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Stories about invalidation
|Jen, Suicide, Invalidation||
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Feb 28 - Jen, Suicide, Invalidation
Jen, Suicide, Invalidation
I was talking to Jen today. She was telling me she almost tried to kill herself last Friday. Here is part of our convo
tell me about friday please.
i almost attempted suicide..
what was going on that day
..felt uncared bout...
housemistress told me to go to her when i felt bad...then that day she told me i had no reason for being angry and upset.. then she told me to go because other people were coming to see her, so i left and felt in the way and thought i would end it..
i was pathetic..she was rite
..n saturday she told me i was just wallowing when i felt bad...
..so, well, no way am i going to go to her again..
did she really say wallowing?
how did u feel when she said it?
terrible...ashamed.. stupid to have gone to her...not understood
..then felt i was feeling the wrong things.. and just being pathetic
You can see that at the end she was invalidating herself. This is one of the many ways that people who are unaware of the concept of invalidation damage young people. They teach them that their problems arent serious and their feelings arent serious, so the young people start to invalidate themselves. This leaves them even more confused and less able to identify and solve their emotional problems or try to get their natural human emotional needs met.
You can see also that Jen is judging herself - thinking she is stupid to have gone to her housemistress. Yet Jen has no one else to go to, she needs someone to listen to her and give her emotional support and the housemistress told her to go to her. So it is understandable that Jen would try to talk to her. And it is also understandable that she wont try again.
This little bit of our conversation also says a lot about the reasons for teen suicide.
Look again at some of the feelings:
In the way, uncared for, not understood
These feelings hurt. And when we take that along with the fact that Jen wont go back to the housemistress, we have a situation where a person is in emotional pain and has no one to turn to. These are the ingredients of suicide.
Feb 25, 2006
Invalidation Main Page
The other day I told someone I felt a little judged by them. They asked me why I felt like that. I said, "Well, for example when you said 'When are you going to buy some new shoes?'" Then the person laughed at me and said "How stupid!" Then she defended herself saying she wasn't judging me, implying that I must have a problem if I felt judged by that. But I did feel judged by it. By her town of voice, and knowing her, I knew she was basically saying "Your shoes are falling apart! They look horrible! You should get some new ones! What's wrong with you? I am embarrassed to be seen with you!"
I just told her I trust my feelings. She didn't really know what to say then and we changed topics. I feel slightly optimistic, though, that she will be just a little more careful in the future. I sense that she values my friendship and in fact I had pretty much given up a hope of being friends with her till she called me again that day and wanted to talk. I also told her I am very sensitive and my family used to judge me a lot. This seemed to help her understand.
Some people will understand things like this and make an attempt to change how they treat you or say things, others will use your honesty against you. As I have written elsewhere though, by being honest about your feelings you find out more quickly who your real friends are. Personally I would usually rather be alone than be around people who judge and invalidate me.
Tonight I was walking with Paula who I was paying to be my assistant and I saw a little girl who looked sad. She was sitting on a doorstep on the street, resting her head on her hand, propped up by her elbow, watching other children playing. She looked like she felt left out. I said to Paula, "That girl looks sad." Paula replied, "No."
I said nothing else. I don't want to debate about my perceptions and my feelings. I am tired of it. I am tired of having to explain things. I still remember many years ago when I was driving my car thinking about how people in my family would so often debate about everything, and I wrote in big letters
FEELINGS ARE NOT DEBATABLE
Hearing someone say "no", someone who is working for me and traveling with me, is discouraging. I don't think I will say anything to her. I have already seen we have different views about important things and I don't want to start any debates at all. It just takes too much energy and leads no where but to loneliness.
But there are two things I want to be sure to say. One is about helping the little girl. The other is about feeling safe and feeling connected/understood or alone. First, if my assistant would have said "Yeah, she does", she might have stopped to chat with the girl. We might have been able to lift her spirits just a bit. But because she just said "no"and I kept walking. I feel sad now thinking maybe the little girl really needed someone to show some interest in her. I know how it feels to be alone on the street with people walking by not noticing or not caring how sad I am, wishing someone would stop and comfort me. Sometimes, usually in fact, I would say, that is all we need - just a moment's comforting to get us on our way again.
