Notes: On Teaching Validation

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These are my notes from a seminar I gave about my learning and teaching of Validation. I believe it is a clear, simple and direct expression of that Paradigm Shift that Harville Hendrix spoke of so long ago.  I think is the central teaching of Imago Therapy to therapists, couples, individuals and the world..  I think this issue perhaps distinguishes me most in the Imago therapy community.

I will focus more on various little paths I have traveled, and bridges I have crossed, in making this Paradigm Shift.   Perhaps my struggles may be useful to you in your journey. 

To listen to this seminar click this link.  To use the rest of my website, click here

 I was taught MVE (Mirror, Validate, Empathize) like everyone else in Imago

  • I had trouble with Validation, but went along with it during training.

  • I was in training with my wife, Sandra

  • Practiced teaching it
  • And doing it. 
  • Led us to understand the trouble with Validation as taught in Imago

Focus on Word “Sense”

  • My discovery that Sandra made sense, based on information she would give me later.  Sandra was never “Odd.”  I was just uninformed.
  • Who decides what makes sense?  Whose label is it?  Brought us to the awareness of “ unowned thoughts” and MasterTalk.
  • “You make sense” is the bones of one-way thinking.
  • Words have no meaning.  People have meaning.  
  • Question of  Why did someone do something.
  • My college teacher of Learning Theory: Linda Fitzgerald: Why Rats turn left in a Maze?  Why do humans turn left at an intersection?
  • Trying to understand myself led to the simple split between a) what I know about myself and b) what I don’t know.  My unknown.  Functional split: awareness and unconscious.  
  • Being seasick, have an emergency, immediately not seasick

This led us to discard MVE as primary communication skill

I wrote a letter “To Imago Therapists

  • My distress over Imago MVE and the emphasis on M over V or E.
  • Imago therapists, with MVE, argue viciously – why?  Not learned to Validate!
  • Fight for a) your religion’s survival among others or b) for your religion’s dominance over others
  • “If two people are agreeing, at least one is lying.”
  • “We believe it is impossible for two people to agree on anything. “
  • “We agree to create and maintain a community in which we do not need to agree.”


  • Sharing clearly and fully vs. Arguing vigorously
  • Both can be called “Argument.”  Difference is the subtle or not so subtle attempt to push your opinion on others – not make space for them to choose for themselves.
  • Best you can get from an argument is that your partner will shut up and go underground with their disagreement.  You will end up “blind.”
  • Argument is the bones of warfare.  Trying to get one point of view to prevail.
  • Imago form of validation is the bones of one-way thinking. .Implies “You may not make sense.”  “You don’t make sense.”  Easily implies the listener is in a position to judge the sense of the sender.
  • Talk about “Common Sense” in the abstract.  A clue to not having made the paradigm shift. 
  • “Common sense” is a word phrase just like others, and has no meaning by itself.  People have meaning.  Asserting common sense is like saying this dictionary definition is the right one.

Protecting Self-hood: Diversity and Autonomy

  • References:  Choice Theory,   Wm Glasser, – People never do what they are told.  Always choose.  Human behavior is initiated from within.
  • References:  Art of Awareness  J. Samuel Bois  General Semantics  Two people never see anything the same way.
  • Dictionary is a history book of how people are using words. 
  • Einstein spoke of the specific and exact Rules of Relativity – not wishy-washy
  • My experience: Viet Nam. Soldiers fight so that at home we can disagree.  They die so that we can be diverse.  Our buddies are sacrificed so that we can debate anything.  They do not fight so that we should conform.
  • Marriage counselors, if successful, take firm stands validating both partners
  • Gettysburg address: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure….. that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
  • Validation is the practice of ensuring democracy: home, politics, world
  • President of all people, not “president of the leader of a point of view.”  George Washington saw The President as being “above” party politics and making sure that the debating continued.  Would never have suppressed dissent.
  • I have much more confidence in expressing my beliefs, while simultaneously ensuring room for other’s beliefs.
  • Sensitivity to even slight pressure to agree.  “Don’t say that!”

“Validate the Shit out of Them”

  • By Validating you remove their doubt in their sanity: “Do I make sense.” “Is what I am saying making sense.” “Uno”
  • Build confidence in being different and unique and in relaxed experience of other people being different and unique.
  • The specific skill to building Self-esteem


  • Prevalidatory sounds.  “of course”  “sure” etc.
  • Story: Guy tells me his wife left him.  I respond, ‘Of course.’  He then tells me she left with a car and a few clothes.  I respond, ‘That makes sense.’  He says that she can’t live like that.  I respond, ‘Silly!  Sure she can.’  He loudly asks what the hell I am talking about.  I respond, ‘I have learned that people always do what makes sense to them.  I am just reminding you that I believe she makes sense, and that I am eager to hear what her sense is.  I am not going to waste time on thinking she doesn’t make sense.  I am starting to wonder what you do that may encourage her to leave.  And I wonder if you want her back.’


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