10 Ways You May Have Been Emotionally Invalidated as a Child


Do you know that children have physical needs? OF COURSE, YOU DO! Virtually all parents, and all people, for that matter, understand that children must be fed, clothed, kept warm and sheltered, rested and exercised. Kids need to have all of these needs met in order to physically survive and thrive.

Most people also realize that children have emotional needs. Children need to be loved. But children’s emotional needs actually go far beyond that.

You, when you were a child, needed much more than love from your parents. One of the things you needed the most is something most parents hardly think about if they think about it at all. It’s emotional validation.

Emotional Validation

Emotional validation happens when your parents see what you are feeling, acknowledge your feelings, and seem to understand why you are having them.

Just like adults, children’s feelings are the deepest, most personal, biological expression of who they are. In order to feel seen, understood, and heard, a child must feel that their feelings are seen, understood, and heard.

What happens when you feel seen, understood, and heard as a child? You grow up to feel like a person who is seeable, understandable, and hearable. You feel knowable. You feel valid.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. If your parents didn’t have the emotional awareness or emotional skills to see and accept what you were feeling, they may have, perhaps of no fault of their own, failed to validate you.

As a result, you may have grown up to feel unseen, misunderstood, and unheard. You may feel less valid than everyone else.

I call this Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN.

2 Ways Emotional Validation Can Go Wrong

  1. The Child’s Threshold of Emotional Need isn’t met. Many people can look back on their childhoods and remember a time when their parents emotionally validated them. But that doesn’t actually mean all that much. Here’s why. In order to grow up feeling seen, understood, and heard, you must be emotionally validated enough. Even the most well-meaning parents can “fail” their child in this way. Your parents may have loved you and tried their best with you, but they may not have had the emotional awareness or skills to meet the threshold that is enough.
  2. The Child’s Emotions are Actively Invalidated. These parents have a profound misunderstanding of how emotions work in general. Here, your parents may view your feelings as your choice, which is patently wrong, and judge them as a form of bad behavior, which is also patently wrong. Your parents’ false concept of feelings can lead them to actively invalidate your emotions in all kinds of ways. This takes us beyond not getting enough. It is a form of active emotional harm.

10 Ways You May Have Been Emotionally Invalidated as a Child

  1. Your parents pretend to listen but actually don’t. When this happens enough during your childhood, you learn that you are not worth hearing.
  2. You have a learning disability or some other challenge that goes unacknowledged. This leads to misunderstandings and incorrect assessments of your strengths and weaknesses and may leave you incorrectly feeling deeply flawed.
  3. Your parents act like they are your friends instead of your parents. You don’t receive the limits and consequences that you need to have in order to have self-discipline and be able to structure yourself.
  4. Your feelings are ignored as if they don’t exist. You learn that your feelings are nothing so you build a wall to shield you (and others) from your feelings. You grow up without enough connection to your feelings. This is classic Childhood Emotional Neglect.
  5. Your natural needs to be seen, heard, and validated go unmet. This teaches you that you are not worth being seen and heard, and you feel less valid than other people.
  6. A major event in your family or home is never talked about. This may be a large or small event; divorce, illness, or even the death of a parent may be left undiscussed. This leads you to feel deeply alone in the world and also fails to teach you vital emotional expression skills.
  7. Your emotional expressions are twisted and thrown back at you. This form of gaslighting teaches you that you cannot trust yourself. It also sets you up to struggle with generalized anger throughout your life which you may end up turning at yourself.
  8. Your parent acts as if you are the parent, not them. When this happens, you learn how to be overly responsible. You are set up to be excessively caretaking of others, putting others before yourself.
  9. You receive the message that it’s not okay to have needs. Here, you will learn very well how to have no needs. You may feel it’s wrong to ask for help or accept help. Needing help of any kind may make you feel vulnerable.
  10. You are told that you don’t, or shouldn’t, feel what you feel. Also a form of emotional gaslighting, this teaches you to hide your feelings because they can and will be used against you. It also undermines your ability to trust your emotions or yourself.

Did you see yourself in any of the examples above?

Whether your emotional threshold was not met as a child or your feelings were invalidated (both constitute Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN), I want you to know that it has left its mark on you. The effects are substantial and significant, and they seldom go away on their own.

But they do go away. With your awareness, attention, interest, and commitment, you can reclaim your valuable emotions and learn to listen to their messages. You can learn to understand, trust, and love yourself.

That is the process of validating yourself. It’s never too late to do it.

Let’s get started.

To learn specific ways to emotionally validate and emotionally connect with your child, toddler, teen, or adult see the book Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. You can find helpful resources for understanding and healing Childhood Emotional Neglect throughout this website.

