Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN): Happens when your parents fail to respond enough to your emotional needs as they raise you.
Growing up with your parents under-responding to your feelings throughout your childhood sets you up to under-respond to your own feelings through your adulthood. Essentially, you are trained to ignore, minimize, and perhaps even be ashamed of, your own feelings.
But the good news is that Childhood Emotional Neglect is not a lifelong sentence. You can heal it. And it’s not as difficult or complicated as you might think.
By beginning to pay attention to yourself and your own feelings, you can begin to honor your deepest self; the self that was so ignored as a child. The more you focus on yourself, your own feelings and needs and wants, the better you can take step after step through the CEN healing process.
As a psychologist who specializes in treating Childhood Emotional Neglect, I have walked hundreds of people through the 5 stages of CEN recovery. And I have watched motivated people slip off-track, distracted by the demands of their everyday life or discouraged about their inability to make it happen fast enough.
One thing I know from going through this with so many CEN folks is that the ones who succeed, who really change their lives, are the ones who never give up.
The best thing you can do to heal yourself is to keep your goals in your mind as you go through your day. And to help you do that, I am sharing with you daily affirmations in every area of your recovery: healing yourself, healing your marriage, parenting your children, and coping with your emotionally neglectful parents.
Once you get started, you may want to use some from all 4 areas, because once you start to see yourself through the lens of CEN, you may reflect differently on every important person in your life.
I recommend you read through all of the affirmations below. As you do so, you may notice that certain ones jump out at you. These are the ones that you likely need the most right now.
You can use these affirmations in two different ways. You can say them to yourself when you need them, to keep you on track, remind you of what’s important, and strengthen you. You can also use them as starting points to help you think about, or meditate on, what’s important in your healing. I hope you will use them, and use them well.
FOR HEALING YOURSELF
My wants and needs are just as important as anyone else’s.
My feelings are important messages from my body.
My feelings matter.
I am a valid human being with feelings and needs.
I am worth getting to know.
I am a likable and lovable person.
I am the only person responsible for getting my own needs met.
It is not selfish, but responsible, to put my own needs first.
Asking for help is a sign of strength.
Feelings are never right or wrong. They just are.
I am proud to be a deeply feeling person.
All human beings make mistakes. What matters is that I learn from mine.
I deserve to be cared for.
My feelings are walled off, but they are still there, and they are important.
Every feeling can be managed.
FOR PARENTING YOUR CHILDREN
My children’s feelings drive their behavior. Feelings first.
I can’t give my children what I do not have myself.
My child is important, but so am I.
The better I care for myself, the better I can care for my child.
I don’t need to be a perfect parent. I just need to pay enough attention to their feelings.
I will give my child what I never got from my parents.
The best way to do better for my children is to do better for myself.
FOR HEALING YOUR MARRIAGE
I matter, and so does my husband/wife.
My partner cannot read my mind.
It’s my responsibility to tell my partner what I want, feel, and need.
My partner and I each have hundreds of feelings each and every day.
It’s okay if my partner’s feelings are not the same as mine.
The facts are less important than my partner’s feelings.
When it comes to my marriage, sharing is key.
My partner needs me to talk more and ask more questions.
TO COPE WITH YOUR PARENTS
I did not choose to grow up emotionally neglected.
My parents could not give me what they did not have.
My parents are not capable of seeing or knowing the real me.
I am angry at my parents for a reason. They failed me in a very important way.
I can spend time with my emotionally neglectful parents. My boundaries will protect me.
I don’t have to be validated by my parents. I validate myself.
If my parents are not able to see me, I will see myself.
It’s my responsibility to give myself what my parents couldn’t give me. And I will.
You can find out more about reparenting yourself and healing your CEN by signing up for my Free CEN Breakthrough Video Series.
Childhood Emotional Neglect can be subtle and unmemorable so it can be hard to know if you have it. To find out Take The Emotional Neglect Test. It’s free.
To learn much more about how Emotional Neglect happens and how to heal it, see the book Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.
Between psychology, medical science, and neuroscience, we have never known so much about the human mind. Recently I’ve been amazed at the number and quality of studies that are showing us the amount of pure power our brains have; powers that are truly amazing. Powers that change the meaning of the old phrase, “put your mind to it.”
This worked similarly for calorie burning. In a Harvard study, a group of hotel housekeepers was told that their job provided an excellent work-out. When compared with a similar group who were not told this, the “believing group” lowered their body fat, blood pressure, and BMI far more than housekeepers doing the exact same job but who were not led to believe it was an excellent form of exercise.
The Takeaway: Your brain is far more powerful than scientists ever knew. It is capable of building muscle and raising your metabolism, by the sheer force of your belief and imagination.
The Takeaway: Be careful what you believe about yourself because your brain will make it so.
The Takeaway: Your imagination has the power to significantly improve your ability to perform a complex task.
As a psychologist whose business is helping people change, I am not surprised by these findings. Every day I see people harness their brain powers to make profound changes in their personalities, their relationships, and their lives.
