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Validation for BPD: Part 2


A pair of hands making a heart

Before reading this make sure you have read - Validation for BPD: Part 1.



Some people can only tolerate a little bit of validation, this tends to relate to their temperament and history, so just know that giving validation and the right dose of validation can take practice. However, generally, learning to communicate in a validating way does tend to be a really effective way of helping people with with BPD learn to communicate and it is also a highly effective way of communicating with people who live with emotional regulation difficulties. 

Being in a validating environment can actually help reduce vulnerability to Emotional Dysregulation and also provide a foundation to help recover from any triggers. Building up the skill of validation can also help chip away at those chronic low self esteem problems that come with BPD because it challenges the sense of defectiveness and narrative of self criticism.


What isn’t Validation?


• Motivating and encouraging - there is a time and a place for the: “come ons” and “you can do its.” But if these skills are offered too early people can feel unheard and they experience their emotions as being unseen.


• Problem solving. The ability to problem solve is important but if we jump in too soon with problem solving, this can lead to the other person feeling frustrated. Problem solving is a very cognitive and practical solution and although it’s a logical approach people can often feel misunderstood if we begin immediately


• Generating solutions. Going straight to solutions might seem like a sensible option when someone is distressed but when this tactic is frequently used, it prevents the other person from experiencing their emotions which, unintentionally means that their emotions do not get the opportunity to run their course. For people with emotional regulation difficulties it’s important that emotions are experienced safely and not avoided, when emotions are avoided this can make them feel more overwhelming the next time they are felt, and actually maintains emotional regulation difficulties.


• Minimising the problem. When we tell someone that their worry isn’t something that is a big deal, what this communicates is an unwillingness to step into someone elses world and view the environment through their eyes. It can often be quite isolati to the other party when issues are immediatly minimised


What blocks invalidation


• Compassion fatigue - you’re running on empty and have nothing left to give.


• Lack of practice - start light, start giving little sprinklings of validation, watch out for examples of it on TV and podcasts.


• Feeling scared and hijacked by anxiety, worrying you could get it wrong. Remind yourself there is no such thing as a perfect human don’t think of this zen calm figure that is able to give validation with ease, radically accept it will take practice, you have good intentions and you are doing your best.


• You might hold positive beliefs about tough love. Your belief system might sound like “People just need to get a grip and sort their lives out.”


• You are in a permanent problem solving mode. Carers and people with living with BPD will have spent so much time trying to problem solve, it can be a difficult mode to get out of and it has probably been much needed when trying to get yourself or your loved one the help you or they need. We are also biologically programmed to problem solve, our hunter/gatherer behaviour really demonstrates this, as fantastic as problem solving is, unfortunately it gets in the way of giving validation.


When could I validate? -


• Before going into problem solving.

• To deescalate a situation.

• To bond and be present with someone you care for.

• To repair a relationship rupture.

• When setting a boundary.

• When you’re feeling vulnerable or fragile, there will be a myriad of reasons, find them and practice validating yourself.


How do I validate?


Listen - to what you are being told, listen to the other person’s tone and listen for any hint about what they might be feeling. Adjust your energy accordingly, for example, if they’re agitated talk calmly and steadily.

Reflect, paraphrase, check you’ve understood, reflect the emotion

- “ I see you’re anxious that Wendy hasn’t called you back, it’s been all day since you called and that’s a long time for you, is that right?”


Look - try to tune into the other person’s facial expression, look for the unarticulated message, again this will help you begin to imagine how this person might be feeling. Look to their past to make sense of the situation, look to the grain of truth, the causal factor

“I can see you’re stressed, it makes sense because I know you felt left out your last friendship group, I wonder if you’re also disappointed, I know you really wanted to talk to Wendy today…”


Walk - How would it feel to walk in their shoes? How would it be to really imagine the worlld of the other person.

“If I had experienced what you had, I’d be stressed too.see how much this is impacting you.”

“If anyone walked in your shoes they would feel disappointed too.”

“I get that these emotions can feel tough when they come up very suddenly.”



Validation is a standalone skill or a bridge to other skills, such as problem solving or setting boundaries. As with any skill, start light, do more research and reach out to the professionals if you feel you need more help.


Contact Geraldine for more information.

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