Validation & Why It Can Become A Problem

Validation is important because it is telling yourself or others that what you think, experience, believe and feel is real, important, understandable and logical. We learn in childhood how to validate others and rely on their validation of ourselves. Their thoughts and opinions often affect how we think and feel about a certain situation or even another person. During childhood, however, we also learn to doubt ourselves and our emotions, so that we trust other people more than ourselves. This can be a problem because validation for both yourself and for others, improves the quality of our lives.

Validating others can help your relationships. Recognizing that their experiences, beliefs and feelings are important to them can strengthen your relationship. By validating their feelings, you are telling them that what they feel is real and understandable. Validation, however, does not mean that you approve of or agree with the behavior. Validation is non-judgmental, which can be difficult. It is our natural inclination to judge people based on their looks and behaviors so it can take some work, being non-judgmental when you validate.

Validating yourself takes time and patience. Today’s society teaches us not to rely on ourselves and our own emotions. Self-validation is about recognizing our emotions and realizing their importance. Self-validation often quiets defensive or fearful emotions. It also allows us to let go of pain and exhaustion from constant self-justification and self-doubt. Self-validation teaches us to be confident within ourselves and with our feelings and emotions, whether they are good or bad, logical or illogical.

Some ways to validate yourself and others is to observe. Focus on the inherent worth of the person or yourself. State the facts of the situation non-judgmentally. State the unstated, which includes identifying primary emotions for yourself. And finally, find out what is true or valid about the experience. When validating someone else, it is important to empathize and be non-judgmental. When validating yourself, if you realize that the thoughts you are having are ‘irrational’, it is still important to validate that they exist and are powerful in the moment.

Validation will improve the quality of your life and the lives of others. We are constantly seeking validation from others, but we also need to seek validation from ourselves. Are we comfortable with the situation? Do we approve of our actions? If not, why? Be non-judgmental and learn to be comfortable in your own skin. That’s what self-validation is all about.

Self-Esteem

It’s strange for me to hear someone say something complimentary about me. I can deal with the smaller compliments like, “you have great eyes” or “you have a pretty smile” but the compliment “you are gorgeous”, just throws me for a loop and it’s something I have to work on. When I think of myself in good terms, I think about what I can do rather than how I look. But this also has to do with my self-esteem.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have low self-esteem. Years of negative life experiences and failed expectations have led me to this point. I ‘know’ that I’m a good person but I ‘know’ is extremely different from I ‘believe’.

Low self-esteem occurs when we think negatively about ourselves and situations. This comes about because we feel the need to place value on everything and everyone. However, we set the value of our self-worth extremely low. Negative self thoughts equal negative or low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is also circular; actual or perceived criticism or negative judgments lead to repeated self-critical thoughts or cognitive distortions which leads to low self-esteem. This circle will continue until there is a change.

To exit the cycle of low self-esteem, you have to begin thinking and doing things differently. Changes have to be made. For thinking differently, examples include ‘fact versus opinion’ or ‘being more realistic’. For doing things differently, examples include ‘acknowledging your strengths, setting limits when helping others and acting who you want to be’. “Visualize yourself competently and confidently doing and enjoying the things you would like to enjoy doing and successfully doing what you need to do”.

Using positive statements or self affirmations can also help you develop a new attitude toward yourself. You must use the affirmation immediately after having the negative thought, even if you don’t believe the affirmation. After continued use of this new habit, the negative thought will be replaced by the affirmation. Positive affirmations are most often “I am…” statements.

In addition, you should use a coping thought/positive statement for each difficult or distressing situation. Make sure to write them out ahead of time so that you have them handy for when the situations occur. Examples of these include: ‘My mind is not always my friend’ and ‘Thoughts are just thoughts – they’re not necessarily true or factual’. Please view the worksheet attached at the end of this post for more examples.

Having a higher self-esteem will give you a higher self worth so you don’t have to depend on others for these emotions or feelings. A higher self-esteem will allow to feel motivation, encouragement and empowerment to reach your goals and dreams.

