughts on “Invalidation: I Refuse to Have This Discussion!”
This made for difficult reading, bringing back all the situations, feelings and emotions of invalidation and not only with the ex narc, but it got me thinking further than that…..
I moved from England to N.Ireland some 20 years ago and I have just realised that not one person have I met whilst being here has ever validated anyone’s feelings or emotions, to the point I now keep myself to myself, always believing that I’m the odd one and the unworthy one. This has acknowledged to me that my thoughts, wishes and feelings about getting out of this place has been right.
I feel like I’m living in hell here but the sad thing is that the people here really really don’t see it, they are trapping themselves and others in their nightmare of invalidation.
Oh, Debbie, that’s terrible… I felt your words in the pit of my stomach. It was difficult for me to write, too, because as I did it really became clear how rampant invalidation has been in my own life, and in society at large. It feels as if invalidation is becoming more commonplace because people have have less empathy, in general. Your situation sounds extreme, though, and I hope that if you do move you’ll settle in a place that’s much warmer and more validating.
Last night as I was writing this, I came upon the following quote. I’ve long believed that what the writer describes is almost some sort of insanity that’s taken hold and become pervasive:
“We live in a culture that is blind to betrayal and intolerant of emotional pain. In New Age crowds here on the West Coast, where your attitude is considered the sole determinant of the impact an event has on you, it gets even worse.In these New Thought circles, no matter what happens to you, it is assumed that you have created your own reality. Not only have you chosen the event, no matter how horrible, for your personal growth. You also chose how you interpret what happened -— as if there are no impersonal facts, only interpretations.
The upshot of this perspective is that your suffering would vanish if only you adopted a more evolved perspective and stopped feeling aggrieved. I was often kindly reminded (and believed it myself), “there are no victims.” How can you be a victim when you are responsible for your circumstances?
When you most need validation and support to get through the worst pain of your life, to be confronted with the well-meaning, but quasi-religious fervor of these insidious half-truths can be deeply demoralizing. This kind of advice feeds guilt and shame, inhibits grieving, encourages grandiosity and can drive you to be alone to shield your vulnerability.” ― Sandra Lee Dennis
Hugs to you, Debbie. Your words really touched me; my heart goes out to you, and I wish you all the best.
thank you admin, your response say’s it all and is so true, people who follow this new way of thinking and being do not or can not see that its actually more harmful than the trauma that the person has or is going through.
regardless of how painful it is at times to read your posts because of memories and emotions that come flashing back, they are always the truth and an eye opener in our path to recovery. without this site I would not have understood as much as I have, it has helped me so much, thank you x
Thank you for letting me know it helps you on your path. It means the world to me.
I couldn’t agree more, this “new way of thinking” is very harmful! It conveys a stunning lack of empathy, kindness, warmth, care and concern. I blame the “law of attraction” and other similar teachings, but surely it has to be a lot more than that.
YOUR EMAILS ARE LIFE SUPPORT !
Well in that case, I’d better keep writing because I don’t want to cut you off! That’s very crafty, Janes… ;-)
have a nice weekend to all
You too, Janes
Thank you for this. As sad as it may be, like you write, friends, but in my case FAMILY, mom, stepdad and sisters invalidate my feelings after my experience and relationship with a Narc. To make matters worse: Mom was married to an abusive Psychopath, who physically abused (aka beat) her for 7 years. When se EVENTUALLY left after taking him back 100 times, she made a CLEAR move and took me with. So KNOW that I am in a “similar situation”, also with a little girl, but the only difference is I am suffering EMOTIONAL abuse and she suffered physical….she does not UNDERSTAND that I cant just GET OVER IT, and MOVE ON… and no matter how I explain, I get greeted with sighs, rolling of eyes, and all the comments listed above. Sometimes I wonder what is worse: Physical or Emotional abuse? And sometimes I think Emotional is worse, with Emotional abuse you can’t SEE the scars/bruises….
My stepdad on the other hand also invalidates my feelings because he is also divorced with 2 boys out a previous marriage. He had a terrible hateful relationship with his X, so I am being thought of as the same as his X (in his mind) the one who wants to limit visitation rights etc….(which is not the case because he sees her every 2nd Sunday, can see her as much as he wants in the week (but does not), uses her as a trophy to brag about to his family, gf, and work colleagues, but left us when she was 5 months old without blinking an eye….(the girl was nr 7 that I KNOW off)…the typical Narc stuff…..cheating, lying, betraying… and the more I try to EXPLAIN this to them (my family) the more I get invalidated, because they don’t understand this…….I also think mainly because my X was part and partial of the family for years…..and they have only ever saw his “good side”….he tried to con them financially which came out, but they don’t know what emotional turmoil I have endured, and probably think I am imagining or exaggerating my situation….how frustrating!!!!
To them I am all of the above, my mother does not want to discuss this, because she is TIRED of talking about it, but always dismisses it, so I can fully relate to the more they do that the bigger the problem becomes and it is hurtful, disheartening and it is true, you start to withdraw more and more, because they don’t care or listen to you….
Thank you for at least making SENSE to the ones who are experiencing this personal turmoil!
