I’m a 55 year old white female and just realized I was emotionally neglected. I grew up with a mentally ill mother and a verbally abusive father. I couldn’t wait to be a mother and wanted to have a daughter more than anything in the world because I wanted to make sure that she knew above all that she is loved. Recently, my now 14 year old daughter shared with me that she doesn’t feel loved. I was so shocked to hear this – although I do see so many of the same traits in her that I had growing up – for instance, I never felt like I had any good friends.. However, she on the other hand, has two parents that has told her repeatedly how loved she is, has given her nearly everything she has ever wanted. When my daughter told me how she felt, I was overwhelmed with devastation. It wasn’t until I Googled “Why would a person feel like they are unloved?”….when I learned about emotional neglect, I felt such a huge relief. Why? Because I finally realized that I am normal and that all of my feelings for all of these years were caused from being emotionally neglected. I cried for almost 12 hours straight. Although I was elated to know I am normal, I was distraught that I carried this over to my daughter. I realize that as a parent, I have been emotionally neglectful to my daughter. I want to get her and myself HELP now, so that we can both begin healing and so that this chain is broken in our family. Is there a way to get a list of therapists in my area that specialize in emotional neglect therapy? Please let me know.
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Dear Cathy, thank you for sharing your story and concerns. Please know that if you have transferred CEN to your daughter it is not your fault. It just happens automatically. I commend you for listening to your daughter’s painful words and being open to learning and growing. I encourage you to check the Find A CEN Therapist List located under the HELP tab of this website for a CEN-trained therapist near you.
Hi Dr Jonice,
I’m 23, living with my parents. I’ve been on and off with recovery. Right now it feels like I’m going backwards. Focusing my energy outward helps sometimes, but also feels counterintuitive because I want to focus my energy inward in order to recover, but I have trouble setting boundaries. I feel like caving in or being alone most of the time. Being around my parents makes it harder. I am trying to hold space for everything, while letting myself feel what I feel.
Hi,Jonice.Myself Pranami (27yo) from India.I read your book ‘Running on empty ‘ and it was like Reading about myself.During my childhood i was emotionally neglected by my parent,I faced an verbally abusive teacher when i was 10yo later i met emotionally abusive peer and I used to self harm myself when i was in grade 5 and thought of commiting suicide when i was 16 .My parents later on started to play favouritism and still do.
I live with my WMBTN + per parent,I am an underachiever and i wasted 3years doing nothing.As i live with my parent ,My condition is getting worse.I have no one to talk about it.I talked about it with my bff but she said that I have ego.I feel alone.I will try all the exercise that you’ve mentioned in your book.Your book is like a light in the end of the tunnel.Will try to set boundaries from my parents.But Won’t the process will be tough if i can’t express my feelings to anyone? And Thank you so much for saving me.I feel relieved after reading the book.
Dear Pranami, I’m so glad to be helpful. Now you can get yourself on the track to healing your CEN.
Hi Dr Webb. Thanks so much for all the time you put into your work, its so nice to finally have someone validate my lack of emotional validation and connection (especially to myself and my family).
My whole family is severely lacking in anything emotion. It is not because my parents don’t love me or my siblings. They don’t have the skills they need.
Because it is a lack of skill and not a lack of love, I really want to let my mom ‘in’ on my struggles and her part in it. (in a respectful and understanding way, which will be helpful)
The problem is, my CEN gets greatly exacerbated when I talk to my mother, which greatly handicaps my ability to communicate and describe my feelings in a way that makes sense or is understandable. (Besides the fact that in general its hard for me to define my own feelings.)
I also feel that I need to be articulate and overly understandable to my mother because she wont be able to comprehend the concept otherwise.
Any way you’d be able to help would be invaluable. Thanks!!
Dear Zeeky, I know this is a challenging process, bringing up CEN to your mother. Please see my book, Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. There are many examples and ideas and lots of support re: bringing up CEN with parents. I’m sure it will help you greatly.
1) Can you add a link to the website with a different store to buy your book from? Don’t really buy on amazon. (There may be many more like me [shutting down free speech issues})
Good point, thank you, Zeeky.
I wonder if you could write some more articles on the relationship between CEN and friendships. Since the effects of CEN start to be active in childhood, I suppose it will all have an influence in how we develop friendships from a young age, and especially as teenagers.
I’m asking this because I constantly compare myself with others regarding friendship (I just read your article on comparisons): I keep feeling my friendships are not enough in quantity nor quality, and I suffer more than I enjoy them. I was a more sensitive and introverted child than my siblings, and maybe that made me an easier victim for CEN, which then manifested, among other things, in my difficulty to develop friendships. Also, my siblings have a lot of long-time friends, and seeing myself as different and incapable of changing my situation made me develop a “friendship complex”. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.
