Tag Archives: invalidate
Those of us who have experienced narcissistic abuse, in particular at the hand of our parents, tend to share many characteristics. One of them is the inclination to minimize any & all traumatic experiences, whether or not they had anything to do with the original abuser.
Some indicators that you are doing this is if you say things like:
- “It wasn’t that bad.. at least he didn’t hit me.” after leaving a relationship with someone who was verbally abusive.
- “Yea, that person held a knife to my throat but all he did was take my wallet…”
- “I know my parents did some bad stuff to me but others have it way worse than I did.”
See the common thread in these statements? Each one minimizes something very traumatic.
Another way people do this is to use the words “just” or “only” often. Think of statements like, “It was just verbal abuse” or “He only hit me the one time.”
I realized some time ago that I have done this same thing. What got my attention was watching a tv show about a serial killer, believe it or not. The killer’s ex wife was interviewed, & many things she said that he said as well as some of his behavior that she described reminded me a great deal of my ex husband! No, he’s no serial killer, but to realize he shared some behavior & personality traits with one was a big wake up call to me. It showed me that in spite of what most people said, that marriage truly was bad! His behavior really was abusive, & he had some serious mental health issues. Yet, when I discussed that marriage, I often downplayed the abuse. Realizing all of this showed me how unhealthily I’ve behaved, & also how many other people do exactly the same thing.
Minimizing one’s trauma is a terribly unhealthy thing to do! It contributes to a root of shame, & toxic shame affects every area of your life. Toxic shame makes you feel unworthy in every possible area of your life. It’ll make you willing to settle for the job you hate because you don’t think you’re qualified to do a better job you would enjoy. It’ll make you settle for a romantic partner who isn’t good for you since you believe you wouldn’t be attractive to someone better. The same goes for friendships. Someone with toxic shame will settle for friends who mistreat you because you don’t believe you deserve a better caliber of friends.
Minimizing also gives other people the message that what you went through wasn’t so bad. This can lead to people having no compassion for you or others who have experienced abuse. Since you act like it’s not a big deal, they will assume it isn’t. It also can send the wrong message to others in similar situations. They may think that since you don’t see the abuse as bad, maybe they’re overreacting to their situation. Of course, this will lead to toxic shame & all of the problems that go along with it.
Dear Reader, I want to encourage you today. Listen to yourself. Do you minimize your traumatic experiences? Do you use “just” or “only” often? If so, STOP! Trauma is trauma, no matter if someone else had it worse than you. Don’t minimize your suffering! Acknowledge it for what it is so you can heal. Minimizing only causes problems!
Today’s post is a reminder for everyone who has been invalidated…
Your pain is real, & there is nothing wrong with you for feeling that pain. You aren’t crazy, stupid, weak, “wallowing”, living in the past, looking for attention or whatever other invalidating things you have been told. You have no reason to feel shame for what you’re feeling. Other people have no right to judge you. They aren’t you & they haven’t experienced the things that you have experienced. How can they say that you should or shouldn’t feel what you feel?! They can’t!
You, Dear Reader, are just fine. I know it may not feel that way, but it’s true.
Anyone who has survived narcissistic abuse is going to have some issues as a result. It’s just what happens due to the horrible nature of the abuse. Admittedly it, well, it sucks, but it’s also unavoidable. People lacking compassion & empathy fail to understand this. Or, they may see you dealing with your own pain & it serves as a reminder of their pain that they are working hard to ignore. That is why many people invalidate others- to shut them down so they don’t have to face their own issues & pain.
You’ve survived a lot, & if others can’t understand that or feel they must hurt you for it, they obviously have some problems! You hold your head up high & ignore the invalidating jerks! You go on, doing what you need to do to heal, & pay no attention to the invalidators of the world. You have survived so much, you can survive a person who doesn’t possess the humanity to display basic respect & love for a fellow human being!
One thing so many of us subjected to narcissistic abuse want more than anything is validation. We’ve been ignored & invalidated so long, we’re starving for validation. It’s very normal to feel that way. Unfortunately, it also can be very hard to come by!
Many people don’t want to hear our stories, because they say it’s “too negative”, they don’t believe us (in all fairness, the things narcissists do sound so crazy it can be hard to believe), maybe they don’t believe narcissism is a real thing or that it’s so incredibly commonplace, or maybe they know the narcissist & don’t believe that person to be capable of doing the things you say she/he did to you. It can be super frustrating because we aren’t making this stuff up (honestly.. who really is that creative?!) & we’re so starved for validation
Then there is the narcissist. We would love validation from her. How many of us wouldn’t be thrilled if one day that person admitted the things they had done to us, & begged for our forgiveness? That would be the ultimate validation. It’s also a false hope that keeps us in relationship with narcissists for well beyond a time that we should be.
This need for validation, while normal, also can prove to be a problem.
Dear Reader, while validation from outside sources is a wonderful thing to have, you need to understand that some people simply will NOT give it to you, no matter what. I know that is painful, & I’m sorry, but it’s true. It’s something you need to accept. You can’t make someone believe you or show you empathy because of what you have experienced.
Some time ago, I had a strange dream. In it, my car was nose to nose with a much smaller car in a parking lot. I was maybe 50′ or so away. Suddenly, the little sedan backed up & rammed into the front of my car, then backed up & did it again over & over. I was panicked- I love my car & ain’t no one messing with her, even in a dream! As I ran towards the cars, I realized the smaller car was shrinking- every time it hit my car, my car was fine, but the small car’s front end was becoming more smushed in. It leaked fluids & smoked like crazy. I stopped running & stared at this scene in shock & with some amusement. Then I woke up. Before I could even ask God what this dream meant, He told me. It had a two-fold meaning:
- Narcissists & flying monkeys are like that sedan. They are so determined to make their point known, they don’t care if they destroy themselves. Stand strong on the truth & what I know, & like my car, I’ll be just fine while they destroy themselves.
