Childhood Emotional Neglect Discussion Page

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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 hope you’ll feel free to participate in the general discussion, which is filled with insightful, thoughtful comments and responses.

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Sara - July 16, 2018 Reply

My mom definitely experienced CEN herself. She has zero emotional intelligence. She is very weak, emotionally, and does not handle stress well. I tried to tell her how what she did affected me and she would cry or get upset. I was molested by two different men when between the ages 4-5 and I never got any emotional support even when she knew. I did not tell her about the second abuser because I knew it wouldn’t matter (yes at age 5). I remember myself being mature since then, relying on myself, and people would always point out how strong and mature I was for my age… giving people advice when I was just a kid. I remember giving hugs to my mom to make her feel good and not because I was the one that needed them. I was starved from having emotional support. My dad was just absent and emotionally, mentally and physically abusive and I just checked out with him to be honest. Today I am 24 years old and I have a palpable fear of men. My brother molested me and made me do things… I don’t blame him because he was young, and he was raped when he was younger. My older sister has borderline personality disorder and she makes zero effort to change her life. We’re 5 kids and they’re all quite messed up. I am just tired of holding everyone together… referring them to counselors. I am happy that they are somewhat okay, they’re not there for me. I thank God that I have Him. He helped me in so many ways and I must never give up. Girls admire that I don’t have much interest in guys thinking I have it all figured out and admire my physical appearance, but are oblivious to the simple thought of being with a man terrifies me. Even though I know that I am attracted to men, I have this mistrust and I just see them as pathetic. I know it is illogical, and I have been working with a trauma counselor that does EMDR but honestly I don’t see much change in that department. It is like my brain is stuck and will not yield.

I always seem to be attracted to older females that are attentive and strong and I cling on to them. Characteristics which my mother did not have. I just obsess over having their attention. How do I handle this? I am not even gay… I just hate that I am always looking for that next female for support. As soon as I sense weakness from a girl, I don’t want to be friends with her anymore. I read on another comments section MANY women struggle with this: mothers that emotionally neglect them.

The funny thing is I read A LOT and I am very proactive in trying to heal. I love helping others but it is so difficult to help myself. Trust me I try. Any feedback will be appreciated. Although I am 24, I feel as though I am a 100 years old waiting to take my last breath. Self compassion is not that easy but I try to tap myself on the back so to speak when I do something to be proud about… Although I am grateful for many things, and I have a positive mindset, often times hatred of others overwhelms me.

Peace

Danny - December 19, 2017 Reply

I hope that one day I get to personally thank Dr Jonice Webb. The years of private pain are unfurling and I’m cleansing myself step by step of this CEN affliction. It’s not easy, but knowing how to describe it, knowing the cause and looking forward to the solutions are helping immensely. I am not sure if I’ll ever be able to reconcile with my parents, and I feel certain that they’ll never fully understand. But I can move forward. Every day, it gets better. Thank you.

    Sara - July 16, 2018 Reply

    My mom definitely experienced CEN herself. She has zero emotional intelligence. She is very weak, emotionally, and does not handle stress well. I tried to tell her how what she did affected me and she would cry or get upset. I was molested by two different men when between the ages 4-5 and I never got any emotional support even when she knew. I did not tell her about the second abuser because I knew it wouldn’t matter (yes at age 5). I remember myself being mature since then, relying on myself, and people would always point out how strong and mature I was for my age… giving people advice when I was just a kid. I remember giving hugs to my mom to make her feel good and not because I was the one that needed them. I was starved from having emotional support. My dad was just absent and emotionally, mentally and physically abusive and I just checked out with him to be honest. Today I am 24 years old and I have a palpable fear of men. My brother molested me and made me do things… I don’t blame him because he was young, and he was raped when he was younger. My older sister has borderline personality disorder and she makes zero effort to change her life. We’re 5 kids and they’re all quite messed up. I am just tired of holding everyone together… referring them to counselors. I am happy that they are somewhat okay, they’re not there for me. I thank God that I have Him. He helped me in so many ways and I must never give up. Girls admire that I don’t have much interest in guys thinking I have it all figured out and admire my physical appearance, but are oblivious to the simple thought of being with a man terrifies me. Even though I know that I am attracted to men, I have this mistrust and I just see them as pathetic. I know it is illogical, and I have been working with a trauma counselor that does EMDR but honestly I don’t see much change in that department. It is like my brain is stuck and will not yield.

