It's quite the rage right now, validating feelings. And not being the guy who invalidates them. But what does it even mean that are feelings are valid when someone says that?
It doesn't matter what the feeling is, really -- angry, disrespected, frustrated, sad, hurt, embarrassed. They are there and it's not helpful for someone to say we "shouldn't" be feeling however we are feeling. Feelings are valid because they are an inherent part of being human. They are the subjective experiences and responses we have to the world around us, to our thoughts, and to our interactions with others. They are based on our own experiences and our own personal histories. Our feelings serve as a form of internal feedback, helping us understand and navigate situations and the world around us.
Feelings provide us with important information about our well-being, desires, needs, and values. They can alert us to potential dangers, motivate us to take action, or indicate when something is not right in our lives. If we didn't have them, we would be at a disadvantage, biologically and socially. (For instance, the feeling disgust makes sure we don't eat that rotten food and die... so because I'm feeling hurt by something that someone else wouldn't feel hurt about gives feedback about whether or not this person and/or situation is safe to continue engaging in). By acknowledging and honoring our feelings, we can gain insights into ourselves, our relationships, and our environments.
Validating feelings means recognizing and accepting them as legitimate and real, regardless of whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, rational or irrational, or in line with societal expectations. Each individual's feelings are unique to them and shaped by their personal experiences, life histories, beliefs, and perspectives. By validating our own feelings, we honor our authenticity and promote self-compassion. It is so easy to get into a thought battle with ourselves about " I shouldn't be feeling this or that..." and judging the feelings. Maybe there are some triggers and past experiences that need to be healed but having the feeling is not something to judge in ourselves, or others.
Moreover, validating the feelings of others is essential for fostering healthy relationships and promoting empathy. When we acknowledge and respect the emotions of others, we create a safe and supportive space for open communication, understanding, and connection. Many times, just the simple act of validating someone's feelings and experiences can open the door for the conflict to resolve instead of telling them they shouldn't feel that way and creating defensiveness.
It is important to note that while feelings are valid, our actions and behaviors based on those feelings may need to be examined and evaluated separately. We have the responsibility to respond to our emotions in ways that are ethical, considerate, and respectful to ourselves and others. Just because I feel angry doesn't mean I get to do or say whatever I want to. Assertiveness is important but aggressiveness should be avoided. The situation can be handled with assertive communication that respects your feelings and the other person as well, even when they have hurt you.
Overall, recognizing the validity of feelings is crucial for emotional well-being, self-understanding, and meaningful human connections. By embracing and validating our emotions, we can cultivate a more authentic and fulfilling life. So, next time you notice some feelings coming up, say to yourself "my feelings are valid, and I'm allowed to feel them." They don't need to be blocked or repressed, and they even may be telling you that something needs to be done to resolve the thoughts or situation which triggered them.
Erin B. Patterson, LCMHCS, NCC, ADHD-CCSP
Patterson Psych Group, PLLC