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  1. Positive Affirmations
  2. Self-Esteem
  3. Low Self-Esteem
  4. Positive Statements Worksheet

Preferences Not Expectations

“You cannot live with expectations because life has no obligation to fulfill your desires. You can live with an open heart, but you cannot live with expectations.” ~Osho

Preferences not expectations. This has been my mantra lately. I need to learn to have preferences over having expectations. My expectations are only letting me down. In the end, they aren’t helping me, they are only hurting.

Expectations are defined as the act or state of looking forward or anticipating or to regard as likely to happen. It’s good to have high expectations regarding certain events or people, but having consistently high expectations can leave you upset and saddened when they are unfulfilled. Rather, I have been told that it is better to have preferences because they aren’t as set in stone as expectations.

Preferences are defined as a greater liking for one alternative over another or others. Having preferences means that you are less likely to be disappointed when things don’t go the way you plan because you have no expectations for it to follow your plans. It is also good to have a solid grasp on reality. If reality is lower than we expect our lives to be, we tend to be discontent and unhappy.

I guess you could say I have high expectations for my life that have gone unfulfilled, which has led to the unhappiness I feel today. I need to let go of these expectations or at least make them more realistic so that I’m not so disappointed when my life doesn’t go as I planned. I am trying to learn that having preferences is better than having expectations because I won’t regard preferences as likely to happen as expectations. It’s one of the many changes I need to make to bring more happiness into my life.

By having preferences, I will be more in touch with reality and hopefully not as disappointed that my life has not gone as planned. I need to learn to live in the moment, being in touch with reality rather than living in the past or worrying about the future. I can’t change the past and the future will be what I make of it, and if I live in the present, I will be a better person for my future.

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Reality Expectations

The Ups and Downs of One Day

A couple of days ago my boyfriend and I decided to go hiking. I knew of a pretty spot near a popular local tourist location that was just enough off track to be good for a quiet hike and picnic. We started out early, with our picnic, blankets and drinks, excited to spend the day together and in relative peace and quiet.

We parked and hiked down to the first waterfall. The trail followed the river and was gorgeous, but you were guaranteed to get slightly wet. We rolled up our pants, took off our shoes and started right in. We were having a blast. There was no one there, it was a wonderful day and we were excited to explore the area.

Things continued on nicely until we got to a fork. The path wasn’t very well marked but we could see another couple across the river so we thought that was the way to go. Unfortunately the only way to cross was a couple of tree branches that were clogging the riverbend. I decided to forge ahead. I was doing really well until 3/4 of the way across when I lost my balance and fell in, butt first. I felt like I struggled to for minutes to get out but my BF said it was probably only 30 seconds.

When my BF walked across and joined me, we decided to take a break for a few minutes. I was soaking wet from the butt down and was feeling rather shaky. As soon as we pulled out a blanket, I sat down and pulled out my phone. I immediately felt like crying. It worked, but the screen had been shattered. My BF sat down next to me and we just sat and talked for awhile. For me, this had definitely put a damper on my nice day. Now, I was worried about money and paying for at least a screen repair if not a completely new phone.

The rest of the day spent hiking went very well. And when we got home I showered and started a load of laundry. Then we started on our errands which now included a phone repair. After stopping at the local store, they said I wasn’t eligible for an upgrade but to check out a kiosk at the local mall for screen repair. After talking to the guy at the screen repair kiosk, I didn’t feel comfortable with leaving my phone with him or even having him find me a new phone, all of which would cost more than I spent to buy the phone in the first place.

My BF, being the resourceful guy that he is, looked up the price of my old phone at a local Target. Needing to run other errands as well, we headed to Target where we ran into the local business representative for my phone company. Talking to her for even a couple of minutes, she gave us advice to go to walmart where my old phone would cost $40 or the upgrade would be $70. She also gave me advice for the auto-pay setup and perks.

I ended up spending the extra $30 for the upgrade which was still cheaper than when I originally bought my old phone. We ended the day with a visit to my parent’s house and a fabulous spaghetti dinner.

In this one day, I experienced an emotional rollercoaster. My emotions and moods ranged from up to down so quickly it was almost difficult to follow and I’m sure it was difficult for my BF to watch. He handled it like a pro though, and was extremely supportive of me and the entire day. I’m extremely glad that I had him with me. All in all, I’m determined to look at it as a good day because I got a new phone, and I got to spend quality time with my BF. Also, I’ve decided that the next time I go hiking, I’m going to leave my phone in the car.

