By: Fran Bulloff, VTI President
Wherever you live today, you cannot escape online disinformation and trolling. Such efforts to persuade and provoke are based on knowingly repeating falsehoods until they are accepted as truth by unsuspecting readers, who become enraged, feel threatened and fearful. Political speeches are routinely followed by disclaimers and fact checkers pointing out distortions and even downright lies unsupported by any facts. We are besieged by claims of hoaxes, conspiracy theories, and intentional fake news. Institutional lying has become the norm on a daily basis, and it is perpetuated by those who actually believe the untruths and repost them to others, as toxic a transmission as the coronavirus. We also see lots of finger pointing to shift blame or avoid answering hard questions. Who can you believe? Who can you trust? In the United States a tremendous amount of distrust has been generated about something fundamental to democratic societies: free elections. Every voter must believe that his/her voice is heard through the vote and trust the process to connect us with our elected officials. Without the trust and cooperation of the public, it is impossible to govern peacefully. The same is true of basic human relationships.
The coronavirus pandemic has added strains on all kinds of relationships, but when the pandemic is over, how will we build bonds based on honesty and trust? The simple answer is to start by telling the truth, even if it is hard to say and hear. This is particularly true in the field of eldercare. Even very old people living with age-related cognitive changes have a gut knowledge of what is true, yet many caregivers choose to disregard honest communication for what they think may be more expedient approaches. It is so easy to distract and divert when caring for someone who keeps asking the same question or reverting to the same inappropriate behavior over and over again. Agitation may appear to be temporarily eased by the polite offer of tea and cookies, but light refreshments don’t respond to the root causes of the unrest and they will continue to reappear.
Another popular technique used in eldercare is called “the therapeutic lie.” Simply put, the therapeutic lie is pretending to believe what the disoriented old person is saying is true, while knowing it is false. The caregiver placates by simply saying “yes, yes” or the equivalent. The disoriented older woman waiting by the door for her husband to take her home is dismissed by her caregiver who says: “He is coming but called to say he can’t make it today.” Never mind that her husband is deceased and there is no home for her to live in on her own now. The woman just keeps waiting for him by the door day after day missing her old life together with her husband. A validating caregiver might ask: “What was your husband like? Where did you meet him?” In that way, the woman can reminisce and have pleasure in those memories. It’s not about the door; it’s about returning to those feelings.
Naomi Feil’s Validation method has always repudiated distraction, diversion, redirection, and therapeutic lies as inconsistent with honest validating communication. Validation Master Vicki de Klerk explains that Validation walks a line between lying and diversion on one side and direct confrontation on the other side. Validation is unusual because it does not focus on the truth of the current outer reality, but on the individual’s inner personal reality. The woman waiting for her husband misses him, while on some level she knows he is dead. She wants to return to the place where she was the good housewife, mother, and manager because it gave her a sense of value and worth which she is missing now. That world also gave her identity and some control over her surroundings, which she has now lost. Validation taps into those true emotional needs and helps to bring about an honest discussion and a trusting relationship. A caregiver using Validation does not lie or distort the truth; the caregiver’s goal is to join her, accepting her inner truth in a respectful way. Validation communication techniques engage the older woman and help her to find peace with the world she once knew and the world around her now.