NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Tuesday, October 25, 2022

What is Self Validation?

I have been focusing on emotional validation in relationships in my last two articles (see my articles: What is Emotional Validation and Why Is It Such a Powerful Relationship Skill? and How to Develop and Use Emotional Validation Skills in Your Relationship).

The current article will focus on validating your own internal experience, which is called self validation.

What is Self Validation?
Self validation is when see, understand, respect, and accept your internal experience.  This includes your thoughts and feelings.

Self Validation

Self validation doesn't mean that you believe your thoughts and feelings are objectively true.  In other words, you might have a particular experience (thoughts and feelings) at the moment, but your perception might not be accurate.

You might not have all the information related to the situation and you might experience it differently when you do have all the information (see my article: Discovering That Your Thoughts and Feelings Aren't Facts).

Nevertheless, you are entitled to have these emotions given what you thought at the time. By self validating, instead of being critical of yourself or feeling ashamed, you accept that your feelings were normal given what you believed at the time.

How to Practice in Self Validation
There are many ways to practice self validation. 

Here are a few ways you might find helpful?

    Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Developing a mindfulness meditation practice can help you when you are learning to self validate your internal experiences (see my article: The Mind-Body Connection: Mindfulness Meditation).

If you're a beginner to mindfulness meditation, you can try Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn's recording, "Mindfulness For Beginners."

Self Validation

When you practice mindfulness, you're observing and accepting your thoughts and feelings without judgment.  

This takes practice.  Your thoughts will wander, but you just bring your attention back to noticing your internal experience--no matter how many times it takes.  

In addition, if you're accustomed to being critical of yourself, you will probably do that at first.

Over time, you can develop the capacity to sit with even painful emotions without judgment (see my article: Mindfulness Meditation to Cope With Painful Emotions). 

    Treat Yourself the Same Way You Would Treat Your Best Friend
Imagine that their best friend was having the same internal experience that find difficult to accept in yourself.

Self Validation
  • Would you judge your best friend?  
  • What would you say to your best friend to comfort them?
  • Can you try saying the same thing to yourself?
This type of reframing is called a cognitive interweave.  It's often used in EMDR therapy to work on trauma.  It's also used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

A cognitive interweave is a strategy used by therapists to help clients when the clients get stuck in emotional loops that go round and round during processing in therapy. If this looping isn't dealt with, it will get in the way of the client moving forward in therapy.
    Recognize and Acknowledge the Many Internal Parts Within Yourself
In a prior article, Understanding the Different Parts of Yourself That Make You Who You Are, I discussed the idea that each person has many different parts, which are also called self states. 

The term self states was coined by Dr. Philip Bromberg, a New York psychoanalyst, in his book, Standing in the Spaces

Self states are experienced internally as different ways of being, feeling and thinking, and this is normal.

An example of this would be: "Part of me feels sad that I can't to the party, but another part of me feels glad to stay inside in the comfort of my home." 

You can fill in any emotions.  Both emotions are true and valid even though they contradict each other.  

The point is that even though people tend to think of themselves as unitary beings, everyone is made up of many different internal parts.

In terms of self validation for difficult emotions--whether it's anger, sadness, resentment, jealousy, and so on--it helps to be able to step back, as you would during a mindfulness meditation, and recognize that whatever uncomfortable emotion you're feeling, this emotion is just a part of you.  It might be a big part, but it's not all of you (see my article: Is It Possible to Feel Gratitude Even When You Feel Sad?).

For instance, many people are familiar with the concept of the inner child, a term which was  coined by Dr. Carl Jung.  The term inner child is a metaphor.

When an experiential therapist does Parts Work Therapy (also called Ego States Therapy), they often help clients to externalize these parts so the parts can have a dialogue--whether it's the inner child and the adult self or two other parts (see my article: How Parts Work Therapy Helps to Empower You).

When you can use a part of you to observe another vulnerable part, you usually feel more self compassion for the vulnerable part.  

For instance, sticking with the example of the inner child: 
If you want to heal a traumatized part of yourself that holds the emotional pain of a childhood trauma, you can tap into your experience as an adult, realizing that you are no longer that traumatized child.

A phrase I often use with clients when I'm doing Parts work in this way is "That was then" (referring to the traumatized part).  "And this is now" (referring to the adult part).  

This helps to distinguish the younger, vulnerable part from the more capable adult part who, unlike the younger child part, knows that you survived the ordeal and you're now an adult--even though you might have moments when you feel like the traumatized child.

You can imagine the adult part asking the younger part what they need.  Then, with the help of a Parts Work therapist, you can switch your awareness from the adult part to the younger part to answer ("I need to feel seen"). 

Switching your awareness again to the adult self, you can imagine that part telling the younger part that they see and care about the younger part.  Then, switch again to take that in as the younger part.  And so on.

Eventually, there is an integration of the two parts so that the younger part is assimilated and is no longer a separate part that can be triggered.

If you know that traumatic feelings are "held" by a younger part, you can more easily validate that experience.  Instead of being judgmental whenever emotions related to the trauma come up, you can feel empathy for that younger part of you.

    Remember Other Times When You Overcame Difficulties With Emotions
When you're struggling with your internal critic and judging yourself for having difficult emotions, it helps to remember other times when you had difficult emotions and you got through it.

Self Validation

It will help you to realize that you have skills and strengths you can use in the current situation (see my article: Developing Internal Resources and Coping Skills).

    Normalize Your Behavior
It's okay to have a negative thoughts and emotions.  

Instead of telling yourself that you're a "weak person" or making up a negative story about yourself, recognize that it just means you're human and normal (see my article: Changing the Negative Stories You Tell Yourself About Who You Are).

    Get Help in Therapy
Many people find it easier to validate other people's emotions than they do to validate their own.  

Often this is because their emotions were invalidated during childhood in their family of origin and they have internalized these critical experiences on a deep level (see my articles: Growing Up Feeling Invisible and Emotionally Invalidated and How Childhood Memories of Being Powerless Can Get Triggered in Adults).

Working Through Unresolved Trauma in Therapy

If you have been unable to overcome the problems that keep you from validating your own experiences, you could benefit from working with a trauma therapist (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?)

Working through unresolved trauma can free you of your traumatic history so you can lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples and I have helped many clients to overcome unresolved trauma.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.