- Don’t be like the sedan. Some people won’t want to know what I’ve been through & I can’t make them care no matter what. Don’t try to force them to change their views- it’ll hurt me way more than it’ll ever hurt them.
I think this can be a very good lesson for you too, Dear Reader. Don’t be like the sedan! Don’t try to force people to validate your pain if they don’t want to.
Instead, learn to validate your own pain. Talk to God, journal, talk to supportive friends or a counselor, & accept the fact not everyone can validate your pain. It’s hard, but you can do this! And, not validating you is their right, after all. No one is obligated to do so. Some people simply aren’t very caring or empathetic. The invalidating people do one thing good though- they make you appreciate the kind, caring ones who do offer validation even more.
Invalidation judges, mocks, & rejects a person’s feelings. It also implies or says directly that the person is deeply flawed or crazy.
Invalidation is an attempt to control another person & their feelings, as well as to distract that person from abusive behavior. It hinders or even destroys a person’s ability to trust his or her own feelings, perceptions, & intuition. It is similar to gaslighting in that respect. It forces a person to believe that his or her beliefs, thoughts, feelings or even physical presence are flawed, difficult or of no value. It at best damages self-esteem, or at worst destroys it.
Invalidation frequently occurs when an abuser is confronted about her abusive behavior, or the abusive behavior of someone else (for example, a husband may invalidate his wife when she complains about his mother’s bad behavior). The purpose is to take attention away from one’s flaws or abusive behavior, & to turn the attention onto you and your (real or imagined) flaws instead.
Interestingly, a person can invalidate themselves as well. Trivializing your own wants, needs, accomplishments, or feelings, is a form of invalidation. Essentially, you’re telling yourself that you don’t matter, there is something very wrong with you, or your thoughts, feelings, or beliefs are wrong. This type of behavior is often learned in childhood, but it also can come from being married to a psychologically abusive spouse. Paying attention to your thoughts & words about yourself can determine if you do this. If you are, then you can make the appropriate changes.
As you read this, remember: you are worthy! Your feelings, thoughts & needs matter! You are ok! You are not crazy! Treat yourself accordingly, as a man or woman of value, who God loves dearly!
I never really thought of myself as a very negative person, but I was told I was my entire life. My mother, a self proclaimed optimist in spite of her ability to find the negative in any situation, has said this more times than I can count. My husband even made similar comments over the years about how negative I am.
As a result, I have tried to be more positive. I have been able to see more positive things than I used to in negative situations. This has been beneficial to a degree. It has helped me to be a bit happier than I used to be.
That being said though, God showed me something this morning about positive thinking that never crossed my mind before.
I was getting laundry out of the dryer & praying as I did. I had a dreadful night last night, barely getting any sleep & what sleep I had was full of nightmares. I’ve been in a nasty funk for a few days now which wasn’t helped by last night’s “sleep” & was telling God about that too. Complaining really. I wasn’t finding any positive in anything, & feeling guilty for that. I didn’t admit that to God but of course He knew anyway. And, He said something about that.
“Being too positive can invalidate your pain. It says you don’t have a right to be disappointed, hurt or angry because something good came from the situation. Being positive is good, but only in balance. It’s OK to say things just suck sometimes. This is one of those times. Feel the pain, & get it out. Then, & only then, the funk will lift.”
So many of us who have been abused have been told by other people we’re too negative if we discuss it. Some people think it’s a taboo topic not to be discussed. Sweep it under the rug, pretend that didn’t happen. Or, if something good came out of the awful situation (such as having kids with the abusive partner), then you shouldn’t be upset about it. Something good came from it, so you shouldn’t complain or have problems stemming from the abuse.
What these people fail to realize is by telling victims to “stop being so negative” or to “think positive”. they are being abusive. They are invalidating your pain, & invalidation is abuse. Invalidation says your pain doesn’t matter, & there is something wrong with you for feeling the way you do. Whether that is the intention or not by saying “think positive” & such statements, that is the result. The person who is told to think positive feels there is something wrong with them for feeling as they do.
Dear Readers, please remember this post when someone tells you to be positive. Being positive is a wonderful thing. It helps you to feel good. But, it also is unrealistic to think you can be positive 100% of the time. Sometimes things just suck! There is nothing wrong with admitting that. There is also nothing wrong with thinking about those things & feeling whatever emotions that the event triggered in you. Ignoring such things does no good. Those emotions will come to the surface at some point, & probably not in a good way. It is better to have a short period of being depressed or angry as you heal than years of emotions manifesting in unhealthy ways such as addictions, self harm or suicidal thoughts & actions.
Being a victim of narcissistic abuse is not an easy thing. You go through the abuse & somehow survive, only to be victimized further by people who invalidate what you have gone through.
I have heard comments such as…
- “That doesn’t sound so bad…”(from my high school guidance counselor, referring to my mother screaming at me for hours in my teen years)
- “You just need to understand her better.”
- “Nobody’s perfect!”
- “You need to fix things with your parents. Get into counseling!”
- “You need to work things out with your parents. They won’t be around forever yanno!”
- (from a different counselor after meeting my mother) “I can’t see you anymore- you’re a terrible daughter!”
- “You need to find things you have in common with your parents!”
- “You’re too negative!”
- “I can’t believe they are that bad!”
- “Are you even sure that happened? That’s a pretty serious accusation.”
- Various excuses as to why my narcissistic parents or mother in-law treated me so poorly such as she isn’t intelligent (she isn’t educated- big difference), her mother in-law didn’t like her, etc.
- Laughing at my story of being abused.
After hearing such things, I felt victimized all over again.
