I have lost track of how many people I have spoken with who have been faced with cruel people minimizing & invalidating their trauma. Like these people, I’ve faced it myself. Mostly from family but also from total strangers who have commented on my work. This behavior absolutely infuriates me whether it’s aimed at me or someone else, because it is so far beyond WRONG!
People who behave this way have no idea that although the trauma may have happened in the past, it still affects the present. When you have C-PTSD or PTSD, the past is constantly a part of the present, whether or not you want it to be. Even if you have tried hard to heal & cope, some things are simply too odious to heal from in a lifetime. That doesn’t make you flawed or broken. It makes you human.
Also, what makes anyone think they have the right to judge another person for how they have handled trauma? Do they honestly think they could have handled the situation better? Or maybe to them, your trauma doesn’t sound so bad. So what? They aren’t you. Things that devastate you may not affect them & things that devastate them may not affect you. People are different. That doesn’t make one person right & the other wrong in these situations. It makes them different. Contrary to what many people seem to think, different isn’t a bad thing!
Even people with good intentions can be invalidating. Comments like, “I’m sure it wasn’t all that bad”, “You’ll be ok!” are just as invalidating & damaging as when someone’s intentions are deliberate & malicious. When I was in high school, I spoke to my guidance counselor about the abuse at home. One thing I told her was how my mother would scream at me every day, telling me how horrible I was. She actually told me, “That doesn’t sound so bad.” That was in 1989 & thinking about that still makes me angry! It really was bad, I can assure you of that.
When this sort of thing happens to you, there are some things you can do. Rather than accept the invalidation as fact, question it. Ask God to tell you the truth about the situation & listen to what He has to say. And, question the person saying what they did. You can ask them why would they say that about something that clearly traumatized you, or why do they think it’s ok to be so heartless. Questions like that can stop a person in their tracks. Someone who didn’t intend to hurt you will be upset you said that but realize why you did. They will apologize & be more sensitive to you. Someone who did intend to hurt you will make excuses for what they said or blame you for being over sensitive or overreacting.
Another tactic that can help is repeating what the person said back to them. As an example, let’s say you were robbed at knife point, & someone says that happened last year, so you shouldn’t be upset about it anymore. You could respond with, “You know what? You’re absolutely right! I don’t know what I was thinking! I shouldn’t be so sensitive. I should just forget that someone robbed me & easily could have killed me. That makes perfect sense doesn’t it?!”
You also need to have good boundaries. If someone repeatedly invalidates you, you don’t have to tolerate it. Let them know this isn’t something you will tolerate, & if they continue, you will have to hang up the phone or leave, then follow through if they continue.
If this person continues to treat you this way in spite of knowing how much they are hurting you, you may need to end the relationship. Naturally, that is your decision of course, but it should be a possibility in your mind, because you don’t deserve this sort of cruel treatment.
I hope you feel better equipped to deal with invalidating people now, because you deserve to be treated so much better than that!
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