Tag Archives: validation

R – E – S – P – E – C – T

“I’m glad you were born.” That is what I told my wife on the day I met her, her 30th birthday. She liked it. Still does.

Wishing someone a happy birthday or a happy any day is an affirmation, a validation of their right to air. It is an expression of our willingness to share life with them. That is a very powerful kind of respect, and all we want is a little respect.

Yesterday, I enjoyed birthday wishes from many people on Facebook, some who have never seen my face. I got calls from my daughters, and my teenage grandson talked to me for several minutes. Nancy made my favorite dinner. It was a good day.

The first step in healing scars of trauma may be the simple act of validation, an affirmation of humanity. Happy birthday, good morning, or an honest smile may be all it takes. It is easy and cheap. Why is it so rare?

For those afflicted with invisible wounds (most of us), there is a double problem. First, we believe people are more dangerous than lions, tigers, or bears. We have great difficulty trusting people. Second, we have trouble feeling worthy so that any perceived slight is taken as gross disrespect.

Road rage is a problem—even inside the supermarket.

A simple kind of love soothes us. It might be a form of philos, the love of our fellow human beings, that encourages us back to social and emotional health. When someone takes the time to wish us well, even without words by offering us help or encouragement, it validates our humanity. We feel bigger, more worthy, and less wounded.

A colleague stopped by my office, yesterday, just to ask me if I had enough work to do. That was a validation of my efforts to move our program development along, an acknowledgement of my worth.

Another invited me to participate in his class even though I had too much to do to go. He gave me the materials to read on my time. That is professional respect.

I am a fortunate man.

Our world is full of angry, ill people, and we have developed a habit of pointing out faults of the other. We feel like others, us and them, and so we become enemies when we are really all the same. We all want a little respect.

“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Breathe all the air you want, today, and have a great day. I’m glad you were born.

Internal Invalid

People who have experienced a bad day at the war seem to have difficulty playing well with others. Yet, they are extremely loyal. Is this a conflict? Yes, but not a contradiction. It is a product of a war between instinct and experience.

“People are able to survive because they can collectively work together and tame lions, tigers, and bears. (Hart, 2000, p. 41)

Reminder: For the next few months, this blog is dedicated to my reflections on a book by Ashley B. Hart II, PhD, called An Operators Manual for Combat PTSD: Essays for Coping.

A happy, healthy human being experiences a thousand or two negative thoughts about himself/herself daily. We criticize our weight, hair, attitude, voice, ambition, blah, blah, blah. And, these are our good days.

Human beings are genetically programmed to make hundreds or thousands of negative statements about themselves daily, usually through internal thoughts. This is an instinct that allows us to become willing to join a group, to cooperate. We put ourselves down so that our egos bend to the will of the group. We all do it, to varying degrees, and it has enabled our species to be amazingly successful.

We thrive because we are social animals. Our power comes from cooperation, sharing risks, and pooling resources. What we lack in strength, speed, and agility we gain in numbers and diversity of aptitudes. We are the way we are because it works. But, there is a price to pay. We doubt ourselves and require personal validation from other people. You could say that we are genetically codependent.

Jeremiah Johnson did not go home after his war. He ran instead to the Rocky Mountains, alone, and found himself at risk of dying until he was rescued by an old mountain man. Many of us dream of running away and living off the land by our own wits—only to find that at one time or another we need other people. We find ourselves vulnerable because we cannot see behind us. We need someone to cover our six (twelve o’clock is forward, six, behind). Yet, we are convinced by our war experiences that people are more dangerous than lions, tigers, and bears.

One solution is the gang. We find a few people with whom we identify, perhaps fellow Vietnam Veterans, and we lean on each other. We learn to trust a few individuals to watch our backs. We watch theirs. The problem is that instead of validating each other, we tend to reinforce our mutual distrust of other people. It becomes a “we-them” world, and there are more of them than of us.

Worse even than that, we fail to fully trust anyone. The better we get to know others, and they get to know us, the greater the likelihood that we discover reasons to distrust each other. Differences in beliefs are revealed that drive a wedge between us, and we abandon another relationship to distrust.

In my novel, Beyond the Blood Chit, I use two metaphors for this dilemma. The blood chit is a promise of reward for helping one of our troops to get back to American help. For me, it is an obligation to rescue others. It is an extension of my genetic need to serve the group. The symbol I use for our obsession with escape from vulnerability is the daggaboy, the aging bachelor male Cape Buffalo who leaves the herd to live alone or in a small bachelor group in his private little mud (dagga) hole. The conflicting demands of rescue and escape are literally products of genetics and experience.

There is a solution. Disability claims actually validate the individual. Some negative self-talk is reduced as my country (VA in my case) publicly acknowledges my condition and awards a form of recognition. I am validated as wounded, in a way. I come to accept that combat is part of who I have become.

Learning that many things I have disliked about myself (thoughts, feelings, and behaviors) actually resulted from combat experiences has validated me as a “good” person. I continue to study combat PTSD because it helps me squelch the negative self recrimination to a socially functional level so that I can feel less vulnerable while I practice playing well with others. There is an interesting kind of comfort in knowing what is causing my personal negativity and a greater comfort in finding solutions. Next week I will look at good grief and closure.