Victim blaming is very common in today’s society, so it’s not surprising these cruel words & more are said to victims of narcissistic abuse daily.
Unfortunately I don’t believe there is any way to avoid them entirely. All you can do is use wisdom on who you share your story with. Even when you do this, sometimes people may hurt you by invalidating your pain.
The fact is though that you can validate yourself. You can heal from narcissistic abuse even if there is no one to support you but God.
To do this, you need to lean on God. Talk to Him about how you feel. He can handle it all & wants to be there for you! Let Him be!
As for you.. you need to trust that what happened was bad. Admit it to yourself. No more excuses, no more telling yourself you’re oversensitive or weak. Narcissistic abuse permeates every part of a person’s being. It can destroy one’s self-esteem, perception of reality or even sanity. It is nothing to take lightly! If you’re having trouble with this, write your story out. When I wrote my autobiography “Emerging from the Chrysalis” a few years ago, it was hard. Very hard. For the first time, I realized just how bad the abuse I have survived really was. Yet, as hard as it was to see things in black & white, it was very freeing too. It gave me a new perspective. I realized I’m a very strong person. I also realized God must love me a great deal to have gotten me through all of that. It also helped me to see my parents as they truly are, instead of making excuses for their behavior or thinking I was the one with the problems- I really wasn’t oversensitive, overreacting, reading too much into things, etc. They have some serious problems & one of those problems is NOT me!
Once you are able to accept the truth about what you have gone through, healing will come. You will grieve, you will be angry, but these are necessary steps to freedom from narcissistic abuse. And, the more you validate yourself & heal, the less other people’s invalidation will bother you. I’m not saying it won’t hurt sometimes- it’s only human to be hurt when your pain is trivialized- but it won’t devastate you as it once did.
One of the favorite tools of a narcissistic mother is to groom her child to believe the child is the problem. If the child wasn’t so difficult, the narcissistic mother wouldn’t have to “discipline her” (translation- abuse). The child is rebellious, ungrateful, or has mental problems. Communicating this message to the child ensures that she won’t question her narcissistic mother’s cruelty. She believes the abuse is all her fault. She also may try to please her narcissistic mother endlessly to make it up to her for being such a bad child.
Not only does the narcissistic mother communicate this message to her child, but to anyone else as well. This serves the narcissistic mother well, as people believe her, without question. The child is not believed by people who know her narcissistic mother, even as an adult, even by people who have known her for a long time.
Grooming her child & spreading her vile message to anyone who will listen, along with manipulating people pretty much guarantees the adult child of the narcissistic mother won’t be believed if she ever opts to reveal the dysfunction of her family.
This has happened to me. Most people I have discussed my relationship with my parents with who also know my parents don’t believe me. They think I’m exaggerating, things weren’t so bad, I’m oversensitive or I’m the problem with the relationship. I need to forgive & forget, just let it go- it’s in the past.
When this type of situation happens, it hurts & frustrates you badly. I have had moments where I wondered if the other person was right- was I really the problem? Were things as bad as I thought they were? These people were so adamant about what they believed, maybe they had a point, I thought. It took praying & remembering the horrible events of my past to realize that no, they weren’t right. I was not the problem, & I really was abused.
When evidence of your narcissistic mother’s grooming appears, you will know it immediately, as you will be invalidated & blamed while she is praised. Unfortunately, this will happen at some point. Who does it may surprise you, too. It won’t be only those friends & relatives of your narcissistic mother, but those who aren’t particularly close to her. Those you would think would be more objective. In my case, I have had two people who my mother hates & who hate her rush to my mother’s defense. One told me I was the one who needed to fix the relationship, & the other trivialized what I have been through, telling me I needed to get over it (never admitting “it” was abuse). Imagine my surprise when these two treated me this way!
You need to be very careful who you discuss your situation with. Even then though, sometimes this type of thing may happen anyway. When it does, all you can do is deal with the hurt & anger you feel & cling to the truth. Also, refuse to discuss this topic with that person again, even if they are the ones who bring it up.
Know that this may damage your relationship irreparably with that person. In my case, the love I had once felt for the two people I mentioned above died abruptly. Not that I wish them harm, of course. I just suddenly no longer felt warmly towards them. I’m quite sure that they feel the same towards me as well. One stopped speaking to me for several months after our discussion & was very cold the few times we’ve spoken since. The other became critical of anything & everything about me since. It’s amazing how devoted people can be to narcissists, even when they despise them!
If you have C-PTSD like I do, this can be an especially painful & frustrating experience. It triggers all kinds of awful feelings that you really don’t want to feel. Personally, I felt like I did as a teenager going through the worst of my mother’s abuse- alone, hopeless & like no one cared. It is vital to be especially good to yourself during times like this.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted about one helpful way to deal with a narcissist is to remind yourself constantly that this person is a narcissist. While that is helpful, I realized that I forgot to mention one other thing along those lines.
Never forget that narcissists are all about narcissistic supply. That is all they care about, & will do anything to get it. Does your narcissistic mother say she wants to spend time with you? She doesn’t want to spend time with you, enjoying time with her daughter- she wants to spend time getting narcissistic supply from you. Does she ask how you’re doing? That isn’t because she cares- it’s because she is looking for something to use against you. Hurting you or making you angry will provide her this supply.
I live in central Maryland. When there were riots in Baltimore, I had a feeling my covertly narcissistic father was going to call about it. I assumed it was going to be to talk politics, since he loves to do that with me. (Odd since I have zero interest in politics) I was sort of right- he called a few days after the rioting started. He said he was concerned about us, & wanted to be sure we were OK. We live about 30 minutes south of Baltimore, my parents are about 20 minutes away. I thought it was an odd question at first, but learned quickly why he was “concerned.” It was all about getting his supply.
