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Author Topic: 1.11 | Validation Skill - Stop Invalidating Others  (Read 161912 times)
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« on: September 21, 2008, 01:04:47 PM »

Communication Skills - Don't Be Invalidating

When it comes to emotional intelligence, one of the most advanced skills is learning how to become more validating and  less invalidating.

Often, if we are experiencing a communication breakdown, or if there is a wall between us and someone else, it most likely has been built with the bricks of invalidation.

This is a powerful tool and life skill. Mastering it will greatly elevate your emotional intelligence and your "people skills".

Different People Have Different Validation Needs

We are often unaware of how we invalidate others. We can also  be insensitive to the fact that some people are invalidated more easily than others and some people need an "extra helping" of validation to feel good about themselves. The latter is particularly true of people experiencing difficult times or a loss and of people who are highly sensitive, insecure, have low self esteem or who are easily intimidated.

This is a very necessary tool for dealing with people with Borderline Personality Disorder.

 At Its Core, Validation is About Accepting, Not Judging Others

Validation of feelings is vital to connecting with others. The mutual validation of feelings is important in all phases of relationships including building, maintaining, repairing, and improving them.

To validate someone's feelings is first to accept someone's feelings - and then to understand them - and finally to nurture them. To validate is to acknowledge and accept a person. Invalidation, on the other hand, is to reject, ignore, or judge.

So what happens when this dynamic breaks down?  Let's say one family member has very high validation needs, or one member is invalidating, or both have high validation needs, or both are invalidating?

Often, unidentified or unrecognized and invalidated feelings are at the heart of relationship issues and problems. Understanding the fate of an invalidated feeling/experience is eye opening and can be a significant motivator to investing in learning to better validate.  

The fact is that problems in relationships are often a result of what individuals do with invalidated feelings:

     Dissociation - they can keep them out-of-awareness, a part of not-me, hidden.

Projection - another option is to get rid of them, discard them, put them into someone else, project them.
 
Unfortunately hiding (dissociating) or getting rid of (projecting) feelings is never the last of it. Invalidated feelings have a way of coming back to haunt the relationship over and over.   This is not an issue unique to Borderline Personality Disorder - this happens in all types of relationship - and we often do it, too.


The rest of the article, and an excellent video by Alan Fruzzetti PhD here:

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« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2008, 01:13:19 PM »

When we say that you are being "invalidating" to your partner, we aren't saying that you are being intentionally mean or cruel to them. Most of the time we are just trying to explain ourselves or correct a misunderstanding and it comes across as invalidating to the pwBPD.

Some examples of invalidating responses:

"I didn't mean it that way!"
"... .but that's not... ."
"This is what happened"
"NO, you've go it wrong!"
"I AM doing it right"
"you're not doing that right. Let me do it for you"
"I was only trying to... ."
"Why can't you just let it go?"
"why do you always have to do this?"

or it may just be the way we sigh, raise our eyebrow, or even worse - roll our eyes


Something as inconsequential as adjusting the temperature can be seen as invalidating someone's feelings. If the pwBPD is cold and turns up the heat in the house, then you come home and turn it down, your actions are essentially saying "they shouldn't be feeling cold"... .when in reality they "are" cold.

Invalidation often comes up when there has been a misunderstanding between two people. Both people believe they are right and the other person is wrong. Both people work to get the other person to change their minds and come to an agreement with them. How often have you been in a conversation where the more you tried to explain something, the less the other person seemed to hear you and the angrier they got? When we try to justify ourselves, or explain or defend ourselves, we are telling the other person "they are wrong" and invalidating their beliefs.

You may very well be right, but when dealing with a person who is extremely sensitive, quick to react, always looking for criticism, and easily dysregulated, your words come across as invalidating to them.

Feelings and emotions can never be wrong. They are based on our beliefs and our interpretations of things, so telling someone that you don't agree with what they are saying means their feelings are wrong. How can a feeling be wrong? <

Excerpt
Telling a person she shouldn't feel the way she does feel is akin to telling water it shouldn't be wet, grass it shouldn't be green, or rocks they shouldn't be hard. Each person's feelings are real. Whether we like or understand someone's feelings, they are still real. Rejecting feelings is rejecting reality; it is to fight nature and may be called a crime against nature, "psychological murder", or "soul murder." Considering that trying to fight feelings, rather than accept them, is trying to fight all of nature, you can see why it is so frustrating, draining and futile.

