Trauma Blog #2: Validatiion
[Disclaimer: The tips in this article do not come from a mental health or medical professional. While the writer does have some background in psychology and physical health, the following content is intended to express the personal experience of one individual and not replace expert mental health and medical advice.]
First, I want to apologize for posting late. I spent the week taking a much-needed visit to see my family and I've been playing catch-up around the house since I got back. I'll try to post on Wednesday in the future.
In my last article, I shared what I called my "four pillars" of coping with Trauma. Essentially, my coping method is centered on health and well-being, but a key component of recovery is social support. I mentioned some techniques for coping with an insufficient social support system which included self-validation. I would like to unpack validation today.
Many of you are likely familiar with the practice of seeking external validation for one's self; it happens to the best of us. I, for example, I've certainly committed the faux pas of "fishing for a compliment" from a friend or acquaintance. [ Am I pretty?] However, seeking validation from others isn't always a petty-thing, sometimes validation is needed--especially when you have experienced a major traumatic event. This means that a supportive social group can be helpful--perhaps even crucial sometimes--to the person struggling with trauma. Validation may come in the form of a friend recognizing the seriousness of what has happened to you or a family member understanding the traumatic-stress you experience.
However, not every traumatized-person is guaranteed a social support system and external validation. As I mentioned in my previous article, many people just don't have a solid understanding of mental health and don't understand what trauma is like. So how do you cope with trauma and a lack of social support? Self-validation.
To me, self-validation is a simple concept in theory. All you need to do is accept yourself and your internal experience--you are valid. In reality, it's not that simple, especially when you're dealing with the motions of traumatic stress. The depression, anxiety, panic and flashbacks can leave you thinking you're "crazy" and you might think you're wrong for having emotional responses to trauma.
I've dealt with this self-blame and self-doubt throughout my coping and recovery. I found that it was necessary for me to make a conscious effort to validate my feelings. I did this by recognizing that it is human and it is normal to experience stress and pain after trauma. Doing this made me feel more grounded and even made it easier to handle panic attacks or "flight or fight" parasympathetic episodes. When stress, fear or pain came up--I reminded myself that there is a real-traumatic-experience I'm responding to--and that's why I feel the way I do.
Validating your pain is one part of my self-validation method, the other is validating your needs:
When you are in the midst of coping with trauma or beginning recovery, you may require special accommodations and might have to take breaks for yourself--maybe more than a non-traumatized person. This can be difficult, because often recovery requires taking a pause from your responsibilities like work. Your family and friends may not understand the changes your taking to recover or cope; they may even criticize you for taking time off. That's why it's important to validate your recovery method and your health.
When I'm struggling with questions or criticisms from friends and family, I remind myself that what I am doing is the healthy thing; giving myself time to heal is necessary after trauma--and one day, it will pay off. This requires patience with yourself; recovering from trauma can take a long time--longer than your support group might appreciate--but you have to remain steadfast and recognize there is not a time limit; it will take as long as it takes. [At least, that's I what I think.]
By validating my internal experience and recognizing that trauma means I have to take extra time to heal, I am motivated to stay on track--and I do feel better as time goes on, though I have ups and downs. Through self-validation, I stay focused on my goal and envision a future where I am healed and able to fulfill my full-potential.
Image Credit » https://pixabay.com/en/running-runner-long-distance-573762/