Invalidation – A Favorite Tool of an Abuser


Abusers have many tools in their tool belt. One of their greatest tools is to invalidate you. Tweet This

What does this invalidation look like? The abuser tries to talk you out of your feelings. Here are several examples:*

Ordering you to feel differently –

  • Smile.
  • Be happy.
  • Don’t cry.
  • Don’t be so sensitive.
  • Stop taking everything so personally.

Ordering you to look differently –

  • Don’t look so sad/serious/smug.
  • Don’t look so pleased with yourself.

Denying your perceptions –

  • You’ve got it all wrong.
  • But of course I respect you.
  • I was only kidding.
  • But I do listen to you!

Making you feel guilty –

  • Don’t you care about me?
  • I tried to help you.
  • At least I . . .
  • You’re making everyone around you miserable.
  • You’re so selfish.
  • What about my feelings?

Minimizing your feelings –

  • You must be kidding.
  • Your life isn’t that bad.
  • That is not worth getting upset over.
  • You’re just fine.

Using reason –

  • There is no reason to get upset.
  • You are not being rational.
  • Let’s stick to the facts.

Debating –

  • I don’t always do that.
  • It’s not that bad/far/hot/serious.

Judging and labeling you –

  • You are a cry baby.
  • You are too emotional.
  • You’re impossible.
  • You are too thin-skinned.

Getting you to question yourself –

  • Why can’t you just get over it?
  • Why are you making such a big deal over nothing?
  • What’s wrong with you, can’t you take a joke?
  • Don’t you think you’re being a little dramatic?

Telling you how you “should” feel or act –

  • You should be thrilled.
  • You should be thankful that . . .
  • You shouldn’t worry so much.

Denial –

  • Now, you know that’s not true.
  • You don’t really mean that.

Sarcasm and Mocking –

  • Oh, you poor thing. Did I hurt your little feelings?
  • Do you think the world was created to serve you?

Philosophizing or using clichés –

  • Time heals all wounds.
  • There is a time for every season.
  • Life is full of pain and pleasure.

Showing Intolerance –

  • This is really getting old.
  • I’m sick of hearing about this.
  • You are always starting an argument.

Using the silent treatment –

  • (Pretending you don’t exist.)

How many of these have you heard? I was astonished at how many of these my ex used to say/do to me.

Invalidation is a form of psychological attack. When we are attacked, our natural instinct is to withdraw, or counter-attack. When we withdraw, we tend to feel powerless. When we go on the offensive and try to stand up for ourselves, this often escalates the conflict.

So, what can we do? We can choose a healthier response, one which is both informative and assertive, without being aggressive. We can express our feelings clearly and concisely, using “I” statements.

  • I feel invalidated.
  • I feel mocked.
  • I feel judged.

How the other person responds to your honesty will depend on:

  • How much they respect you.
  • How much they care about you and your feelings.
  • How insecure and defensive they are.
  • How much they are trying to change or control you.

 In general, an abuser doesn’t respect or care about your feelings. S/he is insecure and is trying to control you. Tweet This

Good chance your calm assertive expression will be met with one of the invalidating comments above like:

  • You’re such a cry baby.
  • Don’t be so sensitive.
  • I never meant to . . .

If you receive a response like that, you know you are dealing with an abuser. Take precautions. Work to get yourself safely out of the relationship.

Question: Which of these tactics does/did YOUR abuser use on you?

Romans 12:9-10 says:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

and Philippians 2:3 says:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves . . .

If people treat us well, we know they respect us. If they don’t, we know the opposite. May God give you discernment to know if you are being honored or invalidated.

Many blessings,




*These examples were given to me by a friend. I don’t know the author. If you do, please contact me so I can give the author credit.


This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. whatevernice says:

    My family, especially my dad, does this. “Oh, it ain’t that bad!” “Don’t be discouraged” when I am discouraged. They won’t let me feel my emotions. “You’re strong” when I’m not.

  2. whatevernice says:

    Another thing, I was whipped in the past, and when I talked against it, I was told it was for discipline and I deserved it!

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