To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, see my first book Running on Empty. 


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Kerry - September 4, 2023 Reply

I have just ordered your book! I too am a highly sensitive person…I am an artist and an art teacher and am going through an EXCRUTIATING divorce in which my husband WILL NOT validate my feelings. He has betrayed me in a way that he can not comprehend and so it is incredibly painful. He accuses me of being difficult. I have realized through this that I experienced this as a child as well…the invalidation. Although my parents were very present, they did not deeply understand me, and still don’t. They taught me my emotions are too much or are inaccurate. They often want to “fix” me and have me just get over it. I have suffered deeply as a result. I never even knew all of this was possible….I now get it. But I still can not get over being invalidated by someone I have trusted my entire adult life. I am hoping to find some relief in reading your book. He refuses to see any of his weaknesses and thinks he has done nothing wrong. I try to tell him about his conflict avoidance and lack of emotional awareness but he refuses to believe there is anything wrong with him. His whole family is like this so I don’t know why he can’t see it….

Leanne - June 10, 2022 Reply

Keep in mind that every child’s ’emotional threshold’ is, always has been, and always will be different. So some parents may be trying to meet the threshold thar they would have considered acceptable as a child, even if their own child’s emotional threshold is lower or higher. I am, and have always been (ever since I can remember) highly sensitive, and so I have a much higher minimum threshold.

    Jonice - June 13, 2022 Reply

    Dear Leanne, thank you for pointing out how hard it can be for parents to respond appropriately to a child who is very different from them. I will write a blog about that, in fact. Many well-meaning parents struggle with this.

      Sue - October 28, 2022 Reply

      This is a great perspective. We are all different and unique. Looking back my parents didn’t see us as individuals in their own right. To them there had to be a “sameness”…that we all had to agree with each other. Eye opening

      Featherless bird - December 12, 2022 Reply

      I would love to read a blog on this topic as well. I think my well meaning parents had difficulty with me being very different than them in certain ways. I don’t think they like me having opinions of my own that are different from theirs. It made me unsure of myself, timid and lacking confidence and self awareness, feeling like I was always adrift with no purpose and lost.

    Sue Finnerty - October 29, 2022 Reply

    This is such a great perspective! My family was enmeshed so no individualality encouraged. If you had big emotions you were shamed. If you wanted a different choice then there was upset. The underlying question was why can’t you be like so and so. A bit robotic and any showing up as yourself was not entertained.

    Lou - August 9, 2023 Reply

    There is no such thing as being born highly sensitive. we are born a blank canvas and early experiences effect our nervous systems and create the sensitivity. This is a trauma response, usually created by emotionally neglect. x

Monica - March 20, 2022 Reply

It was difficult to rationalize that someone who is overtly aggressive does not understand that they feel angry. Then, punishing a child for expressing anger. This is the experience of gaslighting and I sometimes gaslight myself.

Bren - February 9, 2022 Reply

…my now 90yr old mom,STILL a source of anger,resentment an bitterness for me…I’m 64 and can’t seem to jump these hurdles.Working with a therapist,but feel like it will take awhile.

Michael - December 29, 2021 Reply

I’m 54 now and the anger that I feel inside and worthlessness is dehabilitating. My mother is the issue and she is 84 now and I am the one who has been looking after her, my brother and sister are almost nonexistent. My mother is getting worse with her gaslighting and constant invalidating of my emotions. I’m struggling with the damage it has done and what to do being that she needs someone to help her and I’m the only one who helps. I’m desperate

    Jonice - December 30, 2021 Reply

    Dear Michael, please put yourself first. You have a responsibility to take care of yourself more than an abusive elder.

    Max - January 15, 2022 Reply

    Michael, you are not alone. I am also struggling with this with my mom.

    Evangio - May 12, 2022 Reply

    Exactly the same happens to me and I feel some comfort when I hear that I am not the only one.. Total empathy and sympathy for you Michael.
    …Plan your reconstruction with the help of everybody else ecxept your mum and stay alert when near her.
    There is so much in that ….

