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  • Mark Sutton

Don't Invalidate My feelings


“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.”

― Danielle Bernock

“It hasn’t affected me.” “Why would you want to bring that up again?” “Leave the past in the past.” “Surely it wasn’t that bad.”

“Build a bridge and Get over it.” “Are you sure you are remembering correctly?.”

“You shouldn’t feel that way” “I am sick and tired of hearing this” “Cheer up,be happy”

“You are Just having a bad day”

When someone you know experiences an extremely traumatic event or something that scares or shocks, it can go beyond the rational and into a deeper potentially debilitating disorder: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Trauma is a subjective and personal experience

It is a commonly held misbelieve that this is the province of soldiers or a major physical event such as a disaster or a car crash or sexual assaults, something truly dramatic. It isn’t and can arise from many other situations: the sudden loss of a loved one, a breakup, emotional or domestic abuse, sudden unemployment, witnessing someone else get hurt, poverty or being a member of a minority ethnic or sexual grouping can all cause PTSD. Neither does it become chronic, it can pass in months and even those who have a high level of trauma may not develop PTSD based on a variety of factors.

Invalidating an individual’s experience is harmful for the individual

You cannot explain away PTSD and when the person suffering and struggling is doubted or questioned or you try to excuse or discredit it then it causes them to shut down, become defensive, question themselves so as to not seek the help they need or silence them completely so that they suffer the whole internalised experience continually. It is vitally important to recognise that this is real, and it can happen to anyone. It is not someone addicted to drama, attention seeking or overreacting: it is a source of great life changing pain. When someone is triggered, anxious, breaking down and they are faced with invalidation, being told that they shouldn’t be reacting like this, it’s not a big deal, get over it or a host of statements that reflect our lack of awareness or feelings of discomfort observing (even coming from the best of intentions) then not only are they struggling to manage the disorder itself, then they are also struggling with feelings of shame or being somehow at fault with what is happening.

Just because you think they should be fine, doesn’t mean they are.

It is important not to get the person to validate or justify what is happening, that others are fine why shouldn’t they be or to be judgemental or belittling. First of all, accept their feelings, understand them and nurture them. Recognise them as a unique individual and identity. Don’t give advice, listen to what they are saying, and offer to help or support in a way that suits them. Allow them to safely share their feelings and thoughts. When they feel heard, acknowledged and accepted then healing can begin.

#trauma #feelings #invalidation

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© 2013 by Mark Sutton. Biodynamic Trauma practitioner, Access Bars. Yorkshire, Manchester,  NorthwestUK.