Comments on
Understanding Invalidation

Is the music too loud?Emotional invalidation is when a person’s thoughts and feelings are rejected, ignored, or judged. Invalidation is emotionally upsetting for anyone, but particularly hurtful for someone who is emotionally sensitive.

43 thoughts on “Understanding Invalidation

  • February 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    My mom did this to me when I was growing up. I totally know what you are talking about. I would love to put this on my blog, but I am afraid my mom will see.

    • March 6, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      I’m sorry you went through that. :'(

  • July 3, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    So I’ve been reading your book — slowly — because it makes me cry.

    You and Ms. Cook keep emphasizing how much parents mean well with some of the forms of invalidation, but it breaks my heart how harmful it is. I don’t have children because always I knew I was worthless and weird, and there was nothing about me that I wanted to risk passing on to any child. Other people cut themselves, starve themselves, or kill themselves because they feel that way.

    I really wish we required parenting classes, or at least “healthy relationship” classes, in school — probably more than once, as kids get better able to understand the issues. Parenting is the most important thing any of us is ever going to do, and we mostly have to depend on the model that was set for us by OUR parents, which is so often not a good one.

    Anyway, thanks for at least making a push to help people with this.

    • March 24, 2019 at 6:20 am

      What an insightful response. I really appreciated your input. I too decided to have no children because I love children and my upbringing was toxic and made me realize that life is something I would never want to repeat or expose to someone I love. I’ll
      get through but will tidy up and turn the light off when I leave. Thank you for being so thoughtful as it gives me more hope for man/womankind. 😊

  • September 28, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    When I read this, I finally found the word I had been searching for. The definition was my childhood and then some. It didn’t matter what I was feeling or why. My mother blew it off, telling me often my feelings and the reason for those, were just me over reacting, compared to what others dealt with. And almost always, that led to OTHERS which actually meant HER. She’s the NPD who loves the victim and martyr roles. No one appreciated her sacrifices, no one cared how tired she was. And on and on….Eventually, I said nothing. I wasn’t willing to face rejection again, most of the time I was forced to listen to her. She told everyone who would listen about our private lives, in her own twisted way. She belittled all of us.I learned what NOT to do as a mother. I CHOSE to have each of my children. They weren’t forced on me. I remember feeling guilt, shame, and the feeling of being tolerated as a burden.”Sacrifice” is a word I was very conscious of not using for this reason. Do we make sacrifices as parents? Yes. That doesn’t give me the right to expect my children to be forever bowing down in gratitude. Kids are busy being kids. Much of what my mother saw as ‘sacrifice’ is part of being a parent, as well.Like any other mom, I had nights with no sleep and a sick child. Goes with the territory. And my oldest started to THANK me for being there. He was about 7 yrs. old the first time…and I cried. I have a grown son who is ADD and dyslexic. Early on, teachers told me he just didn’t want to work and was basically lazy. I fought like a hell cat. Even after it was finally diagnosed, it was VERY difficult for him. His imagination and intelligence were off the charts. His self-esteem wasn’t. School was something to ‘just get through’. I told him again and again he would surprise himself and the world. And he did. He is now writing and directing for one of the major networks. He THANKED me. Because I had faith in him, encouraged him. My hyper child was in every dance and gymnastic class available. Without those, it wasn’t just her, but ME bouncing off those walls. Between the lessons, competitions and recitals, it was busy. And she THANKED for the experiences and the time.Children GET it. They see it. Their perception is amazing. I never EXPECTED those words.Even as parents themselves, their perception is likely to be different.I cherish those words and their purity. Every single one is stored in a very special place.I had my moments and they would happily tell that to anyone. I had a LOT of them. And stress? At levels only a mother can feel.I told them there was nothing they couldn’t tell me. Not every day is a good day and stuff happens. That’s life. They saw me on those bad days as well, I’m human. THAT I had to work on. It was second nature to hide my feelings. What each told me, stayed with me.Comparing us to one another was a favorite of my mothers’ hobbies. If I wondered what I was lacking, I only had to look at my siblings.Not one of my kids are perfect. I didn’t allow them to think that. But each are their own person and are beautiful in the way only each can be. For me, there was nothing TO compare.I would have preferred a POSITIVE example…but it is what it is.

