3 Powerful New Years Resolutions Specially Designed To Heal Your Emotional Neglect


New Year’s Resolutions are a tricky business indeed. According to recent research, 80% of people drop theirs by the second week of February every year.

I think New Year’s Resolutions are even more difficult for those who grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). And for some very good reasons.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN): This happens when your parents fail to respond enough to your emotions while they are raising you.

3 Ways CEN Makes Keeping Your NY’s Resolutions More Difficult

  1. You likely struggle with self-discipline. Most emotionally neglectful parents, even the well-meaning ones, miss the importance of instilling healthy self-discipline skills in their children. So it’s no surprise that many with CEN struggle to make themselves do what they should do and to stop themselves from doing what they should not do. Your Resolutions are then threatened by an endless cycle of self-blame. “Why can’t I do the things other people can do? What is wrong with me?!”
  2. You under-value your own needs. Resolutions to eat healthily or go to the gym, for example, require you to pay attention to your own needs. If you grew up with your needs under-attended, you probably now struggle to pay attention to your own needs. This struggle can tank your efforts.
  3. You may question, on some deep level, whether you are worth the effort. A deep feeling of not being as valid as everyone else undermines your efforts to treat yourself as if you matter.

I know, I know, everything above sounds so negative. You may be feeling discouraged about setting resolutions for 2021. You may be wondering the classic CEN question: “Why bother?”

If so, good news! I have thought this through, and I have some answers for you.

First, set only one resolution. Trying to do more is distracting and can be overwhelming. Second, make resolutions that will be immediately rewarding and bring quick and positive results. That way, you will set up a positive cycle that will feed itself, becoming more and more powerful every day of the year.

3 Powerful CEN-Healing Resolutions for 2021

Purposely Look For Joy in Your Everyday Life

— Research has shown that Emotional Neglect in childhood slows the development of the ventral striatum in the brain. The ventral striatum is your brain’s reward center, so if it’s under-developed, the concept of feeling joy may seem like a distant one for you. But a remarkable thing:  I have asked many CEN people to start purposely seeking happiness and enjoyment, and I have watched it make a significant difference in their lives. You may find it in a small, rewarding task that you never gave much thought, a small child who smiles at you for no reason, or a beautiful orange leaf falling from a tree. At other times you may need to make something happen to bring yourself joy: call a friend, see a movie, schedule a trip, or take a day away. The more you choose joy, the more it will choose you. You will be setting yourself on a very rewarding path that will pay off in spades.

Your 2021 Resolution: I will find at least one moment of enjoyment in every day of this year.

Use More Feeling Words

When you have CEN, one of the most powerful ways of changing your life is to simply learn and use more emotion words every day. Using a word like dismayed, despondent, incensed, blissful, morose, bland, raw, depleted, wary, strained, deflated, perky, free, quiet, devoted, or feisty adds dimension and realness to your life. Both are necessary things that you were denied in your childhood. Making this change in the way you speak on the outside will change the way you think and feel on the inside. It will also carry the added bonus of improving the quality and depth of your relationships. It is a win-win-win at very little cost to you. You can find an exhaustive list of Feeling Words in the book Running on Empty, or you can download it from the Running on Empty Page of my website.

Your 2021 Resolution: I will use one new feeling word every day of this year.

Do The Three Things

— I designed this exercise to help people with CEN develop the pathways for self-discipline in their own brains. I do not have brain scans to prove that it works, but I can honestly assure you that it does. It is a way to give yourself the ability to make yourself do things you should do and to stop yourself from doing things you shouldn’t do. These two skills together form the foundation for all self-discipline. Overriding what you want to do or not do 3 times per day, in some small way, trains your brain to be able to do so in situations when you need to. The overrides do not need to be big. They can be very small and still count. You can learn more about this exercise in the book Running on Empty.

Your 2021 Resolution: Every day of this year I will, three times, in some small way, make myself do something I don’t want to do, or stop myself from doing something I should not do.

No matter where you go, and no matter what you do in 2021, you can re-program your brain and take control of your life. Keep it simple, take control, and find your joy. Take your needs seriously, and let yourself feel.

This will be your way to treat yourself to a changing, more positive life through 2021.

This will be your way to finally, definitively, realize, and believe that you are worth the effort. And you matter.

To find out if you have CEN, Take the Childhood Emotional Neglect Questionnaire. It’s free.

To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) and how to heal it to improve your relationships, see my first book Running on Empty and my new book, Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children.


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Yonita - January 11, 2021 Reply

Does this not make one seem to be very selfish? Someone said of my husband ‘ one could never tell him anything. Referring to his actions; he did things his own way without referencing anyone else. If one acknowledges ones own feelings is that not going to turn into those sort of actions. I was unaware of what motivated him. And was kept in the dark.

