“You always blow things out of proportion”.
“Why do you have to make such a big deal out of it”.
“No one else would react in this way”.
The variations of this theme are endless. Whenever you feel hurt, angry, sad, disappointed, cause of the narcissist’s actions, sentences like this will likely be thrown in your face.
It took me the longest time to understand, that this type of emotional invalidation, is in fact emotional abuse. This is used by narcissists and other emotional abusers, to deny your experience, to minimize their own actions, and to suggest that it is in fact you who are “unstable”, “unhinged”, etc. You can also see emotional invalidation as a form of gaslighting (changing your perception of things, with the intention of making you doubt your reality).
Emotional invalidation often becomes the “natural second part”of an abusive event. First, the narcissist does something truly horrible, like cheat, or lie, or manipulate you. When you call them on their BS, that’s when the emotional invalidation comes in, to the narcissist’s rescue. See, if it is you who are “overreacting” to something, then the narcissist doesn’t have to be accountable or change anything. A very classic sentence is; “You’re overreacting/You’re over-sensitive”. Which is why that type of sentence should always be a red flag, in your love life and the dating scene. I had a friend once who started to date a guy who used that sentence on her a lot, and I told her my opinion, that it might be he has an abusive streak in his personality.
Of course we can all use that sentence some time, in moments of frustration. But if it is frequently used against another person, it is abusive. Why? Cause one of our greatest needs as human beings, is to have our feelings and our reality, confirmed and validated by others. Now, we may trust ourselves also, but we are social creatures, lived in tribes and groups always, throughout human history. To some extent, we still need others to reflect back to us what we are experiencing/feeling.
My personal belief is that this is evolved from some sort of survival need as well, in old times. I’m gonna take a silly example just to illustrate my thought. Imagine that you live in the stone age. You and another person are guarding your village at night, to keep intruders from coming there. You are certain that you heard something, maybe even saw something, in the bushes. You tell your comrade about this and asks if he can see it too. Now, if he’s a gaslighting, invalidating, narcissistic S.O.B. he might tell you you’re overreacting and imagining things.
After five minutes you are invaded by the enemy tribe. Now, you asked your comrade to validate what you saw, because you didn’t want to wake up the whole tribe for nothing.
In this case, you should have trusted your own instinct and perception. And that is often the case in relationships too. If you feel someone did something hurtful to you, you have a right to feel that!
Now, a feeling is not always as clear as an enemy tribe hiding in the bushes. The enemies are either there, or they aren’t. Hence why I don’t think narcissists were in their hayday in the stone age. The people then were probably much more focused on survival than we are. The narcissists of today on the other hand, are having a field day, cause we dabble much more in our “feelings”, I believe, than the folks of ancient times. Feelings and experiences can be brushed off more easily than “facts”. You can’t point at an emotion and “prove” it’s “actually there”. So narcissists can with ease brush it off as being a creation of fantasy.
The point is, both ancient folks and modern humans, need others for validation.
There is an “individualistic” trend in our society, that people should “be strong, take care of themselves, be independent”, etc. While that’s all good and dandy, I don’t think we can take away this basic human need to be a respected and included member in our “tribe”. What the narcissist is doing with his emotional invalidation, is that he’s basically questioning and disrespecting our position in the tribe. This makes us feel very insecure indeed. Especially if the narcissist does this with a tone of certainty and confidence.
This was one of Hero’s top games. Whatever happened, he was amazingly talented in explaining and convincing me why I was wrong and didn’t have the right to feel upset. I’ve never before, or after, known anyone who was so convincing. I started to doubt myself as soon as he had spoken; what he said sounded totally reasonable. I must have overreacted.
I usually just turned quiet after a while, and let the enemy tribe invade.