We have all seen those instances where someone (maybe even ourselves) has said something negative like “I’m such a loser,” and someone immediately comes back with “Don’t say that! You don’t really
feel that way!” or some other attempt to help that only drives the person further into hopelessness. The reason is that he now has two problems. He has the initial problem that he felt so negative
about, and then he feels that he is all alone and has no one who truly understands. That is why people who try to help others by talking them out of what they feel are usually no help all. It is also
the reason why research has for decades proven that you can help desperate people immensely by giving them no answers at all, and only giving them empathy.
Further, other research has shown that emotional invalidation is the basis of many character disorders that lead people to psychiatric illnesses as well as poor performance in academics. It has
been shown to be a factor in almost all that is wrong with people, physiological and organic causes notwithstanding. “Stop crying or I’ll give to cry about!” does more than make a child be quiet. It
damages the child from her own feelings and inner states. As a result, she can develop a host of impulse problems as well as emotional and relational issues that affect her functioning.
The real reason for that breakdown lies in the breakdown in the structure of the relationship itself, which is where we get all of our capacities for performance. As the child disengages from the
parent or caretaker, he or she has lost connection with the source of the functions that he needs to learn and internalize. So, impulse control, discipline, empathy, reality testing, emotional
regulation, hope, trust, judgment, and the other things that children get from caretakers become unavailable as the connection is lost. The child is now alone, and without the capacities he or she
Dr. Henry Cloud