Methods of the Invalidator
One method of an invalidator is to keep you in a constant state of uncertainty. She rarely gives you an answer. Just vagueness - no commitment. She makes you feel unsure of your environment for long periods of time, until your adaptive ability begins to fail.
For example, there are times when you think, "Maybe he's changed. He just bought me a new car and told me he loved me. He's been telling me how wonderful I am for a week/month." Things are great for a while. Then inevitably, after you trust him again, he begins all over again with the criticisms, the insinuations, the anger. He has you trapped in a sickening feeling of uncertainty.
The favorite tool of the invalidator: she simply takes her own feelings and puts the responsibility for them onto another person, as if these feelings originate with the other person.
For example, a person who doesn't like you says, "I don't think you like me." This statement perhaps gets you questioning yourself. It thereby puts the attention on you, and you start looking at your own feelings instead of noticing the other person's feelings. This provides a good hiding place for the other person. The one doing the accusing is often calling you to task for things she herself is doing.
Isn't it funny that the one lashing out at others for their negative feelings or misdeeds is often guilty of the same failings in thought, word, or deed? When someone attacks you for something you didn't do, it says more about them than it does you.
For example, if I were a dedicated wife and my husband started accusing me of cheating on him, I would know almost for sure that he had done it in thought, word, or deed. You can tell an enormous amount about people by their projections. Listen closely.
Generalizations are simply exaggerations of small truths. The more truth there is in a generalization, the more it can be exaggerated. A person who uses generalizations does so to be in control of another.
A person who is responsible for their feelings would say they are angry that you didn't do such and such. But the invalidator projects the responsibility for this judgment onto the world, as if everyone would agree that you are no good. In doing this, the invalidator attacks your self-esteem instead of the real problem. When a judgment had you going, especially if made by someone you love or respect, you were upset by this even if you don't think of yourself as stupid, or irresponsible, or whatever title the invalidator was attaching to you. After all, you don't want him thinking that of you, so you are motivated to impress him, to please him, to get him to remove the unpleasant titles he's giving you. All the while, of course, he is in control of the situation.
Manipulation is bad control. There is such a thing as good control. Good control is ethical and includes a fair exchange, "please" and "thank you." The invalidator wants to control . . . period. If good control fails, she uses bad control. If the usual methods fail, she uses devious, covert, or overt methods, because she is compelled to win or be in control. You may often be pressured to let her have things her way. She will use sneaky methods of manipulation, or outright methods of domination. An invalidator is a manipulator.
"I don't want to upset you but..." (He probably does want to upset you.) "I don't mean to interrupt . . ."(Right!!) "I don't mean to rain on your parade." (Uh huh). "Don't let this bother you, but . . " (Bother. Bother.) "I hope this doesn't insult you, but . . " (Here comes an insult!) His words are sweet, but underneath are daggers. The tongue is a mighty weapon, a sharp sword.
It is well known that double messages in childhood contribute to schizophrenia. The mother who says, "I love you," and then goes rigid when her child hugs her is sending a very destructive double message. You will find many double messages like this from an invalidator. But they may not be so obvious. Usually, you end of feeling weird or bad without realizing why.
The invalidator will ask you a question about yourself, then cuts you off before you finish answering. She asks you a leading question like, "Do you still quarrel with your wife?" You can't answer this question without appearing wrong. She walks out in the middle of a conversation, creating a logjam of unspoken thoughts piled up in your mind.
Building You Up, Cutting You Down
Be careful who you depend on for your self-esteem. If you depend on others, the invalidator will shower you with compliments until you are totally dependent on him, then he will take you apart piece by piece until you are in his control.
The whole idea is to get you introverted and introspective so that you don't notice what is going on outside yourself. Once you start looking anxiously and self-consciously at yourself, the invalidator will subtly draw your attention to all your most negative qualities. This will make you feel weaker, more susceptible to control.
By doing this, the invalidator can pull you down to size. He may feel that he worries too much, while you usually appear calm and confident. If he can get you to come down to his level and start worrying more, then he feels superior. And will be the first to offer help.
After a while, you worry only about what he thinks. What he will do. Whether he will be angry at you or not. You stop looking at yourself after a while because you see so much wrong with you that you totally depend on him for your sense of worth. And then when even he doesn't want you . . ?
The Double Bind
One of the meanest tricks of the invalidator is the double bind. Logic will not solve this problem. Only awareness will solve it. The invalidator puts you in a position where you are "wrong if you do, wrong if you don't."
The solution is to get out of the introverting logic set up by the invalidator so you can view the while situation. There is a certain feeling that goes along with a double bind, a feeling of being trapped. This feeling should be your cue to start being aware of your environment. That feeling should automatically make you stop thinking, stop introverting. Remove yourself from the immediate situation, and take a look at what's happening. Once an invalidator has you introverted and thinking, you are under his or her control.
The solution: Do not introvert. Do not defend yourself. Try to notice what makes the invalidator want to put you on the spot.
Invalidator: An Archetype
Do you remember a friend that you imitated? Do you act like your mother sometimes?
Your father? It could be said that you entered into the "archetype"
of your mother, father, or friend for that time you acted like them. You probably
have several personalities that you have developed yourself. Your "mom"
or "dad" role. Your "professional" image. Your "kid"
personality. These are separate types that you develop and use every day. It's
almost like having separate suits of clothing for different occasions in the
closet of your mind.
The point is: Did you ever notice that most invalidators are not that way all the time? That's what makes them so difficult to understand sometimes. They are unpredictable! You never know what might set them off. (Sometimes you do know.)
