Dialectic toolset - black vs white

RedFox

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I wanted to share a summary of a toolset I've been building over the last year or so.
For a less condensed and more practical guide, see the book Inviting a Monkey To Tea: Befriending Your Mind and Discovering Lasting Contentment by Nancy Colier.

For the purpose of describing the toolset, I'll be using the following definition:
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dialectic
Dialectic
philosophy : a method of examining and discussing opposing ideas in order to find the truth
[..]
6: the dialectical tension or opposition between two interacting forces or elements

Or to put it more succinctly "a toolset for self observing and being fully present with your own opposing ideas/emotions/sensations in order to get past yourself".

Because of the way society is we are not taught these tools, in fact we are taught the opposite.
Invalidating our own ideas/emotions/sensations leads to stress and pain from cognitive dissonance – suffering.

Psychologically it can manifest as anything from thought loops, black and white thinking, anxiety and angsting all the way upto depression, BPD and psychosis.
Physiologically it can manifest as addiction and dissociation all the way upto serious disease (i.e. Gabor Mate – When the body says no).

From personal experience not only does it seem to be a big part of doing well in every day life, but also being able to really start doing the Work.
It is helping me get over myself and be more present for others.

Firstly two definitions that need to be clarified. Self-compassion and acceptance.

Self-compassion

http://self-compassion.org/what-self-compassion-is-not-2/
Self-Compassion is not self-pity.

When individuals feel self-pity, they become immersed in their own problems and forget that others have similar problems. They ignore their interconnections with others, and instead feel that they are the only ones in the world who are suffering. Self-pity tends to emphasize egocentric feelings of separation from others and exaggerate the extent of personal suffering. Self-compassion, on the other hand, allows one to see the related experiences of self and other without these feelings of isolation and disconnection. Also, self-pitying individuals often become carried away with and wrapped up in their own emotional drama. They cannot step back from their situation and adopt a more balanced or objective perspective. In contrast, by taking the perspective of a compassionate other towards oneself, “mental space” is provided to recognize the broader human context of one’s experience and to put things in greater perspective. (“Yes it is very difficult what I’m going through right now, but there are many other people who are experiencing much greater suffering. Perhaps this isn’t worth getting quite so upset about…”) {This is a dialectic between 'self' and 'others' - both are held in mind at once from a higher perspective, by 'stepping back'.}

Self-Compassion is not self-indulgence.

Self-compassion is also very different from self-indulgence. Many people say they are reluctant to be self-compassionate because they’re afraid they would let themselves get away with anything. “I’m stressed out today so to be kind to myself I’ll just watch TV all day and eat a quart of icecream.” This, however, is self-indulgence rather than self-compassion. Remember that being compassionate to oneself means that you want to be happy and healthy in the long term. In many cases, just giving oneself pleasure may harm well-being (such as taking drugs, over-eating, being a couch potato), while giving yourself health and lasting happiness often involves a certain amount of displeasure (such as quitting smoking, dieting, exercising). People are often very hard on themselves when they notice something they want to change because they think they can shame themselves into action – the self-flagellation approach. However, this approach often backfires if you can’t face difficult truths about yourself because you are so afraid of hating yourself if you do. Thus, weaknesses may remain unacknowledged in an unconscious attempt to avoid self-censure. In contrast, the care intrinsic to compassion provides a powerful motivating force for growth and change, while also providing the safety needed to see the self clearly without fear of self-condemnation. {The dialectic here is that by compassionately accepting your flaws and weaknesses - yourself 'as you are', you can encourage yourself to change. "You are good enough as you are to be worthy of compassion" vs "I see the bad and want to change it"}

Self-Compassion is not self-esteem.

Although self-compassion may seem similar to self-esteem, they are different in many ways. Self-esteem refers to our sense of self-worth, perceived value, or how much we like ourselves. While there is little doubt that low self-esteem is problematic and often leads to depression and lack of motivation, trying to have higher self-esteem can also be problematic. In modern Western culture, self-esteem is often based on how much we are different from others, how much we stand out or are special. It is not okay to be average, we have to feel above average to feel good about ourselves. This means that attempts to raise self-esteem may result in narcissistic, self-absorbed behavior, or lead us to put others down in order to feel better about ourselves. We also tend to get angry and aggressive towards those who have said or done anything that potentially makes us feel bad about ourselves. The need for high self-esteem may encourage us to ignore, distort or hide personal shortcomings so that we can’t see ourselves clearly and accurately. Finally, our self-esteem is often contingent on our latest success or failure, meaning that our self-esteem fluctuates depending on ever-changing circumstances.

