In the realm of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), the skill of recognizing and accepting your emotions, known as self-validation, stands as a distinct and invaluable tool. If you find it challenging to manage your emotions, chances are you struggle with acknowledging them in the first place. When faced with sadness or anger triggered by external events, you might immediately admonish yourself with thoughts like, 'I shouldn't be feeling this way, I should be handling this better.' This self-critique not only compounds your primary emotions but also gives rise to additional negative secondary emotions. The result is a draining and uncomfortable process.
Mastering the art of self-validating your emotions provides a powerful means to navigate through the often overwhelming emotional landscape. Let's delve deeper into each of them!"
To commence this process, it is imperative to allocate a moment to attune to your existing emotional state. Direct your focus towards the sensations coursing through your body, meticulously observing each nuance. It is pivotal to discern the prevailing emotion that resides within you. This emotion need not be overpowering; even subtle feelings warrant acknowledgment.
Engaging in this practice during times of relative equilibrium can be immensely beneficial. It serves as a preparatory exercise, honing your capacity for self-validation, and fortifying your emotional well-being. Through this deliberate act of introspection, you lay the groundwork for a more profound understanding and acceptance of your emotional experiences.
Step One: Recognizing
The initial phase, known as recognizing, is a pivotal step in the process of self-validation. It entails the deliberate act of identifying and acknowledging the present emotion without resorting to self-judgment. Instead, it invites individuals to simply label what they are feeling in the moment. For instance, if the prevailing emotion is sadness, it's crucial to resist the urge to engage in a self-critical internal dialogue. Rather than admonishing oneself with thoughts like, "I'm constantly feeling down, I must be weak and undeserving," it is far more beneficial to grant oneself the space to acknowledge the undeniable presence of the emotion: "I am feeling sad."
This practice lays the foundation for self-compassion and acceptance, allowing individuals to cultivate a healthy relationship with their emotions. It fosters a sense of self-awareness and honesty, which are essential elements in the journey towards emotional well-being. By recognizing emotions without judgment, individuals pave the way for the subsequent steps of self-validation, ultimately leading to a more balanced and empowered emotional state.
Step Two: Embracing
This stage centers on affirming to yourself that it's perfectly acceptable to go through any emotional experience. You have the right to feel whatever you're feeling in this moment, or in any situation where intense emotions arise.
Here are some affirmations to help you adopt a mindset of embracing your emotions:
- It's completely fine to feel the way I do at this moment.
- I grant myself permission to undergo this emotion.
- Allowing myself to feel this way doesn't imply I'm acting inappropriately.
- This feeling will eventually pass, but for now, it's a part of my experience.
- While this emotion may be uncomfortable, it won't cause me harm.
Select three of these affirmations (the ones that resonate with you the most) and record them in the worksheet. The next time you catch yourself judging your emotions, recite these statements aloud to reinforce the idea that you are giving yourself permission to go through this process.
Step Three: Contextualizing
The final phase is designed to guide you in establishing a context for the emotion you're experiencing. Many of us may not always take a moment to try and comprehend the reasons behind our emotions. In this step, take the time to reflect on past events that have contributed to your current emotional state. Avoid passing judgment on yourself; simply focus on the objective facts that have shaped your current situation. Instead of saying to yourself, "I was foolish, and that's why I'm feeling angry" - which involves self-criticism - you could say, "It's understandable that I felt so angry, given that I often fear abandonment when my calls aren't returned."
You may also find the article on cognitive vulnerability helpful. It can provide you with the tools to view the larger picture, rather than holding onto a negative assessment of your experiences.
Step One: Recognizing - Currently, I'm feeling frustrated with myself.
Step Two: Embracing - It's uncomfortable, but right now, this feeling is valid.
Step Three: Contextualizing - I'm frustrated because I haven't cleaned my apartment in two weeks. I won't judge myself for this, as I've been experiencing feelings of loneliness and mild depression. I've already dealt with enough negative emotions; I don't need to add to it. To begin, I'll focus on doing the laundry today.
Taking it to the Next Level: Addressing Stronger Emotions
If you've completed the initial exercise with a relatively subtle emotion, you can now challenge yourself by reflecting on a past event that evoked intense emotions. Consider how you would apply the same three steps from the first part to this situation that was challenging for you.
Start by recognizing what you were feeling in that moment.
Next, envision how you would embrace those emotions using the second step. What affirmation or statement would you use?
Lastly, consider the broader context - what transpired, and what are the factual reasons behind your emotions?
Relation to Psychotherapy
Self-validation, a key aspect of psychotherapy like Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), involves acknowledging and accepting one's emotions without judgment. It empowers individuals, fostering self-worth and confidence to navigate their emotional landscape authentically.
This practice aids in regulating emotions, teaching individuals to process feelings constructively. It leads to a more adaptive and resilient approach to emotional challenges, enhancing overall well-being.
Self-validation cultivates emotional resilience by accepting emotions as a natural part of human experience. This inner strength empowers individuals to face adversity with confidence and poise.
It also counters self-criticism, promoting self-compassion and improving self-esteem. This shift in self-talk creates a nurturing environment for personal growth.
In therapy, self-validation strengthens the alliance with the therapist, providing a safe space for exploration and growth. Beyond therapy, it transforms emotional well-being, improving relationships and quality of life. Self-validation empowers individuals in their own healing journey.