What Is Emotional Invalidation? Emotional Cause & Effects

By Jenny Chang|Updated June 20, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Aaron Horn, LMFT

Validation is the foundation for feelings of safety in any relationship. It is a very important tool for healthy discussions, emotional intimacy, healthy love, and healthy emotions or feelings. Hence, emotional invalidation of your partner’s feelings, or any form of invalidation, can be disrespectful to one partner in a relationship. Validating your child's emotions so they know their feelings matter is also very important.

Invalidation can be extremely painful to the person on the receiving ends feelings. However, inviting change is possible if you want it, through the help of a licensed professional and keep yourself accountable, change is definitely possible!

Learn More About Psychological Invalidation Today
This website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.

That is why it’s the polar opposite, emotional invalidation, or making it seem as though a person’s feelings don’t matter is so painful and detrimental to the human psyche.

It involves the process of telling someone that their internal experience is not important and can be considered a form of emotional abuse that occurs in many social landscapes, structures, and relationships.

Because it can be so subtle, many people do not know when emotional invalidation is happening, or worse, may not believe it is such a big deal.

Furthermore, emotionally dismissive people may not recognize their behavior of invalidating someone else’s feelings, which makes it all the more insidious.

What Is Emotional Invalidation?

The definition of emotional invalidation or the definition of invalidate means to dismiss or make not valid someone else’s feelings. It is the act to knowingly invalidating something or someone, often a partner’s feelings.

Non-Validation: Emotional Invalidation Definition

Therefore, emotional invalidation is the act of rejecting, dismissing, or minimizing someone else's thoughts or feelings or a person’s emotional experience. It implies that a person's experience is, wrong, unacceptable, or not important.

Actions can include texting or non-verbal cues such as the silent treatment or emotional neglect. These powerful non verbal emotional invalidation that can significantly hurt the recipient of the invalidating messages

Emotional invalidation can be perpetrated by oneself or by another person, such as a friend, romantic partner, teacher, colleague, parent, or family member.

How Exactly Does Invalidation Happen?

Often, the person who participates in emotional invalidation is not aware or conscious that they are doing so; they believe they are genuinely helping the other person and do not purposely intend to shame their thoughts and feelings.

That is why emotional invalidation can be hard to confront the perpetrator. 

If a person is aware that they emotionally invalidate others, they do so as a way to manipulate and establish control over another individual using emotional invalidation.

Reasons for this behavior can range from an inability to empathize to not knowing how to validate others and express it effectively. Some individuals may learn emotional invalidation from a young age from their parents, which is why self awareness is very important if you want to be a supportive partner, friend, or offer support to family members.

Some common non-validating emotional statements:

  1. "It could be worse." / "I'm sure it wasn't that bad."
    1. These statements minimize and marginalize a person's emotional experience and force a toxic positivity on them.
  2. "You shouldn't feel that way. It makes me feel disrespectful towards you."
    1. This conveys superiority over someone and denies their experience by making them feel small.
  3. "Just get over it." / "Just let it go."
    1. This is an extremely dismissive expression and makes the other person feel emotionally suppressed and brushed aside.

A person who participates in invalidation emotionally may deny your experience completely or tell you to stop making things up.

Invalidating Effects

Psychological invalidation causes serious psychological damage.

Not only does it create emotional distance, conflict, violence, and disruption in relationships, but an emotionally invalidated person can feel alienated, confused, inferior, worthless, and problematic.

Studies on Other's Feelings and Relationships 

Being in a non-validating environment has shown to have a negative impact on one's emotional self-efficacy, with a study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology revealing that it can lead to serious consequences.

A study found that children who experienced emotional invalidation such as psychological abuse (call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE for help anytime), punishment, and minimization experienced chronic emotional distress in adulthood and led to symptoms of depression and anxiety.

This study discovered that emotional invalidation can be the root of low self-esteem, a deep-seated fear of rejection.

This can lead a young child to believe that if their feelings do not matter, neither do they. That’s why it’s so important to validate a loved one’s feelings and show them that their feelings matter.

Ways to Show Emotional Validating

If you notice that you have been emotionally non-validating toward others, the chances are that you had a parent, teacher, or friend who did the same to you.

But the good news is, you can improve your emotionally invalidating behavior and take the first step toward change.

The first thing you can do to validate someone is to acknowledge or reflect the other person's experience.

Let them know that you hear them and that it is okay and valid for them to feel that way.

"I hear you are feeling disappointed about what happened." 

It's important to remember that emotional validation is not about agreeing with someone; you can have different thoughts or opinions but still be able to empathize with the other person.

Emotional validation is important in friendships too. Invalidation can be harmful to the other person.

Avoid giving unsolicited advice, and if you feel the need to, always ask them if they want help with this problem. If the answer is no, keep on listening. Remember, it is not your responsibility to fix anyone.

Emotional validation means acknowledging, accepting, and understanding another's feelings and thoughts and that you support them in their perspective.

A supportive partner won’t make you feel uncomfortable for sharing your feelings. They may understand that having a productive conversation can help them understand you better and listening is a critical communication tool.

A validating thing to say instead would be, "I hear that you are feeling scared. Can you tell me what makes you afraid of the ocean?"

If you have a habit of invalidating yourself, you can start by practicing simple affirmations that accept your feelings and experiences. Examples of these include:

"My feelings are valid, and they are important."

"I respect and honor my feelings."

"I accept my feelings and acknowledge that they're not wrong."

What to Do About It

Emotions serve an important purpose and will almost always point to something that needs to be acknowledged.

They are not right or wrong-they are a reflection of your inner experience. If you are the recipient of emotional invalidation, know that you are not unreasonable or unstable-your thoughts and emotions are valid because they are real and your feelings matter. While your feelings may not seem important to that person, they may be a big deal to you, and being able to express yourself in a relationship is a critical communication tool.

Being the recipient of emotional invalidation can often trigger a fight-or-flight response that can either make you act aggressively or defensively. However, this may only establish conflict and division and play into the perpetrator's plan of distracting you from the real issue at hand. If someone is being non-validating to you, it is understandable that you may be feeling angry, may want to defend yourself and increase your efforts to be understood.

Instead of getting angry or defending yourself against this invalidating behavior, try not to accept the invalidation. Let them know calmly using "I" statements how you feel, and be prepared to end the conversation if they do not hear you or want to hear you. Let them know that you will discuss the matter with them when you feel safe to do so. Be neutral and assertive and set clear boundaries with them.

If this person continues to invalidate your feelings and resist change, it may be wise to take inventory of the relationship and think about whether or not it is worth your time and investment.

Therapy is an effective way of dealing with intense emotions, can help you reclaim your self-confidence and assertiveness emotionally, and help you in overcoming emotional invalidation.

A licensed therapist can also help you cope, offer support, and create a safe space for you to share how you feel without judgment.

The Overall Takeaway

Validation doesn't mean you lie or agree with another person, but to accept someone's experience as truthful for them. Surround yourself with people who support this, and who are kind, encouraging, and validating.

Equally as important is being in a compassionate relationship with yourself. Remind yourself of your inherent worth-that you are enough and that you matter, regardless of what others think or say about you. When you truly know this, it can be very powerful.

Meet Our Therapists

Learn More About Psychological Invalidation Today
Joseph Frey - MA, LMFT

Stephen Robinson - MA, LCMHCS, LCAS

Darcy Dobb - LCSW, MHPP
Helpful resources for relationships & more in your inbox
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak With A Licensed Therapist
This website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.