    Jonice - January 11, 2021 Reply

    Dear Yonita, you are describing self-centeredness, whereas I am talking about self-awareness. They are extremely different. Being aware of your feelings, wants, and needs, allows you to manage your feelings and make choices that take others into account as well.

Anna - January 11, 2021 Reply

Hi Jonice, I definitely have CEN from both parents, I planned to stop the cycle, but kept going psychotic and into hospital, started drinking and my 2 children were removed for a couple of years. I have now been sober 9 years.However I have notdisciplined them or given boundaries as I planned. This makes me very sad. My kids live with me, daughter 24 has schizoaffective disorder, same as me, my son, 19 tries to be helpful around the house but I feel he has no empathy for me, I work 5 days a week as health carer. My son’s girlfriend,19 and my niece,17 also live with me. I don’t get enough help around the house,they expect me to do it. Is it too late to give them boundaries and discipline? I am terrified of conflict. I have asked nicely but I’m ignored,I end up doing household chores on my breaks from work and my days off.I’m49 single mum. I’ve told them I think I’ve given themCEN,I’m open and honest with them about my past failings with them. I lack self discipline, however I am disciplined to work hard at my job and do housework.My parents taught me that, but my feelings were completely ignored, still are, my mum passed in 2011, I hardly cried we were not close,I struggle to find happy memories as there was NO emotional relationship . She did her best and supported us financially, and always said ‘I love you’ but I could NEVER go to her for support or advice, same with my dad,2 good friends passed recently and no comfort really. He gave me a hug,
since he happened to be here. He never asks how I feel, he never rings or texts me and he lives in a different city. I can’t talk to him about anything that affects me. He does help me financially, at Christmas he gave me $2000. He is a practical person.Question: how do I discipline young adult children and get them to help out.Thanks

    Jonice - January 11, 2021 Reply

    Dear Anna, it’s hard to discipline adult kids, and especially so when you don’t have a good ability to discipline yourself. I encourage you to contact a CEN-trained therapist from my Find A CEN Therapist List and let someone help you through this problem. It’s not as simple as just beginning to discipline your kids. Some support and guidance are essential. All my best to you!

GWOR - January 11, 2021 Reply

Hi Jonice, it seems until we truly feel we are genuine the road up the hill gets steeper .

And the mask does not allow the needed interactions we need now in COVID19 times to confirm within ourselves we are genuine so we must call upon our own reserves to make it so.
We must wear our own insulated vest of self regard .

The people factor now can be totally disruptive in every interaction with self and others . One must be his/ her own beacon in the lighthouse to shine one’s light to charter and keep their course uninterrupted by others .There are always rocks anywhere to negotiate.

Yes I have seen instances where the expression echoed to me “ oh you seem to be feeling your oats today “ is really designed to send a person back into a war with self, to turtle , to be sheepish so the other keeps the control.

The best answer to the battery drainer is “yes , I am feeling my oats today, what about yours?”
Do you need your your battery charged?

“ And by the way we are wasting time let’s get at this project now due by week ending on time and right.

Wear them, until they are warren out and disarm them until they lose their centre or core being relegated way out beyond their own circumference of safety and lost to return as they once had control by bullying and now disarmed they may threaten to leave . And you wish them a good day and get on with the project with or without the udder they like to milk anyone dry to keep their power and control .

And after the “ my that felt good” is sinking in, it is one step to sensing yes I am genuine and each step is now of added value to the self that this is who I am and it is okay to feel right about feeling right about self .

And the road starts to level out ……….no matter the journey ahead . Just do it and find your roads for you. And just get on with it …..

    Jonice - January 11, 2021 Reply

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, GWOR. Happy 2021!

Madeleine - January 10, 2021 Reply

Thank you Jonice, always helpful. I will write these down.

    Jonice - January 11, 2021 Reply

    I’m glad. Happy 2021, Madeleine.

Patty Jean - January 3, 2018 Reply

The Three Things seems to go against everything I am learning through my doctors, CBT, DBT and Smart Recovery. Isn’t “should” a bad word? And “force myself” sounds quite unkind.

    Jonice Webb PhD - January 3, 2018 Reply

    Hi Patty, good questions. The words “should” and “force myself” could be destructive when you use them against yourself. In this exercise, you are pairing them with positive energy and purpose to take control of your own brain. It’s all about how you use them.

    Karen - January 3, 2018 Reply

    May I add a comment about my experience so far of “forcing myself” to do something I don’t feel like doing. It’s more like having a little pep talk with myself, from a positive point of view.

    An example: a couple of days ago I was sitting on the couch knowing I “should” be getting up to go visit a friend in hospital. But I didn’t really feel like moving.

    Then I remembered Dr Webb’s blog and the fact I’d taken on this resolution. So in my mind I reframed it in a positive way, how pleased my friend and I would be to see each other. That got me into action and we had an enjoyable visit.