    I always seem to be attracted to older females that are attentive and strong and I cling on to them. Characteristics which my mother did not have. I just obsess over having their attention. How do I handle this? I am not even gay… I just hate that I am always looking for that next female for support. As soon as I sense weakness from a girl, I don’t want to be friends with her anymore. I read on another comments section MANY women struggle with this: mothers that emotionally neglect them.

    The funny thing is I read A LOT and I am very proactive in trying to heal. I love helping others but it is so difficult to help myself. Trust me I try. Any feedback will be appreciated. Although I am 24, I feel as though I am a 100 years old waiting to take my last breath. Self compassion is not that easy but I try to tap myself on the back so to speak when I do something to be proud about… Although I am grateful for many things, and I have a positive mindset, often times hatred of others overwhelms me.

    Peace

Sarah - October 26, 2017 Reply

This book is amazing! I knew I had it (not in same organized fashion) 27 years ago, through therapy with an amazing therapist while in college. Probably saved my life. Its been an ongoing process in life. The other amazing thing was to have a great martial arts school to continue self-growth and change. Parenthood in my 40s have bought much of this back into the forefront of my life. The book organizes everything so well. Another component in my upbringing was the physical neglect- never was touched, hugged etc at all. So there was literally no love or affection really at all. It was pretty complete. And my brain never got that computer processing parts. Very painful indeed and has affected me my whole life in one manner or another. Reading this book- actually found my therapist through this website has been so beneficial in dealing organizing thoughts. I think every professional therapist and those who provide services to people needs to know this. Looking forward to the next book.

Lynn - October 24, 2017 Reply

Its amazing reading stories of other people like mine. Growing up with my sister I remember always wanting a real Mom. My mother was cold and completely unavailable but only to us. She was loving and kind to her husband and friends. I assumed it was because we reminded her of her first husband. I can remember thinking at a young age why my mother had kids when she doesn’t like kids. My sister had it worse than me. She would cry and beg for Mom to love her and be interested in her. It was torturous to watch. Mom always told her she was overreacting and to stop seeing problems where there aren’t any. I wanted to do the same thing but after seeing her attempts always get swatted away I never tried. My sister suffered bad from this neglect. She attempted suicide in our bedroom while Mom was home. I was 15 and I remember hating my Mom that she couldn’t just warm up a little for us. Why couldn’t she say she loved us? Or hug us? Or at least pretend for us that she was interested. I was certain that she would be forced to love us after that but the only thing that changed was my sister going on anti-depressants. My Mom starting giving me looks of approval every now and then. I think she liked me being “strong” and not to ask for affection. When my sister left for college I knew I would be all alone in that house. I started doing sports even though I had no talent. I took on a job and held it through all of high school. To this day I still have trouble with silence in my home. I am 35 now and I know that is not normal. I now have 2 kids and I struggle with every day parenting because I feel I have no idea what to do. I want to be a warm and attached mother. But I feel overwhelmed. I make excuses for everyone around me but I hyper criticize myself at every decision. I feel immense guilt every mistake I make with my kids. I feel like I have this huge blind spot. As a kid I always felt something is wrong with me that I couldn’t put into words. Just that something was missing. It went away for a while but now that I have kids I feel like something is staring me in that face as a parent and I cant see it. As an adult I cant criticize my mom as a parent. I’m sure she had a non-conforming childhood. I still make justifications for her and downplay how it all affected me. My husband doesn’t know and I wont tell him. My relationship with my Mom is “weather talk”. I cant bring myself to talk about emotions or any weakness with her. I feel “wrong” or “dirty” somehow. I let it slip that I had 3 misscarriages while trying for my kids and she responded with “why didn’t you tell me?”. I couldn’t bring myself to say.. we don’t have that kind of relationship or would you of even cared to listen to it? I remain as usual my polite self. I cant even have a confrontation as an adult with other people because I avoided them at every cost. I don’t know why I always feel the need to put everyones feelings before mine. I can only keep it up so long before I start to shut down. Its a cycle I don’t know how to break. I can see I have areas I need to improve in. But its hard to change when it feels like it is a wrong fit. At least putting it down makes me feel like I’m not alone or weak for admitting that I did want my Mother and to feel like I was loved. Instead of feeling like I was “liked” a little more than my sister solely because I knew how to be invisible and not make waves at home.

