Childhood Emotional Neglect Discussion Page

Please share your story with others here. Want to request a blog post on a certain topic? Respond to someone else’s post? Please do!

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**This page is not intended to provide psychotherapy advice or professional services of any kind or to replace a clinical relationship with a psychologist or therapist. It is meant only to share understanding, information and support about Childhood Emotional Neglect.

I’m sorry that I can’t answer individual questions on this page. But I have found that CEN people benefit greatly from sharing their CEN experiences, goals and challenges with each other. I hope you will participate in the general discussion, which is filled with insightful, thoughtful comments and responses.

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Alex S - April 7, 2021 Reply

Hello, I’ve been following your work for a couple of years now, trying to work though my Childhood emotional neglect, so that I can be a better partner and father, despite my history.

Recently, I spent a couple of weeks caring for my aging parents, particularly my father, who is dying from cancer, bedridden, and likely has only a few weeks left to live.

I was talking to my wife about my feelings, and I realized that when he passes, my grief will not be ‘typical’ in the sense of mourning the loss of a loved one with sadness. My grief likely won’t be one of happiness either, but I admitted that the emotion that I anticipated most, would be one of relief.

The nature of my experience with childhood emotional neglect includes periodic financial crises throughout my childhood and adult life, where every few years or so my parents would announce that they required a ‘bailout’ lest the power be disconnected, they’re getting evicted due to non-payment of rent, or at another time, the house seized due to non-payment (non-filing, actually) of tax returns, etc. In these crises, family members my grandmother, then my uncles, and then my sister, brother and I would spring into action, and find some way to save the day. Usually at great personal and emotional expense.
And while there would always be contrition and talk about changing behaviors to prevent recurrence, but in reality, nothing would change, and a few years later, another crisis would ensue.

So my feeling of relief at the prospect of my father’s impending death seems to me to be well founded, but difficult to admit outwardly, as it seems quite callous. And I know that on some levels, there is more emotion tied into the relationship than this. I came to your website to look for some articles and information to help me consider how my process might go.

Coincidentally, I read a recent article in the New York Times that discussed complex grief, and I thought that you might find it interesting as well.



    Jonice - April 9, 2021 Reply

    Dear Alex, thank you for sharing your experiences with us. That is a very good article so thanks for sharing it too. Take care!

asha - March 25, 2021 Reply

Why does one has to be licensed to be able to learn and practice CEN ? Are there any other routes ?

    Jonice - March 28, 2021 Reply

    Dear Asha, I rely on licensure or certifications to make sure CEN therapists meet the qualifications of their state or province. Being a therapist requires training and education, supervision, and tests to ensure competency so that clients can rely on the quality of services.

Jeff - March 24, 2021 Reply

Please add me to your newsletter. My other email was canceled. Thank you.

    Jonice - March 24, 2021 Reply


Linda - January 25, 2021 Reply

Hi Dr. Webb! I have to thank you so sincerely for your work and contribution to this area. It resonates quite deeply with me and within me. I began working in the field of clinical psychology more than 15 yrs ago when I obtained my doctorate – and it truly baffles me that we never learned about this in my program. Kudos and deep thanks to you and all you have done.

    Jonice - January 26, 2021 Reply

    Dear Linda, thank you so much for your message. I’m so glad to contribute useful information to the field and to you!

LC - January 23, 2021 Reply

Thank you Dr. Webb for bringing attention to CEN.

I understand so much now about what happened to me. I’m over 50 years old, and I’ve healed a lot, but I wish therapists had known when I was younger.

My parents were good people. They cared about me and wanted me to succeed. But it only takes one major emotional need that’s not validated to do this to you. And even if I said something back then, 50 years ago they wouldn’t have taken it seriously: my emotional need was to be seen as my gender.

Maria - January 1, 2021 Reply

My husband passed away a year 1/2 ago. I obsess nearly every day about how we didn’t discuss his feelings about dying and how I could have helped him more if we had. Or, how I could have done more for him in many different ways, done things differently and maybe he would have been happier, or yes, live longer.

Here was a man who normally didn’t hold feelings back and was very good about talking with others about their feelings and what they could do about them but didn’t talk about what he was going through. His doctors never suggested once that he do this!! I think he believed that in not talking about it, his illness would disappear. Even when he could no longer physically talk two weeks before he died, I didn’t ask him about it!

Guilty grief is real with me, and I need help with it. I do attend an online grief group for spouses, but all I seem to do is cry when it is my turn to talk and I am sure this is why. I also felt like a fraud because he was very popular with women when we met and I am the one he ended up with.

