Validating the Valid
Validating – the Valid:
We need to validate, validate, validate our loved ones and self-validate ourselves. In principle we may validate emotions, thoughts and behaviors, but discovering and validating the underlying (or primary) emotions, which influence our secondary emotions, thoughts, and behaviors is the most effective means of validation.
At the same time, it is crucial to remember that we only validate the valid:
(1) Cognitive distortions that don’t line up with the facts are not valid. If someone says they are stupid because they got an A minus, you don’t want to validate that they are stupid because that does not fit the facts; you want to validate the shame or disappointment they are feeling: “it’s tough to be disappointed with an A-” (Gillian C. Galen, Program Director, 3East Girls Intensive and Step-Down Programs, Borderline Personality Disorder Patient and Family Education Initiative, “An Open Discussion on Validation,” Originally aired Thursday, June 29, 2017)
(2) The term “validating the valid” is simply a reminder to never go so far in your efforts to be validating as to validate inappropriate actions. There are plenty of ways to be validating without crossing that line. (“Validate the Valid” http://www.bpdfamily.org/2013/06/validation-encouraging-peace-in-bpd.html)
(3) If the therapist and patient have agreed upon certain target behaviors in therapy, while engaging in them may be understandable given the patient’s history, they are now considered invalid behaviors. Likewise, once parents and children have agreed upon certain valid behaviors or limits, crossing them is inherently invalid. (That is why it is crucial to have a conversation that elicits such agreement.)
(4) Certain behaviors are considered wholly invalid even though they are understandable. Thus, for instance, while it may make sense for a BPD teenager not to want to go to school, society demands that teenagers go to school. This is their appropriate place. Within a societal context this is quite simply invalid behavior, and we should not validate it. We can validate the desire not to go to school or the fear that going occasions, but not the decision or act of staying home.
(5) In discussing Opposite Action, Marsha Linehan notes that “fear is justified whenever the situation is a threat to your life, or your health, or your well being” and anger is justified (though perhaps not effective) whenever “a really important goal is being blocked, or…whenever you feel a lot of pain.” Thus, I would argue that actions which cause justifiable fear or anger in another could be seen as invalid from the perspective of the person who is afraid or angry.