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Author of Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect
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Childhood Emotional Neglect is a parent’s failure to respond enough to the child’s emotional needs.
Emotional Neglect is, in some ways, the opposite of mistreatment and abuse. Whereas mistreatment and abuse are parental acts, Emotional Neglect is a parent’s failure to act.
It’s a failure to notice, attend to, or respond appropriately to a child’s feelings. Because it’s an act of omission, it’s not visible, noticeable or memorable. Emotional Neglect is the white space in the family picture; the background rather than the foreground. It is insidious and overlooked while it does its silent damage to people’s lives.
Children who are emotionally neglected then grow up to have a particular set of struggles. Because their emotions were not validated as children, they may have difficulty knowing and trusting their own emotions as adults.
They may have difficulty understanding their own feelings, as well as others’. Because an important part of themselves (their emotional self) has been denied, they may find themselves feeling disconnected, unfulfilled or empty. They may have difficulty trusting or relying upon others. Many describe feeling that they are different from other people; like something is wrong with them, but they’re not sure what it is.
The way you are treated emotionally by your parents determines how you will treat yourself as an adult. This has been proven over and over again in study after study.
Emotion is an undeniable part of your biology. If you ignore your emotions, you will feel ignored on some level, no matter how much care you give yourself in other ways.
Emotion is the substance of all relationships. If you are not attending to your emotions, you are by-passing a vital source of connection and joy.
Emotional Intelligence has been proven to be more valuable to success in life and work than general intelligence. It’s extremely vital that you know how to name, use and manage emotion, as well as how to deal with it in others.
People who received emotional validation from their parents in childhood are generally able to provide it automatically to their own children. People who didn't receive it enough themselves will likely struggle to provide it as parents. It is vital to recognize what you didn't get yourself so that you can make conscious effort to learn the missing skills, fill your own blind spots, and give your children what you didn't get.
I have been practicing psychology for over 20 years. And during that time, I started to notice an “invisible factor” from childhood which weighed upon people in adulthood, sapping their joy, making them feel disconnected or unfulfilled, or causing them to struggle with self-discipline.
I called it Emotional Neglect.
First, I saw it in my psychology clients. Then, the circle widened, and I began to see it in the people all around me: at the grocery store, the mall, and even on reality TV shows.
This factor from childhood is so subtle that it goes virtually unnoticed by everyone while it does its silent damage to people’s lives.
As I became aware of the full power and prevalence of Emotional Neglect, I felt compelled to drag it out of the darkness and into the light; to help people to see how it effects them, and to give them the tools to fix it.
My promise to you is that if you take this short questionnaire and follow my advice… recovering from CEN will become significantly easier.