Validating emotions: building our identity

Who I am
Louise Hay

Validating emotions: building our identity

Our emotions are our identity. How do you learn to validate them?

Last update: June 07, 2020

"What we are?" it is a transcendental question that often arises when we find ourselves in certain situations. When we don't know what to decide, when we face a breakup or when we have to decide what job to do. What do all these circumstances have in common? They bring our entire inner universe into play, and how to validate emotions?

Our identity and our emotional universe are interrelated. Often the confusion about what we feel is able to extend to other important aspects, such as our ability to control. Sometimes, on the other hand, we try to regain this same control by influencing or conditioning others.

Thus we pretend to chase away doubts by demonstrating that we are able to rise above others, thus influencing the evolution of events.

Our emotions define us

Learning to identify, regulate and manage, that is, to validate emotions, is a thorny issue that concerns education. Developing this ability is so important that not only our mental health depends on it, but also that of those who live next to us.

We can look at emotions as a two-sided coin: on the one hand they give us energy, on the other they transmit multiple messages to us. These two aspects are equally important and a correct emotional education allows us to distinguish them and to put them at the service of our interests.

Sadness, for example, usually invites us to reflect and gives us an incentive to take a break. Anger, on the other hand, often tells us that we have suffered an injustice and provides us with the energy necessary to activate ourselves so that this does not happen again. In any case, we decide what to do with the message that reaches us, what sense to give it. And we are always the ones who have to regulate the release of that energy.

We are responsible. The problem is that as children we are almost never taught how to validate emotions, or what to do with them in practice, apart from hiding or containing them.

The emotions we feel are our responsibility, but since they depend on external stimuli, it is a fact that we struggle to accept. The tendency to blame others for our anger, our sadness, or our dissatisfaction is quite common.

It is for this reason that the way anger turns into sadness or fear turns into joy will define our attitude in the face of the most difficult daily challenges and problems. In other words: it will define ourselves.

Validate emotions

Emotional validation is about accepting and accepting what we feel or what another person thinks, regardless of whether we agree with that emotion or not. We are thus able to validate our emotions and also those of others.

On a theoretical level it may seem like a simple act; however, some problems common to many relationships confirm that this is not the case. Accusations like "you don't listen to me", "you don't understand me", "you don't put yourself in my shoes" in front of the partner who denies such claims, they paint a known scenario. The very fact of answering with a "yes, I understand you" or "yes, instead, I listen to you" in many cases demonstrates a lack in this sense.

The possibility of an emotional validation evaporates in the face of the need to judge, comment or defend ourselves from an emotion that we do not recognize. Sometimes, while not wanting to question the credibility of the other person, we use responses, non-verbal forms of communication or justifications that represent an obstacle to building empathic bridges. We exclude a priori that empathy which would seem propitious to arrive at understanding.

People who don't feel heard don't need a more attentive audience, but someone who values ​​their emotions.

What happens when we don't know how to validate emotions?

What happens when we don't validate emotions is similar to what happens when we don't express them or, worse, repress them. As if we were pressure cookers, we build up unaddressed emotions until they come out through a crack in our self-control.

Recognize the emotions of our children, our partners, our relatives or our work colleagues it means being close to them in the most difficult moments. In this way we make them feel safe, protected, cared for, respected and loved.

  • Emotional validation is about accepting what happens to the other without judging, helping him to turn negative emotions into positive ones.
  • Emotional invalidation, on the other hand, is the opposite. It is an indirect rejection of the feelings of others. A denial of what he feels and which results in a lack of understanding and listening.

When they tell us something cheerful, we know how to share joy, but when they tell us something sad, we only know how to deny it.

Emotional invalidation and identity deprivation

Failing to emotionally validate what the other is feeling can chill the bond and the relationship. As we mentioned at the beginning, emotions not only define us, but also guide us towards certain choices, lifestyles and behaviors that make us unique, as well as recognizable. They therefore determine part of our identity and our self-control

When others do not recognize the weight of our emotions, they can give us the idea of ​​being inadequate, of having something dark inside that makes us fragile, unpredictable and unreliable.

If we nurture and cultivate this idea, if we put the judgment of others in front of our emotions, we risk losing our identity. The future also becomes unmanageable, because we don't know how to answer the question "who do I want to be?".

It is very important to validate emotions in childhood, since the unconditional acceptance of the emotions of the little ones will facilitate their expression, identification and emotional management. If on the contrary, for fear of the sadness that a child may feel, we try to evade it with ambiguous messages or forced solutions, we will end up invalidating it emotionally. A similar attitude over time can be the basis of anxiety, irritability, nervousness and insecurity.

Let us commit ourselves never to lose the ability to recognize emotions.

The art of knowing how to validate emotions

Some points can help us in the emotional validation process:

  • Listen actively or with full attention.
  • Maintain a welcoming and empathic body position.
  • Normalize emotions.
  • Avoid finding solutions for emotions.
  • Avoid justifying yourself for emotions or defending yourself.
  • Address them with humor.
  • Keep an open mind, without judging.

Here are some examples of emotional validation and invalidation for a better understanding of the process.

Emotional invalidation

Maria: I was unable to complete the assignment and I am very frustrated.

Laura: You'll finish it tomorrow, don't worry.

Maria: But I'm doing everything wrong.

Laura: It's not the end of the world, Maria.

Maria: That's how it is for me. Your help would have been useful.

Laura: Look, I also had to do a lot of things today.

Emotional validation

Maria: I was unable to complete the assignment and I am very frustrated.

Laura: It's normal. It must be annoying to leave something unfinished, right?

Maria: Yes, very much. I think I'm all wrong.

Laura: Is this how you feel?

Maria: Yes, really. Your help would have been useful.

Laura: It's true, I wanted to help you, but unfortunately I too had a day full of things to do.

Validating emotions is an art worth learning to improve our generosity and our empathy in relationships with others. It will also help us to educate children who are not afraid of their emotions and who know how to call them by their name.

Let us all work hard so that "putting ourselves in the shoes of others" does not remain just an empty sequence of words, but becomes a prerequisite for a healthier and more humane attitude.

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