For some, childhood is a time of wonder and adventure; a time when all needs are met and comfort is merely a whimper away. For most of us, however, we experienced “they did the best they could” parenting at best and blatant abuse, neglect and abandonment at worst. My path as a therapist and individual led me to discover, what I consider to be, the Holy Grail inside the Ark of the Covenant: Childhood Emotional Neglect.
So for many, childhood never feels quite safe or secure. For these people, emotional neglect was something that colored their early years and affects them as adults. I believe this is a huge issue with most people but is largely unknown in the culture. Keep reading to see if you fit the description (I bet you will).
Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is the result of parents not responding enough to the emotional needs of their children. While it is an invisible form of suffering, as opposed to bruises and broken bones, it has lasting ramifications. And adults that have suffered from CEN have no idea that their current world is being created from a place of lack.
What Makes Childhood Emotional Neglect Invisible?
There are a couple of specifics that make CEN invisible to the victim:
- It can happen in otherwise loving families that have no material needs.
- A parent’s failure to respond to your emotional needs is not something that happens to you as a child. It is something that doesn’t happen to you, and therefore, your brain has nothing to record as “proof.”
These adults find themselves creating lives that don’t quite feel right. They may investigate their childhoods, looking for clues of what went wrong, but usually come up with nothing, which can add to their sense of stress and anxiety.
In the end, they feel that something must be innately wrong with them. They take the blame, assuming that they are simply flawed and different from other people who seem to have their acts together.
If you identify with this feeling, here are 5 signs you grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect:
1. Fear of Being Dependent on Others
Independence is a good quality to have. But having a deep-seated fear about depending on anyone for anything, never asking for help or support, is not healthy. This fear includes if you find it difficult to ask for help, which is a lot of people. This stems from childhood experiences of feeling stupid or burdensome if you needed help with anything.
2. You Don’t Really Know Yourself
When you meet new people and have to tell them about yourself, do you find it difficult? Do you know your strengths and weaknesses? What you like and don’t like? Victims of CEN tend to not know themselves as well as they should. Overall, you may feel different from other people (like everyone else knows something that you don’t) and you feel that you are on the outside looking in.
3. You’re a People Pleaser
You spend a lot of time trying to meet other people’s needs and pay little attention to your own. You’re hard on yourself but soft with others. You also find it unbearable to tell someone you love that you are angry with them. You believe that you are all-flexible and perfectly adaptable to any situation so you can roll with anything that comes your way.
4. You Feel Empty
This can feel different to different people. Maybe you feel an empty sensation in your gut, throat or chest. For some it comes and goes, for others, this feeling is there 24/7 – 365. This may feel like depression, an out-of-body experience, or being disconnected from your body.
5. You Have Trouble Feeling Your Emotions
When your emotions were ignored as a child, you never learned how to feel them, identify them, and express them in healthy ways. As an adult, do you find it hard to identify the feelings you feel, let alone express them to others?
If you’ve just had an A-ha moment and think you may have suffered CEN and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. You can also visit my practice website, Origins Counseling, to view my services there. There is hope and you CAN heal from the invisible wounds and start creating the life you were meant to live.