Disagreement, De-legitimization, and Invalidation
A lesson that I must relearn occasionally and painfully (through the terrible recurrence of experience) is that even though I may sometimes dislike being disagreed with, what really hurts me (and others) is feeling invalidated and de-legitimized (or invalidating and de-legitimizing others). What do I mean by this? Am I even using the right words? I don’t even know.
When people disagree, they can recognize the rationality (whatever that means) of the opposing side. They may have a disagreement on facts, or maybe value preference, or maybe on applicability of facts or values, but they can recognize that the other person is consistent and reasonable within context of his view of the facts or within his values.
But if someone doubts the good faith effort of another conversant, then suddenly things become very different. For example, if someone chalks up disagreement to “the other person just not thinking straight” or “just being dramatic” or just “being angry,” this is psychically harmful. The kiss of death is the modifier, “like he usually gets” or “this isn’t the first time…” Because then you no longer have to suspect — because you know — that that other person has pegged you in a box and pegs you in a box as a general rule. It is a card that that other person is not afraid to reuse and a card that you must wonder about how often it has previously been used.
I think that these kinds of tactics deprive a person of humanity in some way. (I can see the critique now: “That’s just Andrew S. being overdramatic. How can WORDS deprive a person of humanity? They are nothing like slavery or torture. We can safely ignore him.”) These tactics shut out considerations of the person’s sanity.
No, I am not insane! I am not “getting that way!” I am not getting swept up in irrationality and emotions!
I am not compromised and crippled by bias beyond the rational limits! My position isn’t determined by being “one of those guys” (whoever “those guys” may be.)
And my position cannot be waved away as the product of a frenzied mind.
I am not innocent. I have to confront the times when I am guilty of this very same thing. I have to evaluate constantly — am I disagreeing or am I shutting out? Am I disagreeing with reasons or insisting that the reasons don’t exist?
This isn’t a position whose weight I can bear for long. Invalidation is misery and despair. De-legitimization is hell. I only feel bad for those who internalize the message of delegitimization from others. Who come to believe — since everyone else keeps saying it — that maybe they are just crazy. Maybe they are just angry. Maybe they do just get that way.
I think that if this happens, then something within someone has died. They are no longer authentic and no longer can be.
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