Research has established, beyond doubt, that, all else being equal, the greater our experience of childhood trauma, the worse both our physical and mental health are likely to be during our adulthood, and the more likely we are to die prematurely.
Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams healing can begin.
Research has also shown that having our perception of our childhood trauma, and its adverse effect on us, validated is an essential part of our recovery.
Surrounding my own childhood experiences there has always been a conspiracy of silence by family members. My feelings about my early experiences have been met variously with evasion, denial, contempt, disdain, cold dismissiveness, minimization, stone-walling, passive-aggression, and straightforward lies.
When our experiences are NOT validated, or, worse still, shamelessly refuted, recovery becomes almost impossible: insult is added to injury, with the likely outcome that our condition will actually become worse.
When our experiences and their effects remain NON-VALIDATED, our very sense of reality is undermined which puts us in danger of developing psychosis (a condition in which we become pathologically detached from reality.
When we are told things such as ‘stop harping on about the past’ or, ‘you sound like a broken record, let it go’, it is this very contemptuous dismissal of our feelings that perpetuates our condition. The tacit implication is that we are self-absorbed, self-pitying, and egotistical and should stop blaming our problems on our childhoods as this is wrong and selfish. But let’s examine the logic (or lack, thereof) of this rebuff to our fundamental beliefs about our early traumatic experiences:
Can we take seriously the suggestion that a child who was frequently beaten to a pulp by a drunken father (as a hypothetical example), or the person whose brain development was impaired by emotional abuse (as another hypothetical example), and develops psychological problems in adulthood, as a result, is somehow being weak and self-indulgent, and is wrong and unentitled to suggest his/her childhood may be linked to his adult difficulties?!
Of course, we can’t. In fact, it takes an awful amount of inner, mental strength to face up to and acknowledge the harm done to oneself by one’s childhood, and doing so is absolutely key to one’s recovery.
Recent research has shown that if a person’s feelings about their traumatic experiences in childhood are just sympathetically listened to and validated, and their pain and suffering as a result of their trauma is acknowledged and authenticated, their condition improves, even in the absence of any additional, active therapy. This is powerful evidence that having our feelings about our childhoods validated is absolutely essential in order for us to recover from our adverse experiences.
How Narcissistic Mothers Can Invalidate Us
Mothers who have a narcissistic personality disorder may be particularly prone to invalidating us. One of the most frustrating and upsetting things about how the narcissistic mother may respond to us is that if we try to explain how much we have been psychologically injured by her, she is very likely to respond by INVALIDATING this view as, essentially, she tends to view herself as someone who can do no wrong; by constantly undermining our strongly held belief, she can lead us to question our perception of very reality.
Having our perception of reality unremittingly called into question in this insidious manner is known to be PARTICULARLY DAMAGING TO OUR MENTAL HEALTH, thus compounding, massively, the harm already down to us.
Indeed, in my own family, not only does my mother not acknowledge that I was damaged by my childhood but so, too, do not (or have not) its other members. Their keeping up of this absurd pretense has, over the years, amounted to a highly corrosive and invidious ‘conspiracy of silence.’
WHAT FORM DOES SUCH INVALIDATION TAKE?
This invalidation involves our thoughts, experiences, and feelings being denied or, even, scorned and held in contempt; it can, and, not infrequently does, amount to a kind of re-writing of history and brain-washing. We can be placed in an Orwellian hell in which we are forced to believe two and two really do make five, that black really is white.
Examples of things that might be said to us in an attempt to invalidate us:
– you’re over-sensitive
– for god’s sake stop harping on about that, it’s ancient history
– turn off the water-works, you’re getting upset over absolutely nothing
– I think you’re a very horrible person for bearing grudges
– Jesus told us to forgive, perhaps you should take a leaf out of his book
– you’re blowing all this massively out of proportion
– stop wallowing in this revolting self-pity
– you’re always whinging
– get over yourself!
– oh, shut up – I do listen to you!
– I was just teasing you – can’t you take a joke, for god’s sake?!
– stop taking this ‘holier than thou’ attitude, you’re far too judgmental
– don’t you think it’s time you climbed down from your high horse?
– you’ve completely misinterpreted what I was saying
– stop criticizing me, I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong
– it’s your fault I did/said that – you drove me to it!
– I never did that
– I never said that
– that never happened
Largest network of licensed therapists