Four Ways to Invalidate Someone’s Emotions

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I recently took the girls to see Inside Out. Dare I say, it seems to be a much better movie than Frozen, with a more relevant message: we need all of our emotions to be a whole person. But this is not a movie review. No. Over the past few months, I’ve noted how people interact with one another, and consequently, tend to attempt invalidating each other’s emotions.

#1 Manage the Person’s Feelings My Grannie does something I call managing my emotions. When I tell her about the coworker that upset me, she says, “Don’t be angry.” Someone hurt my feelings? “Don’t be sad.” She feels that I’m about to explode over some issue that’s trivial in her mind? “Don’t go off!” I resist each step of the way because emotions are a huge part of my personality. If I cannot express my emotions, then I might as well curl up in a ball and be invisible. Simultaneously, I see this as a way to not really see someone’s emotions. I know she means well. However, it is the number one way to invalidate someone’s emotions.

#2 Say, “It’s Not that Bad, Is It?” If someone has the cojones to tell you how they feel about a situation or to express how your actions have made them feel, the number two way to invalidate their emotions is to ask them if it’s that bad. If it wasn’t that bad, then he or she probably wouldn’t have expended the energy to pour out his or her heart to you. If it wasn’t that bad, then perhaps, he or she would have merely sucked it up, buried it deep and then held it against you for the rest of his or her life. But instead, he or she chose to tell you because he or she thought you cared enough to react. Let’s assume that it really was that bad.

#3 Ignore the Person’s Statement What if someone said, “I love you”? Would you ignore the sentiment? How about if someone said, “Hey, I think you’re a great person!” Would you think that deserved a response? The reality is that it’s way easier to respond to positive emotions. Oh my Gosh! You love me? I love you too! But if that same person announced, “You really hurt my feelings,” or “You’ve made me sad by being inconsiderate,” a lot of times, the recipient doesn’t understand how to relate to these negative emotions. And ignoring takes the place of responding. However, ignoring someone’s emotions is also a way to invalidate what the person just said.

#4 Deflect the Person’s Emotion Deflecting is interesting. It’s the opposite of reflecting. And everything that I’ve read so far suggests that if you notice someone else’s bad behavior then really it’s a RE-flection of something you probably need to work on. DE-flecting, conversely, is a way to not internalize the other person’s emotions, right? When I deflect, then I put it back on you. What’s wrong with you? Why do you feel that way? What are you saying? I’m not like that. I wouldn’t do something negative to someone. If you’re not reflecting, then you’re probably deflecting. And if you’re deflecting, then you’re probably invalidating someone else’s feelings.

Do you have other ways that you would add? How do you try not to invalidate others’ feelings? Would you re-order these?

Choices and Consequences

“Just because it wasn’t conscious doesn’t mean it wasn’t a choice” ~ Kwote #80

I remember the day quite vividly. I sat on my bed and turned the TV on, not because I wanted to watch whatever was on, but because it provided background noise, in my otherwise quiet Georgia apartment. I flipped open my laptop, and logged onto Facebook.

Scroll.

Scroll.

Scroll.

Like.

Let me see what my oldest goddaughter is up to these days, I thought. I knew she was taking Driver’s Ed and I wanted to see if there were any updates. Last post she was falling asleep and I had begged her to wake up and pay attention.

Hmmm. This is strange.

I typed her full name into the search bar.

“Do you know —? To see what she shares with friends, send her a friend request.”

Huh? Of course I know her Facebook. She’s my goddaughter. Of course I know her, she’s my aunt’s oldest daughter, thus my cousin. Send her a friend request? But we were already friends…on Facebook.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been defriended from social media before, but there are a couple of stages you go through:

Stage 1: Disbelief This couldn’t possibly be.

Stage 2: Anger I know this little heifer didn’t defriend me.

Stage 3: More disbelief Let me check other people’s pages. She’s still friends with my daughters, her dad, her mom, and other cousins.

Stage 4: Acceptance So, she’s just defriended me.

I was still fluctuating somewhere in between disbelief and acceptance. This Facebook friend wasn’t some high-school sweetheart from yesteryear. And she wasn’t some person I’d met at a conference one time. Nope. This was my aunt’s daughter, my cousin and my pronounced goddaughter. Next on my agenda was a phone call to my aunt, immediately.

“Hi, Aunt –! May I speak to –?”

“Why?” she asked.

Why, I thought. What was this about? I didn’t think I needed permission to talk to her.

“Well,” I began, “It seems as if she’s defriended me on Facebook and I wanted to know why.”

Now, before I continue with this story, I understand how very petty this must seem. But what I kept thinking is how in the world will I ever know what’s going on with her or her sister if I’m not even sharing a social media space with them? She doesn’t call me. When I call her, she gives one-word answers (typical adolescent phone convo). Instead of passing the phone, my aunt and I had a conversation about this defriending business.

“Yes. Yes, she did,” my aunt replied matter-of-factly. And then she added, “She came to me and said, ‘I’m going to delete Kathy, okay?’ and I said, ‘okay.’”

Huh?

What was I listening to? So my aunt approved her daughter’s deletion of me on social media? My feelings were a bit bruised. What could I do? Through further conversation, I found out that it was because I recounted a situation where she had cussed at her dad on said social media. My cousin had written, “Pay the f-ing bill Daddy,” upon finding out her cell phone wasn’t working. Consequently, our grandmother gave everyone a lecture. Including me, ironically for not reprimanding her more harshly for the disrespect.

