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Email on Invalidation with Responses

The email: (Oct 12, 2009)


I have found some very interesting information on your site but have an important question:

“What if the person whom we are dealing with is emotionally abusive? How can we not invalidate their feelings?”

For example, the abuser says, “I want your entire world to revolve around me and I want you to spend all of your free time with me and to have the same values, goals, and dreams that I have.”

This would fall under abusive expectations, and in my opinion it would have to be invalidated (although not cruelly). You would almost need to invalidate “unrealistic and abusive feelings, expectations…that another has”. What if you’re dealing with borderline personality disorder?

I often have experienced the invalidation you spoke of, but at times have used it defensively. If a person just wants control over you, how can you not invalidate their unrealistic expectations and feelings? To give you an extreme example, assume a physically abusive man believes and feels that women should be beat. Shouldn’t his feelings be invalidated?

I suppose it is a sticky scenario, but I don’t understand how invalidation can be all bad…aren’t there necessary uses of it?



Core Components of EQI.org

Respect | Empathy
Caring | Listening

Steve's Reply:


well i remember one thing that i learned.. that u can
accept someone's feelings but not their behavior..

like i could say im feeling homicidal, and u could say "i
understand", yet u dont have to sit back and watch them kill

so maybe u could say u undestand, and actually try to
understand and to show understanding, but say, something
like, "im sorry but what u need and want to do doesnt work
for me..." (or for others..)

i like to think of things as a conflict of needs. it helps
me be less judgmental etc.

what do u think?


Tim's Response:

It seems kind of strange how J. says feelings at the end of that email; it makes me think that feelings and thoughts are connected in that situation, therefore we should invalidate that person's feelings. I don't think under any circumstances feelings need to be invalidated. A person's feelings may be blown out of "normal" proportions at some point, but you should always show that you understand by statements such as "I see" or "I get what you mean" or "yeah, that makes sense" and then you should ask questions. Overall this will bring things to a level in which the person can start to begin to understand why they are having motives for things, because of the questions and understanding the person received.

Anyway, when it comes to those situations where someone demands something from you irrationally, you don't have to invalidate their feelings to change the situation; in fact, the situation could get worse if you were to do so, and you may even mess up the relationship you have with that person, if it isn't already sort of messed up. I think asking questions is the best way to come to the real motives and purposes for things. There are, however, situations in which you cannot change with rational conflict resolution like this. In these situations it's best to somehow stop associating with that person; invalidating the person's feeling won't make things better for you, and possibly just worse.

But back to that situation where there is a man who believes women should be beat. I think you can pretty much say you understand how he feels and then ask questions. It's actually a little bit hard to know what will happen after that. If it's a rational person who was raised up to think that, there is hope. But there really are people who don't want to change their ideals because it gives them advantages. At this point, again, there's no point in invalidating the person since it won't solve anything. However, I'm unsure what will change this person's opinion if they won't change it after you reason with them and say why this or this is wrong and validate their feelings and ask questions. I'd say time would solve it after spending much time with you and seeing your viewpoint completely, or maybe a certain respected figure of his would be able to convince him.

I can honestly say it's really hard to predict what is best to do in every single situation, but I believe it isn't beneficial to ever invalidate someone's feelings. You can do things to allow this person to see the other person's viewpoint; that is, explain it to them and try to make it so it's easy to sympathize or empathize with that individual who is the target for abuse.

To finally look at the analysis of invalidating someone's feelings who has irrational expectations and goals, it will possibly stop the current situation, but it will not be beneficial for the long term. And of course it won't be the most efficient thing to do in the short term either.
Steph's Response

First off, I think I understand what J. is trying to say: How we should invalidate those who are emotionally and physically abusive to us? Invalidation on dictionary.com is basically to discredit. Steve defines emotional invalidation as "to reject, ignore, mock, tease, judge, or diminish someone's feelings." which is more specific and feelings-centered. So I think what J. means is to discredit them not in a way that is emotional abuse, but to set a line so the other individual cannot control you. This is basically what Steve said. Whereas if J. told this to me, I would've said "everyone deserves to be understood" which is kind of basic (even if it's true), but Steve pretty much said it in a way that seperates ones' actions one can invalidate, or discredit, from one's feelings one can invalidate, or not take into consideration.

Also, when he mentions borderline personality disorder... I have to wonder if someone diagnosed with this had been invalidated before he started abusing others with things like expectations. It inspires and encourages me to want to know more about disorders, like I've been thinking recently... I don't know all the 'science' behind what goes on in the head for one to diagnose people with disorders. I want to reaffirm, to myself, that 'disorders' are caused by emotional abuse and lack of understanding and listening...

Tim's and Steph's convo about the responses:

Steph: you don't have to invalidate their feelings to change the situation; in fact, the situation could get worse if you were to do so, and you may even mess up the relationship you have with that person, if it isn't already sort of messed up.

And you know what's sad? Is most of the time, both people don't know how to understand or talk about feelings so the person being irrational can upset the other, and the other would react angrily or not in a calm, yet assertive manner.

Tim: yeah, so nothing gets solved
it is sad, i agree

Steph: I like it. How you give a solution, and if that solution doesn't work, for the wellbeing of the person, stop associating with them.

Steph: but yeah
I like your style of writing..
I admire yours and Steve's
like I was telling Steve and you'll see it in my email
how he just says the right things, like I'll have an idea but he'll like.. write or say what I'm thinking of but more detailed.
apply concepts to things I guess
seperating behavior from feelings like he did

Tim: hahaha
u do that also
with certain things u write
it really depends on what we are all writing about
but we all cover something that wasn't covered by the other i think
tell me what u think of those last 2 paragraphs i sent u

Steph: that's what's awesome about collaborating
Well I like how you pointed out how it's not worth it to invalidate feelings, seeing things from their perspective, but also empathize the person who is the target. Rereading it, it's kind of like being a mediator.

Steph: and the part about how time or respected figures being able to change them.

Tim: haha, thanks

Steph: "But there really are people who don't want to change their ideals because it gives them advantages." they're able to justify their ideals
and able to feel... in control
or empowered
emotionally fulfilled too of course

Tim: yeah

Steph: what'd you think about my email?

Tim: almost done reading it
hmm, i really liked what u said
i didn't realize that J. could have been using invalidate in a different way

Steph: but I guess my idea of using this convo plus the emails was just to show us bounce ideas back off of each other. like collab

Tim: yeah lol

Steph: btw I really liked yours too
I think we learned from each of the responses we wrote
did you notice that?

Tim: yeah haha

Steph: I gave you another perspective and you to me too

Tim: yeah
that's so cool
we are getting the most rational, logical view by talking about it all
i think everyone should strive for this
those who are in religions who don't look at an atheist's viewpoint and every argument in favor of both sides don't have justified views in my opinion

Steph: that's why by Steve asking us for responses, gives people a good influence to question everything. =D

Tim: however, if they had and still have the same views, i would respect them and say their views are justified, whether they are atheist or theist or anything around there
lol yep
it was kind of unexpected for steve to ask something of us like this all of a sudden
but im glad he did
ok, im gonna combine everything together now
unless there's something else we want to add here and u want in the htm

Steph: nah, that's about it.
you should add the bit
about logical, rational
I like that comment