To start with, he called at 8:59 at night. I’ve told my father I don’t answer the phone after 9 p.m. He was pushing my boundary because I think that provides him some supply. He can be in control. He got as close to 9 as he could with calling me. If I wouldn’t have answered, he would’ve had the right to be mad at me for not taking his call, as far as he is concerned (he thinks I must answer his calls whenever he calls & makes no allowances for me being unavailable). I answered though, so I let him push that boundary (big mistake on my part), which makes him feel in control.
He immediately said he was concerned about us what with the terrible riots happening in Baltimore. As soon as I said we’re fine, he immediately went into a rant about the politics of the situation. He went on for about 10-15 minutes about how he felt about the riots & how he thought things should be fixed & his opinions… He wasn’t concerned about us at all- he wanted an excuse to talk about politics.
I learned from that call how anything & everything with a narcissist is about narcissistic supply. It showed me how they can twist anything into a supply opportunity. And, frankly, it hurt. I briefly thought he actually was concerned about my husband & I. Finding out no, this was just an opportunity for supply hurt. At least the hurt was a good reminder about the fact narcissists are only focused on their supply. You can bet I won’t forget about that need of theirs again any time soon!
And, Dear Reader, you shouldn’t either! Remembering that with a narcissist, everything is about them gaining narcissistic supply will help you! Remembering this fact will help you not to be as hurt when they mistreat you, because you’ll remember this is how narcissists are. It’s not about you. Nothing is about you when dealing with a narcissist. It’s always about them & furthering their agenda.
Nothing they do will surprise you or catch you off guard, because you know they are capable of intensely selfish, evil acts.
Also, you will be prepared for those selfish, evil acts ahead of time because you know they are coming. Even if you don’t know exactly what they have planned, you know they have something planned. You know to be ready for anything, you know that you will need to enforce your boundaries. This enables you to be prepared to deal as effectively as possible with your narcissist.
While dealing with a narcissist, especially a narcissistic parent, is never easy, remembering their desperation for narcissistic supply will help you tremendously.
Validation is very hard to come by. People are very quick to minimize the successes of others & to tell others their pain isn’t so bad. When others either fail to validate you or directly, deliberately invalidate you, it hurts. It also leads many people to invalidate themselves, especially when the invalidation starts early in life by their own parents. Parental invalidation of a child easily can instill a belief in the child that she or he isn’t worth validating. Accomplishments, dreams, needs, feelings all become trivial, unworthy of any recognition. I believe invalidating a child helps to instill a root of deep shame in him or her. The child becomes ashamed of his or her own needs, wants, feelings & even accomplishments.
Growing up with narcissistic parents, this is a very common phenomenon. In my own life, I have only recently begun to see how badly I have invalidated myself. I tend to look at what I haven’t done rather than what I have, & berate myself for what I haven’t done rather than be proud of what I have. Or, if I accomplish something good, I just look at it as something anyone can do, or it’s something I should do so why should that be celebrated? My wants, needs & feelings come after those of others, even if I have a crisis. While I am getting a bit better at these behaviors, it’s difficult since they are so deeply ingrained in me. Plus, by behaving this way, I have essentially told others it’s perfectly OK for them to invalidate me, which means others do so on a regular basis.
If this describes you as well, I want to encourage you today to do as I am trying to do myself- begin to validate yourself! It’s time to recognize that your wants, needs, actions & feelings are just as important as those of other people. To do this, ask yourself why you believe the way you do. What makes you think your wants, needs, etc. are less important than those of other people? If you are unsure, ask God to show you. Once you realize why you feel the way you do, ask Him to speak truth to you about why you feel this way. Are your feelings accurate? Or, are they the result of someone else invalidating you? How can you change this false belief into the truth?
Also, pay attention to those things you feel, good & bad, & acknowledge them. Don’t brush things off so easily- feel your feelings. If someone hurt you, then feel that hurt & be good to yourself by doing nice things that make you feel good. If you feel good because you accomplished a task that was on the back burner for too long, stop & bask in how good that feels for a few minutes. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Maybe even celebrate by giving yourself a gift.
Another thing to think about. People who invalidate on a regular basis are often toxic. They can be narcissists (or even just plain self-centered people) who believe they are the only ones worthy of validation, passive/aggressive types who use it as a means of punishing others, or they can simply be the superficial type of people who don’t like to delve into any deeper subject matter. Superficial people don’t care for anything that requires much thought or effort on their part, & validation requires some of both. Validation requires one to see things through another’s eyes if you wish to truly understand their feelings, plus you have to consider the right thing to say to properly validate another person.
In any case, the point is an invalidating person is the one with the problem, not you. People want & need validation. It’s how God made us, & is completely normal to want it! I believe it is also abnormal not to wish to bless people by giving it freely. There is nothing wrong with you for being hurt or disappointed when you are invalidated. But, since it is becoming a rare thing in today’s society, you can validate yourself.
And, while you’re becoming more aware of the importance of validating yourself, don’t forget to validate others as well! People are starving for validation- be a blessing, & validate others! If you are unsure when it’s appropriate, ask God to show you who to validate & when.
One thing I have learned in the past few years is that people do NOT like unpleasant subject matters, & will go to great lengths to avoid them. Many people with terrible health problems know this all too well- they lose friends & even family after receiving a diagnosis of a dreadful disease. The people who once were closest to them suddenly have no time for them any longer.
This also happens with adult children of narcissistic parents.