All of a sudden it's like a demon takes them over. This nice person becomes a ranting maniac, or else he seems nice, but you suddenly feel bad around him without knowing why. There are various degrees of obviousness when invalidation occurs. And there is a psychological cycle that happens to each invalidator when invalidating behavior appears.
Most Obvious Personality
This person appears to have no conscious at all and sometimes seems crazed enough to be capable of anything. He seems about to lose control at any second. He exudes and reeks of anger, outrage, and righteousness. He threatens to do things that are the most liable to do you in. He may sometimes threaten to do outlandish things while smiling at you as if enjoying your plight or he makes it appear that you deserve his disapproval, that you have surely done something to set him off. At other times he is overly loving and apologetic. Sometimes too much liquor can turn on this demonic personality in a person.
Less Obvious Personality
She points our your weaknesses. She reminds you of your past misdoings. She tries to get your agreement that things you do are wrong, and is constantly proving how bad you are. She acts as if the good things you do aren't that great, or "you finally did something good for a change." She is righteous. When you point out to this person some wrongdoings of hers, she will bombard you with all of your wrongdoings, in an indignant manner. Her memory for recalling your mistakes is usually fantastic. Later, she may get upset: "How could you say that about me? You hurt me." She proves to you what an ass you are. She is jealous of your possessions and envies your accomplishments. She belittles you in groups.
This person appears to be your good buddy. He always has some negative thing to tell you in "good faith." He loves to be "honest" and "truthful." He gossips about you behind your back and is secretly jealous of you. He tells you secrets about the negative things other people are thinking of you. He pays you compliments that are really double messages, insinuating that you are paranoid if you confront him on his double messages. It's possible he has a higher opinion of you than he does of himself.
All these types indicate, nobody is an invalidator all the time. More often,
a perfectly wonderful person turns from the one you love into a monster you
hates you and can't think of enough ways to degrade you. Your loved one is temporarily
just like a devil. This demonic form is not all there is in this person; it
is an archetype he or she enters at times. While someone is in it, this demonic
personality is complete - it has its own thoughts, ideas, ethics, and behavior.
A person may enter into this behavior consciously, or may slip into it unconsciously
when something in the environment triggers it.
Most people slip into the invalidator archetype unconsciously, reacting to subtle and sometimes unnoticed cues in the environment. These poor people have been exposed to invalidators in the past - often a parent or sibling who just never could be pleased or approving. Unconsciously, without understanding the source of their trouble, they become invalidators at various unpredictable times. They are running on automatic pilot; they don't know what they are doing, and they don't know what else to do. Sliding into this role is no great advantage, either to the victim or the invalidator. The invalidator can win a lot of battles with the behavior, but in the long run loses the war. He or she may get to control others for a time, but after a while no one wants to be around an invalidator. Of course, some invalidators are so clever and subtle that they always have others around them to control.
Identifying an Invalidator
Perhaps you met someone who flattered you by being possessive and jealous.
Then later you were puzzled when this person treated you condescendingly. This
person would be interested in you especially when you had the attention of others,
but then became bored with you when you devoted most of your time to him. He
might become enraged when you did something against his will or against his
opinion. When you demonstrated you had a mind of your own, he might become more
enraged. Making love to this person would seem like more of a satisfaction of
his libido than a sincere expression of love. Everyone probably has these tendencies
sometimes, but the invalidator has them to a great degree.
To deal with an invalidator, first you have to be able to detect one. Methods of invalidation can be so clever, so sneaky, and so suppressive that you might not be able to see them. If you know someone that you always feel bad with, it could be your insecurities, or it could be an invalidator at work. Probably both.
Simply stated, your insecurities come from past experiences that you never really noticed or understood or accepted, that have been embedded in your subconscious and wait, ready to cause pain or defensiveness or introversion at odd moments when you least suspect they are at work. A clever invalidator finds your most sensitive spots, and plays on them to gain control over you by making you feel vulnerable.
The important thing to look at is how you feel over a certain period of time when you are in the company of a possible invalidator. It is not necessary to see all the mechanisms an invalidator uses. Somewhere you will pick up the way things are going with this person. If you feel constant jabs of discomfort when you are with someone, take a look at what he or she is doing. Notice these forms of behavior exist in some people at some times, and be prepared to handle them when they do. These traits are for you to know about so you don't introvert on yourself.
About 1% of the population are conscious invalidators, 20% are semi-conscious.
If you are reading this, chances are you are not the 1% mentioned. That kind
of person would not want to attempt the self-improvement contained here.
True invalidators are not easy to spot. But if you pay attention to your feelings, and to people who are connected to invalidators, you will be able to recognize them. You will notice that people connected to invalidators are not in the best condition, while the invalidator seems just fine. The invalidator's family may seem to be all "mental cases" while he or she is the only sane one. It is really just the opposite.
If you choose to be connected to a true member of the nasty 1%, because you
think you can handle it, there are some things you should know. He has to have
control. It's survival for him - ego survival. If he sees himself as lesser
than you, there will always be the push to reduce you so he can control you.
The very first time you are sick or run-down or in trouble, or in any way down,
he will try to make sure you stay down. If you want to hang around playing that
sort of game, it's your business. Your invalidator may be very charming and
adventurous and probably very intelligent. If your invalidator "turns you
on," have fun while it lasts. Misery is around the next corner. You may
think you'll never be in that vulnerable position of feeling "down."
But by staying connected to a "one-per center," you are creating it.
So good luck.
Allowing yourself to be under constant stress of always having to react to an invalidator could lead to psychosomatic illness. These victims had ulcers, heart disease, cancer, and other disorders. Being under the daily stress of dealing with an invalidator does eat away at you even if you handle it very well. And usually with a true invalidator, you have to handle it, and handle it, and handle it.... ad nauseam, ad infinitum. Then if you do leave, the person who is a ranting, raving invalidator, may suddenly get very soft, and may even admit to invalidating. He will do anything to get you back under his wing. He will tell you how miserable he is without you.
