Here’s what I mean:
When my ex was on Oxycontin, I went to great lengths to explain that it’s not normal to slur one’s words, fall asleep behind a drum kit in the middle of a set or visit an ER every month. Clearly, my running list of his bizarre behavior was proof enough to justify I was right, and he was wrong.
But my ex begged to differ. This left me seeking validation elsewhere.
- “What’s a normal dose?” I asked my psychiatrist colleagues.
- “Do you think he’s acting weird?” I asked his bandmates.
- “Wait until you hear the crisis du jour,” I complained to my friends.
When I walked through the door with the verdicts at the end of the day, my ex was as disinterested in them as he was in my nagging. This was enraging since I believed in a Right and a Wrong for nearly every situation, and the “Court of the World” agreed with me: I was right; he was wrong.
As a psychotherapist, during treatment, I sometimes would work with people to express themselves directly and calmly so they felt seen and heard.
While I still find this useful with my coaching clients who are in the business of avoiding their conflicts, the bulk of the work (and most importantly, the reward) lies elsewhere.
I realize this may sound blasphemous. Isn’t the objective to get the other person to listen to you? After all, if they validated your position, you would calm down because you’d feel understood, right? Wrong.
I’m not suggesting you stay in relationships where you’re chronically misunderstood or that you take on all the responsibility for conflicts. That’s how I stayed where I was for a couple of years too long.
However, whether you accept all the blame for your “faulty perception” (a time-tested gas-lighting technique) and subsequent angry outbursts or load up with enough discovery to fill a courtroom, the answer is to focus on yourself.
Notice I didn’t say to focus on any sentence beginning with “why” because that’s a quickly clogged drain you don’t want to circle (Why is he/she like this? Why can’t I validate myself? Why is this happening to me?).
Rather, focus on identifying what does and does not work for you; what you need and can reasonably give in any given situation.
Ask these questions:
- If you do what’s being asked, will you feel resentful later?
- Is the backlash of trusting yourself that you feel guilty or selfish for doing so?
- Do you doubt yourself because tolerating the upset of others makes you anxious?
- Are you so attached to Right and Wrong that you either try to control others’ choices or defer to them altogether?
The next time you see yourself clawing to be seen, heard, or understood, see, hear, and understand yourself.
You don’t need anyone else to validate you. You need to know what is and isn’t right for you, and if it needs to be declared out loud, do it with kindness, compassion, and loving detachment.
When you hear, see, and listen to yourself, you can better hear, see and understand the people in your life, and your next right step becomes overwhelmingly clear.
Laws to Live By:
- The answer to your malcontent and your salvation lives inside of you.
- All the land’s validation will never be enough if you can’t validate yourself.
- You’ve succeeded in validating yourself when the situation isn’t accompanied by anger or victimhood.
- In the beginning, you will feel anxiety, guilt, selfishness, shame, sadness, and/or all manner of discomfort, but that’s a good sign!
- That discomfort is you unlearning the conditioning of your past. Celebrate it. Love it.
- Know that with every pang in your gut, every twist in your solar plexus, you’re taking a courageous step toward freedom, joy, happiness, and smooth sailing relationships.