Validation & Invalidation – Part I: Invalidation


I’m going to quote Steven from on validation and invalidation: “To validate is to acknowledge and accept one’s unique identity and individuality. Invalidation, on the other hand, is to reject, ignore, or judge their feelings, and hence, their individual identity…Invalidation may be the single most damaging form of psychological abuse.” I strongly suggest that the contents of the link be read and considered.

Validation is communicating to the person that he/she has value, and that his/her opinions and viewpoint have value. Invalidation, then, communicates to the person that they have no value, nor do his/her opinions and viewpoint.

If validation is seen as one of the threads that binds our relationships, then invalidation can be seen as the scissors that cut that thread.


I’m going to begin with invalidation. I do it. Most people do it. It is damaging to other people.

To quote Steven again, “Invalidation is to reject, ignore, mock, tease, judge, or diminish someone’s feelings. It is an attempt to control how they feel and for how long they feel it.” In short, invalidation is a control tactic.

Invalidation is also egocentric. From where do we get the idea that we have the right to invalidate someone else? From where do we get the idea that we are so superior that we are in a position of authority to do this? I believe the answer is society and societal norms.

Invalidation and Fear

Invalidation puts the invalidated person on the defensive. Always. It is a form of psychological attack.

“All invalidation is a form of psychological attack. When we are attacked, our survival instinct tells us to defend ourselves either through withdrawal or counter-attack. Repteated [sic] withdrawal, though, tends to decrease our self-confidence and lead to a sense of powerlessness and depression. On the other hand, going on the offensive often escalates the conflict or puts us in the position of trying to change another person.” (From

The person invalidating is also likely acting from defensiveness. The person we invalidate is likely expressing an opinion that threatens our world view. We invalidate that opinion, and the person expressing it, to protect our own world view as objective truth. The problem is that our personal world view is not objective truth; it is our paradigm. Invalidating another’s paradigm damages our relationship with that person by denying that person’s legitimate individuality.

Those who have a personal world view that is closer to the norms of society tend to believe that their personal worldview is objective truth with more vehemence than those whose worldviews differ from societal norms. This belief is based in argumentum ad populum: the idea that a view gains more validity with more adherents. Those whose personal world view is closer to the societal norm have had that view validated repeatedly by others in agreement; thus, their idea of their personal world view as “objective truth” has been repeatedly reinforced.

Invalidation Examples

1.) “Ordering” You to Feel Differently

  • “Don’t be sad.”
  • “Cheer up.”
  • “Calm down.”
  • “Deal with it.”
  • “Give it a rest.”
  • “Stop whining.”
  • “Don’t take everything so personally.”

2.) Ordering you to “Look” Differently (same as above with different verb).

  • “Don’t look so sad.”

3.) Denying Your Perception, Defending

  • “You’ve got it all wrong.”
  • “That is ridiculous!” (nonsense, totally absurd, etc.)
  • “I was just joking.” (Can’t you take a joke?)
  • “That’s not how things are.”

4.) Trying to Make You Feel Guilty While Invalidating You (Emotional Blackmail)

  • “You are making everyone else miserable/uncomfortable.”
  • “After everything I’ve done for you…”
  • “How can you say that after everything he/she has done for you?”
  • “You are ungrateful.”

5.) Trying to Isolate You (Appeal to Numbers)

  • “Everyone believes the opposite.”
  • “You are the only one who feels that way.”
  • “No one else has a problem with it.”

6.) Minimizing Your Feelings

  • “You must be joking.”
  • “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
  • “It’s not that bad.”
  • “It’s not worth it.”

7.) Using Reason

  • “That doesn’t make sense.”
  • “You aren’t being rational.”
  • “Let’s stick to the facts.”

8.) Judging & Labeling You

  • “You are a wayward spouse, and they all think foggy.”
  • “You are hopeless.”

9.) Negating, Denial & Confusion

  • “Now you know that isn’t true.”
  • “That’s not worth responding to.”
  • Completely ignoring what a person said.
  • “You don’t really mean that.”

10.) Philosophizing Or Clichés

EQI has more categories. This initial article draws heavily upon that site, including for the categories and some of the examples. Other than commentary on societal norms, logical fallacies, and defensiveness on the part of the invalidator, I claim no original ideas or copyright.

Discuss this article on our forum.

This entry was posted in Communication Skills, Emotional Fulfillment, Honesty & Deception, Relationship Safety & Security, Validation and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Validation & Invalidation – Part I: Invalidation

  1. Pingback: So You Want To Improve Your Marriage - Intro & Avoiding Common Mistakes - Marriage AdvocatesMarriage Advocates

  2. Kevin,

    We have a long discussion about how to handle such situations on the original thread in our Discussion Forum here:

    I hope you find what you seek there. If not, simply post and ask your unaddressed issue.

    Good luck,

  3. Kevin Miller says:

    How do I respond in each of these cases? I have been through all of them during my life.

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