Then when you feel sorry for him and decide to come back, he will secretly consider you a fool for being sympathetic. He will wait for a time, then he will begin working to get you down again.
A true invalidator will say anything to keep you with him, because he has to have you, not because he loves you. Because he has to control you, not because he loves you. Because you fulfill his desire for power, not because he wants you. Because you serve his purpose, not because he is interested in you. He is interested in you only so that he can find your weaknesses and play on them, to control you.
It doesn't matter whether an invalidator is conscious or unconscious of what he does. He is still responsible for it. It doesn't matter if someone shoots you consciously or unconsciously . . . you still die. In the case of invalidation, it's sometimes harder to deal with someone who is unconscious of doing it. When confronted with what he is doing, he may say, "Where did you get that silly idea? You are invalidating me by accusing me of invalidation!" After he says that, you will probably be ready to tear him apart. But there are some things to consider. First, he is unconsciously invalidating you, there's a good chance he has been connected to an invalidator (mother, father, boss, spouse). When he gets angry at you, it may come out as invalidation. Being an "unconscious invalidator" is very hard for any person to confront. No one wants to think of him - or herself that way. Then again, it's not your problem that he doesn't recognize his problem. You must treat him "as if" he is conscious of it. The best you can do is (1) point it out, (2) stand your ground, or (3) disconnect if he is not willing to see it. He may come around only after he is faced with losing his relationship with you.
Introducing the Victim
People are born willing to listen, but after many years of being put down,
a person may stop being willing to listen. People are also born willing to be
wrong. But after an invalidator points out constantly what we do wrong, we may
stop being willing to be wrong about anything.
Invalidators abuse willingness to listen by making so many critical or cutting remarks that the victim closes up and stops listening completely, to escape the terrible feeling of always appearing to be wrong. This defense allows the victim to stop hearing the invalidator and stops some of the pain of invalidation, but the reaction to the invalidator may also cause the person not to listen to anyone else, either. An invalidator's victim may try to appear totally righteous. The victim has lost the willingness to listen and the willingness to be wrong.
You may know someone who doesn't listen much and talks a lot. Was there an invalidator in his or her past?
Another person who has been injured by an invalidator may be very quiet and shy. He is afraid to open his mouth out of fear of being invalidated. He may seem to reject friendship with anyone, but that may spring from his fear. A shy person may be naturally quiet and reserved, or he may have been connected to an invalidator who stepped on his self-esteem whenever he spoke up for himself. There is a difference between choosing to be quiet and feeling stifled.
Another product of an invalidator is someone who is very stubborn. He may call himself "strong-willed." He has had it with invalidators, has decided to stand his ground no matter what, and will not change his mind under any circumstances. He is never wrong.
How can we correct our own behavior if we can't listen to others and if we can't afford to be wrong? Stifling the gift of communication is one of the most destructive things that one person can do to another. Equally devastating is the part we ourselves play when we allow someone else to force us to limit or distort our communication ability because of our fear of invalidation.
You may know someone you consider to be a good person, who puts up with another who makes her life miserable. You wonder why she takes it. Possibly she feels unworthy of having someone nice to be with. She can't accept people being nice to her. She is attracted to people who put her down.
She has been able to handle invalidation - after all, she is surviving, isn't she? But if she should happen to get some praise or affection, she doesn't know how to deal with it.
The person who invalidates is not always the SOB. A passive-aggressive victim can create a scene in which it looks like he is being invalidated. This person may be the sweetest person in town, yet frequently makes unconscious "little mistakes" without taking responsibility for them. This person might be late all the time and always have a good excuse for being late, and cower and make you look like a @#* for being upset with him. He is always putting himself down. The context of his interaction is "look how disgusting I am."
You tend to have no respect for someone who has no self-respect. When you congratulate him on something, he makes little of your congratulations because he can't have good will for himself. He may be a terrific person, and yet he will draw invalidators like a magnet. He will choose to have a lousy time with somebody you consider to be a SOB rather than a good time with you. If he is with you, he may constantly try to prove to you what a miserable helpless loser he is. He has to be "right" in thinking he is a victim, a lowly soul. He will set it up so the world proves this to him and to others constantly.
There is an invalidator in his past . . . and now there is an invalidator inside his head. He has internalized the invalidator and turned it against himself. But look out - his misery loves company.
An invalidator sets up a context that says, "You're wrong. You're wrong." And a victim sees himself as a victim and will not own responsibility, and he works hard to prove he is really a victim so he can be "right" about it.
The victim will bend your ear constantly about the tragedies of his life. Horrible circumstances, drunken spouse, fire-destroyed house, unemployment - and someone else is always to blame. "They" did it to him again. He will explain it in such a way that he could do nothing about it. "The car drove off the highway and hit a tree." (He just happened to be sitting there drunk behind the wheel.) Then they took away his license, so he lost his job. And they fired him after six months of faithful service just because he couldn't come to work. He is very interested in having you agree with him so he can feel more justified in being a victim.
This person may not appreciate anything you do for him because he feels unworthy of it. You will seldom be able to please him or make him happy. Happiness is impossible for him. These people are perfect mates for invalidators. They survive on being miserable. If things go too well for them, they will create an upset in their lives.
You may find that your efforts to help this victim never seem to work. He always seems to mess up his life again - always unconsciously. You end up feeling impotent. And until this person recognizes his victim act and begins to do something about it, there isn't much you can do. He has to intend to change. He has to stop blaming his bad luck and his weak willpower for his problems, and decide to stop being a loser.
