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Feeling Invalidated? Here's what to do

Invalidation is a pervasive yet often subtle form of emotional harm that can have profound impacts on our mental well-being. It occurs when someone's feelings, thoughts, or experiences are dismissed, ignored, or judged as incorrect. This can be particularly damaging because it invalidates a person's reality, leading to self-doubt and emotional distress. Understanding invalidation and learning how to recover from it are crucial steps towards emotional healing and building resilience.

What is Invalidation?

Invalidation can manifest in various forms:

  1. Emotional Invalidation: When someone's feelings are belittled or dismissed. For example, if you express sadness and someone responds with, "You're overreacting," or "It's not that big of a deal."

  2. Cognitive Invalidation: When someone's thoughts or beliefs are dismissed as wrong or irrational without understanding their perspective. For instance, "You shouldn't think like that" or "That's just nonsense."

  3. Experiential Invalidation: When someone's personal experiences are denied or minimized. For example, "That didn't really happen," or "You're remembering it wrong."

Invalidation can occur in various relationships—between partners, parents and children, friends, or even in professional settings. It can lead to feelings of shame, self-doubt, and isolation.

Recovering from Invalidation with DBT Therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan, is particularly effective in addressing the effects of invalidation. DBT combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness practices to help individuals regulate emotions, develop healthy relationships, and build resilience.

Here are key DBT strategies to recover from invalidation:

  1. Mindfulness: Mindfulness is at the core of DBT. It involves being fully present and aware of the current moment without judgment. Practicing mindfulness helps you observe and accept your emotions and thoughts as they are, without the need for validation from others. Practice: Engage in regular mindfulness meditation. Focus on your breath, observe your thoughts and feelings, and let them pass without attachment or judgment.

  2. Emotional Regulation: DBT teaches skills to manage intense emotions and reduce vulnerability to emotional dysregulation. Understanding and naming your emotions accurately is the first step. Practice: Keep an emotion diary. Note down your emotional experiences throughout the day, what triggered them, and how you responded. This helps in recognizing patterns and managing your reactions better.

  3. Distress Tolerance: Building distress tolerance involves developing the ability to withstand and cope with negative emotions without resorting to harmful behaviors. This includes skills like self-soothing, distraction, and improving the moment. Practice: Create a distress tolerance toolkit. Include activities and items that help you soothe yourself in times of distress, such as listening to calming music, engaging in a hobby, or practicing deep breathing exercises.

  4. Interpersonal Effectiveness: DBT focuses on improving communication and relationship skills. This includes learning to assertively express your needs and feelings while respecting others. Practice: Use the DEAR MAN technique to communicate effectively:

  • Describe the situation.

  • Express your feelings and thoughts.

  • Assert your needs or wants clearly.

  • Reinforce the benefits of getting your needs met.

  • Mindfully keep your focus.

  • Appear confident.

  • Negotiate if needed.

  1. Radical Acceptance: Radical acceptance is about fully accepting reality as it is, even if it's painful or difficult. This doesn't mean you approve of the situation, but it allows you to move forward without getting stuck in resistance or denial. Practice: When you encounter invalidation, practice radical acceptance by acknowledging the hurt and unfairness of the situation. Then, focus on what you can control and take steps towards self-care and healing.

Building Resilience Against Invalidation

  1. Self-Validation: Learn to validate your own feelings and experiences. Recognize that your emotions are real and legitimate, regardless of others' reactions.

  2. Seek Supportive Relationships: Surround yourself with people who respect and validate your feelings and experiences. Build a network of supportive friends, family, or therapists who can provide genuine validation.

  3. Develop Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. Practice self-compassion by treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a friend.

  4. Set Boundaries: Establish and maintain healthy boundaries with individuals who frequently invalidate your experiences. Communicate your needs clearly and assertively.

  5. Therapy: Consider seeking professional help. A therapist trained in DBT can guide you through the process of healing from invalidation and building emotional resilience

Invalidation can have lasting effects on our emotional well-being, but recovery is possible. Through the principles and techniques of DBT, you can learn to navigate and heal from invalidation. By practicing mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness, you can build resilience and foster a healthier, more validating environment for yourself. Remember, your feelings and experiences are valid, and you deserve to be heard and respected.


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