Dear Audrey, will write an article about that topic. I agree, it’s an important one. Thanks for your suggestion!
Dear Dr Webb,
My husband has CEN but also narcissistic traits. He habitually over the last 6 years gaslighted and stonewalled. He lacks empathy with me and often seems very juvenile emotionally.
You say CEN is repairable but narcissism is very difficult to change. How can I tell which is causing his behavior?
Dear Stacy, gaslighting is not a characteristic of CEN. Manipulation, lying, etc. are a sign of something else entirely.
Hello Dr Webb!
Life saving work indeed!
Will you be running any online recovery programs any time soon and if so, how can one be a part of that? Like so many, i am now at a stage were i am quite certain what has been going on inside of me over the past few years and really want to start a process of healing. I’ve lost far too much time and cannot afford to lose anymore and honestly now i feel like my head is about to explode. I am not in a position to see a therapist right now so i have to roll up my sleeves and start doing the work on myself by myself. I have bought a copy of ‘Running on Empty’ and would love to supplement my reading of that with one of your programs!
Thank you again!
Dear Mas, you can learn about my Fuel Up For Life online CEN recovery program at this link: https://drjonicewebb.com/fuel-up-for-life-program/. It’s open for enrollment right now and you sound like a great fit for the program. I would love to have you participate.
Hi Dr. Webb,
I am almost 18 and I am so happy that I found your website and your book. I read Running on Empty and I found that I related the most to Robyn. The description of “Robyn felt that she was on the outside of life looking in, watching herself as if she were on a movie screen, disconnected, alone and unknown” is exactly how I feel. I’ve never been able to accurately explain it but it truly does feel like I’m watching myself more than it feels like I’m actually living. I am just constantly aware of myself in an uncomfortable way. It’s a bit strange but if you are familiar with the movie Inside Out, I feel like I’m watching life through the perspective of someone inside of my head, rather than as myself. I will be starting the feelings sheets you recommended, I’d like to know if you have any more specific tips for this feeling in particular.
Dear Katherine, connecting with your own feelings will reconnect you with your true self and, over time, make you more comfortable in your own skin and with being yourself.
Hi, I have just started reading the book Running on Empty. None of the 12 parent types resonate with my experience. There’s a little bit narcissistic and a little bit authoritarian but not enough to classify them in those particular groups or any other. I was a scapegoat. I often look back and feel that I was consciously treated very badly by them while they praised and worshipped my older sister. It was like a specific isolation towards me because they were intelligent, well off, obviously capable of being nice, caring & supportive, they just chose not to be that way with me.
I was fed, clothed, but otherwise dismissed.
After reading the early pages of the book it has stirred up my feelings of CEN.
I’m feeling again unseen, uncared for, as if what happened to me doesn’t matter.
Can you advise me please. Will my issues be covered later on if I keep reading?
Dear Pip, I did mention in both of my books that not all emotionally neglectful parents fit the types. They’re only meant as guidelines, and not as exclusive categories. So please don’t get stuck on that; just take forward whatever you may have learned about your parents and keep reading. If you find that it doesn’t apply to you, that’s okay too. Just think of it all as food for thought.
Hi Jonice, thank you for your reply, I do appreciate it.
I am continuing to read the book.
Feeling all my life that I don’t matter, always having been left out of my family group, has created a lot of hurts, scars and sensitivities within me. Having so much pain inside me, generates a high sensitivity to being left out. That is my largest issue. Something or other seems to occur almost daily to trigger that choking sadness of feeling excluded, unworthy, & unwanted. It’s very difficult to cling on to objectivity and I regularly get swamped by those painful emotions.
I really want to get over that.
Hi. I’m writing because I’m struggling to connect in my marriage. I’m a 50yr old that has suffered from CEN from my entire family (who I’ve been estranged from for 17+ yrs). As a result, I feel I have little to give to my marriage. We both feel alone and lonely. What would help?
Dear Julia, aside from engaging with a Cen therapist from the list on this site, you can read both of my books together and work through them together. I think it could make a big difference if you both do the work.
Hi Dr. Webb! I have read both of your books and also in your online program. I originally came here because my therapist directed me here. I definitely have CEN. Tried talking to my mother about it and was blown off multiple times. Have gone over a year without speaking. I also have a strained relationship with my one sister who may be NPD with ADD. I am finding not only her, but my mother to have similar qualities. As much as I want a connection with them, I feel emotionally drained when I am to meet their every need and they have no desire to know or see me deeply. The relationship is clearly not reciprocal. I guess my question is…if we are to share who we are by emotions and/or be vulnerable, how can you when your body says no this is not safe? How is someone in my situation to know what is healthy and safe if it was never displayed growing up?