A person's integrity is based on his or her intentions. If a person intends to be valuable and intends to be worthy, then there is no stopping her. She will give up proving how unworthy she is. Each person's worth is determined by that person alone. If she knows she has good intentions, then she may encounter barriers to her self-realization, she may make mistakes on the way, but there is no proving that she is a rotten person or a miserable loser. There is no way to make her a victim, once she has decided not to be one anymore. Her life can be focused on developing her magnificence, and not on the mistakes or barriers that temporarily get in her way. She intends to free herself, and her intention frees her.
This is not about two types of persons. If what you thought you got from this is the ability to run around pinning labels of "victim" or "invalidator" on real people, then you didn't get much from this information. This data is describing and identifying phenomena that may partially or wholly exist in an individual. If you use this data to make someone wrong then this information is about you.
Pointing out invalidation to another for the purpose of handling it is not invalidating that person. Pointing out invalidation for the purpose of making them wrong is invalidating. It's the intention behind the words and actions that make all the difference. In handling invalidation, you can get great confidence from knowing your intentions.
Nearly everyone has some of the traits of an invalidator. The one-per center does it consciously, consistently, for personal gain, for power, for control, and without conscience. But everyone falls into the role of invalidator sometimes. Do YOU invalidate? Probably! You may do it when you feel someone has wronged you. You may do it as a defense. You may do it unconsciously. The next section is addressed to the invalidator. It may help you recognize what someone is doing to you. But it also may help you recognize when you are the invalidator.
The Cycle of Invalidation
To an Invalidator
So. You have decided you are an invalidator. Or else you are not quite sure
you are an invalidator. Or else you don't consider yourself to be an invalidator,
but you are reading this section to see what will be said to them. If you admit
being an invalidator, that's great. You have confronted this part of yourself.
We all react to things. Some hurt others. Some hurt themselves. The secret behind changing it is your intention and willingness to know. That's about it. It may sound simple. Actually, it is sometimes simple and sometimes very difficult. Now that you've read most of this information, there is something you need to know. There is NO SUCH THING AS AN INVALIDATOR. There are people and the mechanism of invalidation. If you thought you were an invalidator, that just shows how willing you are to put yourself down.
If you find yourself invalidating, work on that mechanism. Get out of the destructive role. Maybe you think this doesn't really tell you how to stop invalidating. You want to stop right now. Well, too bad. Your impatience is showing. If you read the following data and understand it, then you will have the ability to clear it up for yourself. It will take time. By the way, another trait of an invalidator is....impatience.
Why you are an Invalidator
Was there someone in your life who invalidated you? It could have been someone you loved or someone you hated. Invalidation is a mechanism that gets passed on from one to another. Who in your life was always right? Under whose thumb were you? Of whom were you afraid? These questions may assist you in locating a possible invalidator in your life. Who invalidated you, or who did you see invalidate others?
If you feel bad about yourself for invalidating, then chances are feeling bad about yourself will cause you to invalidate even more. Chances are good that you invalidate yourself more than anyone. You may feel like such an SOB, you may be so down on yourself, that you think someone who would love you must be even worse than you are, and therefore deserving to be invalidated. After all, anyone who would hang around with such a creep as you are must be really screwed up. Right?
How do you stop?
So, what should you do if you catch yourself invalidating and decide you'd like to stop doing it? Maybe at some point in your life, someone made you feel so wrong that you succumbed to being wrong, and you agreed that you were wrong. After, that, you considered yourself to be basically wrong, or basically screwed up. You may also have made the assumption that others are basically nasty too.
You may have spent a lot of your life proving that you were not messed up because you don't want to appear bad. So you feel as if you have to be righteous about yourself. You have to be right all the time. Well, now, how did all this come about?
It happened through the mechanism of invalidation, which gets passed from one to another and one generation to another by contagion.
You may sometimes be attached to invalidation so closely you cannot see it. Sometimes you may feel the effect of invalidating. You may know you are doing it, and you don't want to, and you don't like yourself for doing it to people, and still you just keep on doing it. It can be so frustrating that you finally just give up and accept yourself as an SOB. You define yourself as "bad" and you dramatize invalidation. You constantly find yourself invalidating, just as you yourself were invalidated. You feel compelled to do it. It seems to happen automatically sometimes, because you identified with the invalidator.
You think you have only two choices:
1. Be like the invalidator and SURVIVE.
2. Be like the invalidated and succumb.
You may come to believe that you must hurt or be hurt, control or be controlled. After all, in your past experience, the invalidator won and you lost. You re-act. Get it? You repeat the whole drama, but this time you try to be the winner, the SOB that can't be defeated.
You may re-act in certain situations, almost like a machine. That's not you out there; that's just your dramatization of negative experiences you had years ago. When you are re-acting, or invalidating someone automatically because it was done to you, who really gets invalidated?
If there ever was a Satan, he wouldn't have wanted to work very hard to pollute souls. He probably would have resorted to inventing a set of nasty archetypes that would spread from one person to another by contagion. After all, he was so evil, he wouldn't want to struggle. It would be easier to throw a couple of turds into still water and watch it ripple. So he invented invalidation! And he made it contagious. We did the rest.
Maybe sometimes you are not into invalidation and sometimes you are. It may almost seem that you are two different people, one who has good intentions and is very supportive, and one who sometimes takes over, making you into an "invalidation entity." This evil entity is not you, but a role you are playing the role of invalidator.
You probably feel a sense of unreality when you are in that role. You act very controlling, but you may feel that you are being controlled. You may appear to others to be very demanding and authoritative. But inside you feel very helpless and scared. That demanding, authoritarian, invalidating entity is your act, which you re-act, re-act, and re-act.