Emotional abuse is a very serious thing, indeed. I’m sorry to hear about what you’ve experienced, and about the lack of understanding from your mother and stepdad. I know how disheartening it is when the validation and care you need just aren’t there, no matter how you try to explain what you’re going through. You’ve endured a lot, and you need support. Is it possible to find a support group of other survivors near you? Local DV shelters often have them. I’ve heard from some readers that they’ve had very positive experiences.
I’m glad it makes more sense, and I hope you will soon find people who can provide the support and validation you need.
Another great blog post :)
I think the worst invalidation could be when we invalidate ourselves. Unfortunately, I think I do this to myself pretty often. Looks like I’ve got some work to do!
I stumbled upon the psychopathic writings website which may have been a bad idea. He wrote that a true psychopath can and prefers to be alone most of the time. Did you find that to be true with your P, admin? I always thought and read that it was the opposite. Psychopaths don’t like being alone as they detest boredom and crave excitement, something other people typically provide. Just curious!
Yes, self-invalidation is a problem — and I neglected to include it in my post! I’ll have to write a separate one. I think it becomes the norm, and then we internalize it, along with this line of thought that we don’t need compassion, only an attitude adjustment.
Psychopaths are loners, for sure; even when they’re with others, they’re very much alone. I’m surprised he said that; he needs intense stimulation. He’s been dealing with a serious medical issue that’s keeping him sidelined, and it’s driving him mad.
The psychopath I knew only slept more than 3 hours on Tuesday. He couldn’t stop. Caffeine was his best friend.
The P I knew lived on caffeine as well. He drank multiple red bulls and iced coffees daily. Along with his lunch time beers at work. I remember thinking if I drank the same amount of caffeine that he did, I would have had a heart attack. It was crazy. He never really seemed super hopped up either… he certainly kept odd hours, stays up until 8am on a regular basis, then sleeps on and off all day.
I think invalidating yourself deserves a separate blog and that you must have done that on purpose! :)
It wasn’t done on purpose, and I thank you for reminding me :-) I’m sure there are a more million things I’ve overlooked, but that’s how new posts come into being — someone or something will bring an issue to my attention. And then I think, I can’t believe I haven’t written about this yet! LOL Right now I have a dozen blog posts in the cue (as yet unwritten or only partially) but some sudden realization usually comes along and takes priority. I can’t go near caffeine! Maybe if I could, those posts would get done faster!
My ex invalidated my grief after my first husband died he said I should be thinking of him and how my and my childrens upset affected him. The boys aren’t his but he has known them since they were 3 and 5. They are now 20 and 18. I told him how I was sad to lose an old friend and my boys dad that was all and I loved him no less he hasn’t got anything to worry about that I loved him and yet he kept picking the scab if you get my drift .. I used to go out for a run so I could cry without his anger or silent treatment, your post has reminded me that he is a narc and as such he will never change. We have been apart 6 months now but I don’t think I will ever be free of him.
Thank you for all you do
You’re welcome, Nessie. This post brings up unpleasant memories for me, too, but seeing what they do so clearly as “invalidation” is undeniable proof that they’re poison, through and through. I’m sorry you had the experience of this insensitive, totally self-centered narcissistic man in your life. Congratulations on six months away from him. Give it plenty of time, and you might be surprised at just how free you get. Best wishes to you.
Admin – What a powerful post. This also hit home for me. Most of the “invalidating” phrases were said to me by the ex psychopath, as well as the people who shamed me for trying to make sense of the relationship, during and after its end. Growing up, my mother also used those lines on me.
“You think too much,” was a favorite one used by the psychopath. He would use it when trying to distract me from his excessive flirting and cheating, or to get me to do purvey things (i.e., like creating a web cam account to have sex with him while people watched!). I would give him all of the reasons why I couldn’t and he would insult me to justify his position and to make me look stupid, foolish and prudish. I laugh now because I have distance on the situation. I didn’t realize though that what he was doing was invalidating me. Invalidation really makes you feel insane. It also is a very subtle way to coerce someone into submission: In addition to making me feel crazy, episodes of invalidation usually escalated into a bad fight, followed by the silent treatment and then me apologizing and saying “anything” to end the pain of his disapproval.
Thanks for giving me even more clarity and helping me to recognize this very distractive pattern! xox
Hi, Dee. Glad to hear you found the post powerful. Invalidation seems rampant! Amazing how something so common — and destructive — stays beneath our conscious detection. I’ll be aware of it now. And I’m going to make doubly sure I don’t do it to anyone else.
“In addition to making me feel crazy, episodes of invalidation usually escalated into a bad fight, followed by the silent treatment and then me apologizing and saying “anything” to end the pain of his disapproval.”
That was the terrible pattern in my experience, too, and most likely in many others. I’m sorry about the people close to you who shamed you. The invalidation I felt from friends when it was over was one of the most painful parts of the whole thing.
One of my first blog posts was about invalidation from friends, and I only used the word once. I didn’t know I was writing about invalidation, per se — only about things people say that feel awful and cause further harm. How To Help a Friend
Here’s an actual quote from one of my best friends at the time:
“Why continue to waste precious energy? Why would you give him that satisfaction? It seems to me that you are responsible to yourself for releasing him from your life.”