TT - November 10, 2021 Reply

My feelings have always been invalid. While growing up and now with my husband. I try to tell him how I feel and he tells me that my feelings are incorrect or i feel that way because I took what ever was said to going on wrong. I’ve been told by him, when I being up a topic that I’m making a big deal out of it and I am creating an argument out of nothing. I literally asked him a simple yes/no question. We have two children together. He does the same with them… telling them that crying is for babies and crying is them being bad. I validate them and them feelings. I listen to them and let them know I understand. I ask them how they feel we should fix or mend. Me and the kids, collectively, come together and work it out. He dismisses them and tells me that I’m making them be like my other three kids and how horrible they turned out. (Oldest is in jail (never in trouble as a child), next is here at home with us and joined the army last week and my teen is a teen.) I dont believe I’m a bad parent but hearing it enough im starting to believe I am. I’ve never been on meds before and just recently had to get on antidepressants because I needed help coping with it all. Life. Him, anxiety. I break down crying atleast 3 times a week. No one knows because I’m by myself. I just want a normal, peaceful, loving life with mtly children and I want them to feel safe and secure and know they can come to me about any thing and know we will work it out or celebrate together. Here I am writing on this looking for validation…. I need help to figure all this out.

    jana - June 11, 2022 Reply

    please divorce him …if u have enough money . my father was just like this but a bit worse because he never took care of anything in the first place unless my mother yelled at him to do so .she is tired as well .im sorry but divorce that fucker, you deserve a nice life with someone who does not have issues on his own that need to be figured out first.

Aaron - October 21, 2021 Reply

I found this article because I’m trying to put into words why I get “stuck” in low moods for hours and hours. I’m certain it is related to my father accusing me of faking my emotions to get attention when I was a child with chronic pain. I reacted by feeling like I had to stay in certain emotional states long enough for it to be acknowledged as “real.” I don’t know how to break this cycle without feeling or seeming fake to my partner.

Caitlin - September 19, 2021 Reply

My mom and dad split when I was two, let’s just say my mind has had her fair share of men and has finally found a boyfriend, she can’t see why I’m anxious and upset when I was used to it being just me and her for so long and when I talk about it I’m “dramatic” “pathetic” the list goes on

Rachele - June 13, 2021 Reply

My mother died when I was two. My dad was mean I had 7 brothers 2 sisters. I’m the youngest. One brothercommitted suicide when I was 19, my baby brother died at 6 months. My 2 other brothers died. Young. I get treated like I do not exist and get told who cares how you feel. I’m 56 now and it finally took a toll on me I have no one to talk too about anything. I’m sad all the time depressed and anxious. I’m a walking functioning depressed person. In front of people I act ok. It’s hard. I’m not ok inside. I been around a lot of death at a young age, hard to function sometimes.

    Jonice - June 13, 2021 Reply

    Dear Rachele, you absolutely must talk with a therapist about everything you’ve been through in your life. You deserve the help and support you didn’t get as a child.

    Jan - November 5, 2021 Reply

    Hey Rachele, very sorry to hear that, you and your emotions matter and what’s happened and happening is not OK. I feel the same sometimes and I’m trying to change my life, unhealthy environment and emotional health too. I wish you all the best, I now think people fo care and are good i just need to learn to spot the healthy individuals. Take care darling.x

Deb - May 26, 2021 Reply

Family death never discussed.

River - April 22, 2021 Reply

Half at least of these are accurate. I just can’t get rid of my parents, though they dont actually seem to care! I’m only 14, so I could be in accurate

    Jonice - April 25, 2021 Reply

    Dear River, please do find an adult to talk this over with. Ask your parents to see a counselor or find one at your school. It’s important to get some help and support on this.

M - March 30, 2021 Reply

I’m only thirteen, and this is exactly what’s been happening. My feelings are always denied, my mom denied the fact that I have really bad anxiety, and now I’ve become very independent and insecure. Talking about my feelings is one of my biggest fears. Even though I’ve been diagnosed with anxiety months ago, I still relive all that yelling and trauma in my mind.

    Jonice - March 31, 2021 Reply

    Dear M, you are so young. As soon as you can, I suggest you ask your parents to see a therapist. Or, if that’s not possible, ask your guidance counselor at school if you can talk about this with them. Some support and help working through this is important for you to have.

Mike - February 10, 2021 Reply

Such a shame to be learning this stuff at age 56. Not only hear my childhood an emotional desert, my lack of understanding emotions has perpetuated the cycle to my children who exhibit the obvious symptoms of CEN. Not only am I an empty shell of a person I’ve set my kids up for a painful life.

    Jonice - February 11, 2021 Reply

    Dear Mike, time is of the essence. Please start now healing your CEN. Every step you take will not only gradually change your life but also your children’s.

sarah - October 1, 2020 Reply

I have recently spoken to a counselor who said i was neglected as a child. before we talked I knew that I never had a conventional childhood. my mother was my only parent from the age of 5. i have two younger sisters and we had no rules. our mother was our friend, we were a team. as i reached 8, my mother would go out and not return until the next day. i found that i easily stepped into her role and she was no longer needed on a day to day basis. just for money to buy food. when she was home she would be there and part of the team but when she wasn’t she was not missed. all 10 of the statements are true for me. but i don’t feel bad it was just the norm. when i left home at 15 i was like a 40 year old, very responsible i became a nurse and enjoyed my job. i got married and had a daughter. it is only now that i have started to feel anxious that i am to tired. the i need a break. that i can not cope. i find it difficult to ask for help and have started avoiding everything. i do not know where to start to be myself again