We need to accept that a pwBPD doesn’t think the same way we do, and that while many of the arguments seem to come from nowhere, or make little sense, they are often triggered by us when we inadvertently use an invalidating response. A pwBPD and a non speak different languages.  When the person with BPD is triggered, they express themselves from a position of pure emotions and primitive defenses. There is no logic to what they are feeling, which is why they have trouble articulating and expressing themselves. Often, even they don’t know why or where the feelings are coming from.  

We, on the other hand, try to approach the situation from a logical staNPDoint.  We believe that if we can just find the right words or phrases, that our argument/words will suddenly make sense to the BP and the fight will end.  We might as well be speaking Polish to them though, since they are in an emotional state and we are defending with logic.  See the problem here? Our own defenses make things worse, since we use terms and defenses that invalidate how the BP "feels".   <

The more we try to explain and defend ourselves, the worse things actually become.  We throw fuel on the fire by invalidating their opinions, beliefs, statements, ideas, suggestions, or emotions.

They are emotional - we are logical. Two different attempts to communicate.

There are also times when the pwBPD may not be accurately expressing themselves, causing us to respond to what we heard, not what they actually feel. So when asked "how are you?" they mumble "OK" instead of their true feelings of sadness or fear. Then later on when they explode and accuse us of not caring how they feel we are left confused - but we asked and you said you were OK!"  ?

It's not possible to prevent "all" instances of invalidation.

To help stop things from getting worse we need to begin by recognizing what we are doing wrong. Before we can validate, we must stop invalidating.<


Words and phrases that are invalidating to others (not just those with BPD):

  • Ordering them to feel differently- ":)on't be mad. Get over it."
  • Ordering them to look differently- "don't look so sad."
  • Denying their perception or defending - "that's not what I meant"
  • Making them feel guilty- "I tried to help you"
  • Trying to isolate them- "you are the only one who feels that way"
  • Minimizing their feeling- "you must be kidding"
  • Using reason- "you are not being rational"
  • Debating- "I don't always do that"
  • Judging and labeling them- "you're too sensitive"
  • Turning things around- "you're making a big deal out of nothing"
  • Trying to get them to question themselves- "why can't you just get over it?"
  • Telling them how they should feel- "you should be happy"
  • Defending the other person- "she didn't mean it that way"
  • Negating, denial, and confusion- "now you know that isn't true"
  • Sarcasm and mocking- "you poor baby"
  • Laying guilt trips- "don't you ever think of anyone else?"
  • Philosophizing and cliches- "time heals all wounds"
  • Talking about them when they can hear it- "you can't say anything to her"
  • Showing intolerance- "I am sick of hearing about it"
  • Trying to control how long someone feels about something- "you should be over that by now"
  • Explanation- "maybe it's because _____ "

    Actually, go through each of those invalidating statements/responses and think about how it feels/how it felt when someone (not necessarily the disordered person in your life)  used those statements on you!

    Even if you aren't part of the problem - you can be part of the solution.


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« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2008, 01:36:40 PM »

 With me i usually try to defend my self, in return i am invaladating him not listening or what ever, usually the best thing is just to not say anything let them talk when they are upset, and just keep saying i understand, i am there right with you,, half the time i find myself thinking the same thing my husband is and agreeing but somewhere along the line i invaladated him because we are arguing about argreeing on the same thing,,, ? ? ? ?  and sometimes my husband just needs to explode get it out and me talking isn't helping, i was told i would be his theropist and that i am... .and let me tell you sitting there listening to a raging person isn't easy wears you down but soon the episode is over and on you go ... .like i said with my husband over half are arguments are agreeing on the same thing but somewhere i invaladated him and we are arguing before i know it... .
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« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2008, 01:44:15 PM »

I am soo guilty of this... .except for the sarcasm and mocking. It's so hard not to defend when they are accusing you of certain things that arent true or say you "never" do this or that for them... .for example, my H yesterday claimed I'm affectionate anymore  ? OMG I'm constantly hugging him, kissing him, etc. I bit my lip and just listened to his complaint but I wanted so bad to give him hundreds of examples of when I'm affectionate. Instead I said, "I understand how you may feel I'm not as affectionate anymore, I'll try to keep it in mind"    Practice makes perfect... .hopefully I get the hang of it.
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« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2008, 02:37:10 PM »

Yes, sometimes they are just looking for a fight, and no amount of validating will suffice :Smiling (click to insert in post)  That is when you take a time out for self protections sake. Don't sit there and be an emotional punching bag. When you see them getting more and more agaited, and when your words begin to be flung back at you - disengage. Don't stay - don't listen further - don't believe their accusations or FOG - get away and allow them the time to calm themselves down.

Knowing when to continue trying to validate, and when to run comes easier the more you practice it.
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« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2008, 05:08:39 PM »

How often do you use the word "but" when speaking to someone else?