When I told her it was cold-hearted, lacked empathy and was meaningless, she denied it and said, “You know me — I’m the most empathetic person in the world!” Umm, no.
Here are two quotes I love, from that earlier post:
“We shall be friends to those
heartbroken and in sorrow.
We shall share their sorrow.”
“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
This post has moved me so much that I will make sure I do not invalidate my children or friends. I don’t think I would be so sensitive about this subject had I not had a relationship with a psychopath and then punished for it by so many friends and family. I really resent that comment, “WELL YOU CHOSE HIM.” Other comments that hurt were:”You knew what he was,” “You must like to suffer,” “You’re addicted and codependent.” “When are you going to take responsibility because it was your fault,” I don’t want to hear it,” “Don’t contaminate me with it.”
That’s terrible, Dee. It’s the first time I’ve heard “don’t contaminate me with it” — that’s especially deplorable. I was pummeled with invalidation, too. None of those people are in my life any longer; there is no way those relationships could survive after that. There is no place in my life for those devoid of empathy. I still hurt when I think of the callous comments and lack of any attempt at understanding from those closest to me, and I see that you do, too. I recovered from what the psychopath did, but the sadness I felt from their harsh judgement and insensitivity lingers.
Admin, do you believe that Psychopaths truly do idealize us in that stage, until of course they see that we aren’t perfect like they thought and then they start to devalue us? I just really think my P was in love, in his way until the moment he realized he couldn’t play games with me. I really believe that, and then I remember that he cheated on a girl with me (which I didn’t know at the time) so he must have not been idealizing her too much to do that. The honeymoon period is where they’re probably the most loyal I would assume. Here I go trying to understand him again!! :)
Good question, Ashely. I’ve answered it in this post:
Shiny Objects: A Deeper Look at Idealization and Devaluation
The short answer is that sometimes they start out with an agenda of usage and manipulation, and sometimes times they find a person ‘fascinating’ (meaning they actually do idealize them), but at no time is a psychopath “in love” because they can’t love. In either case, the whole thing goes straight to hell.
The psychopathic host of the blog you’ve been reading took issue several times with my claim that they always begin with a malicious agenda. Of course I was skeptical, but he was pretty persistent about that one thing, and nothing else. Then one day I came across some writing by a psychopathy expert who validated his claim, and that’s included in the article linked to above.
***But both Z and the doctor make it clear that it is NOT love, and that no matter what their intention is at the outset, they will come to despise us.***
You can read more about the psychopath’s ‘manipulative cycle’ in this article: The Game You Didn’t Know You Were Playing
“Meloy says the psychopath must act out this manipulative cycle repetitively and compulsively in order to experience feelings of exhilaration and contempt (contemptuous delight), which perpetuate his feeling of grandiosity…”
I hope that helps :-)
OK, I found what you were asking about the other day, and within context I can make sense of it.
What he’s saying is that psychopaths don’t feel lonely — they feel bored. That’s true, but I’m sure “exploring” does not mean sightseeing; a psychopath’s exploring would definitely involve other people.
You have to read between the lines, and consider who’s speaking and what his current agenda is. Never take anything you read there out of context, or at face value.
The truth is there, but it’s between the lines.
The truth is in the contradiction, if you know what I mean.
So true re “exploring.” My ex psychopath would always tell me how he needed and loved to “explore.” I asked him at what point he would ever feel he had “explored” enough? He couldn’t answer that probably because psychopaths can never find a way to permanently satiate their incessant boredom. There just aren’t enough bodies on the planet.
If they can’t “explore,” they’ll go mad.
I returned from a funeral of a good friends husband who a few years previously I had laughed with and celebrated their marriage. It was after midnight when I returned, I had been with her and others in the pub, I wasn’t drinking, just sharing in the grief and remembering.
He was just in bed before me, I was telling him all about it and as I got in I told him how physically cold I was and how sad I was and as I was cuddling up I asked him for a hug, he point blank refused, and pulled away in the bed. I was so alone in my grief.
Thank you Admin for this site, demonstrating exactly what they are,
I now understand.
That happened many years ago, I am away from him near 2 years, only financial stuff needs sorting.
Today I skyped my sister, she really is a most wonderful one, 10 years older than me.
I was telling her about my encounter with him in court. And she quoted Judge Judy to me ‘ YOU CHOSE HIM’
All I had said and revealed many times I had spoken with her about him.
I thought it was so unlike her, I am so glad I am where I am, I was able to take it in my stride, sighing and rolling my eyes!
It’s a massive shift that is needed and I think it is easier to believe the lie. But none the less I shall stick with the truth, as ugly as it is, ‘The truth sets you free’
And that quote is from a poster of a film, The Green Mile or Shawshank Redemption, that Psyscho purchased at an auction. How ironic.
Self validation and trust in yourself, yeah I’m so nearly there. Thank you Admin xxx
Nearlybel, that is a poignant and powerful description of invalidation. It really illustrates the point that invalidation leaves us out in the cold, alone with our pain, our emotional needs going unmet. I’m very sorry for all the invalidation you endured with him.
