While writing Part II of Handling the Inner Heckler, I was reminded of one example of invalidation. Shortly after 9/11, I developed a moderate fear of flying. It didn’t stop me from going anywhere, just made me a bit anxious before flights for a few years. I probably would have overcome the fear sooner, but I don’t fly very often.
It wasn’t really surprising given that a lot of people developed at least a temporary fear. While I was fortunate enough to be off work that day, I worked in downtown NYC at the time. When the office where I worked reopened after nearly a week, we could smell the smoke from the fires which smoldered well into November. We could see the shattered remnants of the facade from many of the surrounding streets until they were dismantled. Many of my co-workers, friends and relatives had harrowing experiences with evacuation and what they saw that day. I was very fortunate that my family & close friends were all ok, but there were several anxious hours after watching the buildings collapse before I was able to determine they were ok.
What I experienced was nowhere near as bad as what others went through. But it is frightening to see a neighborhood you’ve worked in for years with debris falling all over it and clouds of dust and smoke enveloping it, knowing people you care about are in that neighborhood. I think it was horrifying for anyone watching it, but having the streets and landmarks as part of your daily routine/scenery and seeing them like that certainly adds to the horror a bit. I recall thinking about the routes my friends/family/co-workers would likely be taking and hoping the debris wasn’t falling on them.
One of the post 9/11 flights was to visit my mother for Christmas. Of course, she and my stepdad had Fox News blaring about orange alerts in the airports during my stay. Which is just what you want when you have to fly back! 😉 I made the mistake of mentioning my fear/anxiety to my mother. And I was belittled for it. I was also compared to a friend of hers who was across the street from the WTC on 9/11 and had to go through the evacuation. Apparently, her friend did not share my fear, which was proof that my fear was unreasonable and something to be criticized.
I didn’t question this. It was so typical that my feelings were invalidated like this that I didn’t think anything of it. I just thought my mother was right and that I was stupid for having that fear/anxiety.
It wasn’t until December 2010 that I realized I was being invalidated. Much of my family on both sides has lived in Brooklyn at some point in their lives. Those who were living there at the time of the 1960 plane crash remember it vividly and they’ve often talked about it.
While reading The NY Times coverage of the anniversary, I read reader comments where readers recounted their experiences with the crash. Even people who didn’t see the crash, but heard it or saw some of the aftermath were affected. Some can’t fly to this day. Others can fly, but are very nervous. Here I was thinking my fear was stupid and made me weak/wimpy when it was a perfectly normal and understandable fear! There was nothing wrong with me for reacting that way.
I chose the title Parking Invalidation because I have such a tendency to do that when I feel something. I want to “park” (stop) the invalidation. Plus I can’t resist a pun or play on words!