    • March 6, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      This is such a beautiful comment I’m moved to tears. Thank you for posting this. It’s actually provided me with some much needed affirmation and an indirect solution to my own feelings of being invalidated and hurt.
      You are a Great Human xoxo

    • July 4, 2016 at 4:33 am

      OMG, your comment deserves an article of its own. Your ability to share your life as a mom was amazing. Even better than that, is the fact that you’re telling YOUR story…
      I am truly moved and motivated at your ability to break a “cycle” instead of repeat it. I’m not a mom, but am still inspired by the things you wrote. Trying to better myself everyday, you’ve given me some new goals to set. My step dad ALWAYS tells me, “if you see something in someone that you like, copy it…become it.”
      Thank you for sharing. Know that you made a difference.

    • January 20, 2017 at 6:53 pm

      I found what you wrote to be beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for sharing and being you.

    • March 24, 2019 at 6:28 am

      Nora 113- this is beautiful. Bless you for your hard work and ability to see things and understand the optimal way to raise your children and not play the victim. You are truly a good human.

  • October 15, 2012 at 11:29 am

    I have a question. I think you’ve also mentioned shame as an issue for emotionally sensitive people and as an issue in parenting in your book, and having read another book on shame and read up on emotional invalidation, I’m wondering if there is a distinction between them, or if they are basically the same thing under two different names. So much of what made me feel shame all my life turns out to have been invalidation. So now I’m curious about how to tell the difference, if there is one.

    • October 17, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      You are very close. The way I look at it, invalidation can result in shame. Invalidation is an action, shame is an emotion. There can be other emotional responses to invalidation as well. Best Wishes to you!

      • September 20, 2018 at 4:17 pm

        Shame is both a verb and a noun.

  • November 16, 2012 at 10:40 am

    While I agree that “intentional” validation isn’t warranted, and more often than not, people are unaware that they are potentially invalidating others, I would like to offer my perspective.

    While, I also have experienced much invalidation from others in my time, prior to better understanding it, I believe it is important for people to learn to self validate. Not that I should HAVE to clarify, but it is likely impossible to learn to become completely 100% unaffected by external stimuli.

    Sure, reflective listening can help the other person reflect instead of feeling invalidated, but is it everyone’s responsibility to spend all of their time helping other’s resolve their own feelings? That’s your job PH.D.

    However, what I feel causes issues for many is emotional scarring left from allowing themselves to feel based on external stimuli and running back to challenge invalidation.

    I’m going to invalidate one of your ideas in this article. In your example of someone looking at their watch while being spoken to is to suggest that the person looking at their watch is “wrong” to feel they need to accommodate someone elses feelings while prioritizing their day.

    I’m a busy person. Professionally and socially. I can not always place high importance and high urgency on listening to another person who is perhaps spending extra time to discuss. There is a way to say, “Listen, your time and ideas are important to me, but I have something urgent to take care of”.

    If I have to meet someone in 7 minutes and you stop me to ask a question and start a discussion, after 3-4 minutes, I’m going to be checking my watch.

    So you’re saying, I’m wrong to “feel” that deciding a task I have placed high importance and high urgency on in my own life to accomplish my own tasks is wrong if I’m not accommodating others? We disagree here.

    Some lessons I have the hard way: sometimes life is too busy for the long version, get to the point and don’t project your own feelings of being upset with me if you do not like my answer, don’t ask questions if you’re not willing to accept the answer: long or short.

    True confidence is believing in yourself and not needing external validation. Learn to self validate and not need others.

    Recognizing people who are negative influences and rejecting them from your life is not necessarily wrong, from my perspective.

    Also, I’ve noticed if I give an honest explanation, people “feeling rejected” will attempt to “fix” or “convince” me why I’m wrong to reject them and it’s often easier to just offer no explanation.


    “Never complain, never explain” it’s easier said than done, but it works.

    • April 10, 2015 at 10:46 am

      See I kind of – KIND OF – agree with Count Mackula here.