Peter - September 21, 2020 Reply

At least 7 definitely apply.
I’m in very bad relations with my parents. Recently I suggested that they make a few changes in how we communicate to make me feel better and, in turn, to make me treat them better. Not only they didn’t accept my suggestions or suggest changes for me, they blamed me for suggesting. At this point it is interesting: is making at least some of these changes life or death decision for them? Is it something they absolutely can’t do or at least try under any circumstances? I’m their child after all. They did things for me that were far less important for me.

Wilda - September 17, 2020 Reply

Every single one of them and I have no clue what to do with myself. I’ve been managing and I have some awareness but it’s really difficult when it comes to trying to be responsible for myself and have discipline and survive University and interpersonal relationships. I wish I had a therapist who could EDMR me into healing.

    Jonice - September 17, 2020 Reply

    Dear Wilda, please see the Find A CEN Therapist List and let one of them help you.

L - September 14, 2020 Reply

10 for 10 lol… :/

    Jonice - September 16, 2020 Reply

    I’m soo sorry, L. It’s time to heal!

Sharon - September 13, 2020 Reply

So many of these relate to me. I’m 58 and I believe I am still at the beginning stages of dealing with these things. I am finally seeing an EMDR therapist who specializes in treating trauma. I never knew, until I started seeing this therapist, how out of touch I was with my emotions. I’m very good at saying what I think others want me to say, including how I’m feeling. I was to the point where I believed myself. Now, things are coming up and the emotions either overwhelm me or I block them out with some diversionary technique.
I could go on and on and I don’t think I even have a question. Thank you for providing a place for venting.

    Jonice - September 13, 2020 Reply

    Dear Sharon, when you start feeling your emotions, it can feel overwhelming at times. This is the time for you to work on learning the skills.

Shelby - September 11, 2020 Reply

I grew up with CEN and am now in a marriage that perpetuates the cycle. I want to grow and heal but find myself struggling alone . Are there support groups thats work on these skills specifically?

    Jonice - September 12, 2020 Reply

    Dear Shelby, please check the Find A Therapist List under the HELP tab of this website. You will find lots of therapists who are trained in CEN who can help you through this.

Sarah - September 7, 2020 Reply

Right on the money, Dr. Webb. As someone whose whole life was affected by CEN, I thank you for your attention to this issue and for sharing your work with us!

Mary - September 7, 2020 Reply

Therapists in Brisbane, Australia?

    Jonice - September 7, 2020 Reply

    Dear Mary, check the list. It’s link is under the Help tab on this site.

Alex - September 7, 2020 Reply

Number 4 (Feelings ignores as if they don’t exist) and the walling off of one’s emotional demands really resonates with my memories growing up, but I also recognize that I often ‘sold myself short’ and voluntarily suppressed my emotional needs because I saw the toll that my siblings’ needs – and the rest of our difficult family life took on my mother. I would hear her dealing with my sister or my brother at bedtime, and see and hear her exhaustion by the time she got to me. No problems here Mom, stiff upper lip, Mom. Goodnight Mom.

I’ve repeated that pattern a lot in my life, in romantic relationships, but in professional life, too.

My partner has a lot of number 7 (Emotions twisted and thrown back), I suspect that this stemmed form being raised by her father, after her parents divorced, and whom we recognize is a malignant narcissist. When we were first together, if I raised the topic of my emotional needs, she’d quickly counter with a greater need of her own, or negate my needs relative to hers. Add to that the stress she experiences from a job with a boss who is very direct with his emotional needs (i.e.: throws tantrums) and a six year old (somewhat less prone to tantrums) and there isn’t much bandwidth left at the end of the day.

Eventually I just slipped back into my old pattern – nope, no problems here. Goodnight honey.

A this point, my greatest challenge is to keep convincing myself that my emotional needs are genuine, and that continually requesting recognition despite rejection, is the right thing to do.

    Alexis - September 8, 2020 Reply

    Your situation growing up with the dynamic between you, your siblings, and your mother is exactly like mine. I constantly tried to be the easy child because I felt bad for what my parents were going through in dealing with my sister. That dynamic carried into adulthood as she is now what I can only sum up as a narcissistic addict with Borderline Personality Disorder (ironically a mental illness that is said to be in part a result of invalidation from parents).