Do you realize that when you say it, that you are actually disagreeing and invalidating the other person?

I see what you're saying, but, I think we should do it this way... .

Yeah, but... .
OK, but... .
You seem ok, but... .
Yes, but no... .
I agree, but I don't agree... .
You're right, but you're wrong... .

When you say the word "but" to a BPD, you have just taken all the good out of your original statements and turned them negative.

It was a great Thanksgiving dinner. The rolls were warm, the turkey was juicy, the table looked great, the wine was superb, but - the room was chilly. Now what is the hostess going to remember? That you liked the effort she went through, or that the room was cold? She's gonna focus on the negative and forget the positive. (True of any hostess, not only one with BPD.)  A spoonful of honey won't make the medicine go down well with someone with BPD.

Validating a person means working to see things from their perspective, and and agreeing with their right to feel or believe whatever they feel or believe or agreeing that any normal person would feel that way too. To then inject "but" into it, destroys and good will you hope to gain by validating them.

To break the habit of using this term, try to see the word as a big, fat, hairy, ugly butt. This imagine will help you remember that we are working towards eliminating that word from our vocabulary. You need to be aware of using it, before you can stop.

So... .  How often do you use the term BUT?

Does the BP get upset?

Do you get your point across?


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« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2008, 05:46:41 PM »

Good points, United! I've noticed "but" doesn't work well with me either--it does take away from the positives that have just been said. I try to avoid it, because it does the same for my partner.

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« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2008, 08:29:52 PM »

However, yet, and still, are "buts" in disguise  8)

Which means you can't use them either.

So what is a poor "but" man to do?

Validate the person sincerely, and let it really sink in. Allow time to be your friend, since they will feel more open to hearing your views after they have been heard. Let them express and expound on their point some more, before you begin in with your opposing views.

You: You have a valid point.

Them: (defensive still) Of course I do. Blah, blah, blah.

You: yes, I can see how you would think that way.

Them: (somewhat defensive) Yes, and if you would agree with me, then we ... .

You: Uh huh. I do understand. I wonder though, if maybe you've thought of ... .

By allowing them to feel listened to and understood, they lower their defenses and are more open to listening to you. If you express your views in a nonthreatening way, using the "wonder tool", it also allows them to evaluate what you are proposing, without feeling pressured or controlled.

So, break your booty habit.

Think before you speak.

Eliminate the "but" from your life to reduce the arguments and increase the opportunity for compromise and agreements.
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« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2008, 09:54:49 AM »

My H gets furious when I use the word "but", so thx for this post. Like PD that's one of the words I use a lot. I guess it's my way of validating what he's feeling and then explaining my side. But you're right... .in their mind we're taking away what we just validated. I'm going to really have to practice on this one. What you're saying is validate, validate, validate... .then once defenses are down we bring up what's bothering us?
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« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2008, 10:37:27 AM »

EXACTLY

Validate - validate- and validate while also using intense listening allows them to feel heard, and lowers their defenses so that they CAN listen to you later on. Trying to explain yourself too soon is a waste of time.

Just be safe about things, and don't allow yourself to be abused while you listen.

Here is a new site I discovered that has some pretty good ideas
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« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2008, 11:37:04 AM »

WOW, United.  Wow.

My BPDw has told me outright, she hates when I use the word "but."  And I do it a lot.  I know I do.  And then, after trying to not use the word "but" I started to try to find sneaky ways around it.  I would agree with her for a moment then say "maybe, however... ."  which is exactly the same.  It's a but in disguise.

You can put a pretty dress on a big, ugly, hairy butt, but it's still an ass.  Can I say that?   

This is great advice.  If we're saying "but" it means we're probably not listening to how our SO actually feels... .we're just waiting until they're done so we can say our own piece and disagree with them.  That's not ever going to get a good response from a BPD.  We need to ACTUALLY stop and listen to them and validate their feelings before they will ever be able to hear anything we have to say.  It sucks, but it's the truth.

Now, that website you came across is pure gold, United.  I've only read through a few paragraphs on it, but I find myself TOTALLY agreeing with it all.  My BPDw, in talking about her childhood, has tons of stories about how her parents invalidated her.  They were awful parents, honestly, and would snap at her with all of the comments given in the article as examples.  Now she thinks that kind of invalidation is normal, and she does it to me all the time.  The whole friggin' family, with like 100 brothers and cousins and aunts and uncles ALL THINK IT'S NORMAL.  Ugh.  It's not, it perpetuates a terrible cycle of emotional abuse.  Wonder how many of her relatives are BPD because of it.

