So, in the spirit of writing more, here’s probably the most valuable coaching and life tool that I have ever experienced. One sentence:
“Your feelings are valid.”
All human action solves a problem, all human emotion is meant to further our survival in some way. If a person feels a certain way, there is a really good reason they feel that way, and validating that is the most important first step to unpacking it.
Valid doesn’t mean correct. Often our feelings are rooted in something that we may have misinterpreted, misread, or lack full data on. The conclusion is based on what the person currently holds to be true (even if they don’t realise that they hold that truth), and acknowledging that is the first step in understanding them. Equally, “correct” is not always important to survival.
Valid doesn’t mean right. Emotions lack morals. Actions are where morality matters. A persons feelings can be completely valid based on how they perceive the world, but their actions based on those feelings may be morally wrong. Equally, the morally wrong aspect may be falsely representing their feelings to get a response. The feeling itself is neither good nor bad in an abstract sense. It just is.
Valid doesn’t mean requiring action. Feelings are not just problems to solve. They are data points that provide us with direction. Recognizing that feelings are not absolute markers doesn’t mean they become less valid. Equally, dealing with emotions often means engaging with them rather than trying to fix them.
What valid means is simple. Your deepest feelings have validity because of how they impact you, and no one should be training you to ignore that. No one has a right to take that away from your or tell you you are wrong.
Starting from a place of assuming everyone’s feelings are valid ways of surviving the world puts you in the unique position to help understand why they feel that way and help folks, and yourself, break out of destructive cycles where an emotion becomes the absolute unchanging truth in itself.
That’s where change happens, and it frees you to judge a persons actions or lack thereof without playing a blame/justification game on their behalf. Accepting that there is a reason that a person may feel that way also allows you to firmly pin down the morality of their actions for what they are by understanding the why and seeing that it was their choice to act that impacted others.
Start from a place of validity, and work from there. It’s a real game changer.
Side note: This assumes a person is relaying their emotions in good faith and not in order to manipulate you. The emotions in that case, if truly how the person feels, are still valid, the action of using them to manipulate a person is where the ethical issue comes up.
Secondary side note: If you are actively working on your own behavior, starting from a place of “your feelings are valid” is a great foil to prevent you unconsciously gaslighting folks.
(My note: It’s rather fascinating how so many of the theories downplaying the validity of feelings, or actively classing them as something one should try to eradicate in order to arrive to valid conclusions, was generated by men who were socialised to have the emotional granularity of potatoes. It is doubly fascinating how so many of such theories are still held as valid, even though they have been discredited by modern neuroscience. Looks like the strictly rational folk aren’t all that rational, after all…)