      – It’s not my job to constantly validate others, nor is it their job to constantly validate me. I’m not very good at validating myself but I intend to improve on that.
      – It’s really, really easy to invalidate by accidentally saying the wrong thing, people are normally well-intentioned and if it’s the wrong thing to say it’s really the responsibility of the other person to tell you that so you can apologise and bear it in mind for the future
      – Looking at your watch while speaking to someone is rude, but it happens. It’s the responsibility of the watch-watcher to apologise and explain (‘sorry, I want to listen, but I have to go do this thing, can we catch up later?’), and it’s also the responsibility of the person speaking not to take it personally
      – I agree that if someone is being insensitive it is your job to walk away
      – I agree that everybody needs to learn to self validate, it is both pointless to rely on others (not everybody is nice) and unfair (not everybody can look after you all the time, we have our own lives)

      I say all of that as someone who does struggle to self-validate, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s my responsibility to learn it, it’s not others’ responsibility to treat me better. People will treat me however they want to treat me, it’s up to me to decide who I choose to be around and who I choose not to be around. Let others make their choice as to how they will treat you and if it’s not good enough (and you’ve calmly and politely explained just in case it was accidental), then chuck them out of your life.

    • March 16, 2016 at 7:22 am

      The tough cookie suddenly appears, taking things as an attack–one of the main cause of people invalidating others.
      No one said you had to accord time to people. That’s not what validating means. Saying “I can’t talk right now. Sorry can’t help.” is as honest and as non-invalidating as non-invalidating comes.


      • October 17, 2016 at 11:04 am

        Thank you Matt! Your response is exactly what I was going to communicate. Excellent insight and well written. Agreed.

      • August 17, 2019 at 10:07 am


        (i) Saying “I can’t talk right now. Sorry can’t help” probably involves or constitutes ignoring [remaining ignorant of] a feeling that the other person has. The article opens with a person’s feelings being ‘ignored’ as one of three criteria by which we can say a person’s feelings have been invalidated.

        (2) Is your *sigh* analogous to the finger-drumming or eye-rolling that the author points out as invalidating acts?

  • December 18, 2013 at 1:46 am

    Thank you for writing and publishing this all important information. There must be groups of people lobbying to get emotional intelligence topics taught in the public school system so children, eventually adults, can come to better understand, and regard, them selves and others…. Id love to support organizations working hard to educating people, empowering the human race to seek understanding rather than attempt to outrun the sheer, splintering terror of insecurity.

    Thank you again! Best to you.

    • March 6, 2016 at 12:33 pm

      I agree. This is the VERY best site I’ve seen in ages, and I’m sooooo impressed with the wisdom! I believe that this ought to be taught in schools too.

  • January 31, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    My best friend has an emotional disorder and I know that I have been invalidating, trying all the above tactics that I thought may help. Have you written another article about how to respond (as opposed to how not to respond) when the person you are with is depressed or anxiety has clouded their thoughts? It seems like if I don’t agree with her, I’m invalidating her. How can I help; what can I say?

    • March 6, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      I’m replying, not as a professional, but as a woman who’s both experienced invalidation, and hence I’ve studied it intensively.
      The go to answers for providing support without invalidation are:
      I’m sorry that this is happening to you. I imagine it must be really hard for you.
      Is there anything I can do to help you?

      Usually there isn’t anything one can do to SOLVE the problem, but as a friend, the best thing you can do is listen, ask questions about their feelings, offer solutions only if asked to, empathise, and be kind.

      Accept that feelings aren’t debatable.

      And just the fact that you wrote and asked for advice shows that you ARE a GOOD friend.
      Most people don’t have any interest in learning about invalidation, let alone attempting to find a way to employ it as part of their lives.

      I used to invalidate others to.
      Now that I don’t? The friendships that I have are far more meaningful than ever, and I appreciate not feeling uncomfortable because I can’t actually provide “help” – I know that my ability to listen and hug are helpful in and of themselves.

      Good luck to you!! xoxo

      • March 6, 2016 at 12:32 pm

        Excuse any spelling errors please. I am having a terrible vision issue as of late.

      • January 20, 2017 at 7:27 pm

        I love the sentence that you said, “Accept that feelings aren’t debatable”.