Anyway.  It hits the nail on the head right there.  I also find it interesting that "invalidate" is so close to the word "invalid"... .  the old-fashioned word for a disabled person.  Yup, enough invalidation, and that child is now an invalid.  Fitting.
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« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2008, 01:11:34 PM »

I like to use the word "and" instead...

" I really love living in Minnesota but I love my home town of Seattle"

VS " I really love living in Minnesota AND I love my home town of Seattle"

" I really think that I made the right decision but I wish I didnt have to do this"

VS" I really think I made the right decision AND I wish I didnt have to do this"

Steph Who had a meaningful trip out west but   and is home now.
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« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2008, 02:41:39 PM »

I have learned over time when to stay and listen so he can just vent or when no matter what i say or do i usually can see it coming i have to leave due to you are right at times they just no matter what need to explode and you did nothing and no matter what no amount of valadation will work, and there are times i am just in no mood either to sit and be his T so i leave just to avoid a melt down, rage attack because if i am not strong enough or just in a bad mood or what ever we are human i have to leave or i will do something to trigger his rage,,,   this use to be weekly then monthly now it is about once every three to four months . that i have to leave the situation let him vent he will then get on the phone to his mom who doesn'[t listen to him anymore either and she is BPD i beleive... .so usually before i head home i have to call him and see if he has calmed down usually no and i then let him vent on the  phone to me but i don't listen if he leaves a long mesagge i hang up on the answer machion. or if i have to listen to him vent i will put the phone down and let me tell you he can go on for a easy hour but then it is over and on with life we go. and during this time he is raging he doesn't even know i put the phone down and i don't have to listen to all that stuff  ... .because it can really wear me down,,,
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« Reply #13 on: September 24, 2008, 01:34:27 PM »

So, what is validation all about? What is the "science" here?

Validation of feelings is vital to connecting with others. The mutual validation of feelings is important in all phases of relationship; including building, maintaining, repairing, and improving them.
So what happens when this dynamic breaks down.  One family member has very high validation needs, or one member is invalidating, or both have high validation needs, or both are invalidating?
Often, unidentified or unrecognized and unvalidated feelings are at the heart of relationship issues and problems. Understanding the fate of unvalidated feeling/experience is eye opening and can be an significant motivator to investing in validation.  

The fact is that problems in relationships are often a result of what individuals do with unvalidated feelings.

  • Dissociation - they can keep them out-of-awareness, a part of not-me, hidden.

  • Projection - another option is to get rid of them, discard them, put them into someone else, project them.  

Unfortunately hiding (dissociating) or getting rid of (projecting) feelings is never the last of it. Unvalidated feelings have a way of coming back to haunt the relationship over a over.   This is not an issue unique to BPD - this happens in all types of relationship - and we often do it, too.

So what should I do?  

The simple answer is become more empathetic and more validating - and recognize that this is not a simple "you look nice today" understanding.  Even though we know that listening carefully is important in relationships - it can be very difficult to recognize when we aren't succeeding at it. We are often more aware of not being listened to (heard) than of our own shortfalls of empathy and of not listening to our partner.  We may be reacting and resentful ourselves to a lack of being validated.  Self-awareness is key.
People with BPD have high validation needs - often very high.  People with BPD are also very erratic in their validation of others - they can be extremely validating (over validating) and flip over and become very invalidating -  sometimes resentful of the validation that is being sought or that they previously expressed.  And pwBPD can get extreme in the use of dissociation and projection.

As relationship partners, we often have our own "above average" validation needs.  Let's face it, we were attracted to the uber-validation that was showered on us early in the relationship - it was a significant part of the attraction.   As a result, we often have our own struggles when we don't get what we feel we need and we then process it in unhealthy ways too.  It's human nature all around.

And as parents. we often have our own "above average" validation needs.  Let's face it, tendencies run throughout a "BPD family, we often have above average needs for validation ourselves.   As a result, we often have our own struggles when we don't get what we feel we need and we then process it in unhealthy ways too.  

In a "BPD family" there are going to be validation issues.  As the healthier family member, it falls to us to try to achieve some level of working validation in the relationship - to lead.

  • That often means that we need to be very conscious of the pwBPD high validation needs and try to provide for them in a healthy and constructive way

  • It also often means that we have reacted in unhealthy ways to feeling invalidated by the pwBPD. We need to fix ourself (the pwBPD isn't going to fix us) and we need to disengage a bit from the push/pull validation habits common to pwBPD

This workshop is about the power of validation!