Dear Lauren, can you ask me this question on a Q&A call? There’s a lot to say about it. Short answer is that it’s a lot of learning by doing. Taking chances and making mistakes. Just take small chances, not big ones.
Dr Jonice. Firstly thank you, for your website and books. This question by Lauren is something I am also trying to work out. How to have a relationship with parents Mum in particular while feeling in my body that it’s unsafe to be open and vulnerable with them. Did you answer this in long version on a q and a and if so do you have a link I could have? Many thanks, Sarah
Dear Sarah, if your body tells you to protect yourself emotionally with your parent, it is very important to listen. There is a lot of good help for your situation in my second book, Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. You can find it in libraries and bookstores and online.
Hi Dr Jonice. I realised something very important yesterday morning: usually I am afraid to wait for my feelings so I race ahead into doing something instead. So today I took the time to feel my emotions, and then I felt the absence of comforting feelings. I sense missing my mother and sadness, followed with mild depression. As I was the second child, my mother was very busy taking care of her family and helping with her father’s grocery shop. Later she took care of her sick mother as well. So as a child I missed being cared emotionally by my mother. The start of my CEN! Of course an older brother with Narcissism blocked my felling even more. Rodney
You can start thinking more deeply about your anxiety. What are the feelings that go into it? Start trying to name them instead of thinking of them as “anxiety.” That would be a great place to start on this.
I’m glad you’re feeling your feelings! Keep up the good work.
Hi Rodney, this is a sign that you will need some support and help as you go through the program. It would not be good for you to think of me as your therapist as you go through my online program, as it is a very different sort of set-up. You will need (and you also deserve) help and support to manage all of these feelings that you’re having. I think it would be a great idea for you to seek a CEN therapist near you who you can see. Also, on the CEN Therapist List there are plenty of therapists who do skype if there are none near you. Please do this, it is important.
Hi Dr Jonice. Having been put down for years by my nephew I told him yesterday he was very selfish and I had enough with his demeaning behaviour. I showed him how angry I was. Today I just looked after me and I felt so happy. I feel guilty but I don’t care. I am assertive and confident.
It’s good you’re standing up for yourself, Rodney! I hope you have, or will, read a book on assertiveness so you can be sure to do it in a healthy way that you are most likely to be heard. Keep up the good work!
That’s a great example of how paying attention to your feelings tells you about yourself and what you need.
I enjoyed talking with you too, Rodney. I’m glad you’re in the program! Keep on practicing and it will pay off.
That’s actually a good way to practice feeling: reading a book or watching a show that’s emotional. It’s a little less threatening or difficult than feeling them in real life.
Hi Rodney, good question! But psychology is a big field, very broad and deep. I have taken the parts that pertain directly to CEN and built them into the course to make it focused and targeted toward healing the specific problem of CEN. I’m sorry to say that it’s not possible for me to also try to educate about such a big field as psychology. It also may confuse members of Fuel Up For Life to have lots of extra info.
Usually I feel depressed each morning. I realise now this is my core emotion and it comes from negative comments from my older brother in childhood. Today I tried to change my depression. So I said to myself, “ I accept what I heard as a child but no longer accept it as the truth of who I am. I know that I am worthwhile and appreciated by others. I felt happy. As I realise I can help myself I feel more valid as a person. I am amazed how this process worked. I am so sad for missing out on emotional help as a child. Thank you Dr Jonice. Rodney
That is wonderful to hear, Rodney! Keep up the good work!
I was waiting to be served in post office when a man started talking about feeling not right. I shared what I just found out from Jonice Webb about emotional neglect in childhood. From his conversation I realised he was suffering from
CEN. We had an instant connection for shared experiences. Amazing!
That is amazing Rodney! You made a stranger’s day, and I hope your own as well! Good job making a meaningful connection with another person.
Hi I’m new to realizing my CEN. what direction do I need to go?
I recommend first reading Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect. You can find it on Amazon or bookstores or local library. That will get you started. Also be sure to join my newsletter because that will keep you informed of every new resource available.
My wife and I are separated due to the fact that I am emotionally disconnected. I have been seeing a councilor for a few months and haven’t come to the source of my issues. When asked why I do things the way I do and unable to explain my feelings it drives my wife crazy. Let me also inform that my wife is a LCSW. When questioned by her I start feeling anxiety and discomfort and I clam up with feelings of cowardness, worthlessness, embarrassment. This is also my second marriage and I have an adult daughter from first marriage, that I don’t have a successful relationship with. Could I be suffering from CEN?
It’s a possibility, Michael, based on what you are describing. Please take the CEN Test from this website and read the book Running On Empty. You’ll get a sense of whether it applies to you that way.
