For the next few weeks, I’m going to talk about invalidation. There are many ways that we can feel invalidated, and it usually results from people not understanding the situation. We tend to all base how we react to others on our own experiences. So, if someone has not experienced your life, or similar things, many times it’s hard for them to understand.
There are many different types of invalidating statements and ways that people invalidate our life or experiences. I am at a point now that I can understand usually where they’re coming from, but overgeneralized statements can be very invalidating and end up with us shaming ourselves.
Let me share a few that I’ve heard lately that I had to take to God and then also my counselor and talk through my response to the statements.
“All fear/anxiety is a sign of an underlying idol. “
“If you have a fear/anxiety response and you can connect it to an underlying trauma, then re-wiring of the brain is probably needed. However, usually it’s a sign of an underlying idol and not trusting God. “
This next one was made by the senior pastor of my church during a sermon on shame and guilt. He was discussing not staying stuck, which I totally agree with, but the example he used was really bad. He said, “if you’ve been in counseling 10 years there’s nothing left to say because you could be the counselor by that time.“
While I understand the basis for every single one of these statements, they are invalidating to those that have experienced trauma, and our lack of resources to help in recovery.
Trauma can cause a fight or flight response which is a fear or anxiety that comes up when you are triggered by the event. This means your brain needs to be rewired by processing the trauma
As far as counseling, it’s not something that’s the same for everyone. There are definitely reasons for seeking counseling where if you’ve been there for 10 years you’re probably stuck. However, there are numerous reasons for seeking counseling where you need many years of counseling/therapy to heal.
For example, if you endured well over 10 years of trauma that is not going to be resolved in less than 10 years most likely. While I believe we serve a God can heal instantly, that it’s not always the route he takes. Because he takes things we’ve been through and uses it to draw us closer to him.
How long you spend in counseling also depends on the resources you have. If you have significant trauma that was intense, but yet your current support system of family and friends and church is not strong, it’s going to take longer to recover.
Also keeping in mind that trauma survivors have to build trust with anyone. Many times the first couple of years in counseling are just building up enough trust in the relationship to share the horrible things you’ve been through so that you can begin to process them.
Add to that all the things in life that come up day-to-day, emotions, grief, and if there’s a discovery process of remembering trauma that your brain and body blocked out.
Your current situation will make a difference in how long counseling takes as well. If you are still surrounded by the abusers or toxic people, if doctors are over medicating you or feeding you lies about what it will take to get better, all these things can hinder your progress and therapy
So, though I completely get that the church tends to overgeneralize to reach the broader audience, it’s always good to take to God your feelings about statements that are made and seek out his truth. Human fear and anxiety can be a sin, but why are you experiencing it? Is it a trauma response that you need to heal, or are you choosing to just not put your trust in God?
Ultimately, the only ones that know are you and God, and he is not a God that condemns those of us who know him personally. He will convict us of sin, but he’s not going to condemn us for our choices. That’s why he sent Jesus to die for us.
I want to encourage you today if you’ve been invalidated in any way by the church, friends, family, strangers… You are loved and known by God and he above all knows the truth. Hold onto that today and keep moving forward in your recovery because God has amazing things planned for you!
And if you’re not in counseling I encourage you to ask why. God can use counseling in your life to bring you into the fullness and joy he has for you. EVERYONE can benefit from counseling.
© Susan M. Clabaugh. All Rights Reserved.