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Author Topic: 1.11 | Validation Skill - Stop Invalidating Others  (Read 85409 times)
united for now
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« on: September 21, 2008, 01:04:47 PM »

When we say that you are being "invalidating" to your partner, we aren't saying that you are being intentionally mean or cruel to them. Most of the time we are just trying to explain ourselves or correct a misunderstanding and it comes across as invalidating to the pwBPD.

Some examples of invalidating responses:

"I didn't mean it that way!"

"... but that's not..."

"This is what happened"

"NO, you've go it wrong!"

"I AM doing it right"

"you're not doing that right. Let me do it for you"

"I was only trying to..."

"Why can't you just let it go?"

"why do you always have to do this?"

or it may just be the way we sigh, raise our eyebrow, or even worse - roll our eyes  rolleyes

Something as inconsequential as adjusting the temperature can be seen as invalidating someone's feelings. If the pwBPD is cold and turns up the heat in the house, then you come home and turn it down, your actions are essentially saying "they shouldn't be feeling cold"... when in reality they "are" cold.

Invalidation often comes up when there has been a misunderstanding between two people. Both people believe they are right and the other person is wrong. Both people work to get the other person to change their minds and come to an agreement with them. How often have you been in a conversation where the more you tried to explain something, the less the other person seemed to hear you and the angrier they got? When we try to justify ourselves, or explain or defend ourselves, we are telling the other person "they are wrong" and invalidating their beliefs.

You may very well be right, but when dealing with a person who is extremely sensitive, quick to react, always looking for criticism, and easily dysregulated, your words come across as invalidating to them.

Feelings and emotions can never be wrong. They are based on our beliefs and our interpretations of things, so telling someone that you don't agree with what they are saying means their feelings are wrong. How can a feeling be wrong?

Telling a person she shouldn't feel the way she does feel is akin to telling water it shouldn't be wet, grass it shouldn't be green, or rocks they shouldn't be hard. Each person's feelings are real. Whether we like or understand someone's feelings, they are still real. Rejecting feelings is rejecting reality; it is to fight nature and may be called a crime against nature, "psychological murder", or "soul murder." Considering that trying to fight feelings, rather than accept them, is trying to fight all of nature, you can see why it is so frustrating, draining and futile.

We need to accept that a pwBPD doesn’t think the same way we do, and that while many of the arguments seem to come from nowhere, or make little sense, they are often triggered by us when we inadvertently use an invalidating response. A pwBPD and a non speak different languages.  When the person with BPD is triggered, they express themselves from a position of pure emotions and primitive defenses. There is no logic to what they are feeling, which is why they have trouble articulating and expressing themselves. Often, even they don’t know why or where the feelings are coming from. 

We, on the other hand, try to approach the situation from a logical staNPDoint.  We believe that if we can just find the right words or phrases, that our argument/words will suddenly make sense to the BP and the fight will end.  We might as well be speaking Polish to them though, since they are in an emotional state and we are defending with logic.  See the problem here? Our own defenses make things worse, since we use terms and defenses that invalidate how the BP "feels".   

The more we try to explain and defend ourselves, the worse things actually become.  We throw fuel on the fire by invalidating their opinions, beliefs, statements, ideas, suggestions, or emotions.

They are emotional - we are logical. Two different attempts to communicate.

There are also times when the pwBPD may not be accurately expressing themselves, causing us to respond to what we heard, not what they actually feel. So when asked "how are you?" they mumble "OK" instead of their true feelings of sadness or fear. Then later on when they explode and accuse us of not caring how they feel we are left confused - but we asked and you said you were OK!"  ?

It's not possible to prevent "all" instances of invalidation.

To help stop things from getting worse we need to begin by recognizing what we are doing wrong. Before we can validate, we must stop invalidating.

