Now that I have decided to let you all in on a piece of my brain, I am SPINNING with ideas and thoughts about where to start. There are so many topics that I feel so passionately about that I am finding it tough to narrow them down.
VALIDATION. We all need it, but most of us never get it.
VALIDATION can mean thanking someone for their hard work, asking someone how they are, or simply letting someone know that you can see they are struggling. In the last 5 years I have become a mother to two beautiful children. My oldest is a very spirited almost 5 year old. Children do not always communicate their emotions in the most appropriate ways (as anyone who has a threenager knows ;) ). No matter how much clinical training I have, it is very hard to validate my daughter's feelings when she is screaming that she hates me when I ask her to put her shoes on for school. The therapist in me says, "Okay, I can see you are very frustrated—what is making you so angry?" In reality, this situation hardly ever goes that way. When you are watching someone behave in a way that you do not understand, it is very challenging to stand alongside them and support them. Our natural tendency is much more geared to ignore the behaviour or scream with frustration.
Think about mental illness, stress, exhaustion, and hopelessness. Do you know what it looks like? By and large, individuals are taught to hide these things. We are taught that if we are sad, we should try and be happy. If you are angry you should try and calm down. We are rarely taught that our emotions are legitimate or worthy. If our emotions, thoughts, feelings, urges, and fears were written all over our face do you think that we would get more validation? Do you think it would be easier to reach out for help? I feel that one of the biggest barriers to wellness is the belief people have that they "should" be okay. That they "should" not need help, and that things are never "that" bad. I personally think that this has a lot to do with validation.
As therapists we are taught how to validate feelings through a variety of different tactics (mainly a way of parroting feelings back to the clients, lots of supportive dialogue, and supportive encouragement). I personally don't think you can teach empathy and find that the difference between really feeling heard and understood is someone who is really listening and validating you and understanding your struggle. So why am I writing this post today? I am writing this post to emphasize that emotions are there for a reason. We express our emotions in many ways; we laugh, we cry, we hide, we sleep. Sometimes NOT expressing any emotion is the strongest message of all. Pay attention to those around you and how they are communicating. Try hard to listen, don't hesitate to ask that person who seems to have a lot on their plate how they are, ask that person that looks a little drawn if everything is okay. Check in on the person who you know has some stressful things happening right now.
Between the pressure to be perfect, the busyness of our culture, and the reality that mental illness thrives on secrecy, chances are there may be someone in your life that needs your validation right now. Reach out and ask. Look inward to gauge what YOU need right now. You have no idea how a quick text, a phone call, or a hug can impact someone's day.
Until next time,