Harvey's article on "sag" ("Let's Pull Up Our Socks And Go") points out that our "brush-pile" of patterns exert a continual pull to not think. This pull or sag pops up in various and sometimes unexpected areas. One area where sag has crept in, almost unnoticed, is in validation. What happens is that we stare at each other glassy-eyed and utter clichés such as:

-You are so brilliant, such a loving person ...
-You really work hard...
-You are so intelligent... etc.

Of course all these are true, but they are true for all of us. They do not require special thought (caring) on the part of the person doing the validating. Then, there are the really oppressive ones (to be sure, not intentionally so):

-You are so intelligent for your age ...
-You speak such good English for a foreigner...

Another non-thinking validation is to validate a person's distress. To say, "You have such clean hands" to a person, who compulsively washes hands twenty-seven times a day is clearly missing the point of validation. The hand-washer will only be reminded of his/her distress and not feel cared about or thought about.

What is the point of validation?

First of all, genuine validation or appreciation contradicts all distresses that we have ever experienced. One can see clearly the truth of this statement by just observing the discharge that follows thoughtful validation.

Secondly, every distress has a component of self-depreciation or self-doubt... Another person's statement about us serves as a mirror in which we see ourselves in a way that is sometimes not easy to see from the inside. Thus the more general the validation, the more it shows only the outlines without the important details. On the other hand, if the validation is specific and thoughtful, it serves as a beam of light that illuminates a part of ourselves that may be hard to see otherwise.

Last, but not least, unaware, non-thinking validation must be exposed for what it is: invalidation. The dynamics are simple: If I "dutifully" throw a few clichés at my counselor, I send a very clear and hurtful message: you are not worth thinking about." This, of course, is a distortion of reality.

... What about the person receiving the validation? Should she/he just passively smile and say "thank you" to the other's non-thinking, non-caring message? Should she/he sheepishly assume that since the other is doing her/his best, nothing can be done about the situation, no matter how careless the validation? Certainly not!

Validation is like a brief one-way session: One person is counselor and the other is client. To be more specific, the person doing the validating is the counselor, the person receiving it is the client. The counselor's role is to think about and appreciate the client but we must not forget that the client is in charge!! Being in charge means that the client does not have to settle for token validation. She/he does not have to put up with listening to clichés. Obviously, when a counselor does not think clearly, there is some distress in operation. The logical thing for an aware client is then to say: "Would you like to take a few minutes and work on what makes it difficult for you to think about me?" and then remain loving if the counselor begins to make defensive noises. Another way to get the job done is to simply tell the counselor the validation that would be the most meaningful for the client at this time.

Andrew Fono
Round Rock, TX,
(Present Time, No. 35, p. 11)

Last modified: 2014-10-18 19:10:03+00