      • August 17, 2019 at 9:59 am

        Feelings are neither propositions nor proposals. How can one debate what is not a proposition or a proposal? A proposal to remove a tree is debatable. A proposition that such and such is a tree is debatable. But how can *a tree* be debatable?

        What doe it even mean to say “Let’s debate X” when” X” is a noun phrase?

  • February 12, 2016 at 5:48 am

    To Count Mackula.

    “I’m a busy person. Professionally and socially. I can not always place high importance and high urgency on listening to another person who is perhaps spending extra time to discuss. There is a way to say, “Listen, your time and ideas are important to me, but I have something urgent to take care of”.

    If I have to meet someone in 7 minutes and you stop me to ask a question and start a discussion, after 3-4 minutes, I’m going to be checking my watch.

    So you’re saying, I’m wrong to “feel” that deciding a task I have placed high importance and high urgency on in my own life to accomplish my own tasks is wrong if I’m not accommodating others? We disagree here.”

    I guess maybe being actually mature and explaining the situation, that you don’t have time to talk, would have been the thing to do if you had the courtesy and confidence. But I guess some people need to justify, rationalise their usual rudeness and arrogance so as to not take any responsibility of their own behavior.

    • March 16, 2016 at 7:24 am

      Thank you, someone else said it!

    • January 20, 2017 at 7:42 pm

      Well said. It’s about clear communicate with courtesy.

  • July 13, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    I found this article as the consequence of the inability to grasp the meaning of emotional “invalidation”, and am still confused and would like clarification – if someone could offer it to me.

    First and foremost, the term “invalid” brings up a meaning for which I tend to identify it as a basic quality in logic – if something cannot be false if the premises are true, it’s logically valid or sound. Otherwise, and in the case of induction, the proposition is invalid. However, I acknowledge this isn’t formal logic. Still, this brings up the idea that somehow I am to be led to believe that any external action or idea given to the person who is said to be invalidated is somehow capable of doing so.

    Though external stimuli affect our subjective experiences, such as emotions, it doesn’t really make sense to say that external stimuli “x” can be said to supersede subjective experience “y”. That is to say that regardless what may be objectively the case in any given situation, an experience cannot be said NOT to have been experienced simply for the sake of that objective phenomenon. Thus, I can’t seem to understand how a feeling can be “invalidated” unless by the person for whom beholds said experience.

    Furthermore, I don’t think a person intends to say anything about the experience a person has when they say something such as, “You shouldn’t feel that way”, despite the literal meaning it ought to imply. Bear with me, as it’s anecdotal in this case. However, it has always seemed to be as an expression which actually intends to signify the idea of how one ought to direct that emotion. I digress on that point on the grounds that perhaps I’m alone on that, but I suspect it’s perhaps a miscommunication.

    Looping back around to the point, I’d like to clarify that I’m not arguing against the idea of invalidation, so much as trying to understand how it is distinct from what I’m inclined to speculate on what seems to be a semantic basis. It just seems ambiguous enough to warrant the possibility that it could represent a null interpretation of interactions, but I’d rather approach it as something to be aware of in social interactions myself without this problem at my feet.

    Thanks in advance for any clarification/retort.

    • August 31, 2016 at 12:36 am

      For the sake of clarity, I am confused by the introduction of formal logic terms and will throw them out (not because they’re useless or less but) so I explain them in terms I find the most comfortable. The term emotional invalidation is a verb or an action. One can validate or invalidate an emotion/idea in self or others. This does not mean the emotions/ideas themselves are ultimately considered valid or invalid by the person generating said emotions/ideas, but the act of validation or invalidation will impact how the person reacts to having the emotion/idea. For example, I immediately feel “x”, but have heard that feeling “x” in this situation is not as good as feeling “y” and I aught try to feel “y” or I’ll be less than if I hadn’t tried. If you get good enough at it, it goes, you feel “x”, unconsciously invalidate feeling “x” by saying, “I’m thinking I actually feel “y”,” and then you end up feeling “z” from being unable to generate feeling “y” after feeling “x”. So instead of irritated to get an unexpected call from a friend, realize I should (and therefore aught to try to) feel happy, and ultimately feel frustrated about not feeling happy, even though I’m putting in a huge amount of work to try to do so.

