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The Crucial Role of Validating Feelings

Have you ever had a hard time accepting your own feelings? You may have even tried suppressing or ignoring them. Has someone else ever invalidated your feelings or thoughts and made you feel crazy? A lot of the time, invalidating, whether it's toward ourselves or others, is a common habit we engage in. Once we understand the crucial role validation has in society, dealing with our internal issues and providing support for others becomes a bit (or a lot) easier.

Let's first talk about validation towards others. It’s easy to think another person is being irrational or “dramatic” when they are experiencing intrusive thoughts, irrational thoughts, or any worry at all towards a certain situation. But this is only because we are not in their brain and have no idea about the nuances that are going through their mind. When someone is experiencing irrational thoughts, they may be experiencing anxiety, an episode of overthinking, or just worry in general. When they are talking about these thoughts or assumptions with you, it is important to understand that these are their thoughts and countering them does nothing most of the time. Instead of providing toxic positivity, such as “it could be worse,” “everything happens for a reason,” or “don’t think about it,” we can make it well known that we are there for them even though we may not fully understand their feelings. Most of the time, people just want to feel heard, understood, and a hand to hold throughout the journey.

Why does toxic positivity make us feel misunderstood and unheard? When we hear phrases such as the aforementioned examples, we feel misunderstood because we’re already sure about the thoughts we are experiencing. For example, let's say you see an old fling talking to someone new. You start feeling sad and worrying about all the reasons why you both stopped talking. You then decide to tell your friend about these worries but they tell you “no, you both were bound to stop talking, don’t worry about it.” This is going to make you feel crazy because you feel as if you are worrying about something that you shouldn’t be worrying about. Instead, the friend could’ve said “I completely understand why you would be worried. You care or cared about them so it brings up feelings and that's okay. I know it's really hard to see this right now and I want you to know that I’m here for you to listen to you and come up with solutions if that's what you want.” The main focus should be to support the other person and try to view situations from their eyes. It’s also very unhealthy to tell someone that they are being too sensitive, dramatic, or that they are overthinking. This makes a person feel exactly what they are hearing, making it hard for them to regulate and understand their own emotions, so let's stay completely away from these terms when trying to be there for someone.

Validating our own feelings is another realm of its own. When we are invalidated by others, especially throughout our childhood or early adolescence, it is difficult to validate ourselves. If you truly think about it, invalidation is the root of many internal problems which is why childhood is emphasized when talking about internal issues as adults. For example, men are usually degraded when they are vulnerable or emotional. Therefore, when a young boy is told not to feel something, his feelings are being invalidated leading to a suppression of feelings as a grown up. We need to understand that every single feeling is valid. At the end of the day, we are human and one of the major components of human nature are feelings. When we are experiencing a feeling, we can recognize it, understand it, and be okay that it is there. All feelings pass whether they last for a short or long period of time, but recognizing and validating them will definitely make the process smoother and efficient (resisting can make them last longer or intensify them). So why not make our lives a bit better and start validating ourselves and showing a little more compassion to our own beings?

Source: Psychology Today

-Ximena Barrios

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