What is Emotional Validation and Why Does It Matter?
In the last couple of blogs we have talked about the Villain and the Victim in your life. Perhaps you have an unresolved hurt from the past. It could be someone treated you badly in a relationship or when you were a child. You may blame this someone and make them the villain of the piece and you may see yourself as a victim in this scenario.
In order to have kept this train of thought, you would have had to validate your emotions. And you will have done that in a way that attaches those emotions to those beliefs (villain and victim). “He made me feel angry/rejected/worthless….it’s not my fault, why am I so stupid, how come this always happens to me.“
As you may know, no-one can make you feel anything – you choose how to feel, as an adult. Caveat! If someone comes over and punches you in the mouth you are going to feel pain. But I’m not talking physical pain here, I’m talking emotional pain.
As a child when you are learning, you are like a sponge, taking in information from others and forming your own beliefs. For example, your parent shouts at you for wanting their attention. You don’t know they have had a terrible day, so you feel that they are shouting at you because YOU did something wrong. You interpret that they are angry because you are interrupting them, and so you learn not to speak until spoken to and of course the more this happens, this is when you become “conditioned” to act in a certain way.
Or maybe you can remember a time when you were crying because, for example, your goldfish died, and your parent says, ‘Don’t cry we will get you another one”. And so, you learned that you shouldn’t cry if something is replaceable, maybe as a child you learned to not cry at all. Your emotions were invalidated. And here’s the thing, if you don’t express your emotions and you keep them in your body it’s likely that emotion will cause dis – ease in the body at some point.
What If Emotional Validation Doesn’t Happen?
Studies have shown that Borderline Personality Disorder has been linked to children whose feelings have not been validated. And by validated, here’s what I mean. Validating someone’s feelings means acknowledging the feelings, and allowing them to have them.
It doesn’t mean that you agree with them.
There are 3 stages of validation:-
1. Identify what the emotion is. If someone is upset but not talking about it, you can ask or guess, “It looks like you are upset about something, what is it?”
2. Listen and acknowledge “OK, so what you are saying is you think your boss doesn’t appreciate you because they cancelled another meeting with you, and that makes you feel not valued”.
3. Validate. “I can understand how that would make you feel”.
Easy? Not always.
Here’s the thing, because we want to help, we often invalidate other people’s emotions in an attempt to solve the problem. Sometimes people don’t want the problem to be solved they just want to be heard and be ‘allowed’ to feel the way they feel. You may have been in this situation, you want to get “something off your chest” and before you know it your other half is giving you their ideas of how you should improve your life …WTF!!!!
And even if they want to help you solve the problem, invalidating your emotions won’t help.
Now let’s see what happens if you have this conversation with “the boss” directly.
He explains that he was just busy, and it never crossed his mind that you would be upset!
Now you may feel stupid for bringing it up and probably won’t tell him the next time something happens.
Knowing that, imagine that you are on the receiving end of this kind of feedback on something you have done. If you acknowledge the feelings FIRST, and then ask the other person if they want your suggestion on what to do next, then they will feel like you understand. The other person will feel that you have their back and they are more likely to be open to your input, as it won’t make them feel bad about themselves.
This is just as important when you are thinking about your own feelings.
You absolutely need to identify what you are feeling, for example, upset/angry/frustrated and don’t brush it aside. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge what you are feeling and that you have the absolute right to feel that.
Only then can you move on to deciding if you want to keep that feeling, and that interpretation of what happened or if you want to change it. Which you also have the perfect right to do, and the absolute power to change.
For example, when my cousin Lindsay died way too young at the age of 27, I was sad, and I was angry at everything and everybody and I was a little bitter that her life had been cut short and it seemed so unfair. Would you agree it’s easy to understand why I would have those emotions? The turning point was when I realised I could choose how I continued to feel about things moving forward. Of course, I still miss her very much and I wish she was here but those feelings are not going to bring her back, does that make sense?
Instead, I choose to feel happy when I think of her, I choose to feel grateful for her and all she taught me and all she brought into the world, including her beautiful amazing son Jordan. I don’t need to apologise for how I felt, or for how I feel now. I allow myself to validate how I feel, in a way that was sometimes missing in my early years.
If you have people in your life that don’t allow you to express and validate your feelings maybe it’s time to change the people you hang around with!
If you are looking for an environment where you are accepted and allowed to feel however you feel, then hop over to the Find Your Why Foundation – where you will find a community who will listen and acknowledge and validate you.