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October 4, 2013

There is a ubiquitous message out there, that the best response to pain and suffering at the hands of “wrongdoers” is to create awareness. How this awareness is usually created is to inform the wrongdoers about the emotional impact their actions have had on yourself. In some cases this message of awareness turns into an attempt to shame the wrongdoer into ceasing the wrong doing behavior against your person hood. I call this message, validation seeking behavior. This validation seeking behavior should not be confused with the concept of a positive peer culture, (later in this post I shall explain what positive peer culture is.)

Validation seeking behavior is the process were you go about convincing others that you are truly suffering from wrong doing from others or other circumstances beyond your control. The belief with seeking validation is that if you do a good enough job in convincing others (including wrongdoers) that you have indeed suffered, it would provoke significant compassion in the hearts of others that they will reach out to help you out of the problem or crisis you are experiencing.

The belief of seeking validation has three potential flaws, and they are as follows;

1. What happens when those that receive the message of your pain and suffering don’t care? This especially applies to wrongdoers, as in order for them to have acted out on the wrong doing behavior, they must have thought it through and they clearly didn’t care enough to consider the emotional impact it would have on your life.

2. What if those that receive the message are in the same boat as you? You would think that this would be a good thing, but if you have a group of people going through a period of suffering who believe that seeking validation for their suffering is their ticket out of suffering, what you really have are a group of sufferers competing with each other about who deserves more sympathy.

3. What if those that receive the message and feel sympathy for you, are willing to help you but don’t know how to help you? This is a scenario that I can relate to, quite often I meet with people who spend good money with me to lament their pain and suffering and after I have acknowledged their pain and suffering, I ask them one question;

“What does wellness look like for you?” The response I typically get after I pose this question is silence followed by the answer, “I don’t know.”

Here lies the ultimate flaw with validation seeking, now that your pain and suffering has been acknowledged, now what? Earlier in this post, I wrote that validation seeking behavior should not be confused with positive peer culture, and here is the reason why; A positive peer culture is a culture where people come together with the common interest in helping each other solve problems. 

Positive peer cultures are formed all the time, from school clubs to business associations, these are groups formed by people who have willingly identified an ongoing problem in their lives and have a healthy idea of what their lives would look like without these problems even if they do not have a working solution.

The idea that we need to seek validation for suffrage we have endured is a dangerous one, dangerous because it also contains a hidden and false message that human beings are not supposed to experience pain and suffering. In truth, the purpose of life is to pursue goals that are consistent with the meaning you have given to your life, through good times and bad times. Suffering, regardless of the cause is inevitable in the lives of every human being and once we buy into messages that lead us into believing that we are not supposed to struggle we develop a false sense of entitlement that things should always go our way.

The only person who should validate your pain and suffering is you. Your ability identify and interpret your pain and suffering is the first step towards seeking solutions for the problems you are experiencing.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC, a professional counseling and life coaching private practice.

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