There I was... 2 days after Christmas standing outside my mother's house catching up from 6' away. It was a very 2020-way of celebrating the holidays.
It wasn't until I got into my car to head home that I noticed some tension in my body that hadn't been there before. It was a familiar twisting of my gut and hardening of my shoulders and neck. It took me replaying the conversation we had to realize what shifted... I'd been hit... hit with the stings of invalidation.
They were subtle... and almost stealthy.
Was her intent to hurt? I doubt it. In fact, when I relived the dialogue in my head - the things she said that "cut" were the type of comments that I think are SO common in every-day "polite" small talk.
"I'm feeling really unsure about what I'm doing with my living situation, everything's so turned upside down since lockdown", I shared.
To which she replied, "Yeah, we're all really struggling".
Now, I imagine her intent was "You're not alone!" but how that landed was actually more of "Your experience is just like mine & everyone else's, I have no space for your individual feelings".
What would have felt nice is for her to acknowledge that I was having this experience. Maybe even to have inquired about it... or to show some form of compassion. Heck, even, "Oh wow, I hear you, Rachel" would have felt better.
𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝗼𝗳𝘁𝗲𝗻 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗶𝗻𝘃𝗮𝗹𝗶𝗱𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗺𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗮𝗴𝗲𝘀?
"Don't be mad"
"There's someone else that has it much worse, you should be grateful"
"Just look on the bright side"
"You know what you should do...?"
"It could be worse..."
"That's not what happened."
"I know exactly what you're going through"
"Why don't you just..."
The more I look at my past, the more I see how often I received invalidating messages. And that they inadvertently contributed to me learning how to invalidate myself.
I feel like I want to say that again...
𝗕𝘆 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘀𝘂𝗯𝘁𝗹𝗲 𝗶𝗻𝘃𝗮𝗹𝗶𝗱𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗺𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗮𝗴𝗲𝘀 𝗺𝘆 𝘄𝗵𝗼𝗹𝗲 𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗲, 𝗜 𝗹𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗱 𝗵𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗼 𝗶𝗻𝘃𝗮𝗹𝗶𝗱𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗺𝘆 𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗳𝗲𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀.
It's no surprise to me that my mission in life became learning (and now teaching) the antidote to invalidating language: reflective listening.