To validate another person is to understand and accept their internal experience and recognise their entitlement to their emotions and feelings, whether we agree with them or not. It doesn’t mean that we condone their reactions or their behaviour, merely that we acknowledge their feelings and emotions as being of importance to them.
Everyone deserves to know they’ve been heard, and are loved, especially when they’re in pain. But, not everyone gets the validation they need or want, so they feel invalidated. When we invalidate another person, we are judging, rejecting, or ignoring their internal experience, dismissing their feelings and their emotions. When someone causes another person pain, and then ignores them, what they’re actually doing is failing to recognise that person as an individual, and they’re letting them know they’re not important to them.
Marsha Linehan, an American psychologist, author, and creator of dialectical behaviour therapy, (a type of psychotherapy that combines behavioural science with Buddhist beliefs such as acceptance and mindfulness), teaches that there are six levels to validation.
The six levels of validation are:
1. Being present
Being 100% present when talking with another person is hugely important; it helps them feel valued and supported and goes a long way towards building a healthy, trusting relationship. It’s not always comfortable dealing with other peoples’ feelings, or indeed the emotions that may come up for you while supporting them through their emotional upheaval. Today, with technology playing such a dominant role in our lives, it can be so easy to reach for our phones in response to a message ‘alert’, totally oblivious that this small action is signalling to our present company that their emotions and feelings aren’t as important as our friends on the ether. Such behaviour can cause disharmony in even the strongest of relationships.
2. Accurate Reflection
Verbalising another person’s thoughts and feelings back to them helps them feel heard. It may also help them achieve their desired outcomes, as by talking them through they can gain a greater perspective on what it is they want. Do try to reflect what they’re saying back to them as accurately as possible, for example, ‘I hear what you’re saying, you are unhappy in your job’, or, ‘I can tell you’re anxious about your financial situation.’
A lot of people have become cut off from their feelings. This may have been a learned process from parents or a learned coping mechanism to deal with any previous invalidation. It can help if you say something such as, ‘I guess you must be feeling worried?’ The person will confirm your guess as accurate, or they’ll correct you and identify the emotion they’re experiencing.
4. Validating by history
We store our experiences in our bodies, and current events can easily trigger old emotions and feelings. If we’ve experienced adverse situations, then similar future conditions may cause a severe reaction. Say, a child’s bitten by a dog, s/he may be fearful around dogs or want to avoid them at all costs. An example of validating this might be, ‘Given your childhood experiences with dogs, I completely understand why you wouldn’t want to go somewhere with dogs in the house.’
5. Normalising/recognising emotional reactions
It helps to know that others have similar feelings if they’ve experienced the same situations. In this case, validating is very supportive. An example of validating would be, ‘Of course you’re anxious about the job interview. Everyone feels anxious when they’re doing something this important.’ (However, avoid following this up with, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be fine, it won’t be that bad,’ as that can undermine the previous statement of validation.)
6. Radical genuineness
Only make statements you believe to be true. Radical genuineness is where you relate to a person as an equal, and express genuine confidence in their ability to deal with a situation to a successful conclusion.
Each level has a value of its own, and each level increases in difficulty as you progress through the levels. Regardless of the levels you achieve, and even if you only stay at a lower level with your partner (or indeed yourself), each level achieved will be of great help in providing much-needed validation.
In her short video clip below, Dr Shani Glaude says: ‘Validation is crucial. It’s an acknowledgement of someone else’s feelings and experiences. It’s just allowing another person’s emotional state to exist even when it’s different than yours.’
The same goes for self-validation. This is very important. Whatever you’re feeling is very real to you, and nobody should ever tell you how you should or shouldn’t feel. If you don’t validate your own internal experience, then you undermine your self-worth. You then project this out to others – that your feelings and emotions don’t matter and, when in turn they reflect this behaviour back to you, it leaves you feeling a double rejection. A ‘double whammy’ of sorts.
Journaling is a wonderful way of expressing your feelings without being judged. You can empty your thoughts onto paper and come back and deal with them later. I really benefited from watching the video clip below. ‘A journal doesn’t judge you. It gives you an opportunity to be completely honest and say the things you might not otherwise say … Journaling gives you the opportunity to get things out of your system.’
Dr Jill Bolte Taylor, an American neuroanatomist, says in her book, My Stroke of Insight, ‘When a person reacts to something in their environment, there’s a 90-second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.
Something happens in the external world and chemicals are flushed through your body which puts it on full alert. For those chemicals to flush out of the body, it takes less than 90 seconds. This means that for 90 seconds you can watch the process happening, you can feel it happening, and then you can watch it go away.
After that, if you continue to feel fear, anger, and so on, you need to look at the thoughts that you’re thinking that are re-stimulating the circuitry that is resulting in you having this physiological response over and over again.’
It helps if you can become mindful of your thoughts and feelings, as this is necessary before you can validate that internal experience. My book, Cosmic Light Through The Higher Mind: Infusion Techniques, teaches you how to become the watcher within, enabling you to do just as Dr Jill advises, which is to watch the process happening, feel it happening, and then watch it go away, freeing you up to remain safely in the power of the now, free from the emotional past. Self-validation is easily achieved from this safe place within. Very empowering indeed!
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