Words and phrases that are invalidating to others (not just those with BPD):

  • Ordering them to feel differently- "Don't be mad. Get over it."
  • Ordering them to look differently- "don't look so sad."
  • Denying their perception or defending - "that's not what I meant"
  • Making them feel guilty- "I tried to help you"
  • Trying to isolate them- "you are the only one who feels that way"
  • Minimizing their feeling- "you must be kidding"
  • Using reason- "you are not being rational"
  • Debating- "I don't always do that"
  • Judging and labeling them- "you're too sensitive"
  • Turning things around- "you're making a big deal out of nothing"
  • Trying to get them to question themselves- "why can't you just get over it?"
  • Telling them how they should feel- "you should be happy"
  • Defending the other person- "she didn't mean it that way"
  • Negating, denial, and confusion- "now you know that isn't true"
  • Sarcasm and mocking- "you poor baby"
  • Laying guilt trips- "don't you ever think of anyone else?"
  • Philosophizing and cliches- "time heals all wounds"
  • Talking about them when they can hear it- "you can't say anything to her"
  • Showing intolerance- "I am sick of hearing about it"
  • Trying to control how long someone feels about something- "you should be over that by now"
  • Explanation- "maybe it's because _____ "

    Actually, go through each of those invalidating statements/responses and think about how it feels/how it felt when someone (not necessarily the disordered person in your life)  used those statements on you!

    Even if you aren't part of the problem - you can be part of the solution.

    To see the whole web site for deeper understanding:

« Last Edit: July 22, 2016, 06:24:43 AM by C.Stein » Logged

Change your perceptions and you change your life.  Nothing changes without changes

united for now
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« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2008, 01:13:19 PM »

Flip side.

I know many of you will say that these tactics are used against us.

Yes, they are...

While difficult to accept at times, the pwBPD is mentally ill. That's not a "get out of jail free" card, nor does it mean that they shouldn't be held accountable. It's just that their defenses are such that they are constantly on the look out for even a hint of invalidation. Over time, feelings of betrayal and resentment can build on both sides.

So yes - as unfair as it is - the burden falls on us as the healthy healthier ones to make the necessary changes - if we want to make things better that is... or if we need to get along because the BPD person in our life isn't going away (for instance, when the person is an ex with whom we share children).

Nothing changes without changes...

Tools: Validation - what to validate


Tools: how to communicate with our BPDSO: the power of 3, consistency and validation



Change your perceptions and you change your life.  Nothing changes without changes
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« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2008, 01:36:40 PM »

 With me i usually try to defend my self, in return i am invaladating him not listening or what ever, usually the best thing is just to not say anything let them talk when they are upset, and just keep saying i understand, i am there right with you,, half the time i find myself thinking the same thing my husband is and agreeing but somewhere along the line i invaladated him because we are arguing about argreeing on the same thing,,, ? ? ? ?  and sometimes my husband just needs to explode get it out and me talking isn't helping, i was told i would be his theropist and that i am... and let me tell you sitting there listening to a raging person isn't easy wears you down but soon the episode is over and on you go ... like i said with my husband over half are arguments are agreeing on the same thing but somewhere i invaladated him and we are arguing before i know it...

Letting go of what was or what you thought was, and accepting what is, is all part of the piece to the puzzle  we need to move forward.

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« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2008, 01:44:15 PM »

I am soo guilty of this...except for the sarcasm and mocking. It's so hard not to defend when they are accusing you of certain things that arent true or say you "never" do this or that for them...for example, my H yesterday claimed I'm affectionate anymore  ? OMG I'm constantly hugging him, kissing him, etc. I bit my lip and just listened to his complaint but I wanted so bad to give him hundreds of examples of when I'm affectionate. Instead I said, "I understand how you may feel I'm not as affectionate anymore, I'll try to keep it in mind"    Practice makes perfect...hopefully I get the hang of it.
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« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2008, 02:37:10 PM »

Yes, sometimes they are just looking for a fight, and no amount of validating will suffice :smiley  That is when you take a time out for self protections sake. Don't sit there and be an emotional punching bag. When you see them getting more and more agaited, and when your words begin to be flung back at you - disengage. Don't stay - don't listen further - don't believe their accusations or FOG - get away and allow them the time to calm themselves down.