Thanks for participating!
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« Reply #14 on: September 26, 2008, 07:11:15 AM »

Excellent, Skip. I can understand the need to validate and can do that fine in a lot of conversations with my daughter but I have a problem when we have conversations about her treatment of my grandson.

For example my grandson might do something wrong (sometimes minor) and when my daughter is not in the right mood, she will over-react, yell or belittle him instead of disciplining him in a calmer adult manner. She will then want to complain about the whole incident to me and what he did I guess in order to justify losing her cool and over-reacting with him.

My daughter even admits that she over-reacts the wrong way with him but downplays the effect it might be having on him. I am afraid she will feel even more justified to continue punishing him in that manner if she in any way feels I am okay with it.

For example, last night she told him to get in the bathtub and instead he decided to wet his hands up in the sink first (not sure why but he is being evaluated for ADHD so he could have gotten distracted). She went off on him yelling for a full five minutes about it and then later she came and told me exactly what he had done (even though I had heard the whole thing, it was loud enough).

This type of scenario goes on several times during the week.

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« Reply #15 on: September 26, 2008, 11:20:46 AM »

A validation statement doesn't mean you agree with WHAT she did, or even why she did it... .it only expresses that you can see things from her viewpoint.  While she let you know "all of the really rotten stuff your grandson did", she was also telling you that she is frustrated and/or  feeling overwhelmed.  You can say something like "raising a child can sure be a strain"

Her: That kid - he is such a brat!

You: I hear how frustrated you are. I know how hard raising children can be. What can I do to help?

Or You: Raising kids really can be such a challenge! I like how you handled him today  (send him to his room, or something she did right)

Or You: I get that you are about ready to lose it... .thats a hard part of being a good parent.  What helps you to calm down the best?

Or You: I hear you are saying you feel badly when you hit Junior when you are angry. That would be upsetting to any parent. Are there things that help you avoid that? Maybe talking it out would help... .


See where you are empathizing with her feelings instead of condoning her actions?  :)oes this help?  

Obviously, if there abuse or serious parenting issues that warrants professional help.
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« Reply #16 on: September 26, 2008, 12:43:57 PM »

Before we go too far, we want to be careful not to oversell this tool.  Validation will not cure BPD (obviously). It is a very valuable tool.  It will help you create an environment where BPD related struggles can often be reduced - however - a person with this disorder will have interpersonal struggles from time to time no matter how well we do.

We all tend to validate in positive situations. But we don't tend to validate in neutral situations and definitely not in downright negative situations.  To a hypersensitive person, validation in neutral situations and negative situations can be diffusing as Skip points out. 

So the challenge is to develop validating skills, that we don't likely have as second nature, for when we are confronted with things like this:

From an adult:

#1  "That kid is so lazy. Look at her room!  Stuff is just tossed everywhere. Why can't she learn to pick up her stuff? Why is it so hard for her to do the right thing?"

#2  "I'm the only one who does anything around here. Everyone else treats me like a maid. No one offers to help me without me having to yell and scream at them. Why won't people help me?"

#3  "you're always working. Why are you always working? Don't you realize that I need help around here too? If you were home more often you would see that I have a hard time handling things here by myself."

#4  "That driver just cut me off! What an idiot! Some people shouldn't have drivers licenses! Let's see how he likes it when I do it to him!" Your pwBPD is very angry and becoming an aggressive driver, scaring you.

#5  "You were really talking a lot to that other guy at the party tonight. I noticed how you were looking at him. Do you guys spend a lot of time together behind my back? I bet you and he are sleeping together, aren't you? I can tell by the way you spoke with each other, that there is more than just a "friendship" between you two."

#6  ":)idn't I ask you to not do that anymore? I know that I did. We spoke of that last week, and I specifically told you not to do that to me anymore, but I guess you just don't listen, cause you went and did it again. I hate when you do that, don't listen. I feel like I'm just wasting my time here, since you never listen or do as I ask you to."

From a child:

#1 I can not ever count on anyone to help me when I really need help!
#2 You don't love me.  If you loved me you would lend me the money I need.
#3 People always leave you so I don't trust anyone
#4 You know... .my life is a crap. I wish to be the  son you deserve


What Can We Do?

The basic are - use words that focus on:

  • emotions
  • wants and desires
  • beliefs and opinions
  • actions
  • suffering


Letting the pwBPD i your life know that:

  • you understand them.
  • you accept they have a right to their feelings. Even if you don't agree with them.
  • it is a reasonable possibility, and that others would feel the same way.
  • you have empathy for them (a true connection with what they are going through).
  • there is a kernel of truth to what they are expressing.
  • they have a legitimate right to feel as they do.
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« Reply #17 on: September 28, 2008, 02:21:38 AM »

I must say that it feels a bit phony to say these things here - and maybe that's ok - because in practice I was always so caught off guard that I pretty much clammed up or tried to 'reason' with her without first validating her feelings. 