    I mindfully dealt with the situation. Previously I would have given in to my lack of self discipline, made excuses, ending up either not visiting or doing so reluctantly and feeling guilty or resentful and beating up on myself for that.

    Yes I would say I did ” force myself” because inertia is ever present but it was done positively and mindfully. The more I’m doing this the easier it is getting and the more feelings of accomplishment and enjoyment I’m experiencing.

    This comment was all about me I know, however I’ve shared in the hope that it might be of assistance to you in all the other good work you are doing. It’s difficult undoing damage and a process that takes courage and perseverance over a long time. So I wish you much success.

      Jonice Webb PhD - January 3, 2018 Reply

      Dear Karen, that is a perfect example. Thank you for sharing it and keep up the great work!

        Patty Jean - January 3, 2018 Reply

        My way of coping with CEN (alcoholic parents, physically and mentally abusive siblings) was to be GOOD. All the time good. Obedient, non-complaining, doing for others. I’m just now learning how to cut myself some slack and it’s not easy. I’m glad the Three Things exercise works for others, but it’s just too harsh for me. Thanks, though, for the focus on CEN. I do appreciate it.

          Jonice Webb PhD - January 4, 2018 Reply

          That’s very understandable Patty. Please look for my description of Compassionate Accountability. I wrote a previous blog about it, and it’s also described in detail in my book, Running on Empty. I wrote it to help CEN folks to walk the line between holding themselves accountable while also having compassion for themselves.

          Patty Jean - January 4, 2018 Reply

          Thank you. The article on Compassionate Accountability really resonated with me. I guess that’s just where I am right now. And I purchased your book. (See…I’m not a troll!)

Karen - January 2, 2018 Reply

Dear Dr Webb
Thank you for your work. Also for setting your readers up for a much more fulfilling year ahead. I’m realising that lack of self discipline is at the basis of much of my lack of happiness and long lasting success. Thanks for pointing out that it’s a brain development issue and how to create new neural pathways.

I can see how my well meaning mother never taught me this even though she herself is an extremely self disciplined person. She wanted intelligent children so she married my clever and charismatic but very troubled, needy, demanding and angry father. She concluded when I was a few months old that I was intelligent, and therefore there was nothing else required, namely I had all the inner resources needed to forge a happy and successful life.

When I was about 7 she advised me she had only limited energy so she would focus on my father’s and younger brother’s needs. She asked me to be quiet and good, not cause any trouble and do well at school. I’d say that’s when the wall went up.

So I did my best but felt very alone and unsupported in the world, terrified in fact. I pushed all my needs and feelings behind the wall and was never sure whether I was getting it right. However I projected a facade of competence, confidence and success to the world while all the while feeling a failure.

All the characteristics you have described, lack of trust and self-confidence, unawareness of feelings and needs, lack of true connection, approval/validation seeking, to name a few are what have driven my life.

I’m 67 my mother’s 88 and I’ve tried to raise this in a non confrontational way but she takes it personally and then I have to comfort her. So I’m taking on the things you suggest in your second book which I’ve found very helpful. Now I’ve taken on your new year’s resolution around self discipline. It’s actually quite difficult but like any new habit it will take time.

I wish you a happy and fulfilling year ahead and all blessings to come back to you for the amazing gifts of transformation you are bringing into people’s lives.

    Jonice Webb PhD - January 2, 2018 Reply

    Dear Karen, you sound like you truly understand CEN and what it takes to heal. Keep your can-do attitude going, and your life will keep getting better and better. Wishing you all the best in the New Year and beyond!

DK - January 1, 2018 Reply


Thank you, Dr. Webb, for your life-saving work. I am copying this essay into my daily journal to refer back to throughout 2018. You hit the nail on the head that adults who suffered CEN invalidate their needs and over time this leads to unhealthy, one-sided relationships/friendships as well as joyless living.

I just joined 52 Weeks of Momentum led by Benjamin Hardy and plan to integrate your wise advice into my goals for his program. Will start by re-reading “Running On Empty” in my Kindle library.

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones, and again thank you for your literally life-saving work!

    Jonice Webb PhD - January 1, 2018 Reply

    Dear DK, I’m glad you are taking on your CEN! I wish you a happy and healthy 2018.

Rosie - December 31, 2017 Reply

Thank you Dr Webb, for all your work. I have put these into my plan for 2018, just setting it up now. Your work has made such a difference to me; now moving onto looking at relationships and your new book. Wishing you + your work great success in 2018.

    Jonice Webb PhD - January 1, 2018 Reply

    That’s great Rosie! I’m glad to hear it. Wishing you a great 2018 too!

Janci - December 31, 2017 Reply

Happy New Year, Dr. Webb,
Just having a label for my set of issues has helped me better understand myself. Every blessing to you in 2018.
In gratitude,
A recovering survivor of CEN.

    Jonice Webb PhD - January 1, 2018 Reply

    Happy New Year Janci! Keep up the good work.

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