Your sister’s comment that you chose him must have stung. None of us chose them; if we had known who they really were, we would not have chose them — our choice was based on the illusion of who they pretended to be. If we are not given the facts, then we do not have the ability to make a choice in our best interest. Our most fundamental human right — that of self-determination — is taken from us when we make ‘choices’ based on lies and misinformation. That’s the crux of the matter. It’s how the whole thing begins — with a choice based on a lie. The ‘ugly truth’ is what sets us free from it. It’s the only thing that can. xxx
I remember an incident that was not verbal, but was very invalidating. I started a class that I was very excited about. On the way home, I phoned the psychopath to tell him how well it went. He did not answer. 20 minutes later, I arrived home and found the bedroom dark and he was asleep! It was only 10 o’clock! He made very sure that there was no way for me to share my happiness. His action was more than just blowing me off. He wanted to hurt me.
Psychopaths (and others) will invalidate happiness, too, as you’ve pointed out. I know that feeling of wanting to share good news or something exciting, and being met with a brick wall. I had a friend many years ago who did that. Whenever I shared some happiness or achievement, she responded with a shrug and a quick change of subject, an un-returned phone call, or said in some way that it was no big deal. When I graduated from nursing school, instead of congratulating me she said “I’m sure thousands of others graduated from nursing school today, too. It’s not like you’re the only one who’s ever done it.” I stopped talking to her after that because I came to realize that I frequently felt awful for some reason after talking with her. To this day, I think of her as “The Bulldozer.”
OUCH! I am so sorry that happened to you. That kind of invalidation is proof narcissist and psychopaths enjoy invalidating. They must be able to read our hurt which means what they do is worse than not having empathy. It tells me they actually delight in having the power to hurt us by minimizing our hopes, dreams and achievements. They probably do this because they envy us and feel contempt for us and our accomplishments. We are so much better off not having “Bulldozers” in our lives. xox
Yes — it’s much worse than not having empathy, because the do have empathy — but they use it against us. They have what’s called “cold” empathy, which is knowing how we feel, but not feeling it (that’s “warm empathy”). Without it, they wouldn’t know just how to hurt us.
Yes, envy and contempt is the theory on why they do it:
“Devaluation is driven by unconscious greed and envy, according to psychopathy expert Dr. Reid Meloy. When the psychopath is envious, he loses his much-needed feelings of superiority and grandiosity. The psychopath’s greed and envy causes hatred, and that hatred creates wishes to destroy the object of his or her envy, which in turn eliminates the envy. When envy is eliminated, superiority and grandiosity are temporarily restored.
It is important to understand that envy is hatred of the good object, and greed is the desire to have all the ‘contents’ of the good object.
Meloy says the psychopath must act out this manipulative cycle repetitively and compulsively in order to experience feelings of contemptuous delight (exhilaration and contempt), which perpetuate his feeling of grandiosity.
The manipulative cycle is a ‘purification process’ for the psychopath, which projects all the bad onto the victim of his manipulation. It is described as a narcissistic repair of the psychopathic process that restores a primitive and defensive equilibrium. They need to do this because their grandiose self is threatened, but must be kept intact.
The psychopath will continue to ward off others by devaluing them, Meloy says, but also continue to seek out new victims. Once he finds a victim his greed and envy cause rage and sadism, and the victim is devalued and destroyed. When that has been accomplished, the psychopath’s need for devaluation will start all over again.”
The Game You Didn’t Know You Were Playing
Great information! It’s all becoming very clear to me. I think a psychopath’s grandiosity gets them in the end. My ex psychopath’s feelings of envy and contempt for me set him on a course of having our relationship end before he wanted it to. He depended on me so much that I guess he needed to cheat around the clock to feel like he was superior and had one over me. I suppose duping me and having me constantly fret about him made him feel all powerful, fueling his grandiosity. The more he needed me, the more he hooked up with strangers. When I asked him to leave he was shocked and really mad because I foiled his grand scheme. Our lives were so enmeshed he never thought I’d leave him. His grandiose self thought that I was too stupid and he was too cleaver, so I’d never uncover his lies. It’s like Tiger Woods and countless politicians who believe they are so smart that they can get away with anything.
Their grandiosity is what gets them! Your ex kept pushing the limits… and he couldn’t stop himself from going right over the edge, because he had no breaks. It’s just like all the serial killers who get increasingly careless because they believe they’ll never be caught, which is sometimes precisely what gets them caught!
Thank you so much for your post and elaborating on such a deep topic! I talk over and over about this type of behavior to my best friend. It is one type of behavior that if I spot in a individual I stay clear of them! It also coincides with A new type of abuse “pernicious abuse”. Pernicious or covert abuse. The new modern way of abusing people without leaving credible and or tangible enough traces so that people can be held responsible for their actions and behavior.
Invalidating people is so so common, it’s so sad the society were creating.
You’re welcome. That’s great that you recognize invalidation and steer clear! Depending on who does it, you could try what the expert in the article recommends: “I feel invalidated,” “I feel mocked,” or “I feel judged,” and see how they respond. I agree there is pernicious abuse, but I don’t think it’s anything new — I think it’s just coming to our attention. Invalidation does seem to be more common, though. And it’s become “accepted,” I think, to respond in such callous ways.
