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Read Damini’s twin article on the topic: How Lack of Emotional Validation turns us into Emotional Scavengers.
“From where we stand, the rain seems random. If we could stand somewhere else, we would see the order in it.” ~ Tony Hillerman
Relationships thrive on emotional connection and validation.
Emotional validation is different from validating a person’s personality or character.
When you validate someone’s emotions, you give that person the space to breathe within the space that the two (or more) of you hold for each other. The space where your connection grows.
That nurturance requires validation—the acknowledgment and acceptance of each other’s emotions.
It’s not about right or wrong. In fact, the minute we start speaking the language of who’s right and who’s wrong, the relationship changes. It turns into a minefield and all we are doing is exploding in every possible direction and at any given second.
Most relationships aren’t able to grow because they do not pass the “I am right” and “You are wrong” barrier.
Then comes the string of statements that continue to kill the emotional intimacy slowly—till nothing is left.
Invalidating someone emotionally is akin to causing them physical pain. Interestingly, the brain perceives emotional pain just like it perceives physical pain. Regardless of whether it’s physical or emotional, it’s pain.
It’s painful to have your emotions thrown out of the window as if they don’t mean a thing. Sometimes, it can be the smallest of statements that hurt the most.
There are a lot of reasons for invalidating someone’s emotions:
1. Different priorities: how the person feels is just not on our priority list.
2. Preoccupation with being right: when we become too logical in relationships; trying to operate in the black-or-white zone, the relationship suffers because the relationship is always in the grey areas.
Sometimes, we want to be right because we’re afraid of being wrong or because we’re afraid of the consequences if we were told we’re wrong. Sometimes, it’s nothing more than our ego at play—the false sense of self that makes us want to believe this façade that we are infallible. We can never be wrong.
3. Lack of emotional maturity: when we don’t understand how emotions work and how to navigate through them, we are likely to make statements that can hurt the other person or leave them with a feeling of being misunderstood or perhaps not understood at all.
4. We just don’t care: it’s not even that the person is a bit low on our priority list; it’s just that we don’t care.
5. Too many background factors: when we are dealing with too much, it can get a bit overwhelming to invest in someone else’s emotions. When other areas of life are demanding too much from us, it can affect our relationships as well. At times, it can be just a phase. However, when it continues for a prolonged period of time, then the relationships begin to deteriorate.
It’s important that we pay attention to certain statements that can knowingly or unknowingly hurt the other person by making them feel that their thoughts, opinions, and feelings don’t matter enough or perhaps, at all.
1. “I am right, you are wrong.”
Just kill the relationship already! People have different perceptions about different things. Putting their perceptions in a box of “wrong” will make them feel misunderstood, attacked, hurt, embarrassed, rejected.
The key to resolve any conflict is not to simply bracket experiences and put them away. It is to understand and embrace that even though we may not agree with the other person’s views or perceptions, we are still willing to hold space for them. When we do that, we open the space for a dialogue, a conversation where these differences can come to light. Then we can sift through them to decide, which ones do we want to keep and what are we willing to let go of.
2. “You always complain! You are never satisfied! You are always unhappy!”
Well, if you can see that, then why not address it instead of complaining about it?
There are only two reasons as to why someone would “always complain.”
One, they are really dissatisfied, and their dissatisfaction hasn’t found a validating ear.
Two, we are invalidating them because we don’t want to deal with their complaints. It’s convenient to point the finger at someone else.
3. “Just let it go or let it be?”
Translated as: I am not interested in doing anything about it.
4. “Can’t we talk about it another time?”
If the “another time” is actually on your mind, then it’s completely acceptable. Sometimes, some things cannot be dealt with immediately. They might flare up even more. Yet, at times, it’s a good deflection strategy. We need to perhaps check—what do we want to use this statement for.
5. “Oh! You are always like this!”
It simply means that because we have decided to label someone as “like this,” we don’t have to deal with their emotions at all.
6. “I can’t deal with this right now.” (Now = every time the conversation comes up.)
Does it need to be explained?
7. “You shouldn’t feel this way.”
8. “I’m not getting into this with you!”
A sure-shot way of denying the other person their emotional space.
9. Waiting for things to normalize on their own.
10. “I didn’t do this! I didn’t say that!”
End of discussion. You are imagining things. Move on.
11. “It’s all your fault!”
Yes, what were you thinking?
Emotional invalidation breeds discontent, disharmony, resentment, distance, and conflict.
Relationships can only thrive when they are given the right kind of nurturance in the form of understanding, openness, acknowledgment, and acceptance.
“Emotions heal when they are heard and validated.” ~ Jim Bolte Taylor
If you haven’t, do read Damini’s twin article on the topic: How Lack of Emotional Validation turns us into Emotional Scavengers.