6 Ways To Validate Your Feelings Without Hurting Your Relationships, According to Dr. Alfiee image

6 Ways To Validate Your Feelings Without Hurting Your Relationships, According to Dr. Alfiee

Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble gave The Candidly 6 clear ideas about how to self-soothe so that we can manage and validate our emotions without taking them out on our loved ones.

In modern mental health discourse, there is (rightly so) a lot of emphasis on our emotions.

How to get in touch with those emotions. How to recognize them. How to validate them.

But there’s less emphasis on how those emotions affect our interpersonal relationships. How do we not let our resentment towards our spouse turn into a constant shouting match over who’s going to do the dishes tonight? How do we not take out our stress and anxiety on others when we’re feeling flooded?

So we spoke to Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble, a psychologst, author, and mental health expert, who gave us 6 clear ideas about how to self-soothe so that we can manage and validate our emotions without taking them out on our loved ones.

1. Pop psychology tells us that all of our feelings are always valid, and that we should never bottle them up or feel ashamed of them. But if our feelings are always valid, does that mean the actions that come from those feelings are valid, too? What if we feel like our spouse is the most annoying person on earth when they walk around singing loudly? Is it always valid to tell them that?

I always frame annoyance as a response to behaviors not to people. So I would reframe this as our loved one’s behavior is annoying, not the person themself, because behaviors are more easily changed than people and while your loved one cannot become a new person, they can absolutely change their behaviors.

With that said, what we feel is always valid as a real autonomic physiological response to our emotions but our behavioral response to those feelings may not always be optimal. Basically, this all comes down to how attuned each of us is to our triggers and our automatic responses to those triggers.

2. Do we have permission to express our valid feelings however and whenever we want? Or if we express our feelings all the time, even in a kind way, is that appreciated by everyone around us? Why or why not?

We generally cannot control how people respond to us, but we can control the intention we set behind what we communicate and the ways in which we communicate. The words we use, tone of voice and emotional expression undergirding our words are all important.

3. In a heated moment, when we’re angry at our spouse for forgetting to go grocery shopping when they said they would, or we’re deep in an anxiety spiral, how do we express our emotions without taking them out on others? How can we have boundaries with OURSELVES, even though we’re likely in a triggered state? How do we get them to validate our legitimate emotions without emotionally dumping on them?

Get back to present consciousness. Basically, setting boundaries is the key feature of this practice and a quick way to set a boundary in a moment of need is to say to yourself, “my loved one’s behavior belongs to them and I have the freedom to CHOOSE my response.” Then take 30 seconds to oneself, either by walking away or even just sitting in the same space with the person, and repeat this phrase in your head emphasizing the choice part. This can help to ground one enough to allow them to reclaim their power in the moment and choose a response wisely.

This practice also reminds us that the only person we can control is US, and we should not seek for others to validate our feelings (before we validate our own feelings), instead we ideally will seek to know from the loved one that they understand what we are communicating. This is especially true in the heat of the moment.

4. Conversely, if our spouse is constantly, angrily venting to us about work in a way that is exhausting and emotionally draining for us, how do we support them as a partner, validate their feelings, and also let them know that we can no longer bear the brunt of their frustration?

Same process as above. Noting that we strive to never accept abuse, in these instances, our goal is to clearly communicate our own feelings in response to angry vetting from a partner. After we respond about how we feel, we add clear instructions about what needs to be different in communication from the partner.

This is as straightforward as telling our partner something like, “Listen, I understand that you are upset right now, but I cannot hear your concerns when you talk to me like this. Maybe we just need to take a moment. I love you and I want to give you space to process what you’re feeling and I want to understand what you are saying as best I can. So maybe if we take a second away from this conversation, we can come back and finish in a way that makes us both feel appreciated.”

5. Simply put, what’s the difference between validating our own emotions, and letting them run amok? Can we do one without the other?

Validation and lack of control of feelings aren’t really in the same bucket from my perspective (i.e. they are not polar opposites along the same continuum). We can bear witness to our emotions and be overwhelmed by them at the same time.

I believe that our goal is to acknowledge feelings in the moment, then if they are overwhelming, to find the space to slow down and allow our physical bodies to catch up with the emotional parts of ourselves.

6. Are there any times we should bite our tongues, or not express a certain emotion, if it’s hurtful to others? Are there times when we should bottle them up? Or is that always a recipe for disaster?

Prevention is always better than reactivity, so the key is to make it a regular practice to check in with yourself and your feelings, to understand your triggers and to have coping mechanisms available.

Biting your tongue is not a coping strategy, but understanding when to express yourself knowing that it will be fruitful vs. recognizing when someone you care for is unable or unwilling to hear your feelings is a coping skill that must be cultivated over time.

There is an old saying: “You can’t get there from here.” In this context, this means that a lack of preventive effort (like understanding triggers and partner, recognizing when you need to use your coping skills, developing a set of coping skills, recognizing how to express yourself clearly with no expectations in return) keeps you locked into reactivity and prevents you from being proactive.

The key is to make these practices a regular part of your routine so that you can easily call on them in a time of need.

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