The Stubborn Persistence of Invalidation and Why it’s So Toxic

“It wasn’t like that for me”
“You must be remembering it wrong”
“It wasn’t the same for everyone”
“I don’t see myself as a victim”
“You’re allowing yourself to be a victim”
“I’ve moved on. You should too”

These are some of the invalidating things that fellow indiakids have said to me regarding our upbringing. Just like the normalizing stuff, invalidation lacks empathy and can be incredibly hurtful. It is can be the very thing one of the things that stands in the way of healing and recovery.

If the experience of growing up in chaos, separated from my parents, in a foreign boarding school, and a highly demanding religious cult had been purely singular–that is to say, if I was the only one to go through something like this–I could work on my recovery in a singular manner. I likely wouldn’t need validation from anyone. But it wasn’t. This was a collective situation. The collective re-remembering it with fellow survivors comes from a genuine place of need, but can also trigger a lot of stressful and uncomfortable feelings. The paradigm of this collective yet disparate and really stressful relationship can be compared to a co-dependency. It has the capacity to be toxic.

I have been tethered to this paradigm of co-dependency, of seeking solace with peers. Honestly, I think it is born out of an innocent desire to stay in touch, but also maybe even to be of help. And finally, yes, maybe through this, find some validation for myself too.

The desire for validation is really important but I’m skeptical that it can be fulfilled by peers. Ever. I’m in my mid 40’s now, and it’s feeling like a merry-go-round at this point. I hop on and spin around and around until I’m so sick that I fling myself off, only to hop right back on when I tell myself I’m better and it won’t make me sick this next time. Well of course I get sick again. And again. And again.

Getting better will take a lot more work than hopping on and off the merry-go-round. It may take confronting the need to seek validation, so that I let myself begin to discover what sort of loss is triggering it. It may take the courage to speak as an individual and not as a representative of a group, or as a consensus-builder. It may take owning a certain amount of loneliness in being honest and saying the words that best describe the reality. Words such as:

  • Cult
  • Institutional Abuse (encompassing Physical, Sexual, Emotional & Spiritual Abuse)
  • Indoctrination
  • Post Traumatic Stress (C-PTSD & PTSD)
and finally
  • Recovery
  • Survivor

I say these words knowing they are strong words, knowing they can be discomforting. But sanitizing words and straddling conflicting values–just to give those in my cohort the semblance of comfort is not helpful to anyone, and is the dishonest thing to do. And it only enables more invalidation.

We were brought up with the word TRUTH being spoken every day. We said Sat Naam truth is the name. We said Sat Sri Akaal the great, one truth. We said Bole Sone Haal, Sat Sri Akaal whenever we speak the truth we will be fulfilled.

Truth. It’s hard, maybe even unbearable. But it’s the thing that will set us free.