Consider the last time you vented frustrations to a friend, family member, or significant other. How did they react? Did they say things like, “Give it time and it will seem insignificant”, or “It’s not that big of a deal”? If so, how did that make you feel in return? Not exactly the greatest right? Now think about if they had answered in a way that confirmed those unpleasant emotions. “That must feel disappointing, I would be upset too” or “Wow, I don’t blame you at all for feeling the way you do”. It is just as important to validate our unpleasant emotions as it is the positive ones. That’s why today we want to dive into the concept of validation and how powerful and liberating it can be.
What is Validation?
In the “therapy” world, validation is the process of other’s confirming the validity of emotions. But what does that mean? Is that something we should care about? In short, yes. Validation is something we all should care about as it’s a way to communicate acceptance both internally and externally. It isn’t a synonym for approval or agreeing, however. Rather a means of letting others know your value the relationship even during disagreements.
Essentially, validation communicates understanding. And there are times when all we need is to feel understood. It encapsulates thoughts, feelings, sensations, and even behavior. But learning how to use it effectively can take a bit of time and practice.
The Six Levels of Validation
Marsha Linehan Ph.D. is an author and psychologist how has identified six levels of validation:
One. Being Present
Embrace the moment and avoid the temptation to multitask. Utilize tactile measures like holding someone’s hand or asking if they need a hug. Listen actively and fully as a means to fully understand the issue at hand. Sometimes simply being there for the person, with complete sincerity and attention without judgment is what’s needed.
Two. Accurate Reflection
Think of this as an accurate summary of the issue. Depending on the scenario, you can achieve this level for your own need or help validate another. This level is again, done without judgment. And it can help a person separate their thoughts from emotion.
No, you can’t actually read another persons’ mind. But if you are fully engaged and present, more likely than not, you can hypothesize what another person could be thinking or feeling. This level can be difficult as some of us have a hard time understanding our own feelings. It can be easy to confuse excitement and happiness or even excitement and anxiety. Or, you or the person you are trying to validate may be extremely good at masking their feelings as a defense mechanism. The best way to mindread is to notice any emotions when the situation is being described. Then you can guess what emotions you or they may be feeling. The best part is that if you guess wrong, the person can jump in and correct you, which is validating in itself.
Four. Understanding Behavior
This level utilizes a person’s history and biology as a means to understand current behavior. Your life experiences and genetic makeup influence the way you react in situations throughout your life. If a friend was dumped and humiliated at the movies a few years ago, there’s a chance they still have an aversion to that activity. Validation in this sense could be something like, “I know you went through a hard time in that setting, I totally understand why you wouldn’t want to do this activity with me.”
Five. Normalizing Emotional Reaction
Whether we like it or not, all of us have emotions and all of us feel things. And as a culture, we have slowly started to come to this acceptance. The more we come to both recognize and normalize this basic human truth, the more everyone is able to express themselves genuinely. Due to societal views, many of us can feel weak and less-than if we show too much emotion during any given situation. But validating the emotion can help us all cope with it and overcome it as needed.
Six. Radical Genuineness
Yes, we know this term sounds a little out there. Radical genuineness is understanding an emotion on a deep level. This can occur when you yourself have been through a similar experience. Radical genuineness is the process of sharing that experience to make the other feel less alone. It’s a way of showing emotional equality that can help put the sufferer at ease.
How to Practice Validation
Sure, it’s easy to break validation down into a manner that’s understandable. But actually, putting in the work to practice this important skill can feel rather difficult. However, just like anything else, the more you practice something, the better you will get at it and the more natural it will feel.
We can do things such as encouraging others through more explanative word choice. Instead of just saying “good job” when your kids do their chores, try something like, “it makes me so proud and happy when you help out around the house because I see you becoming more and more responsible.” Not only does this encourage the child to continue doing a good job, but it also helps them cultivate their own self-respect.
Finally, we can practice building our own confidence and trust in ourselves through self-validation. This can be practiced through verbalizing any of the following:
- I can do this
- Everything will be okay and as it needs to be
- I’m doing my best and know I make mistakes but am still a good person
- I am worth the love others are giving me, even if I can’t always accept it
The Power of Validation with CPA
Validation is a wonderful tool. It can help give you the power to help heal and understand your emotions. It’s a way that helps connect you to others in ways that lead to stronger connections. If you think you could use some help in this area, Cristina Panaccione and Associates has one location in the South Hills and one office in Robinson Township. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you learn the skills to cope with whatever emotion you may be feeling!
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.
Michael Breitenbach – LPC
I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions. If you want to change, don’t wait until the New Year, make the change today. If you chose to change, make sure you are doing it for yourself and not for anybody else. Therapy is more effective when there is an internal desire for change, but with change can bring the fear of the unknown and that’s where the support of an objective therapist can help alleviate the experience. The key to personal progress is the relationship that you have with your therapist. There is no one size fits all approach to therapy, so I have taken an eclectic approach to meet the many needs and demands of life.
My expertise falls within the addiction and dual diagnosis realm, but not limited to drugs and alcohol, as addiction can permeate into many other facets of life. In my current position, I provide clinical insight to hospitals and other inpatient programs for individuals with Behavioral Health as well as Physical Health issues ranging from Schizophrenia to Hepatitis C. I help providers and individuals identify barriers to treatment while utilizing their strengths for personal progress. I may not have all the answers to your questions and problems, but I can certainly point you in the right direction, give you the resources to be successful, and work together to develop a plan for a healthier you!