What is an invalidating environment

Although there are many examples of invalidating environments, all share three characteristics: (1) individual behaviors and communications are rejected as invalid; (2) emotional displays and painful behaviors are met with punishment that is erratically administered and intermittently reinforcing; (3) the environment oversimplifies the ease with which problems may be solved and needs met.

Most of us have encountered such environments at some point in our lives and we commonly deal with them by changing our behavior to meet expectations, or by changing the environment so that it is no longer invalidating, or, ultimately, by simply leaving the environment.

What Johnny has already learned is not appropriate emotion regulation and expression, but that he is not allowed to have his own emotions, what he genuinely feels is wrong, and that someone else is in charge of his emotions.

Since invalidation takes on many forms, let’s get to some examples.

If you’re wired to feel things intensely, though, an invalidating environment creates a of high emotion coupled with inadequate support from parents and caregivers.

This doesn’t have to translate into a life sentence of continual struggle with your emotions and impulses.

You also learned to escalate or intensify your emotions to get help because you got the message growing up that unless you get really upset or really angry, others won’t respond to you.

The biosocial theory in DBT is not meant to blame parents and caregivers who are doing the best they can.

When your emotions are repeatedly invalidated when you’re young, you learn to mistrust your feelings and to judge them as bad or wrong.Johnny’s opinions are not allowed to be his own, they must reflect the thinking of his parent.Even worse, Johnny’s emotions are also vetted by his parent.If you relate to feeling very emotional and impulsive, the biosocial theory of emotional dysregulation in DBT provides a framework that can shed light on .This is a 2-part series looking at DBT’s biosocial theory.

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