As Planned

My Story: After Outpatient Treatment Part 2

Week 2, Day 1:
I’ve been feeling better for the last couple of days. I need to write more on those days so that everyone understands that depression is up and down. I want to share more of my up days because not everything is down.
I’m scheduled to talk at 2 churches so far this coming month. (May is mental health awareness month.) It’s a little nerve racking, but I’m hoping to speak to another pastor at a local church about speaking to his congregation as well. And I’ve already spoken to a pastor at a larger church and she has all kinds of ideas of where I could speak. She saw me once before when the depression first began and she says she sees a huge improvement.
I’m nervous about my next therapist appointment. I don’t know if it’s going to work out, but I’m thinking I’m doing well enough that I would need to see someone once a week. It’s possible that during winter two times a week would be better because the winter is so hard on me.

Day 2:
The therapist session went really well. I think she’s really going to be able to help me with my issues and help me get to a point when I don’t have to see a therapist weekly. I really felt like there was a connection and that she’s going to be very beneficial for me. She’s going to be the assistant to my mechanic while working on my mind.
I’m really starting to look forward to the future, something I never thought I’d be able to do. I’m still going to have my struggles but for today, things are looking up!!

Day 3:
Today was filled with ups and downs. I went hiking with my BF. Please click here to read about my day.

Day 7:
I’ve been feeling uninspired with my writing lately. It’s not flowing like it used to and I’m frustrated with it. Maybe part of the problem is that I’m writing mostly scientific and informational posts. Posts that are meant to educate but if I’m feeling uninspired writing them, who is going to want to read them?
I think I’m also feeling frustrated that things aren’t moving faster along. I feel like I’m plodding through each today and it’s a struggle. I want to be happy, but at the moment all I can do is find those bits of happy moments that occur day to day and add them together. Will I ever be fully happy? Am I meant to be happy?

Day 8:
I got taken off of all my meds today. I’m not sure how I feel about it. Of course, we weren’t sure if they were working and I was feeling better while only sporadically taking them so perhaps this is for the best. I don’t like having to rely on drugs anyway.
I had a good session in therapy but we really just talked about my week. I think we’re still trying to get the lay of the land. I know that I do want to work on self-validation, so it’s something I’m going to bring up in my next session.

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Change: A Clinical Definition

“There’s a difference between wanting to change because you hate yourself & wanting to change because you love yourself.” – Anonymous

According to psychology, there are 6 steps to change. These steps will help make change a less arduous process and open you up to possible new behaviors and habits that are currently holding you back. Please remember, it is normal & natural to regress, to attain one stage only to fall back to a previous stage. “No one can force a person to change their behavior, lifestyle, mentality, attitude, etc. The individual must be ready for change” – Psychology.tools

The first step is precontemplation. Here you have not yet acknowledged that there is a problem. At this point, you are in denial and will defend your current bad habit or behavior. You have no intention of changing this habit or behavior because you do not see a problem.

The second step is contemplation. Here you are acknowledging that there is a problem but you don’t know if you want or are ready to change. You are aware that a problem exists with your current behavior or habit, however you are ambivalent and have no commitment to making a change. You do spend time thinking about the problem, trying to determine if change is needed.

The third step is preparation or determination. You are getting ready to change and have an intention to take action. This is also known as the research phase because you are gathering information on how to make the needed change. This step is often skipped and leads the person to fail at their initial attempt to change because they haven’t accepted that it will be a change that will affect their lifestyle.

The four step is action. This involves the willpower to actively modify the behavior or habit. You have to have a belief in your ability to change and be actively involved by using different techniques and putting effort into the change. It is in the phase that people are at the greatest risk for relapse however they are also more open to receiving help and support from others.

The fifth step involves maintenance. Here you have to avoid temptations to return to bad habits and you have to maintain the behavior or habit change. You need to remain aware of the situation, be patient with yourself and remain on track. By sustaining the change, the new habit or behavior will replace the old.

