During the last 30 years, the book that I have given away most often is Jay Carter’s Nasty People. I think I started giving away copies when I worked at Lincoln County Campus (FVCC) in Libby, and kept replacing, and eventually giving away copies almost until retirement.
Carter is a Psy.Doc – and he defines “invalidators” as Nasty People – and back when he wrote the book, we really didn’t have the internet as a source of information. Carter described “Invalidation is a general term that I use in this book to describe one person injuring or trying to injure another. . . It is usually the sneaky mental invalidations that cause the most damage.”
A search online for “invalidation definition” brought me to https://therapymantra.co/terms/invalidation/ where I found a lot more complete definition:
“Invalidation is a term used in psychology to describe the act of communicating to another person that their thoughts, feelings, or experiences are not real or valid. This can be done through words, actions, or even just by ignoring someone. It is a common tool used by people who want to control and dominate others.
Invalidation is a way of shutting someone down and making them feel powerless. When someone is invalidated, it sends the message that their thoughts and feelings don’t matter. And that they are not worth listening to. This can be incredibly damaging to someone’s self-esteem and can leave them feeling isolated and alone.
People who invalidate others often do so because they are insecure and need to feel superior. They feel threatened by the other person’s thoughts or feelings and often don’t want to hear them. They may also not understand what someone else is going through. So they invalidate them in order to avoid dealing with their own uncomfortable emotions.”
The online information made me realize that, while Nasty People is still relevant, it has become an introduction, with far more detailed information available online. I think of one of the guys in my Master’s program – a former college track star who greeted everyone with “Hello, loser.” Not a particularly subtle invalidation (I was almost 9 the first time I finished second to last in a foot race – my self-worth has never been based on how fast I can run). On page 27, Carter writes, “I have never met a conscious invalidator who wasn’t narcissistic. The rest of us don’t mean to be narcissistic and we don’t mean to invalidate. As we get older and wiser, there are still unconscious pockets of it even in the most enlightened human beings.” (Personally, when I am at my limit of invalidation, I tend to respond in kind – and, as Jay Carter points out: “Narcissism is the same as taking it personally.” On page 37 he writes “Most people slip into the invalidator archetype unconsciously, reacting to subtle and sometimes unnoticed clues in the environment. . . Unconsciously, without understanding the source of their trouble, they become invalidators at various unpredictable times.”
Back on line, therapymantra.com goes into the how, the methods of invalidation:
“There are many different ways that someone can be invalidated. Some of the most common include-
Emotional Invalidation– Invalidating someone’s emotions makes them feel as though their feelings are not real or that they don’t have the right to feel a certain way.
Minimizing– When people minimize what someone is saying or going through, it diminishes the other person’s thoughts and experiences to make them seem less important or valid.
Belittling– This is similar to minimization but goes beyond just dismissing someone’s feelings. With belittling, you also attack someone personally to show that they are inferior and not worth listening to.
Attacking Motives– When you attack someone’s motives, you accuse them of having malicious intent for feeling or thinking something that may be hurtful towards you.
Denial Of Responsibility– Denying responsibility invalidates someone’s feelings by suggesting that they are responsible for how they feel.
Blame– When you blame someone, you accuse them of being the source of their own emotions and experiences. You might say things like “you’re just too sensitive,” or “if you weren’t so stressed out all the time, I wouldn’t have to yell at you.”
Ignoring– Ignoring someone makes it clear that what they feel does not matter and is something you hope they will simply get over on their own.
Competing– Competing invalidates someone’s thoughts and feelings by suggesting that your thoughts and feelings are more important than theirs and should therefore take priority.
Trivializing– Trivializing occurs when a person gets caught up in the details of something to the point where they are able to dismiss it entirely.
Deny Effects– When you deny effects, you refuse to acknowledge how someone’s thoughts or feelings affected them. This often comes in the form of well-meaning reassurances like “but everything is okay now,” or “it’s not that big of a deal.””
I still like Carter’s book – the newest version is up to 100 pages, so even if you don’t like it, there’s not a lot of reading there to get mad about. A society without invalidation would probably be a lot better place. Until then, I’ll try to copy Dad’s behavior – where he would politely call women in their sixties “Young lady.” I think it’s a lot healthier than copying my classmate’s greeting of “Hello loser.”