It’s happened in my own life. Once I started learning that my mother was abusive when I was seventeen, & talking to a few people about it, my circle of friends became smaller. I talked less about it until many years later, once I started learning about narcissism. Then, I began to talk more & also to write about it. While my writing career suddenly began to take off, my personal relationships changed, especially when I also admitted to having C-PTSD. Some of my relationships became closer, especially with those who also survived a narcissistic upbringing, but many did not. Some people suddenly became very judgmental, telling me how I needed to just get over it, let it go, forgive & forget, stop living in the past, I use having C-PTSD for attention & even how I needed to be the one to fix things in my relationship with my parents.
This hurt & made me so angry! It’s not fair & it’s not right! I began to feel like I did as a child- everything wrong with my parents’ & my relationship was all my fault, I should fix it & if I didn’t, I was a failure. Not a nice way to feel at all!
If you too have experienced similar losses & invalidation in your relationships, you are not alone! I understand your pain & frustration!
Unfortunately, I don’t think there is any way to completely avoid such situations. The fact is, like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, people don’t like unpleasant subject matters. They prefer light, fluffy, happy things, as the unpleasant things make them uncomfortable. Many people also cannot handle discussing unpleasant things about the parent/child relationship. They may come from a good home, & can’t comprehend that a parent would abuse a child, or they came from a dysfunctional home, & you discussing your own painful experiences trigger feelings they aren’t ready to deal with yet. Others may feel that you talk too much about your experiences. (Please see my post on taking breaks– not to make others more comfortable, but for your own mental health!) Whatever the reason, no one has the right to invalidate your pain!
To deal with the pain when this happens, please try to keep the last paragraph in mind. Most people aren’t trying to hurt you by what they say or do- they simply have their own issues or are even convinced they’re trying to help you. In any case, them treating you poorly isn’t about you doing something wrong, it’s about them.
Also, acknowledge your feelings. Yes, you’re hurt &/or angry, & it’s OK. Cry, talk to someone safe, journal or pray, but get your feelings out. Feelings are a natural part of life- respect them, don’t ignore them. Ignoring them never leads to anything good, only bad things like depression & health problems.
Be aware that part of the reason that what was said upsets you so much is it triggers old feelings that you experienced at the hand of your narcissistic mother. Narcissists demand their abuse be kept secret, so when someone else wants to silence you years later, that guilt for “telling” may show up. Or, invalidating your pain makes you feel as you did when your mother did it to you as a child- like you’re not allowed to have feelings because they’re only a nuisance to others. I’m not saying that these triggers mean you’re overreacting to being invalidated, of course. I’m simply saying that those triggers may make you less able to realize at first that you aren’t wrong for discussing this topic.
Be good to yourself afterwards. Once you get a firm grasp on your feelings & triggers, do something nice for yourself. A bubble bath, read a good book or some other little thing that makes you feel good.
And, ask God to help you let go of the hurt & anger you feel. You deserve better than to carry around those negative feelings. Besides, you have too much already to deal with considering you’re recovering from growing up with a narcissistic mother. That needs your attention much more.
I read a very interesting quote, & it really hit home with me:
“There is a theme that runs through responses I receive from children of a narcissistic parent(s). The child is subjected to unbearable levels of ongoing abuse- scalding criticisms, withering humiliations in front of other family members & alone, routine secret physical beatings & other horrendous acts of brutality including psychological & literal abandonment. When the child lets family members know what is happening to him, this person is not believed. When the victim of a narcissist tells the truth about his dreadful pathological parent, he is not treated with kindness or understanding. The family is shocked; the victim is treated with disdain & often told he/she is the sick one or that this is all lies to get attention.” Linda Martinez-Lewi, PHD
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been treated this way, not only by those close to me (well, not close to me anymore obviously!), but even by therapists. When I told my high school guidance counselor about my mother spending so much time daily screaming at me, she said, “That doesn’t sound so bad..” I’ve also been told to let it go, get over it, work things out with my mother- it’s my responsibility, I need therapy, I use C-PTSD to get attention & more.
If you too are the adult child of a narcissist, I’m sure you can relate.
Hearing such cruel, invalidating statements is extremely painful. You feel abused all over again. It can be devastating to you & to the relationship you share with that person. One person I had loved dearly & was once close to said a few comments along the lines of I needed to just get over things. Her last comment actually destroyed the love I felt for her. I suddenly no longer cared for her. Not that I wished her bad- I simply felt nothing at all for her.
So how do you deal with these painful situations? Avoiding them would be best, but unfortunately, that isn’t always possible. Sometimes you can, because if you know a person well, you know that this person isn’t safe to discuss certain topics with. As a result, you avoid discussing those topics with that person. Then there are other times when you mention your narcissistic mother to someone who you expect to be supportive, yet they surprise you by invalidating your pain. Those times are the most painful, because you didn’t expect that response- you expected support & empathy.
When you are told to “get over it”, “you’re only making these things up to get attention,” etc., the first thing to do is to end this conversation before it goes further (hurting you more) however you deem appropriate. You can simply change the subject, walk away or hang up the phone. However you set this boundary, you’ll run the risk of angering the other person, so you need to be prepared for that unfair anger. (The person I mentioned whose comments destroyed my love for her? When we’d discussed the topic via email the last time, I told her I didn’t mean to be disrespectful, but I wasn’t asking for her opinion on my life. After that, she didn’t speak to me for several months.) Hopefully the other person you’re having the problem with will simply respect your boundary instead, as many people do.
Once the conversation is done, as soon as you can, get alone with God. Tell Him how it made you feel, & let Him comfort you. Get your feelings out so they don’t end up pushed down inside of you, festering. That only hurts you! If you don’t feel comfortable telling God how you feel, journal about them. Or, write the person a letter that you never send, telling her off if that helps you feel better.
If you’re suddenly doubting yourself (am I really making too much out of things? That type of thought) because of what was said to you, ask God to tell you if you are. He will reassure you that you aren’t, which helps tremendously to give you a healthy perspective on what was said.
