Two things are going on right now that are causing more pain in adults’ relationships with their emotionally neglectful parents. Care to guess what they are? It’s the holidays plus the COVID-19 Pandemic. Mixed together, they create a cocktail of uncertainty, worry, emotional distance, and feelings of emptiness.
COVID-19 is affecting many people in many different ways. But one effect that is shared by most, perhaps virtually all, of us these days is that it, especially combined with the holidays during this unusual year, is making us feel more vulnerable.
Exactly what do I mean by vulnerable? I mean many different flavors of vulnerable feelings.
In this unprecedented time, you may be feeling more physically, socially, and emotionally vulnerable than usual and perhaps more so than ever before in your life.
You may feel physically vulnerable due to the risk of getting sick.
You may feel socially vulnerable due to being cut off or distanced from your family and friends.
And you may be feeling emotionally vulnerable, a product of all three of the factors above. On top of all that, most of us are spending more time alone with fewer distractions. The pandemic, with its social distancing, requires you to sit with yourself more, so it’s difficult to escape your feelings, anxieties, doubts, and fears. And they may be many.
As COVID-19 drags on, the holidays approaching, and the world awaiting a vaccine, many relationships have been affected. Some have been enlivened or deepened or enriched. Marriages, friendships, and families have become closer, more mutually dependent, and more supportive.
Other relationships have been strained by the present situation we are in. They have been challenged, weakened, frustrated, broken, or pained.
As someone who hears from hundreds of people every week who are doing their best to cope with the pandemic, as well as the holidays, one of the relationship types that I have noticed taking a lot of boosts, as well as hits, are the relationships between CEN adults and their parents.
Whatever your situation with your parents, the pandemic may be complicating it. Your parents may live nearby or far away. You may have had issues with your parents before COVID-19. Your parents may be healthy emotionally and physically or they may be elderly and frail. They may be living in a facility.
Whatever the circumstances, I believe that millions of people are feeling extra vulnerable right now and are finding themselves struggling with their parents in some new way. And it is all due to circumstances that are completely out of their control.
If you grew up in an emotionally unavailable (CEN) family, you may be experiencing several of the effects above. You may feel a longing to receive the ingredients that were missing from your childhood, while also feeling distant and helpless and disappointed in your parents.
When you do not receive enough emotional attention, empathy, meaningful conversation, or validation from your parents as a child, (Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN) you are naturally, as an adult, continually driven back to try to capture it. But your CEN parents may simply not have it to give, and this compounds your pain.
Most likely, this pandemic is affecting many of your relationships for better or for worse. And now, with the holidays upon us too, the one thing you can do right now that will make you stronger in every area of your life: nurture yourself, care for yourself, and pay attention to what you are feeling.
When you feel vulnerable, treat yourself as if you are your own number one. Because you are.
Wonder if you grew up in an emotionally neglectful family? Take the Emotional Neglect Questionnaire. See the book Running On Empty to learn what CEN is and how it affects you now; and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships to learn how you can heal CEN with your partner, parents, and children.
Let’s start with a few questions about your own personal experience with social distancing during the pandemic.
Read my CEN Pandemic Survival Guide by clicking on the link or the picture below. I hope it offers you ideas, solace, helpful advice, and care.
Childhood Emotional Neglect is often invisible and unmemorable so it can be difficult to know if you have it. To find out, Take the Emotional Neglect Test. It’s free.
Whatever negative events you may have imagined happening in your future, the coronavirus pandemic was probably not one of them.
It seems that the current state of our world, replete as it is with quarantines, stay-at-home orders, closed businesses, virtual education, lost projects, and social distancing leaves probably about 90% or more people feeling alone, uncertain and lost.
As a psychologist who specializes in the effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN on adults,
I can tell you that scores of people had already brought a big dose of those three feelings forward from their childhoods and have been quietly coping with them for years.
And now, in this current situation, we are handed an extra measure of “alone, uncertain, and lost,” plus a whole lot more.
If you grew up in a family that ignored the emotions of its members (CEN); if you are stuck at home, feeling stressed, lost, confused, terrified, alone, helpless or hopeless, sad, worried, or angry, I want you to know that there is a way to turn this around for yourself.
The Importance of Control in an Uncontrollable Time
Much of this situation is truly out of your control, but not all of it. It is possible to reframe your current situation into an oppor- tunity. An opportunity to do things you were never able to do because of time, stress, and all the life demands that you’ve always been juggling.
I believe you can survive the challenges of this pandemic. But I want you to do better than survive. I want you to find yourself growing in surprising ways during the pandemic. I want you to thrive.
So I have put together this guide to help you cope and grow in the various areas of your life that are being challenged the most by the current state of our world. In this Guide you will find understanding, awareness, help, and support, as well as concrete steps you can take to care for yourself during COVID-19.