Some people might be strong enough or assertive enough or confident enough to stop and talk to a child in this situation, or to follow their own instinct or impulses in spite of what those around them say, but others are not sufficiently strong, assertive or self-confident. Why they aren't is something I often wonder. The simplest answer is that it is a combination of nature and nurture. In my own case I have spent many hours asking myself why I am so sensitive and why I can not stand up for myself around other people. Was it mostly because I was emotionally used and abused by those around me when I was young? I suspect that it is. I suspect I would have been very different if I would have gotten more emotional support. Or even if more people would have believed in me when I first started really thinking for myself and writing my thoughts. I really believe that the support of just one person can make all the difference. There was one person who believed in me, supported me and inspired me when I started writing. We had talked about traveling together and working together to help people. But it never happened. If that person had been walking with me when I saw the little girl, and she had said, "Yeah, she does. Let's try to talk to her", then I think I would have stopped. This is how fragile some of our feelings and actions are. It only takes a few words to make a big difference.
I suppose that people who are not sensitive, or who have not been abused, won't understand what I am saying here. But I guess that is okay because I am writing this mostly for myself and for those who do understand. Or for those who want to understand and live a different life than what they see around them. And I am writing especially for young people who notice when others are sad, and who want to try to help them, but who are invalidated by their parents, teachers and "friends." I hope that a few young people will read this and remember it and listen to their own hearts one day rather than to the people around them, and they will stop and at least try to comfort another sensitive person.
When I speak of sensitive people, I mainly am talking about people who are both sensitive and aware they are sensitive, and who believe it is ok or even a good thing to be sensitive. There are also people who are sensitive but who will try to deny it and say they are tough, or they should be. I saw this just the other day from a man in his forties who had been in the military. It was obvious after talking to him for a few days that he was very sensitive, but he thought of himself as a tough person who could handle pain. It is sad to think of him being in a group of people who praise being "tough" and look down on being sensitive. He had tried to help a suicidal woman named Katherine, who I feel a little obligated to write about someday... but the thought of doing so is painful.
The other thing I wanted to say today though, was about feeling safe and connected vs unsafe and alone. When I said the little girl looks sad and I got "no" for a response, I felt unsafe to say anything else. I now feel unsafe to express my feelings and thoughts in similar situations in the future. It doesn't matter that the person who said no is much younger than me, much less experienced, and is suppose to be my employee. I still feel unsafe to speak out now. So I feel more alone. One reason I wanted to hire someone to travel and work with me is so I won't feel so alone. But one can feel alone while sitting or walking right next to someone. I remember feeling alone even when I was laying in bed next to someone called my wife.
So these kinds of responses, like flatly saying "no" kill connections between people. They create unsafety. This person, by the way, probably has no idea what happened. I could try to explain it but I am pretty sure she wouldn't get it or she would get defensive or she would start to judge me and think I over-analyze or I have a problem. It hurts me to think of people like this being parents of intelligent, sensitive children. But many are. And thus we have self-harming and suicidal teens. And lonely adults.
As I think back on what happened on the street, I remember what Nathaniel Branden said about invalidation, even though I am not sure he called it by that name. He said something like some children are taught not to trust their own minds. And he said our mind is our most valuable survival asset. He gave the example of a little girl who sees that her mother is upset and the girl says "What's wrong mommy?" Then the mother says "Nothing." But the little girl persists and says "But then why are you banging the dishes?" The mother then raises her voice and says "I said nothing was wrong! Now go to your room!" The father then overhears this and says to the little girl "Stop upsetting your mother!"
The girl is then confused and wonders if she was wrong in her initial perception. She then learns to distrust her own mind, or heart. Just as I am actually wondering now if I was wrong and maybe the little girl wasn't sad. I will never know. So who do I believe? The person who said "no", or myself?
Who we believe makes a lot of difference. I would say it can make the difference between life and death. If sensitive people feel bad when someone else is punished or murdered, yet they are told "That person deserved it, there is no reason to shed a tear for them" then I suspect invalidation can lead to many deaths being accepted as normal and necessary in the world.
I say it is not necessary though. I say that we could live in peace and that not even punishment is necessary. I believe that sensitive children feel bad when another child is punished. The only exception to that would be when the sensitive child himself has already been punished and abused. But from what I have seen in healthy children, they don't like to see others punished. Yet if they protest they are invalidated. This leads me to believe that the invalidation of sensitive children could fairly be called a crime against humanity. Perhaps if we recognized it as such, and we would pay more attention to the sensitive child's feelings, other crimes against humanity could be prevented.
May 20, 2007