reacting when invalidated

When I was in iOP I had problems with anxiety attacks and was over reacting in different situations. The thing is, I couldn’t identify what was triggering those reactions at the time. Sometimes they were explosive which is so not me!! Afterwards I’d feel a lot of guilt and shame. That would trigger my other behavior which is to run. Um yeah, is literally get up and run out of the room. 😳

Spring ahead to the ED program I was just in. During one of the DBT groups they were going over Interpersonal Effectiveness skills. The specific top was something I had no issue with so I flipped ahead in the book and came across a page titled Recovering from Invalidation. I read down the page to the list of when invalidation is painful.

  1. You are being ignored.
  2. You are being repeatedly misunderstood.
  3. You are being misread.
  4. You are being misinterpreted.
  5. Important facts in your life are ignored or denied.
  6. You are receiving unequal treatment.
  7. You are being disbelieved when being truthful.
  8. Your private experiences are trivialized or denied.

The other list is where invalidation is helpful:

  1. It corrects important mistakes (your facts are wrong).
  2. It stimulates intellectual and personal growth by listening to other views.

Okay, I have to tell you that being invalidated is so painful to me, at this point in my recovery, that I find it very difficult to understand at all how it can be helpful. I mean, intellectually I can I suppose but not emotionally. On the first list, the biggest triggers are 1 – 4, 6 and 7. I wrote in the past about a situation in iOP where I was accused of being the disruptive person, making the group unsafe. I would never make anyone feel unsafe. I would rather sacrifice myself then be disruptive in any way. It was a brand new staff member at iOP and she clearly was misreading me. I still am baffled at the whole situation, as is my therapist who had to spend a month putting me back together. She thinks the new person was intimidated by me because of my age and experience. Well, that could be.

Looking back over my life I realize that feeling invalidated has probably been the culprit of a lot of my reactions. I may not think highly of myself, love myself or even like myself but the one thing I do have is honor. I’m honest and try to speak as plain and clear as possible. I’ve made great efforts in clear communication and because of this I’ve been able to advocate for myself in many situations, even if I didn’t feel like I deserved it. So for someone to completely misinterpret me, as a person, decide my values are bad, and accuse me of the very thing I hold most dear makes it obvious why I reacted so strongly. I’ve since made my peace with that person and the situation. It’s better for me to learn and move on than to prove I was right.

At this point, I’d love to say how much growth I’ve done on this issue, how well I handle invalidation now, how good I am at validating myself, that I’m accepting of myself, on and on and on but nope. None of that. Nada. Zip. I’m still a ball of anxiety with the propensity to become volatile if accused of dishonesty or lying. I still look just like this: 😡. The good thing though is that I’m aware of all this and will continue working with my therapist on it.

It makes me wonder how many of us, this of us with eating disorders and those of us with other struggles, deal with this. During one of my last sessions with my assigned therapist at the program, she validated how hard my life is, that I carry a heavy burden: eating disorder, exercise addiction, 3 different chronic pain issues, bipolar, urological problems requiring surgical procedures every 6 months, and whatever else I can’t think of at the moment. It is a heavy burden. I’ve never really been validated. My therapist probably has in one sense or another but I didn’t hear it at the time.

Do you recognize invalidation in your life? Do you react to it in any way?

Are you able to validate yourself and what you are going through? Maybe even self-acceptance, and forgiveness? This is something else I struggle with.

4 thoughts on “reacting when invalidated

  1. I absolutely get this, I have ‘strange’ reactions to the weirdest things – well what one person may see as weird someone else might understand it. I have a real difficulty with my emotions being demeaned or my feelings/actions being criticised. I think it stems back to my upbringing and then the factors directly after; either way I have noticed it recently and looking back its probably a reason why I lost so many friendships

    n x


    1. Now that you say that, perhaps it has been a factor in relationships for me too. I haven’t had friends in years, at least that stayed around for any length of time except my “Hubby” and you. You were the first person I met who understood all this because of what you were going through.


      1. I think though it’s easy for us to accept not so savoury behavious from each other because we understand its not a direct personal attack. Like the other week – I think we handled that perfect; I have never had that reaction from any friend – they have always kept their opinion and been un-moving. The both of us came together and completely compromised because we understand that each other struggle and what we say isn’t an attack. I would say hat IS the reason why you struggle to maintain relationships – also you have went through so much; don’t you get a little frustrated at people who complain about the most mundane things – yes we understand our foot is sore, but it’s not as bad as it could be or you know you’ve been through so much repeated trauma that mundane dramas seem insignificant to you.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not sure if I would have understood what you said at the end of your comment until I experienced, which I have. I found my reactions and perceptions to peoples behavior so much different. The drama rarely effects me and I just carry on focusing on getting as much out of it as I can in case it needs due to insurance. I also have a housemate, not sure I mentioned that, and it’s been going amazingly well because I think, in part, I’ve calmed down a lot and don’t take life so seriously. I’ve also learned to communicate although I have a long way to go still on that, especially as far as getting my own needs met, but it’s good!

    I am so grateful we are still friends! I think for the first time I didn’t get defensive and therefore didn’t react in a defensive way. I gave thought to your worlds and realized (and learned) that I need to give thought before I speak. Reactivity is something I’m working on. Yesterday I sent an email to my doctor and realized immediately I should have weighed my options and presented my question differently. Honestly though, because I expect people to go away, I feared that was the end so when you messaged me I felt so relieved and happy. I suppose this is how adults are supposed to be, lol?


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