Validation is defined as “the act of making or declaring something officially acceptable; or recognition/affirmation that a person, their feelings, or opinions are worthwhile.” In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy it is the acknowledgment of another's experience and feelings as having causes and therefore being understandable. In other words, validation is: that makes sense, YOU make sense; I see you.
A very common challenge I see everyday, is identifying and then challenging self invalidation. Very simply stated self invalidation is: “I don’t make sense, I shouldn’t be feeling this way. Who I am, the way I am is unacceptable to me.” Identifying self invalidation is very difficult because it is so much a part of people's common self talk track and therefore is syntonic in their minds. These thoughts are passing through without getting flagged, questioned or challenged. The long term effects of self invalidation is shame.
Self invalidation looks like; “Why am I having such a hard time, I don’t know what my deal is.” Or as I like to tout, basically any sentence starting with “I need to just,” or “I should just,” these sentences infer that if one was trying harder or took a simple action then everything would be different. This is almost never true, usually when we struggle it’s because something is getting in the damn way. The notion that we need to just try harder is an American myth. When folks really want something in their lives to be different and they are trying to make it so, the answer is not they aren’t trying hard enough, the answer is something is wrong.
Validation is an emotion regulation tool. To say, “of course I feel overwhelmed, this is overwhelming!” Can decrease distress and dysregulation. Whereas invalidation increases distress, dysregulation, and isolation.
HOW TO FIGHT BACK:
- Observe your self talk: Are you very self critical, judgmental, or place unrealistic expectations on yourself?
- Recognize and label invalidation: “I should” or “I need to just” are clues that something invalidating is about to follow.
- Replace: The invalidating thought or statement with a question. Be curious. Just because you may not understand why something is happening doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. Try to make sense of it. You know yourself, your history, your belief system, there is always a reason we experience the world in the way that we do.
- Be Gentle: You are doing the best you can. Change, progress, and forward movement are not possible in a judgmental, abusive mind.
- Pass it on: Notice invalidation in your friends and family, encourage them to be mindful of their invalidating comments. Then you can fight back together, and support each other.