    However, something else I’ve read recently that has helped me gain more perspective into my own role in the family is that I failed to ever view my parents as ‘protectors’ of me, the child. My sister was a nightmare for all, but my parents never parented her in a way that would end that vicious cycle or help shield me from her chaos and dysfunction. I always “let them off the hook” instead of feeling that my own emotions were valid and the way that it affected me was worth voicing.

    I have now [finally] developed a backbone and refuse to be a part of the dysfunction. In other words, I am making my feelings heard and respecting them for what they are. And the family is upset with me for failing to keep the peace that never existed.

    Anyway, I appreciated your story, it is helpful to hear similar experiences. Hope all is well.

Puffin - September 7, 2020 Reply

I was sexually abused by my father throughout my childhood. Nobody ever found out at the time. To this day not even my mum knows and I’m middle aged now. There is no bigger ‘your feelings don’t matter’ message for a child as when their parent abuses them and piles on the shame and guilt to make them keep their secret. And on top of that, and separate to it, my mother didn’t meet our emotional needs. She’s most likely got CEN too from her childhood and she will not under any circumstances talk about feelings, unless it’s to express anger. She even makes jokes about people who talk about their feelings like it’s the worst thing in the world to do.

I had some counselling recently and it helped me see that I’m incapable of recognising and meeting my own emotional needs. My counsellor never mentioned CEN (she may never have heard of it) but it was during therapy that I came across it on the internet and it totally resonated. It’s helped me be more tolerant and forgiving of my mother, which in turn eases what was a pretty constant anger and hurt, and to notice when I’m ignoring my emotional needs, and then take steps to look after myself better. It’s not easy but I have small victories and I can be proud of myself. Thank you Dr Jonice.

    Jonice - September 7, 2020 Reply

    Dear Puffin, I am so very sorry this happened to you. I’m so proud of the work you’re doing and I encourage you to continue! You deserve all the effort you can put into it.

Victoria - September 7, 2020 Reply

As a High Sensitive Person, reading this blog made me realize I might be a CEN too. Is that possible?

    Jonice - September 7, 2020 Reply

    Yes, for sure. HSP kids are extra impacted by any CEN that’s present in their childhood home.

Donna - September 7, 2020 Reply

1,4,7 and 10 = not good score. Although I had an aunt who listened, my mother did not and turned my feelings against me. I did not realise that this was gaslighting.
Thank you Jonice – your posts are really helping me identify what is it I’m feeling and why.

Marf - September 7, 2020 Reply

As I kid, I was berated for expressing anger, shamed for expressing fear and ridiculed for expressing sadness. Excitement was quickly shut down as being too noisy. Frustration resulted in a never-ending lecture about being an ingrate and failing to strive to better myself.
Today, I am in a constant state of malaise about how I am in the world. I need help but don’t have the wherewithall to seek it. I’m just waiting out my end. Terrified.

    Jonice - September 7, 2020 Reply

    Dear Marf, this is no way to live. You will have to break out of this prison you’re in. Are you now berating yourself for your emotions? It will be vital to stop that. I encourage you to read Running On Empty and seek a therapist to help guide and support you. You deserve better.

    Sue - April 10, 2021 Reply

    This, exactly this with added cold and critical. I have been working through with the help of Jonice and several others. A life time if codependent relationships and now a 60th birthday and time to free myself from the misery. I am making progress, slowly but surely and I can tell you – it’s worth it and NEVER too late. Please, please don’t give up. You have read this and understood that it relates directly to you – that’s the biggest step any of us take on this journey x

Frank - September 6, 2020 Reply

I think I saw myself in just about all of them to some extent. The relationship with my mother wasn’t confrontational but it wasn’t healthy either. My father simply went to work and supported the household. My father had an opportunity to counter it, but he missed the opportunity. Years later, when my parents separated my father told me straight out that he felt he’d failed me as a father. I was very smart and perceptive about just about everything but had nothing to show for it. Poor grades in school and a so-so social life.

That left me at age 20 with the task of trying to re-parent myself. It was a huge task but I was largely successful. I got through college though I didn’t have a satisfying career. Adult relationships have sadly been problematic. I paid a stiff price for my parents’ bad marriage. They hid everything, thinking what I didn’t know wouldn’t hurt me. There were subtle signs which I simply chose to ignore. I chose not to feel.

I just don’t know at this later stage of life if I even have the capability to have a successful adult relationship.

    Jonice - September 7, 2020 Reply

    Dear Frank, having successful adult relationships all depends on your relationship with yourself. When you know, like, and love yourself, others will be able to feel the same about you.

Sue - September 6, 2020 Reply

I recognise pretty much all those points, but at this stage I can’t seem to be bothered to do anything about it. It just seems such a huge effort, but for what exactly?