My sense is that this 3-step process takes some time and practice, but once it becomes second nature, it should help a lot (right?).  Let me know how I did. 

My attempts... .

#1  "you're always working. Why are you always working? Don't you realize that I need help around here too? If you were home more often you would see that I have a hard time handling things here by myself."

My response: "I love you, hon, and want you to be happy.  I can see that my working so much is leaving too much work around here in your hands and it is getting overwhelming.  If we are going to afford this house and our other expenses, I need to put in these hours right now."


#2  "That driver just cut me off! What an idiot! Some people shouldn't have drivers licenses! Let's see how he likes it when I do it to him!" Your BP is very angry and becoming an aggressive driver, scaring you.

Me: "I hear you, darling.  I'm pretty shaken up too and would be even more so if I were driving when he did that.  Let's just get home and be glad not every driver on the road is as reckless as he is."


#3  "That kid is so lazy. Look at her room!  Stuff is just tossed everywhere. Why can't she learn to pick up her stuff? Why is it so hard for her to do the right thing?"

Me: "I see that your not too happy with her.  This place is a mess and it doesn't really need to be, and I would be frustrated too.  Let's talk to her after school to see if she is doing okay and if she can't keep things a bit tidier around here."


#4  "I'm the only one who does anything around here. Everyone else treats me like a maid. No one offers to help me without me having to yell and scream at them. Why won't people help me?"

Me: "I love you and want you to be happy (no points for creativity here).  You do work a whole lot around here, and I can see where it gets tiring.  We can all try to pitch in on Saturdays if that would ease your load during the week."


#5  "You were really talking a lot to that other guy/girl at the party tonight. I noticed how you were looking at him/her. Do you guys spend a lot of time together behind my back? I bet you and s/he are sleeping together, aren't you? I can tell by the way you spoke with each other, that there is more than just a "friendship" between you two."

Me: "I love you and cherish you as the one woman in my life, darling.  You seem worried about losing me to this other woman.   The fact is that I knew her through work a couple years ago and she is friends with some of my buddies and we haven't seen each other all this time.  If you'd like I can introduce her to you.  Trust me, she is not a threat."


#6  ":)idn't I ask you to not do that anymore? I know that I did. We spoke of that last week, and I specifically told you not to do that to me anymore, but I guess you just don't listen, cause you went and did it again. I hate when you do that, don't listen. I feel like I'm just wasting my time here, since you never listen or do as I ask you to."

Me: "I want to see you happy.  I can see that I've done something to upset you; I have forgotten our conversation from last week and I know how frustrating that can be.  Tell me again what you don't want me to do and I will make a clear effort not to do it again."
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« Reply #18 on: September 28, 2008, 01:41:46 PM »

The reality is that we deal with our friends and loved ones issues all the time anyways, and since the thing most people are searching for is acceptance (healthy or mentally ill), then by offering them understanding, over time you will be lowering their defenses.

It is an integral part of human nature to find others who can accept and understand us. We need it for survival, to work together. A person who is BPD has been invalidated (even if it is just in their minds) their whole lives, so they are very defensive and easily triggered. Offering them the concept that you aren't fighting and arguing with them anymore - that you support them - that you believe them - can be a very healing and loving thing.

You can work against them, by trying to prove your point (most of us have tried that and we can easily say - it doesn't work) or you can work with them and see what happens.  Will it increase their dumping or reduce it?

The experts say it will reduce it. I'm willing to give it a try.

Just remember, our goal isn't to defend a value /boundary or convey our own intentions, it is simply to relate to and calm the pwBPD down. Validation is to soothe and form a connection of trust and respect between the two of you.

Save "SET" and "Truth" for a later moment when you see that your validation and empathy are having an effect.

Yes, it does seem awkward and stiff putting it down here in words, but when you speak them out loud and use the correct inflection in your voice and some direct eye contact it can really come across as being sincere - which it should be anyways.

Practice makes perfect.

Here is a place to practice:

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« Reply #19 on: September 29, 2008, 09:59:50 AM »

So the challenge is to develop validating skills, that we don't likely have as second nature, for when we are confronted with things like this:

It IS hard to validate.  It seems like such a simple thing, but as most of us find out, it is not so easy to do.  It is a learned skill.

Valerie Porr, in Overcoming BPD says that it is “counterintuitive”. She explains that ours is a world based on logic and problem solving. She says that we don’t take time to notice people’s feeling or efforts, especially those who are closest to us.