So we continued talking.

“I feel as if she hates me,” I confessed to my aunt.

“She does,” she admitted.

Then I found out why. It was because something had been going on without my knowledge. You see my teenaged cousins live about an hour and a half away from our grandmother, and at one point in their lives, they actually lived with our grandmother. What our grandmother had been doing is praising all of my accomplishments: Kathy has a Ph.D. Kathy got a tenure-track position. One time, my grannie actually described throwing one of my publications across the bed and telling her, “Read this. It’s scholarly writing.”

This adolescent girl was filled with resentment. So much resentment that she often begged her mother not to pass the phone when I called. She seemingly couldn’t discern our age difference was a major factor in comparing our achievements. At the time, she had yet to graduate high school, but was implicitly being compared to my achieving a third degree.

This wasn’t fair to her or to me.

But here comes the lesson.

I complained and complained to my therapist. I whined about failed attempts at being a great godmother. I complained about not being honored as an inspirational person who could relate to her (we’re both adopted and I could see my cousin’s evolving mirrored issues). I droned on and on about how her dad, nor her mom would even make them do anything related to me. Oh, I was full of ego about the situation.

The therapist listened, as licensed professionals are paid to do. She nodded and scribbled on her legal pad.

And then she said this, “You chose to be the type of godmother you wanted to be to them.”

“Wha?” I asked in between sniffles.

“If you wanted to be the super-cool godmother who they flocked to when they couldn’t talk to their mother, then you would have chosen different actions,” she explained. She read my choices from her pad:

  • Telling your grandmother about her Facebook actions
  • Asking her why she’s wearing a bathing suit on social media
  • Commenting on her driver’s education status

Those are not things that would make her feel as if she could come to you.”

I would be lying if I said I had an on the spot breakthrough. The therapist had to explain that well-intended, unconscious choices are still choices that lead to specific outcomes. My actions, coupled with her teenage choices meant there would be no relationship.

Eventually, I got it.

The therapist was somewhat right.

What eventually helped me understand the concept are the words unconscious and conscious. It’s true. The choices that I made with my goddaughter were very unconscious. Involuntary even. They were based on how I was raised and the types of expectations to which I was held. Ultimately, this experience taught me to be more mindful about  choices that I made with other people because I understood there would always be a specific consequence.

I don’t regret the choices that I’ve made with her. But now this is crystal clear. Whether the choice is intentional, unintentional, conscious, or unconscious, consequences will always be tied to our choices. So the best we can do is to always be as intentional and conscious as possible.

Unleashing the Infinite Superpowers in Everyone (Free Writing Challenge)

“Create your own personal super hero alter ego and describe his or her day” ~ Finkelstein & Sons

I once told someone that I wanted to be like a 21st century Harriet Tubman. I wanted to free people from their own societal minds. So if I was a superhero, that’s exactly what I would do. I would go around and help people unleash their own special superpowers: the power of choice, the power of love and the power to accomplish whatever it is they set their minds to.

The power of choice means that you can never blame anyone else for your circumstances. If you don’t like where you’ve landed yourself, then choose to do something else. I guarantee eventually you’ll see a different outcome because you’ve made different decisions. The choice really is yours in every single moment.

“But I have no choice,” people often whine back to me.

My answer is pretty much the same each time; you can always choose to do something else. It might not be easy, but you do have alternatives. We all do.

Loving who you are at the core is also an invaluable superpower. It allows you the freedom to be you and, subsequently, also empowers you to love others for who they are. Realizing that you’re perfectly imperfect, yet still spiritually whole can be liberating. Once you understand this, then no judgments can affect you and you can also release the need to judge others. Think about it. If I love me for who I am, then who am I to judge you for who you are?

With my red cape waving behind me, and my super words flowing, my final goal would be to show people that they have the power to do whatever it is they set their minds to. I don’t intend to suggest that you can be anything in the world. Instead, I think of what my Grannie once said, “The only reason Obama is president is cause you’re not.” If you think of something and feel compelled to do that thing, then you can find a way to achieve it. Again, it might not be easy, but you can attain goals if you want to.

No. of Words = 379 (about 15 minutes)

I wrote this post prompted by Finkelstein & Sons nomination for the Free Writing Challenge. Irene and I met during Writing 101. She has a very down-to-earth, authentic style and I’m impressed that she often blogs in two languages (by the way, love the new layout). The Free Writing Challenge is an incentive amongst bloggers to promote and stimulate free writing, helping each other out with a prompt.

These are the rules:

Open an MS Word document (or Pages)

  1. Set a stopwatch or your mobile to five minutes or ten minutes, whichever challenge you think you can beat.
  2. Your topic is at the foot of this post.
  3. Fill the word doc with as many words as you want. Once you begin writing, do not stop.
  4. Do not cheat by going back and correcting spellings and grammar with spell check in MS Word (it is only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought flow and for you to reflect on your ability to write the right spelling and stick to grammar rules).
  5. You may or may not pay attention to punctuation and capitals. However, if you do, it would be best.
  6. At the end of your post, write down ‘No. of words = ______’ so that we would have an idea of how much you can write within that time frame.
  7. Do not forget to copy paste the entire passage on your blog post with a new topic for your nominees and copy paste these rules with your nominations (at least five bloggers).

My nominees are:

Your topic is: If you could live anywhere in the world, rent (mortgage)-free for one year, where would it be?

Can’t wait to read these!