In contrast to self-esteem, self-compassion is not based on self-evaluations. People feel compassion for themselves because all human beings deserve compassion and understanding, not because they possess some particular set of traits (pretty, smart, talented, and so on). This means that with self-compassion, you don’t have to feel better than others to feel good about yourself. Self-compassion also allows for greater self-clarity, because personal failings can be acknowledged with kindness and do not need to be hidden. Moreover, self-compassion isn’t dependent on external circumstances, it’s always available – especially when you fall flat on your face! Research indicates that in comparison to self-esteem, self-compassion is associated with greater emotional resilience, more accurate self-concepts, more caring relationship behavior, as well as less narcissism and reactive anger.

Self compassion then is knowing that as a human being you are worthy of compassionate understanding just by the fact that you exist. It can be a trap if the above points are not clearly understood, however if the above points are understood it is a tool that allows greater capacity for change.
Not because changing makes you more deserving of compassion, but because with unconditional compassionate understanding of yourself you are free to both see and acknowledge what you don't like and change it if you so choose. It allows space to see the good and the bad, the black and white simultaneously. You then get to learn the grey areas.

Acceptance

The following can be considered for anything from chronic physical pain, overwhelming emotional pain to anxiety and mental chatter.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/paintracking/201303/the-dialectic-pain-synthesizing-acceptance-and-change
The Dialectic of Pain: Synthesizing Acceptance and Change
How accepting one's experience can allow for positive change and relief.

In the mid-1990s, when my pain began, I spied a note penned in my chart at a pain clinic that said, “refuses to accept the situation.” I thought, “Who wouldn’t?” The note seemed absurd. My pain was severe, debilitating, and virtually unrelenting. Accepting how I felt would have been terrifying and depressing. I craved hope and relief, not “acceptance.”

I have since learned that living well with chronic pain requires a level of acceptance. However, by acceptance, I do not mean resignation, giving up, or believing that nothing will change. Such negative sentiments are often communicated in comments like, “you have to live with this.” Yet even the meaning of this phrase depends on how you say it. If you emphasize “live,” the focus can be on how to live, as in a worthwhile life. Emphasizing “with” acknowledges the relationship; and, as in all relationships, chronic pain has ups and downs that can change with deliberate attention. Emphasizing “this” can refer to how things are this moment, rather than a projection into the future. Acceptance includes all of these.

The change-acceptance dialectic

Acceptance is the effective alternative to denying or fighting reality, wishing things were otherwise or fixating on how they “should” be. Pain in life is inevitable, but suffering and misery are not. These can result from the way we respond to pain. The more we fight against it, the more likely we are to experience negative emotions, such as anger, hopelessness, and despair, and the harder it becomes to identify changes that can help. Like those Chinese finger-trap toys, the more forcefully we tug to release our index fingers, the more tightly ensnared they become. Calming down and taking stock of the situation opens the means to escape.

As Marsha Linehan, founder of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) succinctly expressed: pain without acceptance = suffering. Linehan created the therapeutic approach of DBT to alleviate the intense emotional pain associated with borderline personality disorder. Its core assumption is that change and acceptance are intertwined. At first glance, this can be hard to fathom. We typically think of our efforts to change things as emerging out of non-acceptance. We either decide to accept things as they are or we seek to change: change or acceptance, not both.

Consider the process that led to the DBT’s creation. In the late 1970s, Dr. Linehan wanted to test the effectiveness of behavioral change strategies on a population with unequivocal suffering and gathered a clinical sample of women with recent suicide attempts and/or persistent thoughts about ending their life. She quickly learned that the implicit message in her behavioral change strategies pathologized the women she sought to help: “If I need to change, there must be something wrong with me.” Because many of the women were raised in environments that were abusive, neglectful, or otherwise unresponsive to their needs, this message was particularly invalidating.

In response, Linehan incorporated messages from Zen Buddhist traditions that emphasized acceptance. This approach focused on the women’s strength and current capabilities rather than their need to change. The women craved acceptance, but not at the risk of downplaying their hardship. Acceptance, alone, elicited the response: “Can’t you see I am in terrible pain?”

Dr. Linehan, and her colleagues at the University of Washington, eventually realized they would have to integrate approaches to change and acceptance in a way that somehow harmonized them. Their inspiration arrived in the concept of “dialectic,” meaning the synthesis of seemingly oppositional viewpoints to arrive at a new place.

Linehan and her colleagues built DBT on the premise that people have the capacity to hold conflicting ideas. In DBT, clients learn skills to practice self-acceptance and constructive change, and work together with their therapist to resolve perceived contradictions between these. Healing also comes from refuting false dichotomies in favor of a middle path. This includes acknowledging therapist and client as similarly fallible and accountable, and change as constant and inevitable.

As a psychotherapist who has been teaching weekly DBT skills classes since 2005, I have witnessed dramatic results. As someone living with chronic physical pain, these skills have also been invaluable in my own journey. My clients often say that DBT should be mandatory education.

All-or-nothing thinking {black and white thinking}

As a culture, we frequently rely on cognitive shortcuts, such as seeing a situation or person as “all good” or “all bad,” which relieves us from more in-depth consideration of nuances and complexity. Consider how rare it is in our bipartisan political system for members of one party to support the other’s proposals. So what happens? We can end up stuck, unable to move forward. People tend to be either “pro” or “con,” despite the vast area that exists in between.

This dichotomous all-or-nothing paradigm also pigeonholes individual responses into more extreme interpretations or reactions. Assuming an “all bad” vantage point intensifies negativity, which can color the entirety of an experience. When we label something as problematic, we become more likely to neglect contrary data. Assuming “all good” sets up unrealistic expectations that cannot be maintained. This is intensified in individuals with borderline personality disorder, who often fluctuate between idealized views and intense disappointment. The teachings of DBT are useful for improving life with chronic pain of all kinds. Consider the following:

The sick-well dialectic

The simplistic notion that people are either sick or well is inadequate when considering chronic pain. People living with ongoing pain must resist the urge to put their life on hold until their pain stops. Living well with chronic pain instead relies on the ability to consider the uncomfortable grey area (in-between sick and well). Rejecting the reality that pain, even severe pain, can be part of life prevents effective adaptation. Accepting one’s pain does not imply that it will never improve. However, waiting for the absence of pain interferes with the vital work of living. The pain dialectic is about figuring out what life can be at this moment.

Societal messages can interfere. Despite the prevalence of chronic pain, popular discourse often represents pain as something that can be subdued with medication or overcome through willpower. Greeting cards wish a “speedy recovery” or “Get better soon!” but lack narratives about ongoing pain. When the benchmarks for health and happiness are high, individuals may become more vulnerable to judging their own struggles as unacceptable, which adds to suffering. This can also be intensified by the invisible nature of pain. Individuals who suffer from maladies that are imperceptible to others may feel judged or pressure to fit into a sick/well dichotomy that adequately represents their experience. Responding to the mundane query of "How are you?" with "I hurt like hell and am doing the best I can" challenges convention.

Synthesizing the extremes

When pain is intense and/or frequent, it's particularly challenging to avoid extreme thinking. Yet, alarmist, negative self-talk can turn pain into suffering in a flash. Consider the following thoughts:

I can’t stand this.
The pain has to stop.
I will resume my life when the pain’s gone.
I am nothing if I can’t _____ [fill in meaningful activity/role].

These are understandable reactions to pain. However such statements of non-acceptance interfere with positive change. Consider the result of taking a leap of faith and synthesizes the extremes:

I cannot stand this but I am standing this.
The pain is what it is.
I am living right now, even with this pain.
I am many things. Pain is one part of my experience.

Acceptance of reality keeps people from retreating from life, despite difficulties. When it comes to pain, or any experience, all we ever have to survive is this very moment. Acceptance focuses on the present moment, for what it is, rather than forecasting a worst case scenario or engaging in other emotion-laden narrative. Worrying about a future moment only adds distress to this one. Through acceptance, people can commit to the process of coping as best as they can. It also reduces painful flare-ups and subsequent negative self-talk that come from denying the problem, which often leads to overdoing it.

Acceptance isn't about giving up or not wanting to change.
Acceptance is being fully present with 'what is' no matter how painful or uncomfortable it may be. It can be physical sensation, emotions and/or thoughts.

Compassionate acceptance of the self

Both of the above have a many things in common, and perhaps should be considered the same thing.

Firstly, we do not even consider them as things that are valid or helpful because of judgements and beliefs we hold about what we are (or are not) worthy of.
This is a particularly cruel trap, because we may not be able to escape it without practising compassionate acceptance of the self!
It should be noted that if you find yourself trapped here seeking outside help is the best approach.

Secondly, both rely on mindfulness in order to provide the space inside us to be both compassionate and fully present. To keep our minds on at least two things at once - a dialectic.

Thirdly, they are both completely non-judgemental. They are unconditional and fully validating of 'what is', no matter what others or your own narratives tell you. They both fully accept, acknowledge and validate whatever it is you are feeling - unconditionally!
That is, without label, judgement, self correction, self censoring, denial, or slipping into any kind of 'escape' program, self berating or dissociation.

Fourth, both require practising shifting attention. That is, tuning into what we feel (be with the feeling, but not of it). With practice you can also become aware of where your attention is focused/fixated. Practising body awareness is the key to this.

Sixth, both give you safety and validation. From that can come clarity of both 'good' and 'bad' elements of the self, which leads to change!

DBT could be considered as going further than just self-compassion however, as it teaches critical analysis.
The key point though is that analysis, change and healing can be blocked without first having compassionate self acceptance. A validation of your internal state, of 'what is'.
This may require outside assistance before you can internalise it as your own skill.

In short, we need to have healthy awareness and regulation of (i.e. not suppression or overwhelm) our emotions before we can fully engage cognitive reasoning and learning.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3164848/
Cognitive strategies typically involved in regulating negative emotions have recently been shown to also be effective with positive emotions associated with monetary rewards. However, it is less clear how these strategies influence behavior, such as preferences expressed during decision-making under risk, and the underlying neural circuitry. That is, can the effective use of emotion regulation strategies during presentation of a reward-conditioned stimulus influence decision-making under risk and neural structures involved in reward processing such as the striatum? To investigate this question, we asked participants to engage in imagery-focused regulation strategies during the presentation of a cue that preceded a financial decision-making phase. During the decision phase, participants then made a choice between a risky and a safe monetary lottery. Participants who successfully used cognitive regulation, as assessed by subjective ratings about perceived success and facility in implementation of strategies, made fewer risky choices in comparison to trials where decisions were made in the absence of cognitive regulation. Additionally, blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) responses in the striatum were attenuated during decision-making as a function of successful emotion regulation. These findings suggest that exerting cognitive control over emotional responses can modulate neural responses associated with reward processing (e.g., striatum), and promote more goal-directed decision-making (e.g., less risky choices), illustrating the potential importance of cognitive strategies in curbing risk-seeking behaviors before they become maladaptive (e.g., substance abuse).

http://www.tyackhealth.com.au/The-importance-of-emotional-validation
The importance of emotional validation

Too often we get drawn into minimizing other’s emotions or trying to cheer them up rather than listen to how others really feel {this is a sign that we are doing the exact same thing to ourselves!}.
When we as psychologists ask “How do you feel about this?” we do this in order to better understand the person and what is important to them.

Validation is something that everyone can do.

One simple way to support others when they experience intense and difficult emotions is to validate their experience.

To validate someone’s emotions means to pay attention to and acknowledge what they feel rather than ignore or reject how they feel. {and this is what compassionate self acceptance/emotional regulation is} This concept of validation seems simple enough, but too often we get drawn into minimizing other’s emotions or trying to cheer them up rather than listen to how others really feel.


Validation does not mean that you have to join into someone’s misery. It simply means that before you try to cheer them up ask them how they really feel, listen carefully, allow them to feel this way and show them that you have heard them. {If you can imagine doing this for another, then you can use this to do it for yourself} Maybe you can say something like “I can hear how sad you are. How about a cup of tea?”

Validation is important for everyone but, particularly for children, because it helps them know that their emotions are true and important. If we tell them, for example, that ‘they shouldn’t be angry’, it changes nothing about their actual emotion of anger, but it might actually make them guilty for feeling angry. Children in particular can get very confused when they receive messages that tell them to stop feeling a certain way.

Validation is also very important to regulate emotions. Only when we know what we feel and that what we feel is ok, can we learn how to manage our emotions in an appropriate way. In the example of the child experiencing anger, it is important to let the child know that feeling the emotion is ok, while acting on the emotion by for example hitting someone is not ok. Now a conversation about how to manage anger can start between the parent and child.

Research has also shown that naming emotions makes the emotion-centre in our brain less active while areas in the pre-frontal cortex become more active. This research study showed on a scientific level that it is helpful for humans to put their emotions into words in order to regulate them.{In short, emotional validation calms the emotional brain and activates the decision making circuits. Compassionate self acceptance is the way to do this for yourself.}

Knowing how we feel about certain situations and about relationships with others also helps us to understand who we are as a person and what is important to us. At the same time emotions help us to show to others what and who is important to us therefore guiding important conversations to manage and maintain personal goals and relationships.

So how does the dialectic fit in with all this? Read the following as if the relationship you are engaging in is with yourself and your sensations, emotions and thoughts.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/pieces-mind/201204/understanding-validation-way-communicate-acceptance
Understanding Validation: A Way to Communicate Acceptance {to yourself!}

One of the four options we have in any problem situation is acceptance. Validation is one way that we communicate acceptance of ourselves and others. Validation doesn't mean agreeing or approving. When your best friend or a family member makes a decision that you really don't think is wise, validation is a way of supporting them and strengthening the relationship while maintaining a different opinion. Validation is a way of communicating that the relationship is important and solid even when you disagree on issues. {a dialectic}

Validation is the recognition and acceptance of another person's thoughts,feelings, sensations, and behaviors as understandable. Self-validation is the recognition and acceptance of your own thoughts, feelings, sensations and behaviors as understandable.

Learning how to use validation effectively takes practice. Knowing the six levels of validation as identified by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. will be helpful.

The first Level is Being Present. There are so many ways to be present. Holding someone's hand when they are having a painful medical treatment, listening with your whole mind and doing nothing but listening to a child describe their day in first grade, and going to a friend's house at midnight to sit with her while she cries because a supposed friend told lies about her are all examples of being present.

Multi-tasking while you listen to your teenager's story about his soccer game is not being present. Being present means giving all your attention to the person you are validating.

Being present for yourself means acknowledging your internal experience and sitting with it rather than "running away" from it, avoiding it, or pushing it away. Sitting with intense emotion is not easy. Even happiness or excitement can feel uncomfortable at times.

Often one of the reasons other people are uncomfortable with intense emotion is that they don't know what to say. Just being present, paying complete attention to the person in a nonjudgmental way, is often the answer. For yourself, being mindful of your own emotion is the first step to accepting your emotion.

The second level of validation is Accurate Reflection. Accurate reflection means you summarize what you have heard from someone else or summarize your own feelings. This type of validation can be done by others in an awkward, sing-songy, artificial way that is truly irritating or by yourself in a criticizing way. When done in an authentic manner, with the intent of truly understanding the experience and not judging it, accurate reflection is validating.

Sometimes this type of validation helps someone sort through their thoughts and separate thoughts from emotions. "So basically I'm feeling pretty angry and hurt," would be a self-reflection. "Sounds like you're disappointed in yourself because you didn't call him back," could be accurate reflection by someone else.

Level Three is Mindreading. Mindreading is guessing what another person might be feeling or thinking. People vary in their ability to know their own feelings. For example, some confuse anxiety and excitement and some confuse excitement and happiness. Some may not be clear about what they are feeling because they weren't allowed to experience their feelings or learned to be afraid of their feelings.

People may mask their feelings because they have learned that others don't react well to their sensitivity. This masking can lead to not acknowledging their feelings even to themselves, which makes the emotions more difficult to manage. Being able to accurately label feelings is an important step to being able to regulate them.

When someone is describing a situation, notice their emotional state. Then either name the emotions you hear or guess at what the person might be feeling.

"I'm guessing you must have felt pretty hurt by her comment" is Level Three validation. Remember that you may guess wrong and the person could correct you. It's her emotion and she is the only one who knows how she feels. Accepting her correction is validating.

Level Four is Understanding the Person's Behavior in Terms of their History and Biology. Your experiences and biology influence your emotional reactions. If your best friend was bitten by a dog a few years ago, she is not likely to enjoy playing with your German Shepherd. Validation at this level would be saying, "Given what happened to you, I completely understand your not wanting to be around my dog."

Self-validation would be understanding your own reactions in the context of your past experiences.


Level Five is normalizing or recognizing emotional reactions that anyone would have. Understanding that your emotions are normal is helpful for everyone. For the emotionally sensitive person, knowing that anyone would be upset in a specific situation is validating. For example, "Of course you're anxious. Speaking before an audience the first time is scary for anyone."

Level Six is Radical Genuineness. Radical genuiness is when you understand the emotion someone is feeling on a very deep level. Maybe you have had a similar experience. Radical genuineness is sharing that experience as equals.


Understanding the levels may be easy. Putting them into practice is often more difficult. Practice is the key to making validation a natural part of the way you communicate.

Consider this example. Your best friend is upset because her husband cut up her credit card. She says he's treating her like a child and is so controlling she doesn't have room to breathe. When you ask her what his reason was, she says that she overspent or the fourth time, running the balance over the limit by buying expensive shoes and they were unable to pay the bill. How do you validate her? Remember to use the highest possible level. Think of your answer before you read further!

Probably Level 2 is the highest level you could use. You could say, "I understand, you are upset because your husband cut up your credit cards without your agreement--that made you feel like he was acting like your parent." You reflect her thoughts and emotions back to her, showing that you accept those feelings as her internal experience.

You probably couldn't use Level 6 or radical genuineness as it's unlikely you could understand and authentically agree with her response as reasonable. Level 5, normalizing, would not work because most people would agree his response was reasonable and not be upset in that situation. There is nothing to make her response more understandable in terms of her history, so Level 4 is not possible. Level 3 is also not applicable because she's told her feelings clearly--nothing to guess.

Let's try another example. Jesse tells you she quit her job. She quit because her boss loudly criticized her in front of other people. She's asked him twice before to not embarrass her but he loses his temper easily. She felt afraid of him because he reminded her of a verbally abusive uncle and she couldn't continue to work for him. What level of validation do you use?

Level 6 or Level 5 might work in this situation. If you have been in a similar situation or you really understand how she felt, you can validate her by saying, "I completely understand. I would have done the same thing." That would be Level 6. Level 5 would be, "I think most people would have felt the same way you did."

Though she has a history of being verbally abused, you don't use Level 4 because Level 5 fits. Always use the highest level possible. Level 4 would be to say, "Given your history of being verbally abused, I understand why you would quit." That's actually invalidating because anyone, whether they had a history of being verbally abused or not, would be upset if their boss humiliated them.

Joanna calls you and talks about her diet. She complains that she has eaten chocolate cake and other sweets and wants to eat more, but she doesn't want to gain weight. What level of validation can you use?

Level 3 would be a good choice. Joanna didn't mention any feelings though she is eating for emotional reasons. You could say, "Has something happened? My guess is you're upset about something." Then she might tell you that the cat she's had for six months died yesterday. At that point you could use a Level 5 or 6, depending on how you feel about losing a pet.

When Shawna was a teenager, she almost drowned in a large pond. She was a poor swimmer and swam out further than she realized. When she stopped swimming, her feet couldn't touch bottom and she swallowed water. She panicked and a friend swam to save her. Since that time she's been afraid of water. A neighbor invited her to a pool party. A guy who was flirting with her pushed her into the pool and she panicked, even though she was only in waist high water. She tells you that she's ashamed of her reaction and she hates being crazy.

Level 4 validation would work in this situation. "Given your history of almost drowning, of course you panicked when you were pushed into water. Anyone with a history of drowning would probably react the same way."

Emotional Invalidation {here we can include our beliefs about 'how bad we are' and negative interject, as well as emotional suppression/disconnect}

Emotional invalidation is when a person's thoughts and feelings are rejected, ignored, or judged. Invalidation is emotionally upsetting for anyone, but particularly hurtful for someone who is emotionally sensitive. {imagine what that does to yourself, when it comes from part of yourself that was shaped by family and society}

Invalidation disrupts relationships and creates emotional distance. When people invalidate themselves, they create alienation from the self and make building their identity very challenging.

Self-invalidation and invalidation by others make recovery from depression and anxiety particularly difficult. Some believe that invalidation is a major contributor to emotional disorders.


Most people would deny that they invalidate the internal experience of others. Very few would purposefully invalidate someone else. But well-intentioned people may be uncomfortable with intense emotions or believe that they are helping when they are actually invalidating. {We are uncomfortable and invalidating of others feelings when we are uncomfortable and invalidating with our own!}

In terms of self-invalidation, many people would agree they invalidate themselves, but would argue that they deserve it. They might say they don't deserve validation. They are uncomfortable with their own humanness. The truth is that validation is not self-acceptance, it is only an acknowledgement that an internal experience occurred.


Verbal Invalidation

There are many different reasons and ways that people who care about you invalidate you. Here are just a few.

Misinterpreting What It Means to Be Close: Sometimes people think that knowing just how someone else feels without having to ask means they are emotionally close to that person. It's like saying they know you as well as you know you, so they don't ask, they assume, and may even tell you how you think and feel.

Misunderstanding What it Means to Validate: Sometimes people invalidate because they believe if they validate they are agreeing. A person can state, "You think it's wrong that you're angry with your friend," and not agree with you. Validation is not agreeing. But because they want to reassure you they invalidate by saying, "You shouldn't think that way."

Wanting to Fix Your Feelings: "Come on, don't be sad. Want some ice cream?" People who love you don't want you to hurt so sometimes they invalidate your thoughts and feelings in their efforts to get you to feel happier.

Not Wanting to Hurt Your Feelings: Sometimes people lie to you in order to not hurt your feelings. Maybe they tell you that you look great in a dress that in truth is not the best style for you. Maybe they agree that your point of view in an argument when in fact they do not think you are being reasonable.

Wanting the Best for You: People who love you want the best for you. So they may do work for you that you could do yourself. Or they encourage you to make friends with someone who is influential when you don't really enjoy the person, telling you that that person is a great friend when it's not true. "You should be friends with her. She'll be a good friend to you."

There are also many different ways of invalidating. I've listed a few below.

Blaming: "You always have to be the crybaby, always upset about something and ruin every holiday." "Why didn't you put gas in the car before you got home? You never think and always make everything harder." Blaming is always invalidating. (Blaming is different from taking responsibility.)

Hoovering: Hoovering is when you attempt to vacuum up any feelings you are uncomfortable with or not give truthful answers because you don't want to upset or to be vulnerable. Saying "It's not such a big deal" when it is important to you is hoovering. Saying someone did a great job when they didn't or that your friends loved them when they didn't is hoovering. Not acknowledging how difficult something might be for you to do is hoovering. Saying "No problem, of course I can do that," when you are overwhelmed, is hoovering.

Judging: "You are so overreacting," and "That is a ridiculous thought," are examples of invalidation by judging. Ridicule is a particularly damaging: "Here we go again, cry over nothing, let those big tears flow because the grass is growing."

Denying: "You are not angry, I know how you act when you're angry," and "You have eaten so much, I know you aren't hungry," invalidate the other person by saying they don't feel what they are saying they feel.

Minimizing: "Don't worry, it's nothing, and you're just going to keep yourself awake tonight over nothing" is usually said with the best of intentions. Still the message is to not feel what you are feeling.

Nonverbal Invalidation

Nonverbal invalidation is powerful and includes rolling of the eyes and drumming of fingers in an impatient way. If someone checks their watch while you are talking with them, that is invalidating. Showing up at an important event but only paying attention to email or playing a game on the phone while there is invalidating, whether that is the message the person meant to send or not.

Nonverbal self-invalidation is working too much, shopping too much or otherwise not paying attention to your own feelings, thoughts, needs and wants.

Replacing Invalidation with Validation

The best way to stop invalidating others or yourself is by practising validation. Validation is never about lying. Or agreeing. It's about accepting someone else's internal experience as valid and understandable. That's very powerful.

Hopefully this is enough to give you all an idea of the toolset. Practising these things leads to emotional regulation, less stress, less maladapted cognitive 'escape' behaviours (disassociation, addiction, black and white thinking etc) and the ability to reason, adapt and learn.
 

riclapaz

Dagobah Resident
Wow, this information helps a lot, especially in relationships with all other persons, thanks for sharing RedFox. :flowers:
 

Anthony

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Self-Compassion is not self-pity.

When individuals feel self-pity, they become immersed in their own problems and forget that others have similar problems. They ignore their interconnections with others, and instead feel that they are the only ones in the world who are suffering. Self-pity tends to emphasize egocentric feelings of separation from others and exaggerate the extent of personal suffering. Self-compassion, on the other hand, allows one to see the related experiences of self and other without these feelings of isolation and disconnection. Also, self-pitying individuals often become carried away with and wrapped up in their own emotional drama. They cannot step back from their situation and adopt a more balanced or objective perspective. In contrast, by taking the perspective of a compassionate other towards oneself, “mental space” is provided to recognize the broader human context of one’s experience and to put things in greater perspective. (“Yes it is very difficult what I’m going through right now, but there are many other people who are experiencing much greater suffering. Perhaps this isn’t worth getting quite so upset about…”) {This is a dialectic between 'self' and 'others' - both are held in mind at once from a higher perspective, by 'stepping back'.}

This is really a great way for self-observation and breaking identification, by holding in mind both the other and the self you can also think about how you would view the problems of others and what advice you would give them and vice verse and thereby applying it to yourself. Alternatevly, you can also think about scores of people that share or have much worse problems than you have, and yet they aren't bothered by them.

Thanks again.

And as you said "a toolset for self observing and being fully present with your own opposing ideas/emotions/sensations in order to get past yourself."
 

lainey

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
SeekinTruth said:
Thanks for putting that altogether, RedFox. And agree with and second Anthony's post.
Thanks this is such valuable information. I need to practice the validation techniques, I'm guilty of so many of the "wrong things to say" :-[
It's a long process but I'm determined to make positive changes and your summary is a massive help. :cool2:
 

Michael B-C

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
Thank you RedFox. This will take some digesting. Great work and thank you for sharing so freely! :D
 

Anthony

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
By practicing self-compassion and validation as outlined by RedFox, I think that it could also increase empathy and care for others along with seeing things more objectively.
 

patty2292

Jedi Master
RedFox said:
Self compassion then is knowing that as a human being you are worthy of compassionate understanding just by the fact that you exist. It can be a trap if the above points are not clearly understood, however if the above points are understood it is a tool that allows greater capacity for change.
Not because changing makes you more deserving of compassion, but because with unconditional compassionate understanding of yourself you are free to both see and acknowledge what you don't like and change it if you so choose. It allows space to see the good and the bad, the black and white simultaneously. You then get to learn the grey areas.

Very well put RedFox. What it reminded me of was a section from Fear of the Abyss by Aleta Edwards:
Dignity is something that gives us an obligation and responsibility in how we treat ourselves and others. You may feel you have lost yoursm or have been cut off from it, but it is therem as surely as your heartbeat is there, You have been given life, and you are meant to be here. No matter how afraid you feel or how much pain you have, you are deserving of respect, and that is dignity, regardless of how you have been treated. Understanding this is extremely important.

It is addressing, as you have said, to acknowledge those black and whites, your good and bads to come to a realization that they actually exist. As with alot of people, with every good trait, comes with it a bad one.

Favorited to go over this all again with more focus :). Thanks, RedFox.
 

PERLOU

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
REDFOX
Merci pour votre message que je viens de traduire en Français, copier et coller pour pouvoir le lire, relire et mettre en pratique...
Merci pour votre excellent travail...

Thank you for your message which I have translated into French, copy and paste to be able to read, reread and practice ...
Thank you for your excellent work ...
 

RedFox

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
riclapaz said:
Wow, this information helps a lot, especially in relationships with all other persons

Have a look at the second video here - it deals with validation in communication.
You can apply it to those you interact with, including yourself.

One of the most important thing to realize is we need a healthy relationship with ourselves!
Unhealthy relationships with others (especially when it comes to boundaries, or being blind to things) stems from having unhealthy or non-exsistent internal boundaries and blind spots to our own thoughts and feelings.
We tend to have those when we haven't been taught how to relate to those parts of ourselves.

Anthony said:
By practicing self-compassion and validation as outlined by RedFox, I think that it could also increase empathy and care for others along with seeing things more objectively.

It certainly seems that way from my personal experience. Compassion and understanding of your own programs gives you a broader perspective on other peoples.
The amount of energy we waste on beating ourselves up or avoiding our own feelings is pretty insane once you start to see it.
 

mabar

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Thanks RedFox, I had been thinking in my own validation since months ago, but in an abstract/personal way? ... need to read it calmly.
 

luc

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
Thank you RedFox, I only skimmed your post and yet I got already a lot of helpful "take-home messages" out of it. Great stuff.

RedFox said:
It certainly seems that way from my personal experience. Compassion and understanding of your own programs gives you a broader perspective on other peoples.
The amount of energy we waste on beating ourselves up or avoiding our own feelings is pretty insane once you start to see it.

Yes, that's my experience as well. It's really funny how blind towards others one becomes when not knowing and accepting one's own programs. For example, when I'm in a state of "rigid thinking", where I think I know exactly what's right and what's wrong, I tend to be extremely judgmental towards people, and even get angry about them because of this! And of course that's quite the opposite of compassion. But more and more I'm able to see through this - realizing that under the influence of a different "little I", I acted and might act again exactly in the same way the other persons acts in the moment! Once I realize this, I can feel a rush of compassion, of acceptance, even if I still think the other person gets it wrong (though oftentimes, I realize that I actually don't know whether he/she is wrong!). I think this is only possible once I accept my own programs and stop denying that they are there. As the C's said, to love is to know, and if I don't know myself, how can I know/love and understand others and put their behavior in a proper context, accepting who they are?
 

casper

The Living Force
I read this post certainly 10 times, this is so well-ordered, simple, all you scrambled into right place.
So the fact underpinned knowledge, I can only say- thank you!
 

lainey

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I read the book and I can't thank you enough for recommending it. It has made me feel so comforted and it was really insightful. I will certainly read it more than once to remind myself of the messages. I had a deep feeling of well being while reading it and I'm pretty sure I was smiling the whole time. So thanks again for putting this together.
 
Top Bottom