    Paula K - January 5, 2018 Reply

    Lynn, Thank you for putting your experience into words. It was very similar to my own, and it validated my experience that I am not able to articulate as of yet. I feel I am just waking up to my own emotions/feelings and it is difficult to put them into words, but when I read your words, I knew I was not alone. Huge gratitude to you for posting this piece of your story.

name - October 5, 2017 Reply

Does getting in touch with my emotions mean feeling everything i have ever felt (and couldn’t label) at the same time in a very intense way? I don’t know how to stay sane.

    RT - October 11, 2017 Reply

    I am going through the same thing. I have only heard about CEN a week ago. But I did a lot of self reflection for the past 3 year and I have many pieces that didn’t fit together. But when I heard about CEN, things are coming together like a jigsaw puzzle. I been on an emotional rollercoaster since.

Debbie Stilson - October 3, 2017 Reply

Today, October 3rd, 2017, is the first I’ve ever heard of CEN. I’m just sitting here crying. I’m will soon be 63 and have struggled with all the feelings so many of you describe. I’ve lived my whole life thinking something is wrong with me. I just don’t seem to have any feelings, so empty. Today I feel such a relief. So relieved. Thank you all for sharing your stories. Thank you Dr. Webb for your research and the help and hope you are giving to people.

    Danny - December 19, 2017 Reply

    Debbie that breaks my heart to hear. 63, all these years you’ve struggled. I too was overcome with relief when I read about this. I wonder how many of us there are out there.

RSync - September 30, 2017 Reply

I would just like to share my story from my part of the world about how CEN has shaped my life.I grew up in a small town in India with in a slightly above low income household.My father was 27 and my mother was 17 when they got married.My mother didn’t wish to get married and wanted a life on her own but wasn’t presented with a choice and got married to a man she has resented from the first day of her marriage and has only grown to hate more with the passage of time.My mother was a beautiful girl/child who was forced into marriage with someone with less than average looks and not high social status and thus has hated my father and held him responsible from almost every bad thing in her life.My father was someone who himself grew up in with an abusive mother and a distant father who never got to knew what he wanted/felt.I was born when my mother was 18 and was trying to accept with the new life while living with my abusive grandmother and clueless father.As both of my parents had such deep rooted issues and struggled with their own lives I never got the attention a child needs at that point in life and I have been always seeking attetnion/approval/validation from outside.When I was 4 my sister was born and we moved out to a different home where everything became about my sister and I was left alone even more before.I would like to point out that my parents did provide all the financial , physical and medical care they could but emotiionally I was left either left starving or was ridiculed, made fun of , humiliated and deprecated .

My father had issues with his work and used to come home take me to an area behind our house and just shout at me for releasing his tension or built up anger.I was 3 when this started and went on till I was 5 or 6 years old.I don’t remember any instances of being praised verbally or even touched , hugged or shown affection towards when I was growing up as a child .I remember being surprised at finding out that not all of my friends grew up like that and were shown affection at a young age and internalized that there was certainly something wrong with me becuase of which I was left alone or shamed or punished for everything I did ,I was and couldn’t be GOOD ENOUGH TO BE LOVED .

All of this has led to me being confused about what I feel , intense self loathing ,self hatred ,subsatance abuse , low self esteem and unable to develop human relationships platonic or romantic and me living in a world of my own.I am 25 years old now and a huge amount of soul searching to deal with this hole in my life has led me to me this point. I sincerly thank anyone for reading this far and if someone has been going on a similar journey I would say that things do get better by a lot but the pain never goes away completely it you accept the pain and it becomes a part of you and makes you a better person.This was given to you and you didn’t ask for it and you ceratinly didn’t DESERVE this so please accept yourself and move forward there is a hope somewhere if you are willing to find it.