Maybe when I was younger all this information would have spurred me on, especially when my kids were little, but I managed to avoid repeating history by doing pretty much exactly the opposite of my own upbringing, and by reading up about child development. They had some issues growing up, but are well adjusted and contented adults now.

Feeling flat and empty is just normal, has been for so many decades there seems to be no point in changing it. I can recall 2 years that felt very different, more colourful and vibrant, and I was like a different person, but I don’t appear to have any great desire to get back to that state even if that were possible.

I didn’t get myself into this, how is it I don’t want to get out of it?

    Jonice - September 7, 2020 Reply

    Dear Sue, there is a phrase therapists use to describe how difficult it is to embrace and seek change. It’s “comfortably uncomfortable.” We can live in pain and discomfort for so long that it becomes our default setting. I hope very much that you will reach a point when you can motivate yourself to start welcoming your feelings and addressing them.

      GreggB - September 13, 2020 Reply

      “Comfortably numb?”

Helena - September 6, 2020 Reply

My mother used to accuse me of crocodile tears constantly and insist that if I was crying I was using it as a form of manipulation. She had a terrible temper, would scream at me and hit me, and when I inevitably cried she would shout at me to stop. I couldn’t stop, I didn’t know how. I still don’t understand what was going through her mind. If I ever complained about being tired or wanting to go home when they were drinking and I was forced to be out with them somewhere, I was met with a “how dare you…” etc. Needless to say I grew up thinking I was an inherently bad and selfish person. Still plagues me to this day and I’m 30 now.

    Jonice - September 7, 2020 Reply

    Dear Helena, I know exactly the kind of mom you are describing. It’s extra important for you to start to value your anger, hurt, sadness…all your feelings as expressions of “Helena.” You are not bad or selfish, you’re just a person struggling to allow yourself to be human because your mother didn’t.

      Helena - September 7, 2020 Reply

      Jonice, thank you for your kind reply. I really appreciate it. It feels good to have my feelings validated in some way, and I so appreciate the work you do helping people and sharing your wisdom, it’s a gift. I am slowly working on my issues, and getting stronger and more in touch with myself, I hope… I still see my mother, she’s changed a lot, but she denies any memory of what happened in my childhood. She even accused me of having false memories once. I have given up hope of ever having my feelings validated by her or getting a sincere apology, or even a sincere discussion!

Matthew - September 6, 2020 Reply

Of all of these, I can relate to #7 the deepest. Most of the others, thankfully, didn’t apply to me, but I still have realized that I was emotionally invalidated regularly. Another way that I didn’t see listed is parents mocking their kids’ interests, political views, etc. and generally talking down to them. I think that it creates resentment, can make confidence decline, and can be harmful if unrecognized.

    Jonice - September 6, 2020 Reply

    True, Matthew! Thanks for pointing that out.

      BERT - September 7, 2020 Reply

      The mocking, belittling, talking down to… Makes it impossible to have an adult relationship with them. Made it harder to grow up, wasted a lot of time, and friendships were abandoned because I never felt like my opinions/ideas were valuable. Apathy (feigned?) was the result, at least other people thought I was apathetic.

Margaret - September 6, 2020 Reply

Not having been able to freely express negative feelings and fears as a child and adult one lives quietly inside oneself. How do i begin to “come out” and why?

Gladeye - September 6, 2020 Reply

To this day, my mother gives me mugs or cards that say things like “You know you can do this.” or “I believe in me and no one can stop me!”

They never say, “I believe in you” or “I know you can do this, because…”

Gladeye - September 6, 2020 Reply

I had so much intelligence, creativity, and passion for things like music and humor growing up, but my parents never asked or encouraged anything. They never talked to me about anything having to do with feelings or me having any gifts or talents, so I grew up feeling lucky, in consideration of my being nothing, to have any job.

I was never told I was anything, so I didn’t believe I could do anything. No trophies, awards, or certificates. Crappy grades. I’ve worn a cloak of shame and fear as far back as I can remember.

It’s an odd feeling, to know you are very smart, but also very dumb, at the same time.

I would LOVE to have some conversation with a woman negotiating CEN and relationships. Since my wife split, I’ve been apprehensive about dating again, because I fear I can’t bring anything to the table and will only disappoint (despite being mannered, conscientious, thoughtful, hilarious, attentive, and always trying to improve).

    Jonice - September 6, 2020 Reply

    Dear Gladeye, I encourage you to see a CEN-trained therapist and get some support and outside input. It’s very important you own your own strengths!

    Sue - September 6, 2020 Reply

    Dear Gladeye,

    You bring intelligence, a wealth of thoughts, curiosity (that’s at the root of trying to improve yourself: can I learn more? Can I be a better person? Can I gain more skills?), creativity and a passion for music and humour (subdued because they didn’t have any encouragement to develop – but I bet they are still there!)

