Have you ever felt confused, or even gaslit, after spending time with someone challenging? If you have, here's a question for you: was your subjective experience being honored?
That's a big question.
At least, it was for me the first time I heard it.
It's a question I wish younger me knew; but it was fully in my blind spot until I was having a conversation with Annie Wright* last year around this time.
What is subjective experience?
And why should we care?
If we were sitting down for a meal together, we could describe the experience with objective facts, like "there are tacos on our plates", or "there's music playing".
The subjective experience would be if we added descriptions. For example, these tacos are delicious.
When we are with people we connect with, typically our subjective experience is honored. It doesn't mean they necessarily agree with us, although they might. What it means is that they accept what we are saying is real for us. We feel felt.
Honoring our own subjective experience is something we can do for ourselves IF we know to do it. And if we remember to remember to do it.
Honoring our own Subjective Experience
As adults, if we are interacting with a person that doesn't have the emotional maturity for empathy and compassion, we can give that to ourselves. But it's challenging to remember to turn towards our inner-connection in the moment; especially if we didn't have it modeled for us when we were growing up.
Good Girl Programming
For those of us that were raised to be 'good', that often meant ignoring our own wants and needs. We may not have experienced someone else honoring our subjective experience as young people. As a result, we may have internalized some of those thought-habits.
How do you speak to yourself?
If we have a thought-habit of not validating our own subjective reality, it could show up as minimizing our own experiences, as a harsh inner critic, a relentless inner task master, as feeling a melancholy that doesn't feel 'justified'; along with a myriad of other possible expressions.
Less-than-helpful self talk is typically a behavior that was once adaptive. Our 'history-colored glasses' are designed to scan the environment to keep us physically and psychologically safe. So, OF COURSE it makes sense that as we travel our remothering journeys, we will uncover habits of doing or thinking that were once adaptive, but may no longer be. And when we do, we have the option to intentionally unlearn the unhelpful 'programming' and replace it with something that makes sense now.
The more often we can remember to remember to turn within, the more often we DO remember to remember. So, here's an invitation:
Take a moment right now to notice what it felt like in the past when your subjective experience was not validated.
Where did you feel it in your body?
Now that you have that feeling activated, turn within. What do you want to tell yourself? (and if you are stumped for words, what would you be saying to a dear friend in this situation?)
Try to take it in, receive those kind words coming from you to you
Notice how it feels
If you'd like to keep exploring, here are some journal prompts for self-reflection:
As you reflect back to your childhood, how often was your subjective experience honored?
What about now?
As you think about this in the context of different relationships, what are you noticing?
When my subjective experience is honored, I feel __________
I can validate my own subjective experience by _________
*You may recognize the name Annie Wright from her many articles on mental health, from her talks at the reMothering Masterclass, or because of her popular course: Hard Families, Good Boundaries. She's amazing. For more about Annie Wright, check outAnnieWright.com
Article written by:
Simona Vivi H
Simona Vivi Hadjigeorgalis is the founder of reMothering.org, a collaborative space where industry leaders create remothering resources for independent-learning. Simona also has a private coaching practice at The Center for Remothering.