LostNmythoughts - September 8, 2017 Reply

I am writing because I have read many of your stories and they remind me so much of my own and how much I have learned. I just want to leave you all with a short version of my philosophy on dealing with parents that have been and still are less than, abusive, and/or emotionally unavailable. I am an adult now. I have struggled to find peace within myself. Every day I am learning more and becoming better. I grew up in a single parent low income household with my 3 siblings. I had an estranged relationship with my Dad. To hear him tell the story, he did not come around because of his fragmented relationship with my mother. I will admit that my mother is very difficult to deal with. She is frequently hostile, verbally, physically, and emotionally abusive. She is self-absorbed and recently stated that she “never wanted children.” She is also reportedly suffers from a mental illness. Perhaps bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, no one really knows. And I do not use and will never accept that as a reason for her mistreat. She was very emotionally unavailable. She was not supportive at all and constantly had negative things to say about me. I was straight A student, active in student government and was always praised by all of my teachers. However, that did not matter to my mother. That was not enough for her. She constantly complained about how I did not clean the house the way “she liked.” She constantly beat me for things that she felt I did wrong. Many times when I walked to school I would cry because she had scolded me for something minor such as closing a door too loudly or “getting in her way,” in the morning. At 16, I had an accident and spilled boiling hot water on the back on my neck. Instead of my mother being there to provide comfort and assist with my healing process she constantly complained that changing my bandages was making her late for work and she was tired of doing it. I was constantly left to watch over my siblings and cook my own meals as she was always too “busy.” My dad was never around and only came on select holidays. My mother favored my older brother who is now incarcerated. I am a first generation college student with two undergraduate degrees, first in my family to have a Masters degree, and I’m also a Veteran. I have a great career and I’m very independent, yet I am still learning to let others such as trusted friends and mentors help me when needed. Growing up, my mother was verbally abusive towards me. I heard phrases from her such as, “black bitch (I have the darkest complexion of my siblings), I hate you, you are ungrateful, go live with your grandmother, I can’t stand you.” She had moments when she acted to be “proud,” of me because I frequently had award ceremonies at school. However, her moments of “acting proud,” faded away and she was back to her cruel self. I attempted discussing this with her, wrote her a letter about it, she never would agree to counseling or own up to any of her abuse. This was very hard for me to accept when I was younger. I am older now, and I am at a point in my life where I am not interested in having a relationship with her at all. She has not and most likely will not change, and she does not have to. I know for a fact that I have grown. I have always been different in my family. I am semi introverted, enjoy reading, and love education. The majority of my support has come from school. I was always praised, appreciated, and encouraged there. I never received any of that at home. I have been fortunate to make connections with many people who are now my family. It was a struggle because I was resistant to help as I never received any as a child. But I have grown to know that there are genuine people in the world who care about me, my success and happiness. To me, relationships are EARNED not given. They are special, important, unique, and never to be taken for granted. I loathe society’s perception that regardless of who your parents are, “they are still your parents, and make amends etc,” that doesn’t hold them accountable for any of their abuse or mistakes. And is very unrealistic if there was an extreme disconnect like there was in my family. Being born is a favor no one asked for. Being around a mother who never wanted kids and treated me as unwanted, it is because of her and her mistreatment that life has been a STRUGGLE. Yes, I have learned to overcome these struggles and I am still learning each day. I find new ways to cope every day however, it is still a challenge. And yes, I had to learn and I am still learning that I have to accept that I will never receive a sincere apology nor acknowledgement. However, at this stage in my life, I don’t need nor do I want an apology or anything else from her. I value my peace, happiness and positive relationships. A misconception that my family has is the belief that I “have,” to speak to them. And I don’t. I don’t have to have a relationship with them. It is not necessary and I am uninterested in a relationship. I say my family because multiple members of my family are very unsupportive. They don’t get to dictate who I have a relationship with. I have that right and I am entitled to selectively choose who I accept in my life and who I continue to have relationships with. That is my right! I am entitled to that! This is one of the most valuable and important things that I have learned in my life. They don’t have that power anymore, I do. And I use it carefully. I don’t need them, they don’t respect boundaries and they have nothing to offer expect dysfunction and negativity. Many others may not understand this especially with the notions of mainstream media, but that is okay. I have learned that life is an individual thing. Your life is not for anyone else to understand. It is totally acceptable to live a life that others don’t understand. You have to do what is best for YOU. Because it’s your life, your sanity, your happiness and YOUR STORY. You write it the way YOU want. Once I realized this, and it did take a while, I became so much happier. I enjoy life, I love myself, and I have an amazing support system. I am passionate about education and I love learning it’s the one thing that has been constant in my life. I value physical fitness, my health, art, traveling, and I enjoy listening to as well as inspiring others. I am happy with the family that I created and it continues to grow. I refuse to remain in contact with those who are toxic. I hope you all find a point in your life where you stop, create the life you want, and enjoy it to the fullest! I hope you smile when you look back at the past because it’s no longer your dictator. It doesn’t control you anymore. Reclaim your autonomy. I know it’s easier said than done and my way might not work for everyone. I hope you find what works for you and makes you happy. 🙂 To those reading this, I am happy I shared my story with you, I hope it helped you and I wish you all the best. 🙂 You deserve to be happy and to be loved. You are special, strong, brave, and important. Be patient and kind with yourself. I am happy to speak with anyone because I believe in helping and giving back. I might not have all the answers, but I am defiantly willing to help. Email: kenni@csu.fullerton.edu