      All human experience is subjective. Emotions/ideas can only be experienced subjectively, so yes, in order to invalidate an emotion/idea, it must be internally. However, in the course of a conversation, subjective ideas/emotions are verbalized objectively and then internalized again in the subjective experience. Conversations between people are subjective experiencers (people) trying to communicate their subjective ideas by using representative objective sound waves. An example of objective invalidation would be saying something for the purposes of trying to get another to invalidate their ideas/emotions. While one must be willing to accept the external stimuli and internalize it for invalidation to occur subjectively, it is callous to assume the person with whom you are talking cannot invalidate their own ideas because of something you said.

      Intentions are some of the most confusing and unintentionally violent aspects of communication for me. IMHO, if you mean to communicate “the emotion (which I’m validating) you’re experiencing should be directed like this,” then please say that phrase instead of the one with multiple meanings (one of which gives me an overwhelmingly negative feeling). It is not so much that using the phrase “you shouldn’t feel that way” is inherently wrong, evil, or even invalidating. If, like me, you’re interested in clear communication of positive intent, wouldn’t it make sense to change the part of the conversation I’m responsible for to help conversational companions feel more at ease? I can easily change my word choice, not so much how people hear a phrase I’ve been using and won’t change despite the change in its definition to me.

      These are concepts which allow me to explain certain behavior outside of a judgmental frame, and so the semantics aren’t quite as important personally. The lessons I found the most important were: invalidation is an action of putting/tearing down while validation is constructive. I can forgive the differences in people (and myself sometimes?) because I can choose to accept the first idea that pops into my head (without having to consider if I need to kill said thought) instead of operating with skills learned from avoiding agony (don’t say or do what you’re thinking in favor of the “ideal” response).

    • August 17, 2019 at 10:01 am

      Feelings are neither propositions nor proposals. How can one debate what is not a proposition or a proposal? A proposal to remove a tree is debatable. A proposition that such and such is a tree is debatable. But how can *a tree* be debatable?

      What doe it even mean to say “Let’s debate X” when” X” is a noun phrase?

  • October 8, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Aren’t you invalidating people’s emotions by labelling them ’emotionally sensitive’? I find this judgement you are making to be hurtful. Have you tried thinking of a different career path?

  • May 9, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    What you label “hoovering” is not the common / accepted meaning, where the person who is no longer in a toxic relationship gets sucked back into hell, by hearing all the right things, from the narcissist they escaped.

    Also, labeling people who are capable of empathy, as “sensitive” is not conducive to understanding or growth, as it implies a negative characteristic (ie:oversensitive). If this is your chosen field, perhaps be more gentle with those who are already hurting.

    • June 23, 2017 at 8:02 pm

      It’s funny how differently people can hear the same statement. I for one find the term “emotional sensitive” itself validating and respectful. I can say, “Yes, that is exactly it. I am so glad that someone knows what it is really like and treats the state as real and true.”

  • October 17, 2017 at 11:15 am

    I find the concept that’s talked about above a very difficult one to grasp, but being someone who was once very emotionally unstable I know that you can come out better on the other side. Of course, given you don’t experience something really terrible, but now I’m talking about actual high-grade violence and not mean words.

    In my mind this displays weakness, and weakness should be overcome and not catered to. In the end you can only rely on yourself and not others, so why should you expect others to try and act the way you want them to?

    Feel free to correct me, but I feel like the best solution is to gain some confidence in yourself and practice ignoring oppinions you don’t agree with rather than letting them affect you so much. Practice makes perfect, after all.

  • March 7, 2018 at 12:14 am

    So how do you validate with out tripping over invalidating?

    It’s like a double edged sword and we are left to fall on it regardless.

    But what happens when you try to find ckmmon ground and they invalidate you. Calling your opinion as not important. What’s the course of action?

    Mine? I hung up. Because tobkeepbgoing means only to become angry.angry that yet again my opinion didn’t matter.

    • August 17, 2019 at 10:12 am

      Is there a difference between declining to validate someone and invalidating someone?

