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 usâ€“ 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 donâ€™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 threatâ€“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 weâ€™ve seen girls being told that their future husbands donâ€™t care about their useless emotions. By suppressing our emotions vs experiencing them we donâ€™t build the skills necessary to understand our emotions. More importantly, we donâ€™t learn and cultivate compassion, empathy, and gentleness. Which all aide us when weâ€™re experiencing intense emotions.
Then we have what I like to call the â€œperpetual positivity correctional officers.â€ 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 weâ€™re above our negative feelings and we should only focus on the good feelings. For example, â€œjust throw away the negative thinking and your life can change.â€ Well, hereâ€™s the thing, you wouldnâ€™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 thereâ€“not go on a denial bliss mission. We would convey something on the lines of, â€œLet it out honey, I just let it out.â€ And then allow the person to gradually find their own solid footing to land their emotions.
All of which brings us to the â€œdid it really happen that way person.â€ Yes, we know this personality all too well. Usually, we go to them and share how we feel, and their retort is, â€œare you sure it happened like that? I mean you have the tendency to overreact or become too emotional in these situations.â€ Albeit they mean well when they state things like this, but the reality is weâ€™re human and sometimes we just need someone to listen to usâ€“without trying to course correct us. Now, I am not suggesting that if weâ€™re inflicting harm on ourselves or others, then the person listening shouldnâ€™t have a cause for concern. However, I am suggesting that sometimes the people we go to for emotional support need to understand that itâ€™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, weâ€™ll know who and what weâ€™re dealing with moving forward.
Also, we have the person I call the refuser. The refuser is set on not having any emotional exchangesâ€“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 doesnâ€™t fit into the parameters of their logicâ€“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 doesnâ€™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 importantlyâ€“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 theyâ€™ve demonstrated care, tenderness, and compassion towards usâ€“even if itâ€™s a therapist.