You are currently viewing Validating Our Emotions

Validating Our Emotions

Stop being so hard on ourselves!

Following on from my previous blog about emotional dysregulation and how to name and tame our strong emotions, this blog looks at the importance of validating our emotions. 

When we experience intense feelings of anger or frustration, anxiety or disappointment, we often judge ourselves for what we’re feeling – I should be able to deal with life more easily, I should be able to stay calm or let go. This self judgment only creates MORE emotional pain for ourselves. 

Say, for example, we shout at the children for fighting on the back seat of the car on the way home from school. We totally lose, they are shocked and silent. Then we remind ourselves that they’ve got a lot on their plate too – maybe they’re stressed about schoolwork, or have argued with their friends – and we start to judge ourselves as ‘a bad parent’. Now, not only are we still feeling frustrated with the children (and them with us!), but we might also be feeling guilt, shame and anger at ourselves. This is how we can increase the intensity of emotions we’re experiencing.

No good and bad emotions

An important thing to remember is that emotions are not good or bad, right or wrong; they just are. Whatever we feel is what we should feel, given the circumstances and our perceptions and interpretations of what’s happening.

The Guesthouse is a well-known poem by 13th century Persian poet Rumi that sums this up perfectly!

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

English translation of a poem by Rumi

Am I judging myself too harshly?

Take a moment to think about your own experience with emotions: do you have feelings you believe you ‘shouldn’t’ feel? Make sure you’re not mixing up emotions with behaviours, by the way: feeling angry (emotion), for instance, is very different from yelling when you’re angry (behaviour). Once you’ve identified what emotions you judge yourself for feeling, see if you can connect those to messages you’ve received about these feelings: where did you learn that ‘it’s not OK to feel sad’, for example?

Next, take some time to consider how you might validate yourself, instead of continuing to judge yourself for the feeling. Validation doesn’t mean you like the emotion, or that you want it to stick around; it just means that you accept what you’re feeling. Try writing out some statements to help you validate the emotion, such as the following:

  • I feel angry. It’s okay that I feel angry right now.
  • It makes sense that I’m angry right now because … (fill in your reason here). It makes sense that I have problems with my temper because of the environment in which I grew up.


Self-talk is typically quite hard to change because it’s automatic and very ingrained in us, so write out your validating statements or put them in your phone so you always have them with you. When you notice that emotion arising within you, pull them out to read to yourself. Try reading them once or twice a day and, over time, you should see a shift in how you think about that feeling – you should find that you become more accepting of your emotions and less judgmental of yourself for feeling that way.

Book a counselling session today!



Need some advice and support?

If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.

See also: Why do I feel so emotional? How to Manage Intense Emotions   Managing Emotions