The Rhubarb Crumble – a lesson in validation


To begin with I will give you two definitions of validation …
To acknowledge and accept a person’s feelings, thoughts, behaviours and internal experience as valid and understandable.

To confirm or strengthen what is relevant, true, or effective about a response, be it a thought, emotion, physical sensation, or action. Validation requires empathy (the accurate understanding of the person’s experience) but validation also includes the communication that the person’s response makes sense. (Linehan) From Karyn Hall’s NEABPD call in 2011

Some of the things validation helps with are communication, building trust, it can help lessen the distress for someone and shows you just get it.

Invalidation causes the person to get more upset and this happens to many people who self harm and attend A&E or by other Health Care Professionals not taking people seriously or family and friends.

When I’m educating people about validation this is the story I tell ….

One day my daughter had gone off on a bike ride with my wife and I was outside gardening. Suddenly I heard the car pull in and I thought hmm what’s happened here? My daughter appeared on the path her chin wobbling looking really upset.

I asked her ‘what’s wrong what’s happened? She replied that her chain had broken on her bike and she didn’t get to go on the bike ride ..

I said ‘oh no you really wanted to go on that bike ride you must be really upset ‘ (validation)

She started crying and I asked her what she wanted to do she replied her voice faltering that she just didn’t know. I saw that there was rhubarb growing in the garden and she loved baking. I said how about you make a rhubarb crumble I can cut you some? She said ok and after a few tears off she went into the house and baked a delicious rhubarb crumble.

Now take two…. rewind …. If she had come down the path and I’d said oh you can go on a bike ride another day, listen big girls don’t cry (invalidation)

I know she would have become really upset more than likely run down the path into the house slamming doors and more importantly I wouldn’t have got a rhubarb crumble!!

But seriously this is what happens in life particularly with those who seek help for self harm. They are often ignored, treated with disdain and those overwhelming emotions that often bring people to self harm are completely invalidated. A few validating statements such as ‘ it looks like you’re having a really tough time right now’ or ‘You must be really hurting right now’ would help. It’s not about necessarily agreeing with the self harm its about letting the person know you get the real emotional pain they are in.

My thoughts are also that people could learn a thing or two from the people on Twitter with mental health difficulties … Watch how they validate each other on a daily basis show empathy and really help each other. We know how it feels and we know how to help, peer support at its best.

I’m wondering how people use validation in their work or day to day life? I use it at work with people my colleagues and my family. It truly helps with relationships.


About bpdffs

I campaign for better services for people with BPD. I run #BPDchat onTwitter on Sundays at 9pm BST, please join us. I train CMHT staff in BPD awareness and run psycho-educational courses for people with BPD. I am a governor at Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust.

5 responses to “The Rhubarb Crumble – a lesson in validation”

  1. katywibbers says :

    Fantastic stuff! I have EUPD and constantly crave validation for myself – still! I’ve been fortunate enough to do a course of DBT and that taught me SO much about the importance of validating feelings regardless of whether we perceive them to be appropriate or proportional.
    I hope I have always tried with my kids to let them express themselves openly and without fear of being judged since I became a parent (15 loooong years ago!). BUT, I have definitely been guilty of saying “Don’t be silly sweetheart” when I thought they were overreacting to something I perceived as trivial. I hope I never say those words to my kids again.
    We simply cannot know how big a person’s feelings are at any given moment. I truly believe a few words, like you mentioned, can be the difference between beginning to calm anxiety and sadness. We don’t ‘allow’ people their feelings – particularly children.
    Blogs like this highlight that so well.
    Thanks. And I hope you’re in a good place right now.

    • bpdffs says :

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, I agree DBT is great and learning to self validate is so difficult but so worth it.
      Being a parent can be tough and wonderful in both measures and we never get it right but we just have to be good enough.
      I’m very well thanks and I hope you are too . Thanks once again.

  2. Sam says :

    Fantastic blog thank you. I self harm and have had both excellent and appalling care. I now deliver training on self harm using my experiences to help HCP understand & learn about self harm. I also work with schools and try to demystify self harm.
    Love the rhubarb crumble story a great way to get the message across and that’s half the battle!

  3. Joyce says :

    Reblogged this on MAKE BPD STIGMA-FREE!.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: