Mental Health News: Supporting a distressed friend or family member by telling something as simple as “I understand why you feel that way” can help loved ones feel better and foster a positive outlook.
Researchers from Ohio State University conducted three experiments, to assess the effects of validation and invalidation on positive emotions and negative emotions. Researcher Jennifer Cheavens said that positive emotions are those that allow us to be curious, connected and flexible in our thinking, while negative emotions include disgust, fear or sadness.
Researchers asked 307 participants to write and verbally describe real-life situations that made them angry. When the researchers didn’t show any support or understanding for what the participants were going through in their lives, it led to a decline in positive emotions in the participants. The invalidating responses from the listener ranged from “that doesn’t sound like anger” to “Why would that make you so angry?”
On the other hand, when the researchers validated what the storytellers were saying with words like “Of course you’d be angry about that” or “I hear what you’re saying and I understand you feel angry,” participant’s positive emotions were protected and stayed the same. The team used a questionnaire to measure positive and negative emotions at the beginning and end of the study and overall mood at several time points during the experiments.
“When you process negative emotions, that negative effect gets turned on. But if someone validates you, it keeps your positive affect buffered. Validation protects people’s effect so they can stay curious in interpersonal interactions and in therapy,” Cheavens said.
To Know More You May Refer To:
Benitez, C., Howard, K. P., & Cheavens, J. S. (2020). The effect of validation and invalidation on positive and negative affective experiences. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2020.1832243