    What more do you think you need to bring to the table? Dating is about finding out whether you have enough in common to invest the time and (emotional and physical) energy to get to know the other person on a deeper level. If you have an interest in politics/deep conversations it allows you to discard the woman who is only interested in celebrity culture and soaps (perfectly kind and nice person she appears to be) from further planning.

    You are way more than crappy school grades and a failed marriage! A good sense of humour is always useful to break the ice. And if the woman isn’t laughing that is no reflection on you, she may just have a very different sense of humour. Or had a bad day.

    Bobbie - September 8, 2020 Reply

    Dear Gladeye,

    Please don’t feel like your marriage was a failure. It was a necessary stepping stone to the next phase of your life. It ended for various reasons, but the life lessons and the growth you’ve accomplished have all been successes.

    I completely understand how you are feeling.

    When dating, that broken record in the back of my brain starts playing on repeat telling me that I am damaged goods, and not worthy of a good mate.

    It is times like that where I have to fall back on the boundaries I set. I wrote them down, so they have become hard rules. It is so much easier when I can just fall back on the rules, and not have to justify every little choice I make.

    I no longer feel like I have to sacrifice my own boundaries just to keep someone interested in me. I do not get emotionally invested too early anymore. I keep my emotional distance until I can see that someone accepts my boundaries and doesn’t try to compromise them. Funny how Narcissists just cannot stand someone who has firm boundaries. They sort themselves out pretty quickly. Took me eight years after my divorce to learn this very important lesson.

    Now…to shut that broken record up for good!

    Sue - November 14, 2020 Reply

    Gladeye – I can only echo what the other replies have said. Here you are reading articles, replying and reaching out to others because you want to grow and thrive. You are curious and intelligent, reading and researching ways to improve your life. This is the start of your journey to learn about yourself – no stopping you now. Be very proud of that and take support from others on the same road. It can only get better for you with your new insights and taking responsibility for your life and relationships. I am in the same position and can now see light at the end of the tunnel. It’s never too late to really start living without the shackles of the past. Wishing you the best.

M - September 6, 2020 Reply

One thing I have noticed about my emotions is that when something has really wounded me, I don’t ever really seem to heal from it. On an emotional level, I just bleed from it, forever. This is very difficult to function with …

Fay - September 6, 2020 Reply

My father once told me,”We raised you to solve your own problems,” but my thought was that it was neglect, not a parenting strategy. Lately, I am overwhelmed with the thought that “everybody gets what they want except me,” and wonder if it’s because I was never taught to express what I needed.

    Jonice - September 6, 2020 Reply

    Glad you’re thinking about this, Fay. You can work on this and get better at asking for your needs to get them met.

Wendy - September 6, 2020 Reply

So many of these hit home for me. My parents had me when they were 19 years old and they themselves were emotionally neglected so they lacked the tools to support me properly.

On top of that I was “gifted” and had severe social anxiety, which wasn’t treated. My parents had high expectations of me because of my intelligence, but couldn’t understand when I was too afraid to do things in front of or with groups of people.

My father was very angry and verbally abusive so I learned to shut down whenever someone became angry and never learned how to resolve conflict. I go out of my way to avoid confrontation and smooth things over with people, which has lead to unhealthy relationships.

I have my own child now, who has pretty severe ADHD and social anxiety. I’ve gone out of my way to do everything the opposite way my parents did. I never yell, when I set limits or take away a privilege, I always explain why. I always make sure he knows he’s loved and let him know he can come to me with anything, but he never does. I feel like despite trying so hard to be a good, loving parent, he’s turning out exactly like me anyway and I don’t know what to do. I just want him to have a happy, healthy life.

    Jonice - September 6, 2020 Reply

    Dear Wendy, you are doing some very good things for your son. ADHD and anxiety are both challenges that perhaps you can use some help with. Please consider consulting one of the therapists on the Find A CEN Therapist List.

Amelia - September 6, 2020 Reply

I can definitely relate to building a wall to save others from my emotions. Growing up I got the general message that having emotions or needs was inconvenient, so I stopped expressing them. I was expressing my needs to my mother when I was a young adult and felt more independent. She told me to focus on the positive and to not dwell on any negative feelings. I guess she decided what was negative and what was positive. The only emotions I could safely share were joy, excitement, and happiness because those weren’t inconvenient.

    Jonice - September 6, 2020 Reply

    Dear Amelia, now that you are an adult, you are the one who decides what to do with your own feelings. So now you can learn all the emotion skills and become far healthier than your mom would have expected.