You also need to evaluate your relationship with this person. is she someone you’re close to? Do you have a good relationship other than her lack of understanding about your abusive mother? Then it is probably worth saving- just accept that your narcissistic mother isn’t a topic you two can discuss. Or, does this person criticize or invalidate you in other ways? (I don’t mean the healthy, constructive criticism we all need sometimes) Then this relationship may need to end. You’ve been treated badly enough in your life thanks to your narcissistic mother- why continue to tolerate being treated badly?
As I mentioned in this post, I recently realized that when the C-PTSD flares up, it seems like every single nasty, invalidating comment I’ve ever heard comes to mind. Those times are so painful! I tried to wait on it to pass when it happens, but that doesn’t always work so well. Sometimes it seems like the comments play over & over, like an old cassette tape stuck on repeat. So, what I do during those times is think of a specific comment said to me, for example, “that doesn’t sound so bad.” Then I think about the event that led the person to make the comment, & remember, it really WAS bad! It was horrible! Having someone tell you that you’re a horrible person hurts, but add in the fact that was my mother, & she was screaming it in my face? Yea, it was pretty bad.. if someone thinks it wasn’t, that person obviously has the problem!
I believe that some people simple aren’t able to grasp the hell that is living with narcissistic abuse. Maybe they come from loving families, & never had to face any type of abuse. As a result, they just can’t wrap their minds around the fact not all families are as good as theirs. Or, maybe they too came from a narcissistic parent, yet haven’t had the strength to face that, & continue living in the dysfunction instead. Or, in all honesty, narcissistic abuse sounds so far fetched! Sometimes the things narcissists do sound completely made up, they just are that “out there.” If I wouldn’t have seen the things my mother did to me, I’m not sure I would believe anyone was capable of such acts either! Maybe some people can’t believe another human being is capable of doing such things, especially to her own child. Whatever the reason, that does not give them the right to invalidate your pain! Narcissistic abuse is a horrible thing to endure. Its damage can be lifelong & extremely painful. Don’t let anyone convince you that it was “no big deal” or that there’s something wrong with you for how you feel after surviving such torture!
My always “fun” narcissistic mother called me the night before last. She told me that one of the few movies with both like, “Duel” from 1971, was on TV. I was pleasantly surprised not only because I enjoy the movie, but that my mother thought to let me know it was coming on. I thought that was oddly not narcissistic & very sweet of her.
Then last evening, she called me again. She asked if I watched the movie & we ended up having a rather pleasant chat for a while about movies & actors. I relaxed for once while we spoke (that is a VERY rare occurrence). Suddenly my mother asked me a favor- she asked me to give her a home perm.
I’ve done it many times, & really never minded it all that much, in spite of her often treating me like the hired help. Then the arthritis in my hands got worse, & putting those little perm rods in her hair became quite painful for me. I told her this probably 2 years ago by now, maybe longer ago but I’m not sure, & haven’t done a perm for her since. So last night’s request came as a surprise to me. For one thing, we were talking just fine, then suddenly, she expects a favor that I’ve told her I can’t do. UGH! I had to remind my mother yet again that I have arthritis in my hands, & can’t do this for her. Her response? “So you’re saying you can’t give me a perm, huh?” Really??? All she took from what I said was what directly affected her. Fantastic.. typical narcissist. *banging head into walls*
I was thinking about this conversation this morning. It’s things like this that happen over & over, & many people just do not grasp the severity of such incidents. People who know my mother may think she’s rather eccentric, but not a bad person. In fact, if I tell them stories like this, they say I’m oversensitive, reading into things, need to shake it off, etc. These people act like I am the one in the wrong, not my mother, who treats me as if I’m just here to be used. They ignore the fact that things like this reinforce the fact my mother thinks I’m just here to serve her, that I’m not allowed to have needs, feelings or anything else. My sole purpose in life is to be used by my mother, according to her. So what I have arthritis? I should suck it up, Buttercup, & do what she wants because she wants it! Ugh.. & to tell the truth, I think my mother thinks I’m lying about having arthritis just to get out of doing for her. Never mind it’s a medical fact, on record & I’ve had it for 12 years now…
This kind of behavior is it invalidating, & it’s plain hurtful! It also has made me wonder why people are so quick to defend a narcissist & blame the victim.
I think many people are afraid of becoming uncomfortable. Their comfort zone is so important to them that they cannot tolerate anything that doesn’t fit into said comfort zone. They would rather be invalidating & hurtful to you than forced to believe the narcissist they know is anything less than a good person. Maybe the narcissist is good to them (for the moment anyway, until the mask slips off..), & they simply do not want to face the fact that she is capable of heinous acts. Learning someone you care about isn’t a good person is a painful thing, & many people do not want to deal with that pain.
What does this mean to you, the victim of a narcissist?
This means that you are going to need to be aware of people like this, as they are everywhere. They even can be a close relative or friend. Chances are, they don’t intend to hurt you- they are simply oblivious to the fact they are abusing you by invalidating you. However, even intentions that aren’t bad don’t make this behavior hurt any less, or make it acceptable.
Once you’re aware of these people, you need to stop discussing your relationship with your narcissistic mother (or father,or sibling, or friend, etc.) with this person if you wish to continue this relationship. If you continue to attempt to force this person to see your perspective, they will become resistant, & angry with you for trying to force them to see what they don’t want to see. They will flatly refuse to see the truth, & it can put a big wedge in your relationship or even cause them to sever ties with you. Did you read my post “Two Good Lessons From One Dream“? If not, please read it now. In that dream, God showed me clearly that you have to use wisdom on who you discuss narcissistic abuse with. Don’t frustrate yourself & ruin relationships by discussing it with people who are hell bent on not hearing a word you have to say! It’s not worth it!
