Your Feelings Are Valid, but That Doesn't Make Them True
“Your feelings are valid, but that doesn’t mean they’re true” is a phrase I learned very early in my mental health journey when I struggled with validating my own emotions.
Emotional validation is a very important part in a trauma survivor’s healing journey. When we’re taught from a very young age that our opinions, feelings, and perspectives are not valid, or we’re gaslit and lead to question our reality, it’s hard to accept, honor, and even sometimes feel our emotions as we get older. (Source: VeryWell Mind)
As Allie Burke pens in Psychology Today, “Our feelings are valid because we feel them.”
That being said (and I do completely agree with her), it doesn’t always mean that my feelings and reactions to the situation are true.
At first glance, I do understand how that sentence can read and feel as if it’s gaslighting you, the reader. How can I say “Your feelings are valid,” in the same breath that I also emphatically say “but that doesn’t mean they’re true.” Doesn’t the latter negate the former?
No, and here’s a personal example as to why:
Here’s the thing – my friends are going through a lot, thus they deny a lot of my hang out requests. Me being the lonely extrovert I am, tends to get my feelings hurt when one too many requests get denied. Their denials have nothing to do with me, given that they’re fighting to just make it through a day, but I’m human and it still hurts.
My feelings are valid. I’m allowed to miss my friends and wish I could see them more. I can even cry about it if I want to and that’d be perfectly fine, but their absence isn’t about me, and making it about me isn’t fair to them.
Feelings aren’t facts, and in this situation if I treat my feelings as such, I can cause more harm to my friends who are already in sticky mental health situations.
Trying to discern our feelings from facts can be hard. Personally, I’ve found that going through the following process helps both in the moment when I’m feeling the emotions, and also whenever I decide to communicate them externally:
1. As objectively as possible, what is the reality of this situation?
Ask yourself this question, and if you need help seek an objective third party opinion. You want an unbiased outlook (which is hard) at what is going on around you.
2. Sit with how you feel in relation to what happened.
Sit with it. Journal it. Talk about it. Whatever you have to do to confront those feelings healthily!
3. Ask yourself if your feeling is “true” or if it’s just a feeling.
Remember, it’s valid regardless, but coming to that realization can potentially save you unnecessary conflict.
When we’re healing from our trauma, we do need to learn to validate our emotions regardless of if they’re disordered or not. Having emotions and feeling some type of way about a situation, relationship, job, etc., isn’t wrong or bad. It’s what makes us human.
However, there’s a certain responsibility that we need to take for our reactions along with a certain nuance we need to maintain that if overlooked, can create more chaotic and emotionally unstable relationships in our lives.
We can do both — validate our emotions, while also being honest and objective about the actual situations that we have feelings about.
Getty image by Ponomariova_Maria