Of all of the things in this world that you can believe in, none are as important as you.
So make a conscious decision. Wish it, believe it, imagine it. Your brain can make it so.
To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, how it happens and how to recover from it, see my books Running Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships and Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect, and Take The Emotional Neglect Test for free.
Guest post by Joanna Rogowska:
I like to reward myself at the end of the week with a delicious meal with friends. It’s my weekly treat. I also like to check out new restaurants. So when my two good friends Lucy and Jane suggested meeting in our favorite burger place, I proposed a new Japanese restaurant instead. I had heard good things about the food and what caught my interest was their new interactive ordering system with overhead projection technology.
I’d read that each table in the restaurant was equipped with a built-in tablet. You could select your virtual tablecloth, explore the menu, project a picture of the meal onto your table, and of course, also order your food. I love new technological gadgets!
When we arrived, I fell in love with this place straight away – beautiful and authentic Japanese decor, lotus flowers, cherry blossoms, bamboo benches, and high-tech tables. A fantastic combination of traditional and modern Japan.
Lucy and I started ordering the meal, getting all excited about it. It was a really cool experience to be able to project the picture of each meal onto the plate in front of you. We played around with changing virtual table cloths, debating which one we were going to choose for our table. I realized that I was feeling something.
Playful, connected, excited, and happy.
As we were exploring the technological possibilities at our table, Jane suddenly called the waiter over and asked for a paper menu. “I really don’t know how to make this digital stuff work!” she told us. “It’s really not intuitive and annoying. I prefer a normal menu.”
Suddenly my pleasant feelings disappeared and a big sense of heaviness took their place. I suddenly felt overwhelmingly bad. I looked at Lucy and she seemed to continue enjoying looking through the menu and ordering her meal. But for me, as soon as Jane asked for a paper menu, I stopped enjoying the evening.
In the past, before learning how to master my emotions, I would have sat miserably throughout the rest of the meal feeling confused and simply “bad.” I would have let this ruin my evening. Now I knew better, and it was time to check in with my feelings to investigate what was going on. So I tuned in to my emotions.
Makes sense. I was looking forward to dinner today and suddenly I was not able to enjoy it. My intention was to relax and have a good time and now I was far from that, so I felt angry. But the big question was, why was I not enjoying the evening? I knew I had to dig deeper to find the right feelings.
Insecure, awkward, guilty, and ashamed.
As soon as I identified shame, I felt a sense of relief. It made so much sense for two reasons. First of all, I know I am a compulsive people pleaser. I tend to always put other people’s needs in front of my own. I cannot have a good time if I see that my friends are not enjoying themselves. So seeing Jane not enjoying the technology made me feel guilty for suggesting to go there.
But I knew there was more behind this feeling so I dug deeper. I had known that Jane was not a big fan of technology, yet I had still suggested this restaurant. How could I have been so inconsiderate? All I could think of was the fact that I was stupid because I couldn’t even pick the right restaurant for my friends…
Going through these feelings in my head brought me a sense of relief. I was feeling less and less overwhelmed and uncomfortable and beginning to feel some new feelings.
Clear, confident, and capable.
My feelings reminded me that the well-being of my friends was important to me. So I thanked my feelings for drawing my attention to the situation. I accepted my feelings and released them. I also accepted that my inner critic blew the situation slightly out of proportion, as things were actually going well. It was difficult to accept that, but it felt liberating to do so.
Finally, I reassured myself that Jane, having received her paper menu, was enjoying selecting her meal in a more traditional way and no one was thinking any less of me for choosing this location.
I once again felt what I had felt at the beginning of the evening.
The dinner turned out to be fantastic. We had a great time and we were pleased with the new discovery we made and the food we ate.
How quickly I could have let my emotions take over and ruin my evening if I hadn’t paid attention to them and made the effort to understand them. That was a reminder to me once again of how important it is for me to observe myself and try to understand my feelings.
The author, Joanna Rogowska, is a researcher for FeelingMagnets.com. Feeling Magnets are a helpful tool to get you more in touch with your emotions and learn how to use them.
To learn more about how to recognize, use, and express your emotions see the book, Running on Empty.
Quite some years ago a colleague dragged me to a mindfulness training for mental health professionals. At that time, mindfulness was not considered a fully valid concept in psychology.
As a psychologist who valued science, I viewed it as nothing other than new age, mystical hippy nonsense. I anticipated a flaky conference, and I was not disappointed. At one point, they had us all stand up and mill about aimlessly while humming for 20 minutes. Then we had to ask and answer some very personal questions with the strangers next to us.
Ugh. Not my cup of tea.
Fast forward to 2021, where mindfulness and science have met and married. And oh, what a glorious union it is! Mindfulness studies have been pouring from many of the best researchers in the world for over a decade. And the meaning of mindfulness has matured from simply “being in the moment” to a richer, more complex definition.Continue reading