Dear Dr. Webb,
After many years together, and a lot of work on our marriage (predominantly through heavy emotional labor performed by me before we started having children), my husband and I recently became aware of you, your books, and the concept of CEN. We were immediately able to pinpoint what has been covertly ailing our relationship all these years — his rather extreme difficulty with CEN. He has started seeing a therapist but it is progressing SO slowly. Too slow. Meanwhile I am desperately lonely and feel that I am drowning trying to hold our marriage and our family (1 young child and 1 on the way) together. I feel that things need to improve markedly before the baby gets here or this will be a disaster. I simply cannot emotionally carry 4 of us by myself with no emotional anchor. I am already seeing my own therapist. It does help to vent my frustrations somewhere else so as not to discourage him and spread my burgeoning feelings of hopelessness. I have also broadened my friend circle and reconnected with more distant family. But it’s not close to filling the hole in my heart. And I can feel that myself and my young child are starting to sustain damage now too. I can’t let that happen so I feel that my husband and I may be on track to “miss out” on each other in life. By the time he gets here, I worry I won’t be able to come back to love, much less the madly-in-love feelings I used to have for many years. I am so sad. What more can I do to “hold on” while I wait? Can I do anything to make this progress faster? Are we just star-crossed?
Dear Juliet I know you’re in a very difficult situation. I suggest you see your husbands therapist with him as a way to bring your feelings into the room. That may speed up progress. Best wishes to you!
Thank you Dr. Webb, I will do that. Could you also point me to any additional resources or support groups for spouses of people with CEN. I don’t want to feel so alone anymore.
Dear Juliet, I’m sorry I don’t know of any support groups like that. But you should definitely read Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. it has lots of helpful information for you.
I am so glad to have stumbled across CEN as it “explains” me perfectly. I am 61 years old, divorced, very lonely and was subjected to CEN for 39 years until my mother died in 1996. I am also a HSP – double whamy! I bought the book right away – about a year ago – but . . . I’m scared to read it. I’m afraid i’ll see myself and feel worse or that the “fixes” won’t work and my depression will get even worse (already pretty bad even on 2 meds). Any ideas on how to overcome this? There are no CEN therapist within 200 miles. I’ve emailed a couple on the list and heard nothing back.
Wow, reading about CEN explains ‘me’, perfectly. I have had that exact thought of feeling there was something wrong with me but not knowing what. Ever since childhood I have struggled forming relationships and thought I was just a bit odd. My father had many narcissistic qualities and so CEN explains everything perfectly. Thank you for highlighting and shining a light on this issue.
Hi Dr Jonice,
I have been supporting a boy from age 13-19 with CEN it was going really well until this year. My daughter rejected his romantic advance and he changed dramatically. He will not see us and has been behaving awfully towards me. I am devestated. He says he will talk when he is ready but i am so hurt and frustrated that i have lashed out a few times and feel guilty. How do i deal with this. I guess my fear is losing him as someone in our lives he says we wont but he is like a son to me and i miss him terribly. He is punishing me i think because he knows i love him very much.
Dear Jgrohl, this is far too complex a problem for me to help you with online. Please do see a therapist who can get all the history and help you through this.
Ive read your book running on empty. How do you deal with intrusion of emotions and thoughts to the degree you self harm just to shut them up. They become so confusing and overwhelming I cant deal with them. Ive been told as a child and as an adult in a church that basically my feelings are incorrect. I know now my sense about a situation was correct, but I still have the messages running in my head…and Id rather shut them up than feel them.
I realised and posted afew years ago about the trouble of living as an adult post CEN.
As a fairly competent scientist in those few years my skills have become more in demand, and as a result I am busy enough to know I just can’t keep going like this; yet saying no when you could help others is so hard.
To make things harder I’m now in the first meaningful relationship I’ve let myself be in (as running away comes naturally when you’ve learnt not to trust), and explaining why saying no is so hard just seems to be incomprehensible to someone more normal. How do you go about explaining it to someone, that you are trying to get a better balance, but that you are just not good at putting your own needs first; and how can you let people you could help down without feeling guilty?
Dear AC, you don’t owe an explanation at all. But if it makes you feel bad, you can say, “I’m working on paying more attention to my own needs. My impulse is to always say yes but it’s wearing me down. I’m sorry but I can’t.” Or some variation using your own words.
hi Dr. jonice, let me first introduce my self, i`m inez from indonesia, I’ve read your very outstanding books (running on empty & second, running on empty no more) thank you so much for healing me, your books is really helping me to understand my self. i trough bad childhood and ever to think to commit suicide but after reading your books finally i can analyze what happened. so finally i got to stage where i am trying to forgive and make peace with my parents, but it`s really hard to do that and i just to figured out that is not fully my parents mistake because may them just inhereted from their parents too but this hypothesis can not be accepted by me because my grandparents is really lovable people especially to all their grandkids and my parents grew up in good enviroment too. please help me to figure out this case,
thank you so much Dr. jonice
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