What Happens to Invalidators
Two things happen to invalidators. Some of them see that invalidation doesn't work in the long run. This can happen through life hints. If a person gets enough of these hints and is paying attention, his or her behavior changes.
But not everyone gets the hint, and then what happens is rather sad. There is a natural cycle that people go through when they hurt others:
1. Hurt someone.
2. Admit wrongdoing, at least to oneself.
3. Feel guilt-not neurotic guilt, but real guilt.
4. Atone-do something to make up for it.
The invalidator's problem is that he can't admit being wrong, so he doesn't go through the natural cycle. He has more of a deny-and-suppress pattern.
1. Hurt someone.
2. Justify hurting that person, to oneself.
3. Suppress guilt, which eventually turns into a "bad mood."
4. Avoid atonement.
The suppressed guilt stays inside and gathers until the invalidator begins to feel depressed. Or he may become psychosomatically ill.
Maybe you've met a person who behaves this way. The demonic personality is a kind of manic state. The person seems to have no consciousness; he seems to enjoy manipulation and putting other people down.
In this phase, the invalidator is carefree. He doesn't notice and doesn't care about the feelings of others. He goes right on doing selfish things like drinking, playing around on his wife, or belittling others until, unexpectedly, he suddenly falls apart.
Now he enters an exaggerated state of remorse, or gets very sick, as his relationships with everyone start to fall apart. He gets sick, especially if his spouse leaves him. The illness punishes him and gets the spouse back at the same time.
Beware of the invalidator who doesn't get sick and does not have remorse. This one is bad news. His cycle is different. He doesn't really care about anyone but himself. He is extremely selfish. He is conscious of his invalidating and probably even works at perfecting it. This is the one-per center (The 20 per centers have enough conscious left to feel remorse at least.)
You've watched this one per center destroy people. The people around him are afraid of him, but in his control. He is not a total devil; no one is. Most of the time he leads what looks like a normal life. It's just that he is so selfish and possessive. And, every once in a while, he does something that will make a lasting scar on someone close to him. By the time he is done living his lifetime, the world is worse for his having been there.
You may have seen a person like this in action. He is selfish. He has no conscience. He is controlling of others and manipulative. He has no sympathy and no mercy. You may have watched him drive someone crazy or lead someone to commit suicide. You wonder how he gets away with it. You wonder why he lives that way. You wonder what will ever happen to him. Here's a story that may explain:
A friend watched helplessly while an invalidator ruthlessly invalidated his wife to suicide. It was a nonstop, merciless deed. He showed no conscience even though he had been with her for forty years. Of course, she was into a victim act and eventually made herself so weak she couldn't stand up to him anymore. She died on the day she committed suicide. He had been dead long before that.
The tools of invalidation are available for you to use right now. You or anyone can pick them up, practice them, and perfect them with repetition. But if you think invalidating people is a good way of controlling others, think twice.
Let's suppose you made use of a demonic archetype in which you were selfish and manipulative. Eventually you would really hurt someone, and then a natural remorse would tap you on the shoulder to remind you of your misdeeds. You might drop the selfish behavior and atone, get depressed, or get sick.
You use these mechanisms on a "buy now, pay later" plan. Sure, you can run around feeling carefree, not caring about others, for a while. But sooner or later you are going to end up alone and lonely. People eventually catch on, no matter how gregarious and fun-loving you are. Once people realize that you are completely taken up with yourself, they get turned off. Besides, there seems to be a natural law that eventually leads to the destruction of a person like this. After all, how can a person remain a human being and constantly destroy his or her own foundations as a human being?
If you repress remorse, you repress all feelings to that same degree. You also give up part of your ability to gauge how other people feel. So each time you repress real remorse, you die a little. You cannot lose touch with your own conscience without losing touch with others, because your conscience is the bridge that connects you to others.
The worst thing that can happen is that you become so selfish that you mess up all your relationships. You lose contact so badly that you can't understand other people at all. You lose your own feelings so that you can no longer experience love, beauty, friendship, or any of the meaningful experiences in life. You have to resort to booze, drugs, or degraded sex to feel anything at all. It's only the fleeting sensations, the "wow" moments, that are fun. You avoid anything meaningful.
You must have met people who are so far gone into themselves that they have lost their ability to understand others. They constantly invalidate others. They are also prone to moodiness or depression because nobody can stay in that totally selfish pattern forever.
If you think you can ever be happy living that way, think again. Watch for invalidation so you can handle it. Know exactly what it is. Know it and see it and sidestep it. Make invalidation lose its effect.
When someone tells you of something you did wrong, take a look at her intention in telling you that. Even if what she says is absolutely true, even if you did exactly what she said you did, look at her intention. Is she invalidating you, or is she trying to wise you up for your own sake?
And look at your own intentions. When you criticize someone, or point out a mistake or a misdeed, are you doing it for that person's own good or to hurt?
When you are angry, do you get angry at innocent bystanders? Do you have to get mad at someone? Can you get angry freely at inanimate objects, or just get angry, period? If you need a whipping boy, clean up your act. Anger should be expressed. But not at an innocent person.
When you detect an invalidator, whether it's someone near you or you yourself, show a little compassion. This poor unfortunate soul is either in hell or on his way. And what is more, never label anyone an invalidator. People are people. What people do is what people do. Attacking a person instead of attacking what that person is doing just doesn't work in the long run. You're just letting invalidation breed invalidation.
To The Invalidated Who Doesn't Invalidate
Well now, you are the "victim" of invalidation, but you don't invalidate.
You are not like those others. You never put anyone down. You never get angry.
You were connected to an invalidator at one time, and you see it all now.