I was thinking about what Debbie said (in the first comment on this page) about living in a place where invalidation is the norm. I realized I had also lived in a place that was especially bad. A few years ago I was on crutches after having surgery, and as I was out and about people would ask what happened, and their responses were appalling — “You should just be thankful that surgery exists!” “At least your not dying of cancer!” “That’s no big deal, I’ve heard of a lot worse!”
I live in a different town now, and I had a cast on my arm recently. As I was out and about, people asked me what happened — and they said things like, “Oh, I’m sorry that happened to you and I hope it heals quickly!” “Wow, it must be hard to do everything with one arm!” “My sister had the same thing, and it was tough!”
WHAT A DIFFERENCE! And these towns are only 30 miles apart. Next time I think of moving somewhere new, I’m going to first hobble around town on crutches for a day and see how it goes!
The offending town had a real new-age, boho-vegan flavor to it; it seemed everyone was into Reiki, crystals — and The Secret (the leading resource on victim-blaming and invalidation). The new place is much more traditional. I expected a town like the other one would be friendlier/ kinder because people were more “evolved,” but that turned out not to be the case. It seems it might not be an anomaly. I recently came across a quote from a writer who said this:
“In New Age crowds here on the West Coast, where your attitude is considered the sole determinant of the impact an event has on you, it gets even worse… When you most need validation and support to get through the worst pain of your life, to be confronted with the well-meaning, but quasi-religious fervor of these insidious half-truths can be deeply demoralizing…”
You can read the rest of that quote in my reply to Debbie.
Wow I was actually thinking of relocating I understand completely what you mean when you say that it’s the location it’s true. I think that where I live people have to be “cool” and lord their “social power ” using a less popular person to humiliate as a way to increase self worth . Sad! The sadder element is that a lot of folks using these types of emotional tactics are so socially unaware how offensive they are. I am truly considering a new environment .
I wish you luck choosing a new place to live. There will be some of this stuff everywhere, but it seems some places are worse than others.
THIS SITE SAVED MY SANITY!
Today, reading comments prompt me to write, though I have wanted too on many occasions.
For almost four years I endured physical and emotional abuse from the psychopath who I thought loved me! I could not understand what was going on and thought that perhaps it was me or the psychopath whom I thought loved me needed help. I decided to do a little research and came by your site accidentally ……………………I was so shocked !!! I could not believe how accurate the descriptions, traits, etc. related to the person with whom I had a on and off relationship with! Now today I understand every action, every thought, every move, being a subscriber, receiving posts and trying to understand I sought help with councelling….. Thank you. I write today with regard to invalidation and readers comments. One day I was out on my afternoon daily walk when I was sexually assaulted, (Having met this P, I moved from my home town and had moved in with him, he then left, I’m in a town not know anybody) being in a different town and the P living quite near by I rang him for assistance to help me, he came a while later, picked me up in the car, I was in shock crying hysterically, he drove me home dumped and left me. Told me that I needed sugar as I was in shock, I believe he was then living with someone else and went back to hers, (though he said a “mates”) During all this time not once did he put a hand on me and say it will be alright, not once did he look at me, not once did he cuddle or comfort me, I was left all alone………….
A few days later he texed saying “I deserved it”!! One minute he is telling me “Yes I will give a statement ” next he’s telling me No “No police at mine” “No statement”!!! He never did give that statement but there was enough evidence and the offender was prosecuted. This is only a taster of the physical and mental abuse I have endured, with this site I’m stronger, fully aware and will not now take any abuse from any one. Thank you
I’m so sorry you endured four years of abuse, Norma, and about the sexual assault and what happened afterward. How terrible it must gave felt not to be comforted and to be left all alone, and in a strange town where you knew no one! It’s sickening, literally, and then to be told you deserved it is abominable. Hearing it has left me breathless. My heart goes out to you! This is invalidation at its worst. I’m relieved to hear the offender was caught! Your abuser should be in jail too, for a very long time.
I’m so happy to hear this site has helped you! It’s astounding to me, really, each time someone says that it helps. I’m grateful that I could make a difference for you, for whatever my source of energy is that keeps me writing, because I understand how devastating this experience is. It also gives meaning and purpose to my own experience.
I’m glad you stepped out of the shadows, so to speak, to leave your comment today. Thank you. You’re not alone, Norma. I wish you well ♥
Admin, your response made a lot of sense to me. It’s obvious that you put so much effort into each reply. Thanks for caring.
I’m glad it made sense.
Thank you for acknowledging that. I’m glad to hear you can tell that I care, because I do! :-)
I just saw your comment regarding the truth being in the contradiction. Nothing has ever been more true!
I thought you would agree ;-)
I just found this site and it’s amazing. Right now I’m in the middle of getting divorced from a narcissist, who may also be a sociopath. I have been married to him for over 40 years and it took this long for me to understand everything. The final straw was extreme gaslighting and I also have evidence that he has been having sex with men all along.
But this topic of invalidating has really hit home. I could tell many stories of how he did this, but one of the more recent events happened last year when I had a colonoscopy without any anesthesia or pain meds. I felt like I was being sodomized by the doctor. I kept screaming to make them stop to no avail.
