When it comes to raising a child that is mentally and emotionally healthy and has a strong sense of self, it is imperative that they are validated. This is not to say that they have to be validated at all times in order to become a functional adult, but in most cases, it is vital that this happens.
If this doesn’t occur, it can be due to a number of reasons. And one of these reasons is the result of abuse taking place. The Childs caregiver may be the person who is abusive in some way or it could be another family member that causes the damage.
Invalidation may be something that happens every now and then or in most cases. It could also relate to all situations or only certain situations. But as every child is different and doesn’t necessarily respond in the same way; it may not need to happen all the time, as just here and there may been enough to cause problems.
The fact it is happening at all, could be enough to harm the Childs mental, emotional and physical growth and stop them from forming a healthy sense of self.
This is something that covers a wide range of procedures. And can include the Childs: feelings, thoughts, emotions, views, experiences, ideas, senses, perceptions, and wants and needs amongst others things.
All of these elements make up and help to form their sense of self, boundaries and experience of life. Through having an external influence, such as the primary caregiver, validate these aspects, it enables the child to develop in a myriad of ways.
The Childs brain grows by this taking place; they come to know that they exist; that other people can be trusted and that the child is worthy of love and life itself. What is being experienced internally (feelings, thoughts and needs) and what is being experienced externally (perceptions, experiences and observations), can then be trusted and accepted as being real.
Here, the child gradually learns to navigate their way through life and to build trust not only in themselves, but also in other people. Another important occurrence here is that through the primary caregiver validating and regulating what the child is feeling or thinking, it will enable the child to develop the ability to emotionally regulate themselves.
The need to repress and deny their emotions as a child and then as an adult, is unlikely to exist – at least in most cases. This means they shouldn’t grow up to feel emotionally numb or overwhelmed and weighed down by their emotions. And neither should they act them out through violence or self defeating behaviours.
The Real World
However, what I have described above doesn’t always take place, if it did, the world would be a very different place. For some people the above may happen during the odd occasion.
And when the complete opposite of the above happens, it will be classed as abuse. But it doesn’t have to be this extreme in order for problems to arise. When it comes to understanding something, it is often useful to use extremes as they give a clear example. So let’s take a look at what invalidation can look like
And just like I have described above, this can relate to wide range of things. But what generally happens is that what the child is experiencing, internally and externally, ends up being either denied or ignored in some way.
So what is certain here is that the Childs sense of self is not going to develop in a functional and healthy way. The child can then doubt there: thoughts, feelings, needs, wants and perceptions. And in doing so, question their existence and whether they worthy of love and if they can trust their own judgements or other people. Boundaries will then have to give way and be replaced by walls or controlling behaviour for instance.
This can also cause the Childs brain to not develop as it should. The child is unlikely to learn how to navigate its way through life and simply because the inner and outer trust has not been allowed to form. What the Childs needs and wants can also be a mystery, as a result of their caregiver ignoring and denying them and using the child to fulfil their own needs and wants instead.
This is all going to create a lot of emotional pain and even trauma that will often have to be repressed and denied in order to survive. The primary caregiver is likely to be emotionally unavailable and therefore doesn’t have the ability to assist the child in regulating their emotions or in developing the ability themselves
So the child will then have to carry a lot of emotional pain around and could end up feeling overwhelmed and weighed down by their emotions and life. The child can feel emotionally trapped and may not even know that life could be any different. So if the pain is not acted in and repressed, it may end up be acted out through violence or self harm for example.
For the person who is invalidated as a child, there is inevitably going to be challenges that will need to be dealt with as an adult, if one wants to have any quality of life. Some of these consequences will be more severe than others and can include: a weak sense of self, intimacy problems and boundary challenges.
As well as mental, emotional and physical problems, such as: anorexia, bulimia, borderline personality disorder, depression, suicidal tendencies, trauma, low self esteem and self worth, feeling overly sensitive, unlovable and numerous other challenges.
One will need to seek some kind of assistance in order to work through these challenges. And some kind of therapist or healer is often a good place to start.
There are many out there and it imperative that one finds someone who understands what they have gone through and doesn’t allow further invalidation to take place. This is not an overnight thing and will require patience and persistence.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 25 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.