Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Few Therapy Words, Shall We?

Let's talk about the word "validate."
When looked up in the dictionary, it's defined as follows:

verb (used with object)validated,validating.

to make validsubstantiate; confirm:
Time validated our suspicions.
to give legal force to; legalize.
to give official sanction, confirmation, or approvalto, as elected officials, election procedures,documents, etc.:
to validate a passport.

"Validate" is a very important word used in therapy. When I was working with the troubled youth last year, it was a word used on a daily basis, multiple times a day.  Youth AND staff were taught that validation is a powerful communication skill. Its usage can dismantle power struggles, resolve arguments, and build deeply trusting relationships. Basically, these kids were learning that it's ok to share your feelings. Most of them were at the rehabilitation center because their biggest struggle was coping with their emotions in extremely negative ways.

To understand why people need to be validated makes us realize how often our feelings get shamed. There are very few places where feelings are welcomed, if welcomed at all. We learn that strength means not crying, feeling fear, and never being angry. 

Showing strong emotion makes people around you uncomfortable. That's why majority of us, including myself, find it best to just keep those emotions bottled up inside. 

A bad habit I've gained over the years is straight up not saying how I feel. Ever. I've come to the point where I'm too scared to even have the slightest confrontation with someone, so whatever the feeling, no matter how strong, I will not talk about it.

Why? Why do I let these emotions literally eat away at me? Isn't it easier to just talk about it? 

Yes. It is. But without that validation while trying to communicate feelings, those emotions will always come back. 

Usually during "communication" people will attempt to get you to stop as quickly as possible. They  may try to reassure you, tell you what you want to hear. Even if their intent is to help you feel better, often the message conveyed is that it's not okay to feel bad.

Validation is not "playing therapist." It's not giving your advice, it's not sympathizing, it's not telling someone they're wrong. Simply put, validation is the message, "Your feelings make sense. Not only do I hear you, but I understand why you feel the way you do. You are not bad or wrong or crazy for feeling the way you do."

Validate is one of my favorite words to use. Not because of the way it sounds, not because of the way it looks, but because of what it means, what it does. It's definitely my favorite communication skill. Being a reflective listener and validation. 

Both are super important. They let people know you genuinely care what they're saying. That you hear them. It's effective communication.

It took a lot to learn how those things work (thanks to working at Youth Care!) It's going to take even more for me to learn effective communication, but at least I have the other two down. 

Pointless blog post. But I've been lacking the validation in my life, so consider it a simple reminder. 

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