Thursday, 28 December 2017
The Danger of Invalidating
There's been something recently that's been getting to me more and more. It's something I am regularly told and hear others being regularly told too, it makes the situation worse and doesn't help anyone. What is it? It's telling people that they 'can't really feel that way or they wouldn't have done x y or z'. X y and z being things like asking for help, or telling someone. It pushes the line of thinking that we have to prove ourselves and not in a positive way. It affirms to us that we won't be believed, that our feelings aren't real and valid and painful unless we act on them and do nothing to hinder those actions intentionally or unintentionally. And to be honest with you it's a load of bollocks.
Have you wanted to hit someone but also wanted to not hit them, possibly for fear of the consequences? Or wanted to lose weight but also wanted to eat something that would hinder that? If someone told you you didn't actually feel the desire to lose weight unless you lost it you would think that was ludicrous. Mostly we accept that we don't always act on our feelings or desires, or that at times we don't really think through our actions, or that we can have conflicting emotions. However when it comes to mental health, mental illness and suicide we are pushed into a corner by professionals and others around us telling us we aren't suicidal unless we are killing ourselves. That we don't want to die if we have reached out for help. That we don't feel how we do or have the urges we do unless we act on them. And that is a dangerous game to play when someones already struggling. When pushed, a significant number of people will do something to prove they feel how they do when accused of lying or not feeling it. And yes that can be a positive if the challenge is getting them to a better place, but when used with suicide or self harm or other similar things in times of crisis it often leads to disaster. Yet time after time it seems that professionals and to some degree as a society we put a rule on this that we don't feel it unless we prove it. That we can only feel ONE thing, only desire ONE outcome. That's simply not true. I'm sure we have all felt conflicting emotions or urges at one time or another. These situations are no different. It is possible to desperately long to end your life, and also be scared of hurting people, and having both doesn't invalidate either. A lot of people with mental illness or difficulties have been invalidated and pushed down their whole lives, accused of lying, told they're emotions, feelings and thoughts are wrong or don't matter, and by saying those things your confirming to they're minds that they're feelings are still unimportant and invalid.
So next time you go to tell someone of they really wanted to die they'd just do it/get on with it/have kept quiet, stop and think. It isn't going to help. Try validating them instead, tell them you can see how awful that must feel, that it must be so difficult, but that it won't last forever and that it isn't their only desire. Words are important. What we say makes a difference. Acknowledge people, they're thoughts and feelings and difficulties and everything else. Your words can make a positive difference, and help someone not take their life.
Hope your all as OK as can be