The sixth step is relapse. This is included because it is considered normal to experience at least one relapse in the course of the change. In a relapse, you return to the old behaviors or habits and abandon your changes by falling back into old patterns of behavior. Most importantly you have to remember that you didn’t fail. Instead look at your relapse as an opportunity for learning and becoming stronger. The process can be restarted again at any of the last three phases: Preparation, action or maintenance.

Eventually you will have maintained maintenance long enough to attain transcendence. Transcendence is when the former habit or behavior has now become atypical and abnormal. You will also be able to work with your emotions, view your behaviors in a new light and understand them.

Now that you know the steps to making changes? What is it you would like to change in your life? The following is a prompt to inspire change.

“Things I Want to Change”

  • Two things I want to change about myself…
  • Two things I like about myself and don’t want to change are…
  • The most important change I’ve made since __________ is…
  • A change that I’ve made since ____________ is …
  • If I try to change, I worry that…
  • A Change that I would like to make in myself but don’t think I can is…
  • The reason it is hard for me to change is…

Psychology Tools

Acceptance

Acceptance is important in your life. It allows you to make peace with the your past and move forward with your life. The first step to acceptance is learning what acceptance is versus what it is not.

Acceptance is not forgiveness, forgetting, letting it go, being ok, denial, allowing it, agreeing with it or understanding.

Acceptance is making space, letting yourself off of the hook, especially from suffering and ‘It is what it is’.

There are 10 steps towards acceptance.

  1. Honor the full sweep of your emotions.
    1. Seek to fully feel your emotions and express those emotions that you feel. Understand your emotions, thoughts & embrace them as valuable feedback for your life.
  2. Give up your need for revenge but continue to seek a just resolution.
    1. Let go of your natural instinct to hurt back or take revenge from the person who hurt you. Revenge will give you a false sense of power over another, however this power is considered ‘cheap thrills’ & will ultimately hurt you more over time. Mindfully turn away from retaliation and look to empower, grow & strengthen yourself.
  3. Stop obsessing about the injury and re-engage with life.
    1. Gain awareness to stop & replace repetitive toxic thinking patterns which only cause ongoing distress, trauma and harm. You have to create a conscious awareness and be mindful.
  4. Protect yourself from further abuse.
    1. Accepting the wrongness of the actions allows you to learn how to distance and protect yourself in the future. Use the pain of the experience to learn & grow and take precautions to ensure your safety in the present and future. Make changes.
  5. Frame the offender’s behaviour in terms of their own problems and personal struggles
    1. Try to see things from the offender’s point of view. The wrongful actions are about the person who acted wrongly. “Their neediness to feel important by tearing others down”. The more you know about them and their situations, the more you won’t take their behavior personally. Never let another person’s actions dictate how you feel about yourself.
  6. Look honestly at your own contribution to the injury.
    1. Examine how your actions, approach & choices may have contributed to the situation.This is not about blaming yourself. Authentically examine your own life, self & issues to look at how your own fears, past experiences and beliefs, etc, prevented you from seeing that you deserved so much better. That you didn’t deserve to be hurt. Allow the pain of experience to teach you that you are more than a victim. The person who most needs your forgiveness is yourself.
  7. Challenge your false assumptions about what happened.
    1. Identify and challenge any limiting beliefs or false assumptions. Identify toxic or limiting patterns, and don’t edit or rationalize these ideas. Ask yourself, ‘Is it true? What toxic thinking pattern does it fall under? What limiting belief underlies this thinking? It is an empowering or a limiting belief?’ Is this typical of your thinking? If so, why? If not, why are you thinking in this manner?
  8. Look at the offender apart from his offense, weighing the good against the bad.
    1. Look at the person separate from their actions. Also look at the person & their behaviors for their impact on you and your life. Has their impact been mostly positive or negative?
  9. Decide carefully what kind of relationship you want in the future with the person who wronged you.
    1. How do you relate to this person overall? Is reconciliation possible? If not, is it possible to even interact with the person? Is forgiveness an option? Be gentle with yourself & take time to sort through your emotions. Learn to trust yourself and your feelings.
  10. Forgive yourself for your own failings.
    1. Fully forgive yourself for any of your own mistakes or failings related to the situation. As Maya Angelou has said, “When you know better, you do better”. Your mistakes or failings stem from ingrained old ways of getting your universally human need to matter met. Forgiving yourself will make it easier to let go of obsessive thinking patterns, such as blaming yourself for what happened, which would only keep you from living your life fully engaged with the people and activities you love.

