CHILDHOOD EMOTIONAL NEGLECT
In contrast to forms of neglect or trauma that might be more obvious, emotional neglect that begins in childhood can easily go unnoticed. Many people grow up with their external needs met well, but in an environment where their emotional needs were ignored, disrespected or discouraged. Many people with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) are puzzled and ashamed of their own pain, feelings of inadequacy or lack of achievement. This is especially true for those who recall their childhood as happy, ‘normal’ or even ideal. Many people with CEN blame themselves for their struggles without realizing that their parents could have indeed been loving and well-meaning, but still have failed them in a fundamental way.
According to CEN specialist, Dr. Jonice Webb, Childhood Emotional Neglect can be the result of growing up with a parent/caregiver who was absent, narcissistic, had an addiction, was a workaholic, was depressed, was achievement/perfection-focused, was very permissive or – on the other hand – very authoritarian. CEN can also be a result of situations where parents were bereaved due to death or divorce, or caring for a family member with a health condition or disability. CEN can also occur when children are treated like adults (e.g parentified) and when well-meaning parents were themselves emotionally neglected as children.
One of the most common beliefs among people with CEN is that they are fundamentally flawed in some way that separates them from other people. People with CEN can also have a deep-rooted belief that they will be rejected if anyone sees their ‘real’ self. A lot of people with CEN feel empty, lonely, sad, and unfulfilled in a way that they can’t quite place or explain to others.
Identifying and talking about CEN helps people in relationships deepen their connection, reduce conflict, and better understand one another. Working with a therapist, parents can receive help with the ongoing (and often exhausting!) role of providing emotional support to their children while managing all of life’s demands.
Addressing CEN is about knowing and caring deeply for yourself as a starting point so that you can forge a positive path forward. Regardless of your age or stage of life, you deserve support to help you make sense of your experiences and struggles in order to foster a more loving, compassionate way of living.
CEN manifests differently for everyone, but can include:
Feelings of being set apart from or disconnected from other people
A lack of achievement or feeling that one isn’t reaching their potential
A persistent feeling of emptiness
Difficulties with self-discipline, self-esteem and knowing oneself
An inability to talk about and understand emotion
Counter dependence or over-dependence
Perfectionism and self-criticism
Hiding difficult feelings
Here is a link to our clinician who specialize in counselling around Childhood Emotional Neglect.