Validation is the experience that our thoughts, feelings, perspectives and intentions are understood, accepted and respected by significant others.
On the other hand, invalidation is when our thoughts, feelings, perspectives and intentions are not understood, accepted and respected by significant others. People who experience validation of their thoughts, feelings, perspectives and intentions form the belief that they themselves are acceptable; that is, valid.
The problem lies where people do not experience validation on a regular and consistent basis and sadly, they form the belief that they are unacceptable; that is, invalid. Invalidation has a destructive effect on the mental health and wellbeing of people of all ages; particularly children, where the destructive effects of invalidation can be lifelong.
How invalidation can influence us
Validation and invalidation are a reciprocal process. We are all more positively disposed towards the thoughts, feelings, perspectives and intentions of those whom we experience as being understanding, accepting and respecting of our own.
On the flip side, we are less well disposed towards those whom we experience as not understanding, accepting and respecting us, and as a consequence we are less likely to share with these people or listen to their stories. They, in turn, are less likely to listen to us and share with us. Invalidation ends meaningful communication and destroys relationships- something we want to avoid as carers.
In order to be heard we need to listen
Central to validation is the experience of being heard. We are more likely to be heard when those from whom we are seeking understanding, acceptance and respect have the experience that we have heard them. This is the truth of the old adage “in order to be heard we first need to listen”.
For our own sakes and the sake of all we come into contact with, we need to get better at listening, understanding, accepting and respecting. Only then can we expect to be heard. Only then can we experience validation and its benefits.
If you would like to find out more about Clinical Psychologist Colby Pearce’s advice on validation please take a look at the articles on the topic on his website