Have you ever been told how you feel is wrong? Perhaps someone told you not to be “silly” when you felt anxious, or to “cheer up” when you were upset? It is the worst feeling in the world when all you want is someone to understand and instead they make you feel like an idiot for feeling the way you do.
When you have BPD, this invalidation can be particularly difficult to cope with. In fact, it’s likely what got you in this mess in the first place! BPD sufferers are likely to have experienced repeated invalidation in early life, and as a result never quite know if how they feel is ‘valid’ or ‘appropriate’ and spend loads of time second-guessing even the most legitimate emotional responses.
So I’ve compiled a list of things to say that don’t invalidate people’s feelings. Use these when the people in your life need support. If you don’t have advice, someones one of these statements can be more than enough to help someone feel better. The trick is even if you don’t agree with the person’s feelings, not to tell them how they feel is wrong. Because really our emotions can’t be wrong – it’s just how we feel!
So here goes:
- I understand why you feel like that
- That makes sense
- I can see your feeling [sad, angry, hurt…]
- That must have been [frightening, upsetting, difficult…]
- I hear you…
- I’m sorry that happened
- I’m sorry that situation made you feel [sad, hurt, angry…]
- I’m here for you
- How can I help you with this?
- You’re doing the best you can
- It sounds like you’re…[lonely, sad, missing someone]
- I believe you
- You’re not alone
- It wasn’t your fault
- I’ve felt like that too
- It’s normal to feel like that
- Feeling [sad, hurt, mad…] is okay
- Yeah, I get that
- How frustrating/awful/difficult etc.
- This must be hard for you
- I think I’d feel the same in your situation
- That does sound tough
- I can see why that hurt you
- No wonder you’re upset
- Tell me more
- So if I understand correctly…
- That sucks
- I don’t know what to say, but I feel your pain
And tonnes more.
These words have changed how I feel in some really dark times. I hope you find them helpful. Please comment with any others you find helpful too!