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What Does It Mean To Validate Feelings?

POSTED: April 13, 2012

Guest Blogger Sadia Raval is the founder and Chief Psychologist of Inner Space Counseling and Assessment Center, located in Malad (West), Mumbai. Counseling, psychotherapy and psychological assessment are the main focus of Inner Space. You can find the Inner Space website here and read other articles written by her here.

In my earlier post on expressing one’s feelings, I discussed how we are reluctant to express our feelings due to the fear, “What if I express but I am not heard”. This is the fear of not receiving validation, and in this post, I will be talking about why it is so important and how we can express validation for others’ feelings and receive validation for our own.

Why don’t we validate?

In our times, we are so easily critical of the way people feel. We decide how people should and should not feel in specific situations, how they should or should not act in a given space and we are more often than not quick enough to judge them and say so.

Perhaps that is one reason why people are so fearful of telling others how they feel. Usually we readily validate people who we can identify with and are very reluctant to validate people we do not identify with.

For instance it is difficult to validate your spouse who has been partying and drinking late in the night and who complains of feeling tired in the morning.

How to ask for validation?

Expressing your feeling and asking for validation is perhaps a better way of dealing with emotions in a social set-up rather than suppressing those feelings and fear being judged.

Lets take an example: A wife who is angry with her husband could say. I am feeling angry with you because you haven’t been spending enough time with me. I am trying to work with my anger however I’d like you to atleast acknowledge that you understand why I am angry.

Or something simpler like. I feel angry but I would feel much better if you expressed that you are at least trying to understand how I feel.

Or I feel angry with you now and I’m not being able to help that. If you just hugged me trying to understand what I’m going through I’d feel better.

How to validate?

Validation is nothing but an acknowledgement from you to another person communicating that you understand that the other at present is experiencing a particular emotion.

We all intrinsically know how to validate, how to console, how to express that we understand another’s situation. However what usually stops us is our judgment of their situation.

So all we need to do is remind ourselves of a few things:

-       At this moment the reality of this person is that he or she is experiencing an emotion

-       This person who is expressing a feeling to us at this moment considers us worthy enough to let us see his or her emotion.

-       At this moment, we need to attempt to control our judgment of his or her situation. It is not for us to judge whether that emotion should or should not be experienced, it is enough to just know that it is there.

How does this exchange help the validator?

It is clear how validating someone’s emotions makes life easier for the person experiencing the emotion. However what it also does is, it opens up the person who is the validator. When you try to attune to another’s feelings and leave your judgments aside you feel great internal compassion. You allow your emotions to come to the fore and fully feel for another individual. It softens you up.

And of course you have relationships that are more beautiful, more open and transparent where people are able to share much more and much more meaningful.

 

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