Misinterpretations of “Your Feelings are Valid”

We’ve all heard this phrase before, “Your Feelings are Valid.” It’s intended to provide clarity and acceptance of feelings and emotions that are happening. It can also be misused to uphold a toxic environment.

The most toxic of the phrases used in this comic is “Good Vibes Only.” It causes an environment where anything considered negative is not accepted. But here’s the catch: all feelings are valid, meaning there’s no such thing as negative feelings. Not only this, but also when a certain feeling or emotion is not accepted, it tends to sit and fester. 

It’s like putting the lid on a pressure cooker. You put the lid on so that you don’t have to face what’s inside. All the while, the lid is causing the pressure to build up, and it will eventually explode. It’s best to just leave the pot open and allow the feelings to come up and out whenever it needs to.

Your feelings are valid. Let them happen.

Another point is that feelings are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes clients come to me saying things like, “I really want to be supportive, but I feel anxious about what’s going on.”

Ok, great! You don’t have to choose one, you can be both. You’re allowed to be both supportive and anxious. They’re both happening. Or even if there are three, or four, or five emotions happening all at once. You don’t have to choose, feelings are not mutually exclusive. Once you accept this, you’ll find yourself in the amazingly beautiful mix of emotions that makes up the human experience.

Another common reaction to feelings is trying to figure out why they’re here, or how they got here. I know in the long-run, this can have tremendous benefits, but at the moment the feelings are happening, it’s best to just accept they’re here and act accordingly.

A metaphor I like to use is like a soldier on the front lines. The enemy is right in front of them, and suddenly a line of tanks appears on the left flank. Some people might react with “How the hell did they get here? Why are they here?”, but those questions and their answers are not useful in the moment. It doesn’t matter why they’re here, or how they came to be here. They’re here now, so act accordingly.

Once the firefight is over and things have settled, you can take a look at the bigger picture and go over what happened to figure out how the tanks got here. But in the moment, in the middle of battle, there’s no time, and there’s also nothing that can be done about it. Just deal with the fact that they’re here now.

Speaking of acting accordingly, another misinterpretation of “Your Feelings are Valid” is that you get to act it out in any way you feel like. I mean, yes your feelings are valid. They have a right to exist. But that doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want as a result of it, without your behavior impacting your relationships.

Your actions still have consequences. You’re allowed to feel angry that your friend arrived late for the third time. That’s valid. If you yell at your friend and tell them what a terrible person they are for being late, don’t be surprised if they don’t make plans with you any more, or stop responding to your texts and phone calls.

Yes, you’re allowed to have your feelings, but there’s a difference between expressing your feelings, and aiming them at someone. 

The difference sounds like the difference between, “I’m feeling upset right now” and “You’re such an asshole! Why are you always late? You’re wasting so much of my time!”

Be responsible for your actions, and accept the consequences. After all, the common denominator in everything that happens in your life is *you*.

What did this open up for you? Are you facing something right now that this made a difference for you? Please tell me, I’d love to know!
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