The Invalidated Child – Part 1

4 February 2015



This article is a series of articles on invalidation, including the experiences of a child or parent that has been invalidated and how parents, professionals and practitioners can validate children to make a difference to their outcomes.

The invalidated child can seem like an enigma and is easily misunderstood. They come from all backgrounds, walks of life, race, culture and class in society.

An invalidated child can look like a child that is:

  • Misbehaving
  • Difficult
  • Seeking attention
  • Sabotaging their own success
  • Withdrawn
  • Attempting suicide
  • Self harming
  • Experiencing BPD (borderline personality disorder)
  • or exhibiting other maladaptive emotions to compensate for the “lack”.


The “lack” could include lack of:

  • Being heard
  • Having their experiences validated as real for THEM!
  • Having their opinions accepted
  • Having their feelings heard or accepted as valid and real for them
  • Privacy
  • Being cared for resulting in neglect
  • A sense of self
  • Other


An “invalidating environment” (Marsha Linehan; 1993) encompasses some or all of the above for the invalidated child.


How does a parent, caregiver or other significant adults invalidate a child?

(This also includes professionals and practitioners)

Examples of how adults invalidate children include:

All of the above examples highlighted in the “lack of” section; for instance, not listening to them; etc.


  • Abuse: – verbal, physical, emotional, sexual, psychological
  • Neglect
  • Denying their feelings “no (yes) you don’t (do) feel that way (e.g. angry)
  • Teaching children to lie “tell them I’m not here” or “this (sexual abuse) didn’t happen and if you tell anyone I will kill you!”
  • Responding erratically, inappropriately or in extreme fashions to the child’s communication or feelings
  • Ridicule them
  • Disregard their painful or distressing emotions
  • Non- responsive to needs of the child


Marsha Linehan suggests that sexual abuse is the most extreme form of invalidation for a child. These children are generally lied to about the nature of the abuse and threatened by the abuser if they “tell”. Additionally, the child is further burdened by the guilt and shame of the abuse, coupled with the abuse not being acknowledged by other family members and face being blamed or disbelieved if they pluck up the courage to “tell”. clinicians and researchers suggest that it is the secrecy surrounding childhood sexual abuse that may be a key factor for people experiencing BPD (Bipolar or Borderline Personality Disorder).

The invalidated child is one that is also very susceptible to being scapegoated within the family setting, especially if they appear as an enigma to family members and others around them. The likely result is that they consciously or unconsciously embark on a journey of seeking approval and reassurance, especially from their parents, with the likely effect of a cyclical process of denial and punishment, followed by more scapegoating.

That said, all children need approval, reassurance, need to be loved, to be validated and to feel safe and secure in their environment as their secure base.



Part 2 of this article will include:

  • Looking at further effects of invalidation for the child.
  • How to validate a child



Linehan, M.M., (1993 ). Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: London: Guildford Press


For any further information and queries about how Step Up! International can help you with self harming behaviour or any family related matters visit:

Scapegoating Challenges Within The Family Setting

27 October 2014

The family setting is an interesting arena that is rife with a gamut of emotions, trials and tribulations

Sometimes relationships can get strained and individual family members can be singled out to bear the brunt of the family strain.

Scapegoating is something that happens in any setting, group, gender, age, or race however, for the purpose of this article, I will be focusing on the nature of scapegoating in the family setting and family system. do-you-love-me-image

In some respects one child in the family may be picking up on the stresses and challenges within the family system, and perhaps more than their siblings. As such, that child may act up or act out in response to their perception of the stressor or in reaction to feelings, and in different ways, depending on their age.

Often times children are not able to explain or understand what they are experiencing, nor able to manage these feelings, hence their behavior of acting up or acting out in an attempt to do so or to “shake off” the feelings.

Acting out may consequently make them the target of scapegoating. The other children in the family may become aware of certain challenges or tensions in the family but may be in denial of their existence and inadvertently displace this awareness or problem onto the sibling that is acting out on what they perceive or feel. The other children in essence behave as “model” well-behaved children and generally appear to be happy and content with life. The flipside of this experience is that these siblings might be encouraged by the parents to taunt or bully the sibling who is scapegoated.

Another key aspect for scapegoating to become effective is the parents own denial of the family situation or their blame mentality of the true situation within the family system as a whole. Additionally, this could include the parents own insecurities about managing the situation effectively, or insecurities about qualities and characteristics that they themselves lack but which they perceive in the child that is acting out.

The child who is aware that the family setting is not right consequently is blamed and made the scapegoat for generally anything that goes wrong in the family, including the parents relationship. Children invariably internalise these problems as their fault.


Other reasons that a particular child could be selected by a parent(s) for scapegoating could be that the child reminds the parent in some way of a person he or she doesn’t like, such as their own parents, ex partner or an abuser. It could also be that the child has similar characteristics and traits to the parent, which the parent has not yet accepted within themselves, or the child is just simply different in many aspects from the other siblings.