When it was over the post-op nurse told me that my doctor did that to patients who are on opiates because he thinks they’re drug abusers. I have been on low-dose opiates for years due to severe cervical spinal stenosis. Anyway, when my husband picked me up I didn’t tell him about it until we got home. I think I was in shock. But, instead of hugging me and being upset about what the doctor had done, he downplayed it and implied that I just didn’t remember BECAUSE of the drugs they had supposedly given me.
Whether he truly didn’t believe me or was just invalidating me, I had no support when I took my case to the hospital’s review board. And it was one of the incidents that helped me start looking at my husband without my rose-colored glasses.
Hi, Anne. I’m sorry to hear that you were dealing with emotional abuse for so long. You must be a very strong woman to have come through intact, and to get away from him.
I am absolutely shocked at what happened to you during your colonoscopy! Shocked and appalled! This doctor needs to be stopped, and what happened to you needs acknowledgment and justice. Needless to say, his bias against people using pain meds is NO reason not to medicate during a colonoscopy — it’s a lame excuse for punishment and torture, and nothing more. I strongly suspect he is psychopathic himself. In a perfect world, I know just what his sentence would be.
Please take this incident outside the hospital (they will always protect themselves! It’s good you started there, but you need to do more) and find a medical malpractice attorney. Also, file a complaint with your state’s medical board, and with JCAHO, the organization that accredits hospitals. Links are below. Honestly, I’m completely shocked, and I feel sad and angry for what you experienced.
The post-op nurse should be able to validate your claim, if she or he is honest. Ditto for whatever staff was there during the procedure.
Your husband’s reaction to this debacle was invalidating, and whether it was purposeful or not, it was without compassion or concern. It is often things like that that are so obviously callous and so totally lacking in compassion that finally opens our eyes. That’s what happened to me. I Googled the search phrase “total lack of compassion,” and I was stunned; I may as well have typed “psychopath” into the search bar. That’s when I knew what the “problem” was.
I’m glad to hear you’re away from him, and I wish you all the best. Hugs to you.
State Medical Boards
JCAHO — Report a Patient Safety Event
This was a really interesting article. My ex is not a psychopath; we both believe he has Asperger’s Syndrome. Invalidation is something I have realized I have lived with most of my life, both in my family of origin and in my marriage. I have even done it to myself; that is one reason why I stayed in my marriage over 30 years. He didn’t physically abuse me, drink, do drugs, cheat on me, or any of those other things other women had to deal with; why was I complaining? (This is what I told myself!) After the divorce I felt that I had, in some ways, been emotionally abused (although I don’t think he intended that, he is just very self-absorbed) and this post has clarified that for me. You don’t have to be told that you are unimportant nor be called names to be abused. You can be invalidated, though, on a continual basis. I have to admit that I did the same to him and I think it got to be a vicious cycle.
While I have healed a great deal, the information in this article is really important for me to know, both to understand what happened in that relationship and to help me avoid it in the future in, I hope, a future relationship.
I’m so glad the information here has helped you. A few years before the psychopath, I dated a man who had Asperger’s. He knew it, but didn’t tell me. I didn’t know anything about it at the time. I don’t want to date anyone with Asperger’s any more than I would want another psychopath. It was a very negative experience, even though he didn’t purposely insult and invalidate me. It still has the same effect. I hope you (and all of us!) will avoid these relationships in the future.
Reading this, I began to cry. I wasn’t sure why, at first, but as I read on, I realized it was because now I see exactly how much I was devalued and invalidated. I would often ask my ex his opinion and say “I think I know the right answer, but I like to have someone to validate that I am right”. He took that and RAN AWAY with it. Reading this, I now see…I was not/am not crazy, oversensitive, weak, or any of those other invalidating descriptions. I simply loved someone more than I ever have anyone…because he fooled me.
Thank you for this information. I am going to keep it on my computer, where I can read it anytime I begin to feel lonely, as I go through my healing process.
Michele, this article really hit a nerve for many readers, and even with me as I wrote it. It hurts to realize this is what happened. But if it helped you to see that you are not crazy, oversensitive, weak, etc., then I have done my job. That’s exactly what I set out to do here.
While it’s painful to realize how severely we were manipulated, it helps to make healing possible (because then we know what it is we need to heal from). As they say, “the truth shall set you free.” I wish you all the best. Know that you’re not alone.
Oh my goodness…
I didn’t even realize until after I read this how much I get it from my own family sometimes. I was extremely aware of my ex invalidating me, because it happened every single time I had a negative emotion, but I didn’t expect to realize how much others do it as well. “you don’t realize how lucky you are”…is something I hear all too often from family members. It makes you start to wonder if you’re just ungrateful or overly sensitive, but then ultimately those original feelings just get worse and worse (you become even more sensitive) because they were never validated, and you were forced to suppress them! No more. I am so glad I read this, and at least can be aware of what to look for. Reading it (and the comments), in and of its self, served as a form of validation, and that’s an awesome thing.