The Lundberg's wrote I Don't Have To Make Everything All Better as a parent’s self help book. It is a powerful guide to the importance of validation. They make the point that to be an effective validator requires a lot of practice because it doesn’t come naturally.

From a child

#1 I can not ever count on anyone to help me when I really need help!

I understand.  You feel helpless maybe when there is no one around to help you.

#2 You don't love me.  If you loved me you would lend me the money I need.

I am sorry my son.  It is very hard when we don't feel loved and have no money.

The Bible tells us:  "Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep."  This is empathy.  Validation is the verbalization of empathy.
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« Reply #20 on: September 29, 2008, 10:10:21 AM »

Thanks lbjnltx!

As Skip pointed out,  we all need validation. People with BPD just need more validation than others. Validation is not an easy concept to master, as it goes beyond saying “I understand”.  In truth very few of us really “understand” what another person is feeling. When it comes to the extreme emotional reactions of a person with BPD, saying “I understand” when we truly don’t is invalidating.  

According to Shari Y. Manning, PhD (Loving Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder), validation needs to occurs on several levels.  From her book, Six levels of validation... .

One of the most basic human needs after food and shelter is the need to feel like you belong and to feel understood.

Validation is a key concept that has the power to really transform and improve relationships.  It does this by adding in a few missing ingredients - acceptance, understanding, and empathy. When a relationship is dysfunctional, typically there is a lack of validation (understanding) going on and lots of invalidation (misunderstanding) happening. These misunderstanding make it difficult, if not impossible for communication to happen. It is pretty easy to validate someone who is not upset. Validating a person who is emotionally upset (dysregulated) is a skill.

To help with visualizing how to properly use validation, Marsha Linehan, PhD (the developer of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) has broken validation into levels.

Level 1 - Stay Awake

At its most basic, all you really have to do is listen and nod.

Staying awake requires you to pay attention and ask objective, probing questions - basically that you demonstrate that you're paying attention to the person who is talking. Lean forward, nod your head, ask questions, and show you are paying attention.

Warning: It's critical not to be judgmental about what the person is saying to you. Judgements are forms of criticism, that you view something as "wrong" or "bad". A pwBPD can often see the changes in our faces when we have judgmental thoughts. To avoid judgements you need to pay complete attention to what they are saying. It's called being mindful. Pay attention to facts to help prevent you from forming an opinion or evaluating (judging).


Level 2 - Accurate Reflection

Accurate reflection requires you to communicate that you've heard the person accurately. This can be done by repeating what the person said, though it can be better to paraphrase so you don't sound like a parrot. This communicates to the person that what he is experiencing is universal enough for you "to get it", a critical part since most pwBPD feel so misunderstood by others. It shows that you are listening to what they are saying.

Level 3 - Stating the Unarticulated

This is a form of mind reading. It requires you to create a hypothesis about what you believe the person is "not" telling you. The emotions driving a persons words or actions.  The hidden message.

You do this by asking a question, essentially guessing if "blank" is accurate.

Example: This works especially when the person is dysregulated and not expressing themselves clearly. You have to be willing to be wrong though, which shows that you haven't quite got it yet, so then ask more questions to reach understanding.


Level 4 - Validating in Terms of Personal History or Biology

We are what's happened in our lives. On some level, based on our history, our actions make sense. If you ever lived through a tornado, you would have a higher response to the warning sirens than others, based on your history. Letting a person know that their behavior makes sense based on their past experiences shows understanding.

Our physical problems also impact (thus explain) how we behave. A person who has a bad back has difficulty sitting for long periods of time. Making reference to their limitations shows understanding and empathy.


Level 5 - Normalizing

One of the most important levels is to communicate that others (those without BPD) would have the same response. People with BPD have the ongoing experience of being different - outsiders in their own worlds. When you normalize  what they are feeling you find a way to communicate that what is going on for the pwBPD is the experience of being human, that anyone in the same situation would feel the same way. This is powerful. Some key phrases that can be used are:

"We all have moments when we feel that way"

"Of course you think that: anyone would in your situation"

"I would feel that way too"

"You know that is such a normal reaction"

"It makes sense that you did that. We all have those moments"


Of course, there are some things you can't normalize, such as suicidal behavior. Don't normalize behavior that is not normal - that's validating the invalid.