Learning to accept situations, especially ones that are out of your control, will give you more control over your own life. Acceptance is not forgiveness but rather the willingness to allow yourself to learn from the experience rather than allowing the situation to continue to harm you.

I Hate My Mind

I hate my mind. I hate the fight I have to start as soon as I wake up. I hate the frustration that builds up because of that fight. I hate the way my mind thinks. I hate the way my brain works.

Why can’t I just be normal? I’ve never really felt like I’ve ever fit in. I’ve always been the outsider; the hanger-on. I felt like I was never good enough to be involved; that everything I did and said was always somehow off; not quite right.

I’ve been told multiple times that I have an old soul, that I am an old soul. I think this is true. I don’t like partying, drinking; the normal activities of a 20-something year old. I like card games, and crafts; movies and cooking. I’d rather stay home on a Friday night and drink a bottle of wine with a friend rather than fight the crowds at an overcapacity bar.

I hate that my depression causes my brain to think in circular patterns. For example, my depression tells me I’m worthless, then maybe a friend has to cancel plans with me, so my depression tells me that it’s my fault. Maybe if I wasn’t a negative person, they would want to spend time with me. Maybe if I looked better, maybe if I was happier, maybe… My depression pounces on every small issue and compounds it until its a big weight in my mind.

I hate my mind because in many ways it is working against me. It isn’t allowing me to move forward with my life. I often feel like my depression is holding me back but at the same time, it led me to my dream and the life I would like to lead.

I hate my mind and I hate the battle, but it has given me a dream to look forward to. It has given me my motivation to win the war.

What Are Emotions?

Emotions are feelings that are felt during a particular situation or event.

Here are some facts you need to know about emotions:

  1. Emotions are neither good or bad, right or wrong. Emotions just are; they exist.
  2. Emotions don’t last forever.
  3. Emotions are not facts.
  4. When a strong emotion comes, you do not have to act on that emotion.
  5. You can’t get rid of emotions because they serve as important survival functions.

There are eight primary emotions.

  • Anger
  • Sorrow
  • Joy
  • Fear
  • Disgust
  • Guilt/Shame
  • Interest
  • Surprise

Secondary emotions also exist. These are an emotional reaction to a primary emotion. An example would be to feel shame when your primary emotion is anger. Secondary emotions are learned emotions from families, cultures and our environments. Secondary emotions are important, but it is more important to discover the primary emotion so you can get to the root of the problem.

Emotions have three jobs.

The first is communication. They can be communicated both verbally and nonverbally. Verbal communication of emotion occurs through words, voice tone and volume. Nonverbally, emotions can be communicated through our faces, posture and gestures. Non-verbal communication happens very rapidly and can often help us in certain situations. Even if we try to hide an emotion, it is often communicated through our nonverbal actions.

Emotions also motivate us. They tell us to ‘act now’ and to ‘stay focused’. They give us the motivation we need to change certain situations and strong emotions allow us to overcome obstacles both in our minds and in our environments. Emotions also save us time in important situations because we don’t have to think everything through.

Lastly, emotions can give us validation. Emotions can be informative about a situation. ‘Gut Instinct’ emotions can be used as signals and alarms. However, when carried to the extreme, emotions can often be treated as facts. This is where validation turns against us and this will be discussed in a future post.

Some last notes about emotions. To discover an issue, it can often help to discover where you ‘feel’ this emotion. For an example anger is often felt in the stomach, with a tensioning of the muscles.Urges to do something are natural, but not necessarily healthy. Everyone’s emotions are different so everyone will react differently to different emotions. Finally, unhealthy thoughts occur when we attach judgements to our emotions. You need to be willing to radically accept your emotions as they occur (Radical Acceptance).

Emotions are not bad. In fact, they often can be helpful depending on the situation. It’s how we react to our emotions that can cause us problems.

Emotions
Dealing with Negative Emotions