Invalidation is quite common, unfortunately! As you said, it can make you question your own feelings, and it only serves to intensify them, and to make you even more “sensitive” which really means you’re (or anyone who’s invalidated) not getting your emotional needs met, including being understood and validated and empathized with. It’s a revelation just to become aware of it! I’m glad to hear the article and comments had the effect of making you feel validated. That made me feel validated, too, and I thank you.
Thank you so much for the post. I heard this often from my family, especially my parents. They, especially my dad, would say “I need to control my emotions” or “I need to get over it” AFTER THEY ABUSE ME (this is my mother that does the latter, abuse me then invalidate). But then I would so upset about the invalidation that THEY INVALIDATE ME SOME MORE AND SOME EVEN THREATEN TO BEAT ME! I mean really!? I left my mother first because I used to live with her, since it was (and is) hard to find a job these days, but decided to move into my aunt’s apartment. I had to beg my aunt for me to stay with her, but eventually she accepted. But when mother found out about me moving in with her (after I snuck out and I was 26 at the time), she “chewed” me out and told me that the world is a dangerous place and that people will still my credit cards and walked away without looking back, but I waved goodbye.
Next was my aunt. I didn’t realize she was an invalidator until I told my story and said “you shouldn’t have done that to your mother (make her made). This coming from a woman who’s mother that died abused her too. I kept trying to make my aunt see the light, plus trying to ignore texts from my mother saying that I was weird and that “I” was the narcissist! Eventually I left aunt and never responded to family ever again. But now I’m homeless (but I decided to be because there are no jobs available with my credentials (I have a BS and MBA). I’m trying to wing it, trying to learn a new language so that I can find a job overseas.
Even while being homeless, I’ve run into crazy people, and when I tell my story, it was either brushed off or I’m the one with the attitude problem or “You got to trust in God to get you through this” (And I denounced Christianity a long time ago, or worst “Nobody cares about you so you have to take care of yourself.” WOW! Even some places I’ve slept I was woken by a construction worker that kicked me to wake me up and i said “Don’t kick me like that!” He denies and says that he didn’t kick me that hard, but I replied that did. And THEN he says have a good day, and I gave him the finger (two actually). Now he wants to say hello to me, but I ignore him. I was harassed by police and even other psychopaths and other mentally ill people. Even the homeless shelter the staff act worse than children! And they say that they’re Christian. One even FORCED me to accept Christ or I wouldn’t be admitted, but when I left after day one, I deconverted and stay deconverted.
Once I learned the language I will move out of the United States and move on in another country (either Germany or Austria).
Denise, I’m sorry to hear what you’ve gone through and that you’re homeless right now. You’re a strong person though to have made the decision not to put up with your family’s abuse any longer! Stay strong. My wish for you is that things will turn around very soon and that you’ll find safety and security, loving people, peace, happiness, and a place you call home.
Invalidation is, in my opinion, at epidemic levels in our society. I think the empathy level has gone way down in general, and I believe it’s a reflection of the forces at work that drive a person with an MBA to a homeless shelter, that are causing an increase in poverty and an ever-shrinking middle class, and that perpetuate an ever-widening wealth gap.
A big hug for you xx
Thank you so much. And you are definitely right what you’ve stated in the second paragraph! YES!! I’ve realized this, plus I’ve done research on this as well (about the middle class shrinking and empathy nearly depleted in this country) and this is exactly why I want to move…out of country: to start over.
And thanks for the validation! :)
You’re welcome! :)
I am beyond happy that I stumbled upon your post.
I am happy to know that what I am feeling is true, it’s not just in my ‘head’.
I am happy to know that I am not alone, and that I can relate to someone else.
So, in simplicity, THANK YOU.
I’m so glad it helped you. You are certainly not alone.
thanks for this wonderful article – it really helps on my continual path of healing and understanding. I’ve never seen narcissistic treatment expained in terms of validation and then invalidation. Its so much easier to understand. Another non validating statement I heard a lot from family members about my mother was: Well, that’s just her. Besides my therapist, I have never had anyone validate what I experienced.
I’m so glad it helps you. Validation/Invalidation really sums it up; it’s the basis for the whole thing!
I can’t thank you enough. This article makes clear what I’ve known inside but have never been able to fully understand.
Years ago I was harassed by some roommates who decided to get very nasty over the usual working out of expectations. My position was that of the little red rooster and theirs was the position of LET’S PARTY FOR SOCIAL ATTENTION. They tried to have me alone served with an eviction notice based on a pack of lies, which I had rescinded and that’s when the proverbial crap hit the fan. They moved out themselves, and in the process made it their life’s pleasure to harass me, signing me up for all kinds of catalogs they knew I’d be offended by (I’m vegetarian, so they signed me up for tons of meat catalogs, as one example) and left me mental health brochures, as several examples. The ultimate was when they wrote a suggestive letter to prisoners claiming to be me, including my name and address saying things like ‘people aren’t necessarily guilty just because they’re incarcerated’, very flirty. The only way I knew was when I received a letter from the ‘Prisoner Pen Pal’ people asking me if I was sure I really wanted to pass this letter along?—with a copy of the letter the mean girls wrote! WHAT?! Mind you, I now had other roommates.
I did nothing to retaliate. I left the ball in their court. I also didn’t really stand up for myself because all I could see I would be doing was feeding their fire. It wasn’t like I was dealing with fair or rational people with feelings.
