By: Brandon Jamil
Emotional invalidation is having your emotions dismissed, denied, and ignored. Emotional invalidation is a common experience when we have actively accepted and normalized abusive behavior. Often, we normalize abuse when the very people that proclaim to love us– abuse us. These people can be our parents, care takers, friends, family members, etc. It can be challenging to identifying poor treatment, toxicity, and abuse because society programs us that our family is by default supposed to have our best interest. Thus, they would only act in accordance with good intentions.
Additionally, some people don’t have the capacity to address their own emotions and can process them. This is to say, for some, emotions can be uncomfortable because they grew up in environments where emotions where perceived as a human weakness. Having emotions meant that you could potentially bring chaos and destruction to the family unit. Which causes a greater threat–the breakdown of the family unit. We have seen these dynamics play out in myriads of ways. For instance, we tell little boys that crying is girly. Or we’ve seen girls being told that their future husbands don’t care about their useless emotions. By suppressing our emotions vs experiencing them we don’t build the skills necessary to understand our emotions. More importantly, we don’t learn and cultivate compassion, empathy, and gentleness. Which all aide us when we’re experiencing intense emotions.
Then we have what I like to call the “perpetual positivity correctional officers.” These are the people that we go to with a grievance, and they try to remind us just how lucky we are to be alive, or they tell us that we should be happy because all the good we have done, etc. Another iteration of this can be them stating that we’re above our negative feelings and we should only focus on the good feelings. For example, “just throw away the negative thinking and your life can change.” Well, here’s the thing, you wouldn’t tell a grieving mother that just lost her son to change her way of thinking. A compassionate and caring person would understand that the first steps to healing is acknowledging that the pain is there–not go on a denial bliss mission. We would convey something on the lines of, “Let it out honey, I just let it out.” And then allow the person to gradually find their own solid footing to land their emotions.
All of which brings us to the “did it really happen that way person.” Yes, we know this personality all too well. Usually, we go to them and share how we feel, and their retort is, “are you sure it happened like that? I mean you have the tendency to overreact or become too emotional in these situations.” Albeit they mean well when they state things like this, but the reality is we’re human and sometimes we just need someone to listen to us–without trying to course correct us. Now, I am not suggesting that if we’re inflicting harm on ourselves or others, then the person listening shouldn’t have a cause for concern. However, I am suggesting that sometimes the people we go to for emotional support need to understand that it’s not their job to fix us, we simply just want a compassionate ear. We must state what we need in that moment, and they can either accept or deny our request. Either way, we’ll know who and what we’re dealing with moving forward.
Also, we have the person I call the refuser. The refuser is set on not having any emotional exchanges–for whatever reasons. Everything for this person is based on logic and logic alone. This person takes out the emotional content and believes they are doing all of us a service by not being emotionally intelligent. If your emotional material doesn’t fit into the parameters of their logic–they deem your emotional state as insignificant. When we try to reason with this person, they remain despondent and distant from us, because they hold the belief that our emotions are just unreasonable and a means for us to seek their attention or validation.
Regardless of how emotional validation shows up in our lives, we must understand it doesn’t belong in our life. The way out is first is providing healthy space for our emotions to breathe, to exist, to have a voice, and most importantly–being able to move them out of our bodies by working with them through the body. Somatic body work and yoga are great for healing the emotions, because they all provide a safe space for the emotions to land. Similarly, we need ensure that we begin to share our emotions with people that have earned our respect, trust, and they’ve demonstrated care, tenderness, and compassion towards us–even if it’s a therapist.