You don't know how to get angry without hurting people, so you hold it all inside. You were made so wrong at one point that you made a forced decision that you were completely OK. Along with that decision, you developed an unwillingness to be wrong. But you made out better than some people; you didn't lose your willingness to listen.
Now you do the flip side of the work of an invalidator. You listen to people. You make people right. You never get angry. You've been invalidated by someone, and you certainly don't want to hurt people the way that person did. So you become dishonest with your true feelings. You fool people to build their egos.
So, now you believe you are perfectly OK. You are afraid to look at anything that doesn't agree with that premise. You won't look at ways you could change, because that would be admitting there is something wrong with you. To you, this idea is very frightening. Instead of seeing a change in your thinking as self-improvement, you feel ashamed of it, as a sign that something is wrong with you. However, the paradox is that to be perfect, you have to be willing to look at your imperfections. It is especially difficult for someone who has been made wrong to be willing to appear wrong. Your willingness to be wrong has been abused. You may now have a big scar there, and you may feel completely vulnerable.
If you have made a defensive decision that you are perfectly OK, you might desperately try to hold on to this state. You might become terribly opposed to change. You were once in a situation where deciding you were OK meant your ego survival. So you will go to great lengths to maintain this belief. If you are approached with a mistake you are making, or if someone sees you are in trouble and tries to help, you may react with fear. If you find yourself changing your opinions or your point of view, you may become terrified and feel you are finally succumbing as you almost did to the invalidator long ago.You may quickly escape from any change and fall back on your own beliefs. You are willing to look at new ideas only if they do not threaten your basic determination that you are OK right now, just as you are, and you always have been perfectly OK. You may be perceived by others as a weird person, because your mind becomes a mishmash of modern ideas and antiquated attitudes. You may develop a lot of funny quirks in your personality, because nothing can be allowed to shake the foundations of the basic structure you are holding on to.
A healthy person realizes that he's OK and he can accept other people's opinions and judgments. He is willing to see that sometimes someone else can be right and he can be wrong, and that helps keep his feelings in balance. But if a person has been forced to define himself as perfectly OK, in order to defend himself against someone who wanted to invalidate him, he may not be able to accept opinions other than his own. It was the judgments of another person that pushed him to this defensive position in the first place, so now he feels he can never be wrong, especially if his mistake is pointed out by another person.
A likable personality - one that never gets angry and always build egos - is the flip side of the invalidator personality. But this character type has its problems too. The invalidator sprays anger all over, and this causes problems for her victims and for herself. But the victim who cannot and will not express any anger at all represses his anger, and probably has to repress most of his other feelings along with it. Both feel righteous and inadequate. The only way out of this trap is to be able to listen, to express anger constructively, to be able to be wrong and to change when the situation requires it. And if everyone could live that way - there would be no invalidators!
What do we do about it?
What do you do if your boss invalidates constantly? Let's be practical. You could decide he is just an SOB. You could set out to get him for all the misery you've endured. This wouldn't say much for your integrity, and you'd have to live with yourself, knowing that your intentions are vengeful. It would also justify your boss's outlook on life. Your boss might expect this of people. Besides, it wouldn't work.
You could tell him off. This would allow you to release your pent-up emotion, but it wouldn't work. He might invalidate you more than ever, and you might not keep your job let alone get a raise.
You probably won't be able to reason with your boss while he is in his demon personality. It's better to wait until he is himself. If the demon is all there is to your boss, then I suggest you start looking for a new job right now. He may be too far gone to help or to deal with at all.
One thing you know: If he is invalidating you, he must have learned it from somebody, possibly a domineering mother or controlling father. It may not have been either of his parents, but maybe his boss. Maybe he thinks that's the way a boss is supposed to act. It has happened that, if the president of the company is a habitual invalidator, everyone down the line takes on that behavior. After all, it is contagious.
More than anything else, an invalidator has to be right. Never, never say "you're wrong" to an invalidator; this is a cardinal rule. If you contradict, point out, demonstrate, or in any way show an invalidator to be wrong, sooner or later he will get you. Sooner or later, you will pay. Invalidators are extremely revengeful. To an invalidator, being wrong is the most horrible thing that can happen to him, and he will not thank the person who puts him into that position. The best thing to do is acknowledge an invalidator; this does not mean to agree.
One this invalidators respond to best is affinity. If you like her, she may even allow you to prove her wrong, once in a while. That goes for almost anyone, of course. If you like someone and show that person a great deal of affinity, you can say practically anything to him or her. Be sure you always do it in private. An invalidator takes "being wrong" in front of a group as a terrible humiliation.
If you show that you like your boss, you will gain benefits beyond reason. Invalidators are excellent at logic, so they don't put much stock in it. But affinity is something they lack, and they can use a lot of it. After all, someone in this person's past probably chewed him up with logic, and pushed him away at the same time.
It also helps if you can find a genuine reason to look up to your boss. Invalidators are usually me-me-me people. Their self-esteem is actually low, but they hide this well by displaying over inflated egos. An invalidator may think of himself as the only important person around, but he may feel inferior to others. He uses his self-importance to try to make up for the inferiority. It's a confusing paradox - but ignore it at your peril.
With this knowledge, you can realize that the apparently strong, confident, ruthless boss might actually feel inside like a scared little kid. He may be someone to be pitied, not someone to be feared.
It's ironic but the best way to make an invalidator lose his grip is to invalidate him. A person who is trying to hurt another will use the methods that would hurt him. If you want to hurt an invalidator, all you need to do is watch what he does or says to others. If you use his own methods against him, he will cave in sooner that anyone. It's so obvious it's almost funny.