      - - September 7, 2020 Reply

      This is an excellent line in Amelia’s comment!
      ” I guess she decided what was negative and what was positive.” Indeed, what authority anyone has to decide what is positive and what negative! What I’ve learned from Jonice is that feelings “just” are…neutral, messengers. But actions can be positive or negative!
      Past years I’ve done a lot of self-help self-healing…some of it very good, some almost compulsive-obsessive (I see that now afterwards). This idea of self-love and being lovable to others…I think my “self healing” was quite focused and driven by to fix, get rid of, remove those parts of me that “got me in trouble”, that I perceived made me unlovable, I hated those parts of me…I had chronic shame etc. But now I’ve finally realised…all those “parts” (“negative emotions”) are (also) my humanity. Typing these words made tears come into my eyes. If in childhood negative emotions were denied and I was even punished for having/showing them…I think it causes a deep trauma to the core of humaneness.
      I think (unconditional) self-love is that, that I love all of me, even the parts I “struggle” with. Aww, I think this is what wholeness means! I was aiming to perfection (whatever that is?) but now I see, perfection is actually very inhumane! Very fake, controlled, limited form of humaneness. Would any healthy person want/require their partner to be/behave that way?! No! That definitely is not love, not healthy! But this is the silly childhood programming that I’ve repeated…ouch, decades.

      I joke now little bit, but during the years I became tired with the “mantra” of self-love. Self-love shouldn’t be “work” or chore?
      I tried to stand in front of the mirror and say to myself “I love you”, but I’m not sure if it served any purpose. How I now see self-love is: curiosity, being open, understanding towards myself, instead of instantly judgemental.

        Jonice - September 7, 2020 Reply

        I like your definition of self-love. Thanks for sharing your experiences with others.

Anna - September 6, 2020 Reply

Oh gosh, the image of the dying plant is so sad!
What do you think about this real life situation that commonly happens to me, even as an adult? I’m very nervous, worried, stressed etc. about some upcoming event and parents or friends say to me: “everything is going to be alright”, “don’t worry, you’ll be fine”. I actually love this, it does make me feel better/calmer!
So they are not really “validating” my negative emotions…made me think, what is actually the difference between invalidation and reassurance? But reassurance does feel very good!

* Your emotional expressions are twisted and thrown back at you.
I’d be curious to ask, what would be a “typical” example of this?

I (and we) as women…I’ve noticed that certain time of the month, I’m very “emotional”, anger, irritation, crying, like really intense, reactive emotions which is not the normal me at all. Do I also need to listen to and validate these emotions or are they just some “pseudo” emotions, like brain chemistry gone wonky because of fluctuating hormones?

I like it that you always end your articles with hopeful and positive, future/solution-oriented words. Dwelling endlessly in the past (and I do have tendency for that!) and like “poor me, I have cen”, probably doesn’t solve anything?

    Jonice - September 6, 2020 Reply

    Dear Anna, you may be overthinking this a bit. You don’t have to validate PMS feelings but perhaps just acknowledge they are hormonal. “Dwelling” is never a healthy goal, but re-examining and reframing and developing understanding of the past is very helpful.

      Anna - September 6, 2020 Reply

      Overthinking this might be the result of reading too many cen articles 😀
      Maybe I don’t need to perfect in this thing either!! Maybe it is enough if I myself also validate myself enough, but not perfectly? 🙂

        Jonice - September 6, 2020 Reply

        Yes, exactly!

          MM - September 7, 2020 Reply

          The experience of going through emotions brought about be memories somehow requires time and repeated attention when the memories appear again (and again!).
          After seeking healing for years, and finally coming across Dr. Webb’s books last year, I’ve made a more determined effort to heal. It really does require time , and trying (even if failing) to help others involved to heal.
          Slowly I discover that others, especially those who deny and resent, have caused me to abandon all resentment.
          This alone, so far, seems the most healing experience I’ve ever felt. Everyone, and all life, seems so vulnerable, that reading these comments makes me hope that those so afflicted will seek to forgive – I think I posted once that if we don’t stop this here, now, CEN and the spectrum of worse variants will, as it has for generations, continue.
          In my own family , neglect bred neglect and worse, active emotional cruelty.
          To some elder members, religion and patriotism have become their primary methods of avoidance of love itself.

Kelly - September 6, 2020 Reply

Mother: “If you are going to cry, go to your room.”

Boss:”Kelly, you need to be more emotive.”

Kelly: “Huh?”

    Jonice - September 6, 2020 Reply

    Dear Kelly, it’s all about finding your balance and expressing your feelings in the way that’s needed and appropriate in the situation and also authentic to yourself.

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