How do you not discuss the cruel things your narcissistic mother is doing to you when people ask you? By telling them that this topic is not up for discussion…
- “I’m not going to discuss this topic with you.”
- “Let’s talk about something else.”
- “I don’t want to discuss this.”
- Change the subject as often as necessary & ask the other person something about his/her life.
- Walk away or hang up the phone if they insist on discussing this topic even though you set appropriate boundaries.
You owe no one any explanation, & an explanation only will start an argument anyway. If they say anything to you on the topic, the best way I have found to avoid discussing it is to change the subject. Eventually, most people will get frustrated & give up trying to discuss the topic they originally wanted to, especially if you ask him/her about his/her life. Most people, even non-narcissists, will talk readily about themselves.
Protect yourself from people like this, Dear Reader,& use wisdom when you must deal with them. You deserve it. You have been abused enough by your narcissistic mother- you don’t need further invalidating abuse from “friends” or “family” even if they are well-meaning.
If you missed it, yesterday I posted about my narcissistic mother’s betrayal. She currently is feigning great concern for my husband’s mother being ill, in spite of knowing the massive amount of abuse the woman has put me through. And, she is flaunting it in my face- when we saw my parents Saturday, my mother kept bringing up his mother’s health,displaying deep concern for her. The only reason she is doing this is to cause me pain, & it is working. Those of you who also have a narcissistic mother know that if I had said anything to her Saturday, she would have portrayed herself the innocent victim of her evil daughter. The worst part is nothing would improve, but most likely it would only get worse.
Since Saturday, I have not been happy at all. I am deeply hurt,& crying easier than usual (normally I cry easily anyway, but this is over the top even for me). The C-PTSD has been flaring up- my head is swimming, anxiety levels are terrible & I had nightmares all night long last night. I can’t remember many details other than being abandoned in them, which tells me my brain is still trying to process what my mother is doing to me.
I also realized this morning that I am grieving. There are five stages of grief..
- Denial- denying this is happening. it’s a normal defense mechanism.
- Anger- when you feel as if this can’t be happening because you aren’t ready for it. You may be angry at anyone or everyone at this point.
- Bargaining- “if only he had seen a doctor sooner!” thoughts invade your mind. Or, “God if you let him live, i’ll do anything you want!”
- Depression- sadness becomes almost overwhelming.
- Acceptance- accepting what has happened, & beginning to move on.
These stages of grief not only happen when someone you love dies, but they can happen in other areas of life as well. I believe they also can happen during especially painful times, such as what I’m experiencing. When someone goes above & beyond to hurt you, that is horribly painful, but when it is your own mother- the one person who is supposed to love you no matter what- the pain is magnified by 1,000.
So this is why I am grieving right now. When my mother first began her “concern” for my mother in-law, I wasn’t surprised. She has been sending her Christmas cards ever since the first Christmas after I told my parents how bad my mother in-law treated me. However, the constant mentioning her, the “I’m praying she gets better soon”, & then the cookies & card for her were over the top, even by my mother’s standards. It was almost impossible for me to believe she had gone this far at first (stage 1). Once it started sinking in shortly after leaving my parents’ home Saturday, I got angry (stage 2) & stayed angry all during yesterday. By last night, I actually began to wonder if I had done something wrong, something to deserve this from my mother or something that made her behave this way (stage 3). That didn’t last long as anger & then depression (stage 4) kicked in.
Once I thought about this, I realized that I go through this often when my mother pulls some of her antics. Honestly, most of them I am so used to that I only get angry or disgusted that we are going through it again. Even so, sometimes, she surprises me & pulls something so especially painful, it catches me off guard. This is one of those times.
I believe grieving like this to be common, & not only for me, but for all children of a narcissistic parent. if you share similar feelings to mine after dealing with your narcissistic mother, then please be aware of two things:
First, you are not crazy! You are not wrong, nor are you at fault for feeling this way. You are perfectly normal! You are grieving something very painful, & need to be compassionate & gentle with yourself until you have come to terms with the incident. Take care of yourself- pamper yourself, & do things that make you feel good. If you made a comfort box or bag, get it out & enjoy the special items you put inside.
And second, know you are not alone! It isn’t “just you”. Just because your narcissistic mother says nobody else is as bad/crazy/stupid/etc. as you means it is true. She is lying to justify her abuse. Ignore her! She is the one with the problem. There are others like you who understand your pain & will validate you! I am only one of them.
Good afternoon, Dear Readers!
If you have been in an abusive relationship of any type- whether the relationship was emotionally, physically, sexually or narcissistic abusive- then you have experienced invalidation. Invalidation is when your feelings are mocked, judged or rejected. It is done to make you feel as if you are wrong, weird, abnormal or extremely flawed. It is done in order to gain control. When invalidation is done in childhood, the child grows up not trusting her feelings, & lacking in self confidence.
There are many ways to invalidate someone. Some examples are:
- Telling someone not to feel the way they do.
- Calling someone harsh names like oversensitive, drama queen, worry wort, crybaby, etc.
- Mocking someone for feeling a certain way.
- Leading one to believe there is something wrong with them for feeling as they do.
- Telling someone to look differently (example: “Stop looking so sad”).
- Minimizing another’s feelings.
- Isolating another, such as saying “No one else would be bothered by this- what’s wrong with you?”
- Defending those who hurt or abuse you.
I believe there are other ways to invalidate someone that are much more subtle & insidious, & they do just as much harm as the more overt types of invalidating. Unfortunately, they seem to be so commonplace in society that I don’t believe many people even pay them any attention. Some examples are:
- Not asking someone “how are you?” during the course of a conversation. This clearly says, “I really don’t care how you’re doing.” Granted during times of crisis, many people simply forget to ask another this question due to being caught up in the trying situation. However, many people do this on a regular basis, no matter what the circumstances are.