However, if you choose this method, you should realize that you may be putting your job on the line. This may actually be the most positive career step you can make, though it can be a hard one. You may want to line up another job before you try it. Invalidating your boss may give you a feeling of satisfaction as you stand in the unemployment line.
If your boss embarrasses you in front of a group, and you want to get him back, embarrass him in front of a group. But be careful. He has probably been embarrassing people in groups for years, and he is much better at it than you are. But you'll have the benefit of surprise, so his endurance won't be as good.
It is typical for one partner to be dominant. Someone has to have the final say, or marriages wouldn't work. It is probably best if the responsibilities are divided up in such a way that each one is the boss sometimes. That makes for a happy relationship.
But how many marriages do you know of that are happy? The relationship of husband/wife has more invalidation in it than any other. It is a worldwide disease. It seems as if the usual pattern is to get married, eventually do irreversible harm to the relationship, and then regret getting married.
One of the problems of our society is that we can't seem to rehabilitate a marriage once it has gone bad. We wait until things are intolerable before we seek help. Then we don't really want help, we want out. Just because someone seems to be controlling the family doesn't mean he or she is necessarily an invalidator. His or her mate could simply be irresponsible; someone has to manage things.
There are lots of "nice" ways to invalidate, too. Like the silent treatment, when you don't acknowledge what your spouse said.
A person using invalidation could be perfectly unconscious of doing so. The victim could also be unconscious of it. Whether the invalidator and victim are conscious or unconscious of their patterns, two people who initially love each other can get caught up in this scenario, and it degrades the whole family over time. The person doing most of the invalidating is not made aware of it until it is too late: the love has died and the damage is irreparable.
Have you ever met someone who was surprised when his or her spouse left? Things were so wonderful, and then BANG . . . she or he runs off with someone else! It could have been unconscious invalidation at work.
Even if the invalidator is made aware, he may not be made properly aware. He may just suppress his invalidating tendencies instead of correcting them. He may hold back his feelings instead of learning how to let them out constructively. Sooner or later, the old behavior unleashes itself, and he loses relationship after relationship.
Many times, the invalidator is not motivated to change, because he is the "winner." He has these powerful mechanisms backing him up, so he doesn't suffer in the short run. Often, however, he damages the marriage permanently before he is aware of it.
While it is true that some people are irreversible invalidators, there aren't that many of them. It's worth making the effort to break the negative pattern of invalidation. If the invalidator finds that invalidation no longer works, he or she might be motivated to change. If you are being invalidate, it's "your" problem. Once you no longer allow the invalidator to control you, he will finally have to deal with himself; his problems remain his.
Try the following:
1. Identify the problem for the invalidator.
2. Set limits for behavior of the invalidator - what is and is not acceptable to you.
3. Set a time limit for change.
4. Pay attention to what the invalidator does rather than what he or she says.
If invalidation is a way of life for your spouse, you may have no alternative except to separate. However, I have found that in many cases, the marriage is fixable. Also, be sure that you are not leaving just to invalidate your spouse!
One Sequence for Handling Invalidation
If we wanted to, we could fit all ways of handling things into two categories:
People who have great reasoning capabilities sometimes have a great deal of trouble understanding cause-effect solutions. Their word is very logical, and they may have had great success solving situations that way. They tend to believe that almost anything can be handled with reason and logic. They tend to be philosophical about life and try to be very fair about everything. And perhaps they are a little afraid of things that are irrational or beyond comprehension. These people are easy to invalidate because they naively believe in the good intent of everyone. They think it was a joke or slip of the tongue if someone cuts into them.
Then there are people who do not put much stock in logic, reason, or philosophy. These people have been manipulated by it, lied to, and deceived by it. They have learned to pay more attention to what people do rather than what they say. These are the ones who fire you because you called in sick too much . . . no matter what the reason. They may appear to be listening to you, but actually they will be looking at your expressions and actions, trying to size you up by your appearance rather than your thought processes.
Mr. Reason and Mr. Cause-Effect do not have a very good understanding of one another when they are in their purest form, because they are at opposite ends of a continuum. It's a good thing that most of us are somewhere in between. There is no right or wrong about it. Perhaps "balance" would be "right."
There is no set of rules to handle invalidation that work every time, but let's take a look at a sequence that has had some success. First try reason. Handle the invalidator with:
-Specific, impersonal, but personable comments
-Words that tell how you feel
-Make him or her wrong
-Make it personal
-Act out your angry feelings
-Make him or her feel guilty
If reasoning doesn't work, try cause-effect:
-Hurt him when he invalidates
-Invalidate him (show him how it feels)
-Do something outrageous (talk loudly, act crazy, squirt him with a water gun, laugh shrilly as if he told you a joke, wink at him, etc.)
-Squeeze his cheek
-Raise your eyebrow at him
-Stare at him unwaveringly
The cause-effect reactions you give to the invalidator make him uncomfortable whenever he invalidates. If your invalidator actually likes any of the above cause-effect reactions and enters into a game with you, stop doing what you are doing and move on to the next step in your cause-effect plan. If you run out of steps, I am sure you will think of something. Understand? If you know the mechanisms, you can find a way to deal with invalidation that fits your personality and your ethics.
You simply look at the person who invalidated you in such a way that you show you know exactly what she is doing. A long pause or a knowing smile, resting your chin in your hand, or leaning forward slightly can let her know she had better not mess with you.
Repeat That Please
Asking the person to repeat the invalidation will many times water it down, especially if it was an insinuation or something that he was trying to sneak by you. If he is brave enough to repeat it again arrogantly, you can say, "Oh. That's what I thought you said." Usually the little coward will not repeat it the way he said it the first time.
Tell the Whole Truth
A lot of invalidations are double messages riddled with insinuations, voice inflections, tone and other clues besides the actual words. All you need to do is to size up everything and tell the simple truth.