  • May 15, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    Thank you for the article. Can you tell me is the compilation your own or is there a scholarly article that you have made more understandable for us? It is very layman friendly but if there is an outline from Linehan (or Fruzzetti) I would very much like to find it. Thank you

  • February 25, 2019 at 3:01 am

    Somenof my of my co workers and I were siscussong relationships. They believe that I should have a friends with benefits since I have been single for some time now. As I stated to them, their idea of friends with benefits is not what I deem the same. I explained a littlw of what Ive been throught and told them that I prefer to wait until I find someone who can stimulate my mind instead of my body. One of my co workers stated that its nothing what I had been through. He even mentioned that I was attracting the same people without even fully knowing me. I am a very emotionally sensitive person and vocal at that. I felt myself getting upset and it ended up being an argument. One of my other co workers who was not in the converstaion stated that she saw no reason for me to get upset that the other guy told me that what I went though is nothing. That infruriated me more as She is older and I confided in her. I considered her a close friend. I felt really upset and hurt and was vocal about it. He said sorry but I was already upset because I could sense there was something more than just words he was pushing toward me. Any comments?

  • March 22, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    Karyn, this is a good article on emotional invalidation with one caveat–the term “hoovering” in narcissistic abuse a circles, typically means when the narcissistic person is trying to get you back after discarding you. in fact that is the only context I’ve ever heard it used in except for here–which might be confusing for some people.

    I’m not sure if anyone else has pointed this out but I thought I would because that is how hoovering is described in all the literature I’ve read about narcissistic abuse; which is sadly, a lot.


  • May 22, 2019 at 3:43 am

    Your statements about “not lying to people to preserve their feelings” really spoke to me. I’m a firm believer in telling people what they need to hear, even if I know that there’s a specific answer they WANT to hear.

    Example: Years ago I had a friend who was my age, and we both went off to university at the same time. At the time her dad had cancer and was basically dying. Every time I saw my friend she used to talk about how much she hated being away from her dad and wanted nothing more than to drop out of university to go home and be with him. Of course, I always said that I understood how much she loved her dad and how painful it was to be away at university while he was ill, but I also said that it would be concerning if she limited her career prospects just so she could be with her dad, and that, painful though it was, she’d be better off staying at university and finishing her degree. I wasn’t the only person who was saying this, but she always treated it as a betrayal.

    But in the end though I was vindicated, she finished her degree, a very good degree, and got a great job out of it too. My point is that if I’d lied to her and told her what she wanted to hear, it wouldn’t have done her any good.

  • August 17, 2019 at 9:52 am

    “Emotional invalidation is when a person’s thoughts and feelings are rejected, ignored, or judged”

    My feelings are ignored by almost everyone on earth, and I ignore the feelings of almost everyone on earth.

  • January 6, 2020 at 10:25 am

    I have struggled finding a therapist I connect with. I have gone to 15 different ones in the past 9 years. The psychologist I am currently seeing makes me feel invalidated. I feel she minimizes my troubles when I pour them out to her. She even went as far as to tell me my son’s autism is from me letting him play video games. I always leave there feeling more upset than when I went in. Yet she is supposed to be “the best in town”. 😞 I tried explaining to her I am an HSP, highly sensitive person, and that Elaine Aron’s work and writing on the subject resonates with me. She told me she doesn’t believe in such a thing and has never heard of the woman. She said I am the way I am because I have CPTSD and not because I am sensitive. That too felt invalidating. I could go on and on with examples of things that have happened there. Do I find ANOTHER therapist and try AGAIN? It gets so exhausting…😞

  • January 15, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    This was a wonderfully helpful article to me. I was not aware of the term but I knew something wasn’t right. Examples of invalidation for me were Id say “I love you,” and he would say “No you don’t.” And he would never ask how I felt, he would tell me by saying “You probably feel like leaving earlier” without any question, just as a statement left open for me to deny or agree with. The hard part was when he started saying “I know you probably don’t want to get married.” And I realized he was right. I also knew that some conversations he was deflecting because of the emotional intensity of them. I’m responsible for not stepping up to have that conversation which could have saved me years of anxiety in a relationship that wasn’t balanced. I now care for him as a friend but am not emotionally attached to him for a deeper relationship. He continues to respond out of pain and invalidate anything I say of a caring nature. I hope with time it passes.


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