- Talking nonstop about yourself. This sends the message, “I am much more important than you! Don’t waste my time talking to me about you!” In a healthy relationship, there are times where it is one-sided. One friend is going through a crisis & the other friend is offering a listening ear & support. That happens sometimes & is completely normal. What is not normal, however, is when one person only talks about himself or herself & doesn’t care enough to ask the other person questions about his/her life. This is a red flag for narcissistic personality disorder!
- Interrupting constantly. Not only is it rude, but it tells the other person that what you have to say is really much more important, & they need to just stop talking.
- Changing the topic of conversation frequently when someone else is talking. Is what you have to say so vitally important that you can’t let the other person finish what he or she is saying? Does what you have to say need to be said right this moment? If not, then let the other person have their say.
- Offering unasked for advice & opinions. This is a major pet peeve of mine. It is rude & presumptuous, & it sends the message that the one giving the advice or offering the opinion is much smarter than the person receiving it. It’s hurtful! Are your thoughts really so valuable that the other person simply can’t go on living without hearing them?
- If you don’t agree with someone’s opinion or support them, keep that to yourself or express it in a respectful way when the time is appropriate. This is something I deal with often with having C-PTSD, & it really is frustrating! People who don’t understand this disorder or want to learn anything about it often think it means I am dwelling in the past, unforgiving, not thinking positively, etc. Hearing statements like these hurt me greatly, because not only are people who say such things are trivializing the potentially life-threatening disorder I live with daily & the trauma I have endured, but they are also acting as if I am stupid for not seeing what they believe to be an obvious easy solution to this problem. This insensitivity doesn’t just pertain to mental disorders, though. Politics is another topic where I see this happening. So many people have extremly strong feelings on politics, & believe that if other people don’t share their views, they are stupid, naive, foolish, etc. & don’t mind letting those people know that. It is ridiculous! People have different views- what is the problem with that? Everyone is entitled to their opinion & to have it respected. If you can’t understand someone’s opinion or painful situation, how about trying to understand it? Or at least not judge or criticize them if you absolutely can’t understand.
I would like to encourage you to please consider your actions. Don’t invalidate others or tolerate it from other people! It is painful & frustrating to experience, not to mention invalidation tears away at one’s self-confidence. When it happens often, it makes you feel as if you don’t matter to anyone, & that your thoughts & feelings are unimportant, wrong or even flawed beyond repair. No one should experience that pain!
More information regarding invalidation (including a free ebook on the topic) is available at my website, http://www.CynthiaBaileyRug.com
This past week has been very hard for me.
As I mentioned last week in THIS BLOG POST, I learned that a man I dated a long time ago recently killed his male lover, then himself. I have been in shock since learning about what happened last Tuesday. Thankfully, it’s all starting to really sink in, & I’m feeling a bit better.
I’ve noticed though that some folks who know me & know what happened haven’t been overly understanding. While I get not everyone understands this situation since most people haven’t been in it, it still triggered an automatic reaction in me that I learned when I was a child- if someone invalidates my feelings, I need to push my feelings aside & not bother anyone with them.
This is completely unhealthy, & I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it contributed to the complex ptsd showing up in the spring of 2012.
I fight this behavior every time it comes up, which is very often.
Just because other people don’t understand, or try to understand, the pain you are in, doesn’t make it any less painful. You need to learn to ignore what others say & listen to your own instincts & feelings. If you are hurting or angry, then honor that! Deal with your pain accordingly. Just because something might not upset another person doesn’t mean they are right & you are wrong. You are individuals, & people are affected by things differently. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS!
In my case, I am finally coming to grips with the fact I once shared my life with a man who used me to cover up his homosexuality, & was a murderer. This isn’t an easy pill to swallow! I don’t understand how anyone could feel otherwise.
If you have someone in your life who frequently tells you things like you’re oversensitive, overreacting, reading too much into a situation, etc., that person is invalidating you. For more information on that topic, please visit this link to my website: Invalidation. Invalidation isn’t only painful & frustrating, it is abuse. You don’t have to put up with it!
Hello, Dear Readers! I hope this post finds all of you blessed & happy today! 🙂
I just wanted to let you know I added a new free ebook to my website. It’s at the following link:
The newest ebook is about invalidation- one of the nastiest, most insidious & often most unrecognized forms of psychological abuse. Statements such as, “You’re overreacting,” or “You’re oversensitive” are just two examples of invalidating behavior. Invalidation can damage or even destroy one’s self esteem. I encourage you to check out this ebook for more information.
Good morning, Dear Readers!
While not divulging the details, something called my attention today to invalidation. Again. It’s something I have dealt with way too often in my life. A good article on the topic of invalidation can be found here:
In my experiences, I have heard so many comments like, “It could be worse,” “You think that’s bad? At least you haven’t been through *fill in the blank* like I have!” or “But that’s your MOTHER!” Today it just hit me just how many times I’ve also been told to “be strong,” “Be the bigger person,” or, “You just need to understand her better.” Those kind of statements are just as damaging & invalidating! They basically all say the same thing- that I need to suck it up, Buttercup- take the abuse & stop whining about it!
No one needs to tolerate abuse. No one.
If someone is brave enough to tell you that they are being mistreated or abused, then for the love of all that is good & holy in this world, think about what you say to them!!! Don’t act like it’s no big deal. Even if it’s not to you, it obviously is to that person! That person needs understanding & support, & telling them to “suck it up” or other similar statements is NOT understanding or supportive! In fact, you will do more harm to that person if you say something so unfeeling, & damage your relationship.
I’m already thinking my book, “Emerging From The Chrysalis” that I finished in October, is going to be elaborated on soon.. a second edition, going into more details.