I haven’t met a survivor who hasn’t been invalidated as they have journeyed through their recovery process. When we hear invalidating statements, it hits us hard. But there is a way to make it less painful. Believe it or not, invalidation is a process. It isn’t a fluke. It isn’t random. It is specifically arranged by the universe to wake us up. And I am going to explain how you can do that in the least painful way.
Step 1: We must have the initial pain of invalidation after a childhood experience. This invalidation may come with malicious intent. For example, if we experienced sexual abuse and try to tell an enabler parent, we may be faced with the famous accusation that we are making it up. Gaslighting is the most popular manipulation tactic used by enablers of sexual abuse. However, the invalidation may come in seemingly harmless statements from otherwise well-meaning people. In these cases, it is harder to unravel the impact on our psyches because it just didn’t seem so bad. For example, we might tell someone how we are going to rise above our circumstances one day, and we may be told to be realistic by someone who wants to keep us from being hurt by failure.
Step 2: We must internalize that invalidation as a means to keep our pain as unconscious as possible. Let’s be fair, this isn’t really a step. It is an automatic occurrence that happens as a child is invalidated, but it is critically important to our reaction to invalidation in adulthood.
Step 3: We grow up and decide we want more in life than the constant pain of squashing our unconscious emotions. We find tremendous courage and begin to get in touch with our inner child and our inner defender. Somewhere deep inside, we know there is more to life and we are going to find it. Go you!!
Step 4: Someone condescendingly informs us of how stupid that is. We may even start to believe them.
But why do we believe them?
This is one of those moments where the universe has lovingly set us up. We will now be told something by an external person that we are telling ourselves on the inside. How do we know this is happening? We get triggered. It takes every ounce of self restraint to keep from gouging the other person’s eyes out. Your inner child is angry. Your inner parts are in turmoil. And it happened in a split second. Thanks universe. Love you too.
This person has just repeated what your inner defender has been telling you all along.
“Don’t do this work.”
“Leave the past in the past. This is the present.”
“Let sleeping dogs lie.”
“The trauma probably wasn’t as bad as you think.”
“Just let it go. Get over it.”
“Are you sure that happened? It was a long time ago. Memory is fallible.”
You get the idea. All that work you have been doing to override your defender and access your traumatic pain has been thwarted. Your inner defender feels vindicated and has gained a little strength. Your doubts get louder. You inner child is now screaming at the ridiculousness of this invalidation which is repeated again and again.
Step 5: You realize what is really going on here.
What is really going on here?
We are energetically attracted to those with similar trauma. That doesn’t mean we had the exact same experiences. But our experiences affected us in similar ways. The wounds are similar. When we interact with people, we will inevitably face their projection, as they will inevitably face ours. Projection is a fairly simple process that creates a whirlwind of difficulties in relationship.
It plays out like this …
The person who invalidates you has faced similar invalidation in their own life. They have built their own inner defenses including a similar inner defender. This inner defender is just as adept at keeping their pain locked below the surface of their conscious mind. So when you begin telling them how you are facing your own pain, their inner defender is immediately alarmed at such a prospect. That defender launches in to immediate panic mode and begins to manage the danger at hand. That defender spews the same invalidation used on their inner child, but this time, it comes out of the mouth. And honestly, it comes out in a somewhat unconscious manner.
That inner defender is trying to eliminate any external reminders of internal pain. Sound familiar? It is the reason you run from triggers.
Step 6: You are no longer impacted by invalidation.
Okay. That may be an extreme. It still impacts me, but much less than it used to.
Seriously though, when you feel invalidated, take a deep breath and remember this blog post. This person is sending you to trigger land because they are projecting their own inner invalidation on to you. I am not suggesting you feel sorry for them (unless it helps you get through the moment). But I am suggesting you recognize their pain and how much their inner child must be suffering under the thumb of that invalidation. It may be a stretch to find compassion for them, but give it a try.