I was talking with someone about this the other day and while we were coming at it from very different angles, it’s something I’ve had on my mind a lot lately (relative to invalidating environment as a component of Linehan’s biosocial theory). It’s hard to know what to say. I know from my own experience with validation of children, it goes really poorly to try and tell someone they are being invalidating. It throws up a “box” around them, as C. Warner Terry puts it, and you can’t put someone in a box without being in a box. Let’s call it the first rule of box club.
The antidote to the box is love, defined as best I can remember as wanting for that person what they would want if you were them. This gets hairy when you think you know better than someone what they really want, though it can run the extremes of enabling an addict to preventing a child from making a life altering choice.
“What is Love, baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more”
Another way I’ve heard this put, which was a favored quote of my personality professor, is “Abuse says: ‘I want you to be who I want you to be’ while Love says ‘I want you to be who you are.” I found this quote really challenging because unlike most of the college students, I was in my 40’s and had a gamut of teens. I was starting from a place of having really poor boundaries due to a tumultuous upbringing.
I do hold Jesus as an ideal of what mortals can aspire to in Love. But he could be short with people. Mark reports him as being angry on occasion, which baffled me at a certain point in my life. Mostly he responded to such situations by becoming apparently inscrutable. It seems to me he became this way with people who presumed to tell him he was being unlawful. It seems that self certainty is an enemy of Love, though I yearn for love to be certain, in the sense of faithful. Stronger, as Joseph Smith recorded, than the bands of death.
Sometimes we think that because God is certain and absolute, that if we have these qualities we are godly. But I can’t really think this about someone without putting them in Warner’s “box”. To assume I know better than them who they are.
Validation requires that we see someone as they are, and hear what they are trying to say. It does not mean we necessarily agree. It’s probably a good sign of individuation if we don’t agree.