Emotional validation and why it is so important
Emotional validation is having our emotional experiences accepted, understood and heard. This isn't the same as agreeing with what another person's emotional experience is. We need to be open to, and interested in, how the other person is feeling, and show them that there is no judgement.
As a hypnotherapist who works with both children and adults, emotional validation is a key part of what I do.
Although the emotional experiences are different for children and adults, usually, it is essential for good mental health that all feelings are validated.
In childhood, we often have our feelings invalidated by well-meaning grown-ups who are low on patience and have complicated agendas themselves.
Let me use, for example, the child who is crying and is distraught at losing a game. "My life is so bad, this is the worst day ever. I never win and I never will. It's so unfair!" Mum has been up all night worrying about planned redundancies at work and retorts "Oh for goodness sake, it's only a game. You shouldn't think that way, there is nothing to fuss about!" This may lead the child to mistrust his emotions and thoughts, to feel unheard and disconnected, and doesn't allow him to make healthy links with feelings, behaviours and coping strategies. In fact, repeated invalidation of emotional experiences can cause children to feel low self-worth, low self-esteem and isolation. We really need to impart the message that it is okay not to be okay.
A healthy way to support the child who is so upset at losing his game may look like this "I can see that you feel very frustrated and that the game mattered a lot to you. I know it can feel disappointing to lose." Stay present with the child. Let them know that this is a safe place to express their emotions. Leave some time and wait for the calm before looking at different responses that the child could use. If you rush in with ideas of how to change the child's mindset, you unwittingly invalidate their emotional experience.
What about the mum mentioned earlier? Who is going to validate her worrying thoughts of redundancies? Don't expect the child to! It is not always easy to self-validate, and it may take some practice, but it is a healthy skill.
She may begin by noticing her feelings - 'I feel very scared over the threat of redundancy.' It is then helpful to ask herself - 'what is it that I need right now?' The answer may be that she needs time to herself, for example. Finally, she needs to accept her feelings without judgement. She may tell herself 'Of course I am scared. Redundancy is worrying for anyone. I have a lot going on and getting some time for myself will be helpful.' I tell my clients to treat themselves the same as they would a best friend - with understanding, kindness, compassion and respect.
When we feel emotionally validated we feel accepted, more able to self-regulate, our self-esteem and self-worth are boosted and we feel more connected.
So, if you have thoughts and feelings that you feel are not helpful, please remember that the first step is to acknowledge these thoughts and feelings. I offer a safe space where you can expect me to tune in, listen, understand, accept, and acknowledge your inner feelings and thoughts as valid.
If you would like to find out more about how we can work together please contact me.