I want to see a therapist, but hold back from that because then I would have to share my feelings!! Ha. Not sure who I would see anyway.

Anonymous - December 15, 2020 Reply

Dear Dr.Webb,
I had a breakdown about 8yrs ago and only got back to myself last year. Sadly I emotionally neglected my now 15yr old son and as I was also emotionally neglected by my own parents, I see all the signs. Which of your works should I read to help me help my son?

    Jonice - December 15, 2020 Reply

    Dear Anon, I recommend my second book, Running On Empty No More, which has loads of useful information and suggestions for reaching out to your children and healing CEN with them.

Time to Break the Pattern - November 20, 2020 Reply

Dr. Webb – thank you. You are writing everything I have been thinking after years of introspection. I am a college student and I have come to a ton of these same conclusions because I have noticed the way that something – which I now definitively can say is CEN – has prevented me from making meaningful connections in my life and finding any form of fulfillment in what seems otherwise on the surface to be a happy, healthy existence. It feels so good to read this common language you have pioneered and described. Now I feel like I have so much more power over this invisible, and as you aptly describe it, insidious, force. What I would like to see is more research on what a child can do after noticing these patterns within him/herself, and how to help a parent who has been the victim of CEN. Also, I would be interested to see if there are concrete links between CEN and other phenomena such as Avoidant Personality Disorder and generalized social anxiety, particularly to see if these pass cyclically and are self-perpetuating in the same way.. I would assume that they are.

I think you could have a lot of valuable insight on what to do for a child to help neglected and therefore neglectful parents become more in touch with their emotions and for all of us to live a better life. My mother is in her 50’s now and it pains me to know that she has been struggling with the effects of CEN for her entire life. Most emotions are something that are regarded as incredibly private in my household, which I noticed before but did not realize the harm caused by many of these practices. I have never felt able to be vulnerable except completely on my own, leaving me with feelings of dishonesty and guilt; I have never seen a member of my family in a truly vulnerable state either… That being said, my own experiences with CEN seem to pale in comparison with my mother’s, since she has gone through it all without the resources to define and categorize the source of her lack of connection. Just something to think about – the parent-to-child link is a much more obvious and natural one to look at than the other way around, even though today, younger generations have access to many more resources and guides for self-awareness, including your work. Thank you again!

    Jonice - November 22, 2020 Reply

    Dear Time, I agree that informing parents is hugely important and have written many blogs about this plus my 2nd book Running On Empty No More has lots of support and clearcut suggestions for parents. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

anonymous - November 3, 2020 Reply

I recently found out about CEN – I did the quiz and answered yes to nearly all the questions. I have a brother and sister, who I can see now, also suffer from this in their own ways. Neither of them see or speak to my parents now. I do once or twice a year as I feel morally obligated and guilty if I don’t. I suffer from anxiety days before a visit. They don’t listen to anything I have to say – I might try to tell them something, but somehow they always find a way of twisting the conversation to what they want to talk about (or talk at me about).
My family home was not a place I enjoyed being, and when I was old enough, I spent as much time away from it as possible, although I didn’t know why I did this at the time. My dad was emotionally abusive and disrespectful to my mother. Every Sunday lunch was a ordeal to get through – there was always something wrong for him to get angry about – meat too dry, garlic to strong, plate not hot enough…. always something to belittle my mother with.
My Dad didn’t really bother to have a relationship with us. He actually didn’t really speak to us at all unless we had done something wrong and he shouted as us. He was good at making us feel useless.
They openly criticise my siblings in-front of me “labelling” them with whatever condition they think they are suffering from. I guess they do that to me too. In fact I know they do as I can hear them talking about me as soon as they think I am out of ear shot!
Last time I saw them my mum was saying how when I was at school, all the teachers would say how good I was at my work but that I was very quiet and shy. Her next comment summed up a lot
“And so what? What did they expect us to do about it?”
Anyway, I don’t mean to go on.
Now that I know about CEN, I can see how it affects every aspect of my life. I have spent my life feeling like a fraud, that any job I get is because of some fluke and that I am going to be found out. I constantly fear criticism and being judged by my colleagues. This feeling can be paralysing and stops me getting ahead or wanting to be noticed.
I have also spent my life depending on myself only. I am married and I still do it even with my husband. I feel like I should be able to do everything myself, and I feel like I would be putting someone out if I have to ask for help – I just feel guilty and not worth helping.
I now know that I am crippled by CEN this in so many ways…but by just understanding what happened feels like the first step in the right direction. Thank you.

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