Knowing when to continue trying to validate, and when to run comes easier the more you practice it.

Tools: how to take a time out



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« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2008, 03:15:55 PM »

Okay - I will admit I invalidate him - because if I am "pushed", I tend to push back. I can TOTALLY relate to stoic's comments: How much can a person take of doing nice and loving things for their spouse, only to have it all denied the next day?

Like stoic, it goes against my instincts to "bite my lip" and keep quiet and not argue and defend myself. If a real therapist struggles, what hope is there for me?

Now, having vented, I realize that UFN is providing a great feast of learning for us nons; and UFN is correctly explaining that this period of healing (validating our BPD SO) will need to last long enough to bring them back into a place where they feel safe with us again.

Once we get to that point - if we get to that point - I know things will have to be different because I am not going back into the FOG.

I also have a couple of basic boundaries in place: I will not be verbally abused (yelled at or silent rage); and I will take time for myself without feeling guilty. Funny, we seemed to agree about that, once I asked for it, because it took the "unknown" - the fear of abandonment out of the equation.

Why have I managed to cripple my own efforts these past couple of weeks? Just when I was gaining an understanding of the dynamics and a real compassion for his pain, I have done exactly the opposite of what I intended to do to move forward in the marriage.

I can only think it is because I am too impatient. I want the results NOW. I feel that I have lost months, maybe a year or more, going nowhere in our marriage.

They say a little knowledge is dangerous. It must be true, because I have gotten a LOT better at invalidating my spouse now that I know what will really push his buttons.

I feel bad, I feel remorse. I will have to find a way to apologize, though I doubt he will want to hear from me.


"She's seen every branch on the Tree...now she's free."
Life's a Fieldtrip
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« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2008, 04:16:49 PM »

I think that sometimes we invalidate someone because we are frustrated and angry at them, and we just don't want to deal with their issues anymore. We also aren't being very empathetic and trying to  see things from their perspective.

We assume that if we can deal with it, that they should be able to also.

Unfortunately that is rarely the case.

Change your perceptions and you change your life.  Nothing changes without changes
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« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2008, 05:08:39 PM »

How often do you use the word "but" when speaking to someone else?

Do you realize that when you say it, that you are actually disagreeing and invalidating the other person?

I see what you're saying, but, I think we should do it this way...

Yeah, but...

OK, but...

You seem ok, but...

Yes, but no...

I agree, but I don't agree...

You're right, but you're wrong...

When you say the word "but" to a BPD, you have just taken all the good out of your original statements and turned them negative.

It was a great Thanksgiving dinner. The rolls were warm, the turkey was juicy, the table looked great, the wine was superb, but - the room was chilly. Now what is the hostess going to remember? That you liked the effort she went through, or that the room was cold? She's gonna focus on the negative and forget the positive. (True of any hostess, not only one with BPD.)  A spoonful of honey won't make the medicine go down well with someone with BPD.

Validating a person means working to see things from their perspective, and and agreeing with their right to feel or believe whatever they feel or believe or agreeing that any normal person would feel that way too. To then inject "but" into it, destroys and good will you hope to gain by validating them.

To break the habit of using this term, try to see the word as a big, fat, hairy, ugly butt. This imagine will help you remember that we are working towards eliminating that word from our vocabulary. You need to be aware of using it, before you can stop.

So...  How often do you use the term BUT?

Does the BP get upset?

Do you get your point across?

Do you think that you can change?


Change your perceptions and you change your life.  Nothing changes without changes
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« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2008, 05:46:41 PM »

Good points, United! I've noticed "but" doesn't work well with me either--it does take away from the positives that have just been said. I try to avoid it, because it does the same for my partner.

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« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2008, 05:54:12 PM »

I have to admit that I like big buts, and I cannot lie.  grin

So, if youre a big ole but man, what do you suggest using?

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