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Do My Feelings Matter?

Reena used to feel lonely and disconnected in her marriage. Theirs was an arranged marriage with a courtship period of 3 months. She could sense from the start that Vivek was never comfortable whenever there was an emotional outburst. He would try to cheer me up by making up a joke about the situation or he would divert the topic, it always felt like he was mocking me. It made me question: Why doesn’t he ever ask me what made me sad” ”Doesn’t he care about what I feel?”

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Types Of Emotional Invalidation

Karan had a break up 2 weeks ago and he looked for support from his best friend Vaibhav. Initial few days he listened and would suggest going out for drinks. They would talk about the break up but never about how it made him feel. Vaibhav would assure him by saying ‘it would be okay’ but after some more weeks passed, Karan could sense him lacking patience or completely avoiding talking about relationships.

There came a point after two months when his friend even said-:

“What is the big deal. So what if she left you, you guys were always fighting anyways. Just get over it already”

Karan was taken aback, should I NOT feel hurt?

Saina was undergoing a tough time dealing with the new work and city. She was flustered trying to adjust to the new pace of work and life.

She got so busy that she wouldn’t have time even on the weekends..

There were some days when she used to experience frustration and crying spells because she used to feel lonely but then something or the other would come up and she didn’t linger on it.

“After moving in here was MY decision. So what If I’m homesick”

After another month passed Saina fell severely ill. This was the first time in months that she was listless for a week.

She realized how little time she had spent on herself .

She took this time to write her diary and catch u[ with her friends which she was putting off for a long time.

In all these situations what Reena, Karan and Saina are experiencing is called Emotional Invalidation.

Emotional invalidation is when a person’s thoughts and feelings are left unacknowledged or completely disregarded either by others or yourself.. Invalidation can cause feelings of anger, frustration, irritation or resentment for the person facing it.

Invalidation can negatively impact the bond that close ones share as it leads to a feeling of emotional disconnect from the loved one.

When we invalidate our self then it creates distance and alienation with our inner self.

Other statements that depict emotional invalidation are:

How to Deal With Invalidation

1. Communication- As individuals we are unique and have subjective past experiences that shape our communication styles, attachment patterns and emotional expression.

In the first case, Vivek is uncomfortable when faced with intense emotions. Through their marital counseling sessions, Reena realized that humor or silence was his defense mechanism in such discomforting situations and he was not actually mocking her. This is how he dealt with any emotional situation with everyone, not just her.

The Life Coach probed both of their experiences separately and it was found out that both had different experiences since childhood which shaped their communication pattern and attachment styles.

In Reena’s family, open communication and emotional expression was encouraged whenever there was a stressful situation

However in Vivek’s family, his dad was a stoic person and since childhood Vivek has been taught to deal with every situation “rationally” and was even punished for expressing anger or crying. So he started suppressing all negative emotions. This shaped the way he would express himself in any relationship.

Vivek underwent a separate counseling session in order to overcome the deep rooted suppressed feelings of anger and hurt that he had been neglecting all these years.

They had known each other for 3 months and hence it does take time to identify and accommodate each other’s individual thoughts, ideas, perceptions and ways of dealing with different situations

Vivek did not understand the damaging impact of invalidation on Reena. For him, it was his normal way of dealing with emotional expression which he had learnt since childhood.

Through their sessions, Reena understood the root cause of his discomfort and how it used to overwhelm him. In turn Vivek realized that acknowledgement of her emotions made her feel better and would in turn enhance the emotional intimacy they shared.

Expectations- Reena and Vivek conveyed to each other their expectations of how they wanted to deal with emotionally charged situations.

In the case of Karan, he was not able to view his friendship with Vaibhav in the same manner due to the feeling of disrespect and how his words trivialized his emotions. He isolated himself from his friends but his coping mechanisms remained the same i.e drinking

When his drinking got out of hand that is when he approached a Life Coach

The Life Coach helped Karan understand that often in any relationship, how we perceive the situation may not match the perception of our close ones. They might support us and be empathetic but it is us that have undergone the experience and hence they might not be able to fully understand its effect on us.

What might be significant and impactful for us may seem trivial to others. Karan felt hurt because his feelings were disregarded by a close friend whom he expected to understand his situation.

The Life Coach offered him the space to express his emotions of hurt and pain. In the first few sessions, the counselor just heard him and reflected his feelings. He felt acknowledged which was missing earlier. This helped him take the first step towards emotional healing from his break up.

Self Compassion- In case of self invalidation, it is important to understand that telling ourselves not to feel the way we do is conveying to ourselves that our feelings do not matter or are invalid. Just like we wouldn’t intentionally invalidate the emotions of our loved ones, we are required to treat ourselves with the same level of understanding, kindness and acknowledgement.

The different experiences with the Life Coaches led to an understanding of a basic but underrated fact

“Emotions heal when they are heard and acknowledged”

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