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  • Writer's pictureEdward Dreslinski

The Worst Myth Therapists Tell Their Clients

"Your feelings are always valid."

This might be the worst thing that therapists tell their clients. This statement has an inverse relationship with accountability. It's true that no one gets to decide how a person feels. That doesn't mean that you have to validate those feelings. Acknowledge...yes. Validate...absolutely not.

Validity implies accuracy. So if you are going to validate someone's feelings you have to be very sure that you agree that his or her feeling is justified. Here are some examples of feelings that may or may not be valid:

I am really angry that you were late for our date. I don't care that you had a flat tire.

I just feel like you have been distant today. Something feels "off."

I got a C+ on my paper. I feel like my professor is being unfair and just doesn't like me.

I am angry that you can't see why I'm upset too. Can't you just acknowledge that what you said also hurt my feelings?

It's true that the people making these statement might feel that way. It doesn't mean that their feelings are based on anything real or rational. In the last example, the person is likely resorting to either the red herring and/or ad hominem "attacking the person" logic fallacy. Basically this is them saying, "I don't want to be held accountable so I'm either going to redirect this to something that I feel like I have a right to be angry about or just start attacking your personhood."

This is why I always emphasize the importance of reality testing. Having people that you can process your interactions and/or emotional reactions with is exceptionally helpful, particularly if we know those people are credible and without an agenda. You have to learn how to take a step back and ask yourself if everyone knew the reality of the situation would you be the hero or the villain? This is how we figure out if how we are feeling is valid or not. Just because you have an emotion doesn't mean that it is valid.

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