The Two ‘Magic’ Words That Help Me Self-Validate Overwhelming Emotions
Two words. “Magic words” for me.
As someone who has struggled with living in invalidating environments and self-invalidation, these two words — “of course” — have recently become the key for me to manage my intense emotions and healing.
Of course I am feeling this way. I say to myself.
Many of us who live with borderline personality disorder have been told our emotions, reactions, and feelings are invalid, or “too much.” These comments, which may be said with the best intentions and perhaps lack of understanding, to help us calm and feel differently, are often experienced by me as judgmental and leading to further pain and emotional escalating. These comments can also lead to shutting down emotions, and trying to “not feel.”
What works for me when overwhelming emotions arise, and memories of hurtful words creep into mind, is to just remember two words, if nothing else.
For example, I recently experienced a relationship loss which has been impactful. My initial thoughts was, “This is too big a reaction,” and “Why can’t I calm down?” These judgmental thoughts I heard in my mind continued to spiral me into deeper despair and consideration of unhelpful actions. And then I remembered just two words: Of course.”
“Of course I am feeling sad, this person has left me. I trusted the relationship was stable. This feels really hard for me. It’s understandable I would feel sad, given my past experiences. I am experienced a loss. Of course I feel sad. Of course.”
This acknowledgment of my emotions, allowing them to be present, and then considering why it makes sense is for me a helpful first step to then be capable of choosing a skillful action if needed, such as meaningfully using distraction, or other dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills that can help me cope with the stressor.
For me starting with “of course” is absolutely necessary.
If nothing else, I remember “of course.” A simple statement such as, “Of course I feel sad” is helpful, too.
Radically accepting the “of course-ness” of things in life, is a nonjudgmental and compassionate way to cope with intense emotions. For me, “of course” is part of my self-validation toolkit now. It’s quick to use, and I have it with me always. They’re two words that can change the outcome for me during triggering events as I live with emotional sensitivity.
“Of course” can also help me in remaining nonjudgmental when others are behaving in ways I disagree with. It is a way to accept reality, which is another DBT skill. Acceptance doesn’t mean approving of it. Just like “of course” I feel sad, doesn’t mean I approve of feeling sad… or that I want to feel sad forever. It’s OK to “not like” my sadness and grief.
”Of course” also helps me in accepting and not judging others. These two words open the door for me to consider that we are all acting from a place of doing the best we can given our past experiences, current skills, vulnerabilities, and strengths. And, this practice still leaves space to also acknowledge that things can change. The dialectic “everyone is doing the best they can and we can try harder” change is one I can remind myself of when having the urge to judge myself or others.
I often experience the thought, “I should not feel this way.” I imagine I am not alone in having those self-judgmental thoughts come up.
I think it is understandable we have these thoughts, we may have been told them our whole childhoods, “of course” we have the thought — and, now as adults is where we can change the story and relate to ourselves differently.
We can validate ourselves, we can commit to accepting our emotional experiences, even if others don’t understand, or continue to invalidate our feelings. We can now say it ourselves: “Of course I feel this way.”
We can find the “kernel of truth,” the “valid,” the “understandable” in why we feel this way and in our urges. Naming the “of course-ness” of things does not mean we have to act on painful thoughts and urges.
We can commit to loving ourselves through the emotional waves that many of us who live with BPD know. With patience and self-compassion, we continue our story with new eyes. If nothing else, when the storm hits, I try to recall two simple, self-validating, accepting words, “of course.”
I know this is easier said than done, and I believe in me and I believe in you, too.
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