My cat and I are the same person. Well, aside from the fact that she’s not a person. She’s a cat, obviously. But other than that, we are the same.
We both want constant reassurance and validation that those close to us do in fact love us. My cat is rarely more than a foot away from me and is constantly asking for pets. Right now, she is rubbing on and walking across my computer as I type this. She meows emotionally anytime she thinks I might be leaving, and anytime I take a nap she snuggles up with me. I, similarly, am terrified my boyfriend and friends don’t love me and will abandon me. Oops. This leads to over-analyzing pauses in texts, reading into any constructive criticism in texts, and feeling very upset if I am even remotely left out of a group activity.
I was diagnosed with borderline-personality disorder a couple years ago (though I now know a ton of DBT skills and am in recovery). These big emotions and big interpersonal fears make sense. But maybe my cat also has BPD? I’m kidding, mostly, because of course a cat can’t be diagnosed with a mental illness structured around human thought and behavior. But it is interesting to note how similar my cat and I are to one another.
In a way, it works out almost perfectly. She pretty constantly loves on me, and I pretty constantly love on her. We both have a wonderful companion. I say it almost perfectly works out because sometimes I do get annoyed with her incessant demands for pets and following me around to the point that it can be hard to walk across my apartment. But I still love her.
This can serve as a good reminder to me to remain skillful when interacting with loved ones. I don’t want to be so constantly asking for reassurance they love me in unhealthy ways that I become annoying or strain the relationship. There are skillful and unskillful ways to as for validation and love. Some unskillful ways are using threats, self-harm, and crossing boundaries. Some skillful ways to address emotions in a relationship are the DEARMAN skill, validating how the other person feels, and self-validation of how you feel.
Self-validation is when we take it upon ourselves to acknowledge our emotions as okay and worthwhile, rather than relying on someone else to allow and accept these emotions as valid. And self-validation is by far the DBT skill I am worst at executing. It’s a terrible habit of mine to go to others first for validation, when I could just validate emotions myself. I’m not saying it’s always wrong to want validation from others; external validation has its merits. I’m pointing out instead that my ratio of external to internal validation is off.
I’m not sure what the moral or conclusion of this post it, besides that I shouldn’t write blog posts past 9pm and that my cat and I were meant for each other. But also this validation imbalance is something I need to work on.