Level 6 - Radical Genuineness

The key to all validation is to be genuine. To be radically genuine is to ensure that you don't "fragilize", condescend, or talk down to the person you are trying to validate. You don't want to treat them any differently than you would anyone else in a similar situation. They aren't fragile, and to treat them as such can be seen as condescending.
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« Reply #21 on: September 29, 2008, 11:07:51 AM »

You know, I am always a solutions oriented kind of guy. When I hear her complaints what I hear is a demand for a solution. I understand from what you're saying to change my thinking and therefore my response.  Validating is much more important than solving. Is that right? I'm trying to learn.

You are really giving me food for thought. Thanks.
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« Reply #22 on: October 06, 2008, 01:52:26 PM »

I have done the validation routine over and over, sometimes it works about 30% of the time the rest of the time my BPD wife seems to get locked in on what she is angry about and no validating seems to work its if she has made up her mind that she is going to blame me and trash me until she begins to feel better.
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« Reply #23 on: October 06, 2008, 07:31:29 PM »

Validating is much more important than solving. Is that right? I'm trying to learn.

Absolutely!

I have done the validation routine over and over, sometimes it works about 30% of the time

the rest of the time my BPD wife seems to get locked in on what she is angry about and

no validating seems to work its if she has made up her mind that she is going to blame me and trash me until she begins to feel better.

Trying to validate during a time of regulation probably won't help.  When someone becomes dysreglated, then its best to give  them space.

Validation is best used early in the communication process. It isn't a magic wand.  It doesn't calm the BPD person down instantly or even every time you use it.  What it  can do is not escalate things and allows them the chance to see that we aren't the enemy so that our message can get through to them. They need time and space to allow the process to work.  That is why taking a time out  is a healthy thing to do. Arguing with an angry BP is like throwing fuel on a fire - it only makes things worse. Time and distance are what is needed. The only thing that can calm an angry person
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« Reply #24 on: October 24, 2008, 08:18:16 AM »

What if I try validating and he says I'm patronizing.

No matter how many times I repeated I was really sorry hit_ happened and that I understand he's hurting and mad he seemed to get angrier at the fact that I was "patronizing" him.

I finally had to just say goodbye and hang up because we were getting nowhere.
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« Reply #25 on: October 24, 2008, 08:50:00 AM »

Maybe you were patronizing.  

The object is not to have them hear how YOU feel. The object is to let them know that you understand how THEY feel.

Validation is strictly about them and their issues and their needs and their feelings and their emotions.

"I understand how you feel"

"That must be tough to feel that way"

"Knowing what happened to you before, I can see how that would bother you"

"I feel the same way at times"


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« Reply #26 on: October 24, 2008, 09:46:44 AM »

Maybe you were patronizing.  

The object is not to have them hear how YOU feel. The object is to let them know that you understand how THEY feel.

Quote of the year!  May I have your permission to frame this? Smiling (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #27 on: October 24, 2008, 10:13:47 AM »

Okay i know this works and has worked for me... .

but hard to get into the routine and stay in it, and to make sure you don't apologize instead validate.

I started doing this this past summer and i noticed his reaction so much different as i was validating him.

But if i slipped -- mostly because i am tired of validating him what about me -- then yes see a huge difference.

I have to remember if i validate i am in return helping me and not dealing with the rages... .that will accrue .
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« Reply #28 on: October 24, 2008, 10:40:44 AM »

A important point is that validation is not the same as agreement, and it doesn't necessarily include any action at all.

Validation, in a nutshell, is acknowledging verbally that the emotions experienced by the BPD are real. That's it.

Even if its some whacky distorted emotional response, it still exists, the chemical and electrical events in the brain which create "feelings" are there.

So if your BPD chiild feels "abandoned" because you won't give her money, she really feels that way... .it just isn't a normal, healthy feeling.  

You can feel compassion for all the painful emotions she lives with, while at the same time not giving in to an unreasonable request.
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« Reply #29 on: October 24, 2008, 11:24:04 AM »

You can feel compassion for all the painful emotions she lives with, while at the same time not giving in to anb unreasonable request.


This is a really good point.

I have done the validation routine over and over, sometimes it works about 30% of the time the rest of the time my BPD wife seems to get locked in on what she is angry about and no validating seems to work its if she has made up her mind that she is going to blame me and trash me until she begins to feel better.

You always have a choice in things  

You can react like you always have, and you will continue to be the focus of intense rages, twisted logic, irrational accusations, and unthankful demands - OR - you can try to repair things and stop making things worse by trying a new tactic that over time will increase trust and intimacy and make your life more peaceful.

But if you really wish for change, you can find your way to the nearest exit and start over again, hopefully with someone who is not mentally ill, but, since you haven't figured out how or why you ended up here in the first place, the chances are pretty high that you'll wind up with a similar situation, just with different outward appearances.

Nothing changes without changes... .

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