You can always tell the truth by looking at your feelings:
- "I feel embarrassed."
- "I feel angry that you said it that way."
- "I feel put on the spot."
No one can argue with the way you feel, because (right or wrong) it is the way you feel.
Get Them Alone
People who embarrass you in front of a group use the group for their power. If you get them alone, you may fine that they squirm in their seat and become apologetic. They learn to have respect for you because they know you will confront them instead of hiding behind a group. Reason with them first. If they embarrass you again, threaten to do the same to them.
Mirror the Projection
When someone accuses you of something you didn't do, check to see if he or she has done it. When someone threatens you with something, threaten that person back with the same thing. (Chances are he or she is threatening you with what he or she is most afraid of.) When someone accuses you of not liking him or her or of being prejudiced, guess who doesn't like whom? Guess who is prejudiced? When someone tells you that you must choose A or B, tell that person you are not going to choose, and he or she can choose what to do about it.
What to Tell Children When They Ask Why People are Nasty or Mean
Usually people are mean for one of three reasons:
1. To get their way.
2. Because someone was nasty to them.
3. Because they don't feel good about themselves.
Sometimes someone who doesn't feel good about himself will think you are better
than he is, so he tries to make you look small. Then he can feel better. The
best thing to do is to show that person that you care about him and that he
is OK. If you are mean to him, you'll just be "proving" that he is
as bad as he thinks he is. But if you point out what you like about him, he
may feel better - you have made him realize he has some good qualities. If he
realizes he is OK too, he won't have to be nasty.
Sometimes it's hard to find something good about someone, so then you might say that person has nice eyes, or is strong. Sometimes you don't have
to say anything. A pat on the back and a smile will help. It doesn't always work. Some people can be so mean that it is best to just stay away from them.
When people are mean to you, you must remember that you are OK. Maybe they didn't like something you did, but you are OK. If they are mean for no reason, maybe they are just in a bad mood, or they have a miserable life. Don't feel bad about yourself. Try to look at them and see why they are mean. Sometimes if you give them a hug, that's all it takes.
But you must be careful people don't take advantage of you. Don't be afraid to say no in a friendly way. Smile, but don't give in. You don't have to do whatever they ask. If you don't think it is right, tell them you can't do it.
Realize that the invalidator is a personality, not a person. Invalidators usually look big but feel small. Paradoxically, they have low self esteem but large egos.
The invalidators invalidates when he or she feel inferior or out of control. The one-per center invalidates whenever he or she feels it will give him or her control and power.
No matter ho manipulative in appearance, the 20 per center invalidator is usually unconscious, or only semiconscious, of what he or she is doing.
It is very difficult to deal with an invalidator while you are in the state of introversion. First, extrovert - take a look at the situation. Next, try to determine what is going on. Your biggest cues are intention and feelings. Is it the invalidator's intention to hurt you or help you? Is the communication distorted? If the intention is not good and the feelings are not good, invalidation is probably taking place in one of its many forms.
Invalidation is contagious. If you have been invalidated, you are more likely to slip into doing it yourself. If someone is invalidating you, he or she has probably been invalidated in the past.
At first, you slip easily in and out of the invalidator personality. But the more you use this mechanism, the more you depend on it. Finally, you seem to become the role - the invalidator. But remember, there is no such animal. There are only people, and the things that people do. Anyone can become an invalidator. And anyone can stop it. Invalidation works in the short run, not in the long run. You can win a lot of battles but lose the war.
A Message to Invalidation
You are this tremendous burden that impinges on me, whether I like it or not. You take no responsibility but create more and more unwanted responsibility for me. You come from the bowels of the physical universe. You are destructive. You are evil. You kill people. You degrade people. You create egomaniacs from your evil power. You enable people to suppress via your control mechanisms. You are sneaky. You have no conscience. You abuse the cherished things in life and spoil them. You create more evil with evil. You create sickness, and you are sickness. You are one of the sinister archetypes. You re-create yourself.
People have used destructive forces to destroy you. They have killed people, but not you. You have been used against yourself. Invalidators have been invalidated. This has perpetuated you with the illusion that you were defeated. In crusades, the victors have to use evil to conquer, and in so doing, the victors become evil themselves. You are paradoxical. You are subtle in your righteousness. You are a quirk.
But you shall be conquered. You shall be exposed to the world. And in your nakedness you shall be helpless. You shall carry no force. You shall be anticipated. I will persist. I know how you work. I know your weaknesses. I am not being destructive. I will not persist against you. My approach will be to extract the being from the mechanism. You as a mechanism cannot operate except subtly, and I shall remove the subtlety and make you known. The being will see you, thereby separating himself from what you are. He will be who he is, and you will be just a mechanism. And the paradox is that no one will destroy you. They will just choose not to nourish you, and you will die.
I will do this not out of ego - not for credit. I do it out of love for my self. My self as humanity. I do it out of choice. And I have chosen to be completely responsible for you.
I attempt to unmask you, not for evil purpose of trying to destroy evil, but to free myself and others from this paradox. I can see, as a prophesy, that evil will diminish as a result.
I will carry my distaste for you. I will enjoy seeing you disappear. Your elimination will give me sustenance. Any my purpose will be love, and not destruction. So this is the beginning of your end. When this secret is exposed, it will no longer be effective.
If you have read this far, you are a person who wants to improve yourself and improve the way people live around you and with you. Together we can work a miracle for generations to come. Invalidation can be terrible for an individual, but the problem really stems from an "us" problem. The future of human kind should live in peace and harmony. If we don't do something about invalidation, who will? And if it's not now, then when? It has to be us and it has to be NOW.