It took several years before I could even begin to heal and that spark came when one of our many mutual friends confessed to me that she despised bullying because she had been bullied herself in high school. We were all in our late 20’s/early-mid 30’s. She shared with me that one time those girls were laughing down at one of the popular local coffee house hang outs, touting about all the mean things they were doing to me to a small crowd of friends. This one friend was there and she was now struggling with why she hadn’t stood up for me—and confessed she thought she might actually be scared of one of them. Of course I fully understood why, that made perfect sense to me. It was likely she’d end up ridiculed or worse herself, knowing what the girls were capable of. It was that simple acknowledgement that sprouted the seed of my healing.
Those mean girls are assholes. I get it. Pardon my French. But what really did the damage for me was none of our mutual friends having my back. I felt like I was crazy, dealing with this kind of middle school behavior as an adult, and along with it a very much more adult and serious version of harassment. I’m still in weekly counseling years later, and sometimes lack social motivation despite being a very social person naturally. I was one of those people who was friends with everyone in high school. The Class behind mine asked me to DJ their reunion last summer, for example.
Anyhow, thank you. I think I now understand that the ‘not getting over it’ had/has so much to do with never really receiving understanding or acknowledgement of my experience, as you eloquently describe above. People would sometimes listen to me, but never really say, “That’s despicable! What kind of a person would do such a thing?” I think they just saw my upset and thought perhaps those girls were justified, and perhaps here was their proof. What I never understood, simultaneously, was how they never questioned the ethics in what the girls did to me, what I would have had to actually do for the appropriate response to be writing fake letters to prisoners, for example. When is that EVER an appropriate response to ANYTHING? The answer, I can tell you, amongst young(ish) people is ‘when you’re hot or popular’ apparently you can get away with just about anything.
Lee, I’m sorry this happened to you; not only the horrible and abusive roommates, but the invalidation from your friends afterward. I know all too well what it’s like; the invalidation adds considerably to the trauma. I’m over the psychopath. He had a disorder, and I can understand why he was the way he was. But my friends had no excuse—and they were, supposedly, friends! Yes, your roommates were despicable; they did act like overgrown middle-school bullies, and they were definitely assholes. I understand the lack of social motivation, too; I had it for more than two years, and it’s not surprising at all after this kind of thing. It means there’s still more healing that needs to happen. You need some empathetic and kind people in your life, and my wish for you is that you find them. I hope you’ve found just a little bit of healing here, Lee, and I wish you all the best xx
I disagree that leaving the room is a purely a form of invalidation, although it can be that. Sometimes, a of times actually, it is necessary. What is one to do when their partners is screaming at them, threatening them? It’s very easy to get sucked into this negativity coming your way and respond in kind–so leaving is very much needed.
That being said, I do agree that being invalidated is one of the worst thing that can happen to humans. Imo, it’s even the reason humans have difficulty admitting their wrongs, why we shield ourselves from critics with well-crafted lies–because as a society, we’ve not learned to allow people to express themsevles.
Yes, it depends on the situation. If someone is ranting and raving and the won’t or can’t stop, leaving the room is a good idea.
I think invalidation has become rampant and acceptable over the last decade or so, unfortunately. It seems a lot of ideas from new-age schools of thought went mainstream and ended up in the collective consciousness. A big one is that people “attract” things (misfortune, illness, cancer, etc) into their lives, either because they need to learn some sort of lesson or they weren’t thinking positively enough. Sad, really, and nothing but victim blaming.
Hey would you post a list of cities where psychopaths most likely live and cities where they are not around as much? I live in Miami and this kind of invalidation is common, this is the fourth city with the most cheating partners in the whole country. Also one of the cities with the highest HIV number, highest crime, highest bad everything. I am moving soon to a smaller country side town and leaving this dump behind. I had nothing but bad experiences with men over and over again. I was invalidated about my personal beliefs and given the silent treatment by someone I thought was a good guy, watch it ladies, the bigger and flashiest the city the worse people become…!
I’m sorry Miami has been such a bad experience for you! I agree there are probably more psychopaths in large, flashy cities, but they’re everywhere. As far as invalidation goes, that also happens everywhere but some places are worse than others! A few years ago I lived in a small, funky, artsy town and it was by far the most invalidating place I’d ever experienced. From my own experience and what I’ve heard from others, avoid towns that are new-agey! Victim-blaming is rampant in places like that. Nice, square, vanilla towns and small cities are probably your best bet. Good Luck!
Thank you for this post.
I was hurt by a friend’s false promises and even after we tried to work it out, I kept feeling like something was off. I was at the peak of a stress breakdown and my friend’s then invalidations (I hadn’t realized it was happening) didn’t help; I cut off all contact with her and, looking back, now understand why I felt crazy when talking to her, because she would not acknowledge my emotions and dragged her own life story and someone else’s emotions into our conversations about how I was upset over her breaking promises she made to me. I still miss her every single day to the point of crying but I feel what makes me even more sad is that she never really understood what she was doing with her words.
You’re welcome, B. I’m sorry this happened to you! It’s very painful when we reach out to a friend for support, and end up invalidated instead.
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