However, the motivating factor that drives the parent to mistreat and scapegoat their child, further displacing and transferring their responsibility from themselves onto the child, is likely to be at an unconscious level, but this is not always the case. Some parents may be well aware of their reasons for mistreating or enabling one of their children to become a scapegoat for all the familly’s ‘ills’ but may not be able to effectively control or manage their actions due to the underlying drivers and motivators. The parents’ denial additionally aids in maintaining that status quo.

That said, the whole family is affected in some way by the scapegoating process, including the ‘model’ children in the family, signs of which may become more apparent in their adult years.

Different ways that children can be made scapegoats:

  • abuse in a variety of ways including neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse
  • alienated
  • ostracized
  • bullying
  • taunting/goading
  • or even death itself

If that child leaves the home environment as a young adult or is removed from the home at an early age, the family challenge still remains, and another sibling is then likely to be the target of the parent’s scapegoating, in order to fill the gap or void that has been created. Unless the parent(s) deal with their need to abdicate responsibility for their actions, the transference will continue to be a cycle of oppression within the family setting in particular.

What is Havening Technique?

23 September 2014


Havening Technique™ was created by Dr Ronald Ruden and further developed in conjunction with his brother Dr Steven Ruden. It is a psycho-sensory model and uses sensory input of touch (Havening Touch®) to alter thought, mood and behaviour.


Traumatic or very stressful events or experiences create a pathway in the brain which remains there indefinitely (becomes immutably encoded), until or unless people embark on a process to change, obstruct or disrupt that pathway to bring about new enriching experiences.


Havening Technique™ works by reducing or eliminating altogether the negative maladaptive emotional response linked to that event or experience. In doing so, Havening works with the Amygdala, the emotional response system in the brain, which is based in the Limbic System. As such Havening is also referred to as Amygdala Depotentiation Therapy (ADT). Havening disrupts the pathway that was created and consequently removes the emotional PAIN linked to and/or associated with the stress, distress and experiences (current and past), resulting in neutral or no negative emotional response to the situation.


Havening Technique is a very effective approach for a range of emotionally distressful situations and symptoms with profound and long lasting results.


This includes situations and symptoms relating to:

  • Relationship challenges
  • Domestic violence
  • Bullying
  • Fear of heights
  • Emotional eating
  • Depression
  • Agoraphobia and other Phobias
  • Fear of Abandonment
  • Sexual abuse
  • Lack of confidence
  • Feelings of low self worth
  • Anxiety
  • Self harm
  • Loneliness
  • PTSD
  • Physical pain
  • Post Natal Depression


In order for Havening to be most effective for the client, the emotional core symptom that activates their emotional response system; and, which poses the biggest  challenge and disturbance to the client, must be identified, Havened and consequently removed. This is the fundamental difference between Talk Therapy and Havening Technique™.


During the Havening Therapy, clients generally experience an increase in certain neurochemicals such as Serotonin and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), and a low frequency brain signal, a delta wave, which is generally associated with stage three sleep. Stage three sleep is the deepest and most restorative part of our sleep. A successful Havening experience can leave clients feeling a sense of calmness, relaxation, peacefulness or sleepy.


The effect and result of experiencing the Havening model includes results such as, once a particular negative emotional response has been eliminated (e.g. guilt, shame), it can have the effect of directly or indirectly and simultaneously removing other related negative maladaptive emotions linked to the same or different negative experiences or trauma. Another effect could be that the removal of one traumatic event reveals another one, which is also subsequently Havened with the client’s permission.


Photo from:

Photo from:

In relation to recall and emotional attachment to the distressing or traumatic event or experience, clients often experience and report a sense of disbelief in the results, which could include one or several of the following:


  • Inability to recall the previous distressing or traumatic event
  • Their recollection of the distressing experience is fuzzy
  • They can recall the experience and event however they now have a neutral emotional attachment to it
  • Thinking or talking about the distressing experience no longer triggers their emotional response system or their usual negative emotional responses to the experience.
  • A range of emotional, physical or physiological changes can occur. For instance, clients can appear to grow in height instantly; or have the ability to move parts of their body which were emotionally, psychologically or physically affected by the traumatic experience; or have restful sleep throughout the night, which hitherto had been affected resulting from their previous experience(s).


The Havening model engenders a healthier outlook on life, healthier choices and most importantly, mental and emotional resilience (a resilient landscape).


Havening approach can also be used for peak performance, goals achievement, or Self Havening of every day routine emotions such as sadness, anger or mild anxiety. Self Havening is not recommended for serious trauma or psychological disorders. It is highly recommended that you seek assistance from a Certified Havening Technique™ Practitioner.