How emotional abuse is manifested

I used to think that emotional abuse and neglect were cut and dried things that were obvious, and that emotional validation was…well, validating the person, right? Only, I discovered how vague my understanding was and how I, in many cases, was guilty of invalidating others because it can be so inconspicuous. I’ve extracted pertinent passages from this website that has the most comprehensive material I’ve come across on emotional abuse and bpd (borderline personality disorder).


Invalidation is to reject, ignore, mock, tease, judge, or diminish someone’s feelings. It is an attempt to control how they feel and for how long they feel it.

Constant invalidation may be one of the most significant reasons a person with high innate emotional intelligence suffers from unmet emotional needs later in life. A sensitive child who is repeatedly invalidated becomes confused and begins to distrust his own emotions. He fails to develop confidence in and healthy use of his emotional brain– one of nature’s most basic survival tools. To adapt to this unhealthy and dysfunctional environment, the working relationship between his thoughts and feelings becomes twisted. His emotional responses, emotional management, and emotional development will likely be seriously, and perhaps permanently, impaired.

[…] Psychiatrist R.D. Laing said that when we invalidate people or deny their perceptions and personal experiences, we make mental invalids of them. He found that when one’s feelings are denied a person can be made to feel crazy even they are perfectly mentally healthy.

[…] Invalidation goes beyond mere rejection by implying not only that our feelings are disapproved of, but that we are fundamentally abnormal. This implies that there is something wrong with us because we aren’t like everyone else; we are strange; we are different; we are weird.

None of this feels good, and all of it damages us. The more different from the mass norm a person is, for example, more intelligent or more sensitive, the more he is likely to be invalidated. When we are invalidated by having our feelings repudiated, we are attacked at the deepest level possible, since our feelings are the innermost expression of our individual identities.

Psychological invalidation is one of the most lethal forms of emotional abuse. It kills confidence, creativity and individuality.

Telling a person she shouldn’t feel the way she does feel is akin to telling water it shouldn’t be wet, grass it shouldn’t be green, or rocks they shouldn’t be hard. Each person’s feelings are real. Whether we like or understand someone’s feelings, they are still real.

Good guidelines when dealing with emotions are:

 

→ First accept the feelings, then address the behavior.

You can’t solve an emotional problem, or heal an emotional wound, with logic alone.


Defensiveness and Invalidation

All invalidation is a form of psychological attack. When we are attacked, our survival instinct tells us to 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 or puts us in the position of trying to change another person.

One sign of both high self-esteem and high EQ is the absence of either of these defensive responses. 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.”

How the other person responds to your emotional honesty will depend upon, and be indicative of:

(a) how much they respect you

(b) how much they care about you and your feelings

(c) how insecure and defensive they are

(d) how much they are trying to change or control you

All of this is information which will help you make decisions which are in your best interest.


 

Examples of invalidating expressions; Each is an attempt to talk you out of your feelings.

1.Ordering you to feel differently

Smile.
Be happy.
Cheer up
Lighten up.
Get over it.
Grow up
Get a life
Don’t cry.
Don’t worry.
Don’t be sad.
Stop whining
Stop laughing..
Don’t get angry
Deal with it.
Give it a rest.
Forget about it.
Stop complaining.
Don’t be so dramatic.
Don’t be so sensitive.
Stop being so emotional.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself
Stop taking everything so personally

 

2. Ordering you to look differently

Don’t look so sad.
Don’t look so smug.
Don’t look so down.
Don’t look like that.
Don’t make that face.
Don’t look so serious.
Don’t look so proud of yourself.
Don’t look so pleased with yourself.

 

3. Denying your perception, defending

You’ve got it all wrong.
But of course I respect you.
But I do listen to you.
That is ridiculous (nonsense, totally absurd, etc.)
I was only kidding.
That’s not the way things are.
That’s not how things are.
I honestly don’t judge you as much as you think.
It’s not going to happen

 

4.Trying to guilt trip you

I tried to help you..
At least I …..
At least you….
You are making everyone else miserable.

 

5.Trying to isolate you

You are the only one who feels that way.
It doesn’t bother anyone else, why should it bother you?

 

6. Minimizing your feelings

You must be kidding.
You can’t be serious.
It can’t be that bad.
Your life can’t be that bad.
You are just … (being difficult; being dramatic, in a bad mood, tired, etc)
It’s nothing to get upset over.
It’s not worth getting that upset over.
There’s nothing wrong with you.

 

7.Using reason

There is no reason to get upset.
You are not being rational.
But it doesn’t make any sense to feel that way.
Let’s look at the facts.
Let’s stick to the facts.
But if you really think about it….

 

8. Telling you how you “should” feel or act

You should be excited.
You should be thrilled.
You should feel guilty.
You should feel thankful that…
You should be happy that ….
You should be glad that …
You should just drop it.
You shouldn’t worry so much.
You shouldn’t let it bother you.
You should just forget about it.
You should feel ashamed of yourself.
You shouldn’t wear your heart out on your sleeve.
You shouldn’t say that about your father.

 

9. Defending the other person

Maybe they were just having a bad day.
I am sure she didn’t mean it like that.
You just took it wrong.
I am sure she means well.

 

10.Negating,denial and confusion

Now you know that isn’t true.
You don’t mean that. You know you love your baby brother.
You don’t really mean that. You are just … (in a bad mood today, tired, cranky)

 

11. Sarcasm and mocking

Oh, you poor thing. Did I hurt your little feelings?
What did you think? The world was created to serve you?
What happened to you? Did you get out of the wrong side of bed again?

 

12. Philosophizing Or Clichés

Time heals all wounds.
Every cloud has a silver lining.
Life is full of pain and pleasure.
In time you will understand this.
When you are older you will understand
You are just going through a phase.
Everything has its reasons.
Everything is just the way it is supposed to be.

 

13.Showing Intolerance

This is getting really old.
This is getting really pathetic.
I am sick of hearing about it.

 

14. Trying to Control How Long You Feel Something, or Judging You for How Long You Feel It
Are you still upset over that? It happened a long time ago.
You should be over that by now.

 

15.Explanations

Maybe it is because…
That is because
Of course, because you…. (This one hurts four ways. First, the “of course” minimizes what you feel, second the “because” explains what you feel, as if explaining it nullifies the feeling, third the “you” blames you and fourth, blaming you is a form of attack which is likely to make you feel either defensive or guilt-tripped or both.)

 

 

 

One response to How emotional abuse is manifested

  1. Fascinating as usual; I too am guilty of invalidating others, but I also see a lot of the statements that have been said to my face over and over again. Interestingly, with my parents invalidating our anger as children (which, in healthy amounts, is nothing but a sign that your boundaries have been overstepped), I now have a hard time feeling angry and then also acknowledging my right to feel that way. This has profound implications on my ability to protect myself. As with everything, it’s a journey… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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