As a parent, I know the panic that overtakes you when your child is out of control and, in the wake of the looks (and sometimes words) of judgment and annoyance from those around you, you’ll plead, bargain, threaten, and say almost anything to make the crying stop.
The fact of the matter is, some children are not allowed to express themselves emotionally, even when they’re not putting their parents in the line of fire of people who just want to wait in line at Starbucks in peace.
Some children are habitually shut down emotionally by their parents or caregivers. Because children, particularly children with a high emotional quotient, can be hypersensitive and react emotionally to seemingly neutral situations in a way adults might not understand, the adult may respond with logic, invalidating the feelings of the child.
Chronic Invalidation Can Be a Marker of BPD
Over time, a child who is told their feelings are “wrong” will become confused and learn to not trust their emotions. This is called chronic emotional invalidation, which is often one of the markers of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
Marsha Linehan, PhD, the founder of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington, includes emotional invalidation in her model of risk factors for Borderline Personality Disorder.
“The model hypothesizes that BPD results from a transaction over time that can follow several different pathways, with the initial degree of disorder more on the biological side in some cases and more on the environmental side in others,” Linehan said in a 1997 article in The Journal of the California Alliance for the Mentally Ill. “The main point is that the final result, BPD, is due to a transaction where both the individual and the environment co-create each other over time with the individual becoming progressively more emotionally unregulated and the environment becoming progressively more invalidating.”
Predictor of Psychological Distress
A study conducted by Thomas R. Lynch, PhD, at the Duke Cognitive Behavioral Research and Treatment Program, suggests that chronic emotional invalidation can lead to psychological distress in adulthood.
The study found that a history of emotion invalidation (i.e., a history of childhood psychological abuse and parental punishment, minimization, and distress in response to negative emotion) was significantly associated with emotion inhibition (i.e., ambivalence over emotional expression, thought suppression, and avoidant stress responses).
Further studies showed that emotion inhibition is a significant predictor of depression and anxiety symptoms.
Learning Better Validation Skills
If you have a child or a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder, learning how to provide validation can go a long way in helping them manage their BPD symptoms. Validation can better communication, help with conflict resolution, increase self-respect, build trust, and improve relationships.
Click here for some tips on providing validation to your loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder.