Validation Paves the Way to Healing and Recovery

Always the Fight Ministries: Displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse. (c)2019Nancy Virden

Teenage Richard struggled with major depression and self-injury. An adult relative scolded him to “get his act together.” As an adult, Richard says he was both surprised and relieved when, a few years later, this relative returned with an apology.

“I’ve been doing some reading, and although I still do not know what to say, I know now what not to say. I am sorry I reacted as I did back then.”

We need such validation. Having our experiences and emotions believed and affirmed is crucial to healing and internal peace.

It can take a tremendous amount of courage to tell, or exhibit, the pain and confusion swirling in one’s mind. Non-judgmental acceptance is a priceless gift to offer to fragile people.

One way to provide validation is to say, “Yes, I hear you. What you are experiencing is important. I’m sorry you hurt so much.” No “but”. No advice. No “if only”. No “so-n-so was depressed and they took a walk and felt better.” No guilt. No shame.

When we create safe environments, people with depression find more freedom to reach out. Validation is not a cure-all. However, it opens a way for suffering friends or family members to catch a glimpse of the truth that they are loved and wanted. Hope may not be far behind.

Mimi’s parents did not believe her when she tried to tell them what a family member was doing to her. When he was arrested and found guilty of dozens of assaults on young girls, Mimi’s parents apologized to her. Still, they expect her to just get over it now that he is in jail.

“Why are you still upset? It’s been six years!” “Just get on with it.” “Quit obsessing.”

Does any of this sound familiar?

It hurts to not be believed. Imagine how difficult it is for a young child to “tattle” about abuse? First, he or she may not recognize that what is happening is wrong. Instead, the child may feel shame, guilt, or confusion. If the decision is made to tell someone, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to overcome the fear of getting the abuser in trouble.

Think then, how crushing is an adult’s denial of the story is when it is finally told. Worse yet, it allows the abuse to continue.

No matter the hurt or source of the pain,  a psychologist told me he has never seen anyone really be able to move on without the first step of validation.

Today’s Helpful Word

2 Corinthians 1: 3,4

 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional, and speak only from personal experiences and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. (for international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!

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