What Is Traumatic Invalidation?

Marlena Eva
3 min readJun 9, 2024

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Victims of narcissistic abuse suffer from a more intense form of invalidation called ‘traumatic invalidation’

Photo by Amirali Shaghaghi on Pexels.com

Traumatic invalidation is a new term in psychology and it means a form of invalidation that is ongoing. This type of emotional abuse (yeah, invalidation is emotional abuse) is perpetrated by a close family member or a parent over a long period (eg. the person’s entire childhood).

It’s when your feelings, emotions, thoughts, beliefs and needs are not validated and you are made to feel ashamed for even having them. Remember when your narcissistic mother called you sensitive for bringing up her abusive behaviour? Or when your father told you to “put up with mom because she’s the only mother you’ll ever have and deep down she loves you”?

Maybe you recount a time when you got sick and you called mom to get some support and encouragement and instead, she yelled at you for being irresponsible and for getting yourself sick. “How are you going to go to work if you’re sick? Maybe your boss will fire you and your mom won’t help you pay rent so you better get your ass to work”.

That’s what my mom told me when I had bronchitis once and called her for support. My getting sick was my fault because I am supposed to never get sick and function perfectly all the time (like a cute doll with freshly bought batteries).

The truth is parents with narcissistic personality disorder don’t acknowledge your being because you, as a ‘child’ are not supposed to ‘act out of your own will’. When you express a thought or feeling they don’t approve of, they’ll attack or invalidate you to teach you a lesson.

The lesson is that you belong to them (Sam Vaknin explains that you’re a reflection of the narcissist’s internal world) and function only as they see fit. That is why a narcissistic parent will invalidate your emotions. She thinks if she corrects you, then she gets back into having control over you.

Unfortunately, a narcissistic parent will never change, therefore, if you decide to keep minimal contact with them, they’ll always try to find a way to make you feel small.

This type of invalidation is no joke. It’s OK if an acquaintance tells us we are wrong and that booking a flight during the winter holiday is ridiculous. And we should spend time with this person because we owe them for a favour she has done for us.

We won’t get offended and think that maybe this person is terrified of being alone and so, they need to ‘force our hand’ to hang out with them.

But when it’s our mother who spent 20–30 or more years putting us down, making us feel like we shouldn’t feel upset with her because she hasn’t done anything wrong, (when reality is different), our mental health can take a big hit.

Consequences of Traumatic Invalidation

Traumatic invalidation leads to a loss of self, insecurity, low self-esteem and even mental health problems like depression and suicide ideation.

(NB: Unfortunately, many people with undiagnosed narcissistic parents commit suicide, after a lifetime of being made to feel wrong or invisible)

It’s normal to feel this way. We all want our feelings to matter to those who love us (or say they love us). When all they do is abuse us, we experience cognitive dissonance and that’s why our brains can get pretty messed up.

Please take cognitive dissonance seriously because it is in my opinion, a serious mental health issue (in the context of abuse).

What To Do To Heal?

If you went through traumatic invalidation at the hands of a narcissistic parent, I urge you to reconsider having a relationship with them.

A narcissist will never change. Waiting for them to realize the harm they’ve caused you by invalidating everything you feel and all that you are is a losing game. Going no contact with a parent like this will help heal this wound of invalidation. However, take note that no contact is not easy.

Cutting ties with a narcissistic parent is a process that takes years and it doesn’t guarantee happiness and well-being. But it’s a start.

Resources:

Narcissists, Relationships and Cognitive Dissonance-Psychology Today

Narcissistic Parents: Traits, Signs &, How to Deal with One-Choosing Therapy

Unpacking Traumatic Invalidation-The Shiftless Wanderer

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Marlena Eva

MA in Social Psychology. Freelance Writer. Poet. Writes about: narcissism (NPD), relationships, mental health.