Narcissistic mothers are masters of invalidation. It’s part of their gaslighting arsenal. They dismiss and undermine your your feelings and emotions to make you feel only what’s acceptable to them that you feel. This means that they get to treat you the way they want, and manoeuvre the situation so you don’t get to feel the appropriate responses.
A classic way to invalidate you is to use a process called DARVO: Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender.
It is cruel beyond measure. Of all the abuses heaped upon daughters of narcissistic mothers, this might be the worst. If you can’t even trust and own your own feelings – well, what have you left?
Invalidation leaves daughters of narcissistic mothers with a lot of doubt into adulthood, not able to trust their own feelings – how do they know that they’re feeling what they think they’re feeling, or if it’s right? And given that our feelings are our guides – every feeling carries an important message – then we’re missing out on that essential system. For instance, if we don’t trust our fear, how do we know if we’re in danger, and then how can we take the necessary steps to protect ourselves?
Because of this invalidation daughters of narcissistic mothers can grow up believing that they are abnormal or twisted. This is because our totally natural and normal feelings are told to be wrong (either in as many words, or by implication), and so we absorb the message that we’re wrong to have them.
This is totally head-wrecking stuff. It can leave you wondering if you’re imagining it, if you’re over-reacting and so on, and that doubt leaves you open to more abuse.
Examples of Invalidation
These examples are taken from Steve Hein’s excellent website on invalidation which is well worth a visit.
Ordering You To Feel Differently
- Be happy.
- Cheer up.
- Lighten up.
- Get over it.
- Grow up
- Get a life
- Don’t cry.
- Don’t worry.
- Don’t be sad.
- Stop whining
- Stop laughing.
- Don’t get angry.
- Deal with it.
- Give it a rest.
- Forget about it.
- Stop complaining.
- Don’t be so dramatic.
- Don’t be so sensitive.
- Stop being so emotional.
- Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
- Stop taking everything so personally.
Ordering you to “look” differently
- Don’t look so sad.
- Don’t look so smug.
- Don’t look so down.
- Don’t look like that.
- Don’t make that face.
- Don’t look so serious.
- Don’t look so proud of yourself.
- Don’t look so pleased with yourself.
Denying Your Perception, Defending
- You’ve got it all wrong.
- But of course I respect you.
- But I do listen to you.
- That is ridiculous (nonsense, totally absurd, etc.)
- I was only kidding.
- That’s not the way things are.
- That’s not how things are.
- I honestly don’t judge you as much as you think.
- It’s not going to happen.
Trying to Make You Feel Guilty While Invalidating You
- I tried to help you..
- At least I …..
- At least you….
- You are making everyone else miserable.
Trying to Isolate You
- You are the only one who feels that way.
- It doesn’t bother anyone else, why should it bother you?
Minimizing Your Feelings
- You must be kidding.
- You can’t be serious.
- It can’t be that bad.
- Your life can’t be that bad.
- You are just … (being difficult; being dramatic, in a bad mood, tired, etc).
- It’s nothing to get upset over.
- It’s not worth getting that upset over.
- There’s nothing wrong with you.
- There is no reason to get upset.
- You are not being rational.
- But it doesn’t make any sense to feel that way.
- Let’s look at the facts.
- Let’s stick to the facts.
- But if you really think about it….
- I don’t always do that.
- It’s not that bad. (that far, that heavy, that hot, that serious, etc.)
Judging & Labeling You
- You are a cry baby.
- You have a problem.
- You are too sensitive.
- You are over-reacting.
- You are too thin-skinned.
- You are way too emotional.
- You are an insensitive jerk.
- You need to get your head examined!
- You are impossible to talk to.
- You are impossible.
- You are hopeless.
Turning Things Around
- You are making a big deal out of nothing.
- You are blowing this way out of proportion.
- You are making a mountain out of a molehill.
Trying to get you to question yourself
- What is your problem?
- What’s wrong with you?
- What’s the matter with you?
- Why can’t you just get over it?
- Why do you always have to ….?
- Is that all you can do, complain?
- Why are you making such a big deal over it?
- What’s wrong with you, can’t you take a joke?
- How can you let a little thing like that bother you?
- Don’t you think you are being a little dramatic?
- Do you really think that crying about it is going to help anything?
Telling You How You “Should” Feel or Act
- You should be excited.
- You should be thrilled.
- You should feel guilty.
- You should feel thankful that…
- You should be happy that ….
- You should be glad that …
- You should just drop it.
- You shouldn’t worry so much.
- You shouldn’t let it bother you.
- You should just forget about it.
- You should feel ashamed of yourself.
- You shouldn’t wear your heart out on your sleeve.
- You shouldn’t say that about your father.
Defending The Other Person
- Maybe they were just having a bad day.
- I am sure she didn’t mean it like that.
- You just took it wrong.
- I am sure she means well.
Negating, Denial & Confusion
- Now you know that isn’t true.
- You don’t mean that. You know you love your baby brother.
- You don’t really mean that. You are just … (in a bad mood today, tired, cranky)
Sarcasm and Mocking
- Oh, you poor thing. Did I hurt your little feelings?
- What did you think? The world was created to serve you?
- What happened to you? Did you get out of the wrong side of bed again?
Laying Guilt Trips
- Don’t you ever think of anyone but yourself?
- What about my feelings?!
- Have you ever stopped to consider my feelings?
Philosophizing Or Clichés
- Time heals all wounds.
- Every cloud has a silver lining.
- Life is full of pain and pleasure.
- In time you will understand this.
- When you are older you will understand.
- You are just going through a phase.
- Everything has its reasons.
- Everything is just the way it is supposed to be.
Talking about you when you can hear it
- She is impossible to talk to.
- You can’t say anything to her.
- This is getting really old.
- This is getting really pathetic.
- I am sick of hearing about it.
Trying to Control How Long You Feel Something, or Judging You for How Long You Feel It
- Are you still upset over that? It happened a long time ago.
- You should be over that by now.
- Maybe it is because…
- That is because …
- Of course, because you…. (This one hurts four ways. First, the “of course” minimizes what you feel, second the “because” explains what you feel, as if explaining it nullifies the feeling, third the “you” blames you and fourth, blaming you is a form of attack which is likely to make you feel either defensive or guilt-tripped or both.)