anon - August 8, 2017 Reply

Hello, everyone! I’m interested in finding out if CEN can lead to dissociative identity disorder. I guess CEN can lead to a lot of things and the possibilities are limitless, but i’ve never seen these two in the same sentence. I am always asked about trauma, but I simply can’t recall anything and now that i understood that this “thing” i’ve been feeling all my life has a name, and that there is such a thing as CEN even with good parents, but with a totally different language of love (mostly financial security) from what i’ve always needed, i feel like i am close to having clarity. Thank you.

    Trish - August 9, 2017 Reply

    I’m glad to hear you’re feeling like you’re getting to the core issues of your childhood experience. For me I have definitely experienced disassociation regularly as a child when my strong emotions weren’t managed, acknowledged or were shamed by my parents. Children need their emotions to be mirrored, validated & shown coping skills or plain nurturing & physical comforting to help process & resolve them especially at a biochemical level. I’m not sure what exactly qualifies as I dissassociative disorder but there is sure to be a link. Best wishes getting in touch with your feelings again.

    Helen-Jayne - October 21, 2017 Reply

    Hi I am new on here.
    I used to have a Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) – I was abused and neglected. So I want to tell you that yes Neglect can lead to DID. I had several individual personalities, each who had their own harrowing stories to tell.

Erin - August 2, 2017 Reply

I’m 27 and my life is generally good, but sometimes I get discouraged and sometimes I feel I’ve given up before even starting. I really want to make friends/reconnect with people here in my hometown, but when I try I feel enough anxiety that I’m relieved when I can be alone again. I want to get married one day, and I want my marriage to be a partnership of equals who share joyful beautiful meaningful things and support each other for the hard things. I want to have children one day, who will grow up feeling whole and lovable and allowed to be human. I am desperately trying to live a loving, wholehearted life.

I’ve been putting a lot of time, energy, and even some money into trying to teach myself how to do this. Two years ago I saw a therapist, and I am starting to learn to treat myself the way she treated me (ie, with acceptance and kindness). I’ve also been reading articles online and taking notes about self-acceptance, communication skills, recognizing and naming feelings, etc. I’ve been writing in my journal, doing thought records, being kind to myself, going to yoga class, trying to challenge myself to do things that cause me a bit of anxiety. It’s been working… slowly.

Because I now live in my hometown, I am spending more time with my parents. I sometimes go hiking, just me and my dad, and it’s great to connect with him a little more now that he’s semi-retired. But when my mum’s there, I become resentful and passive-aggressive, and say what she wants to hear, feel what she expects me to feel, am unable to relax and be mindful. I end up picking/biting at my lips (a habit I got over a couple of years ago!) and eating unhealthy foods, just to continue to portray only acceptable feelings and behaviours. She sits there and lives a wholehearted life, being so nice (which she is… except when she yells at you for feeling the wrong feelings, something she tries not to do but sometimes can’t help it because she just cares so much about you) while I watch myself running in the exact opposite direction. I used to be so proud of hiding my feelings, but now I’ve changed, and I can’t seem to tolerate going back to the way it used to be. Every time I visit, I leave feeling like I’m somehow crazy.

I am learning to hold these two thoughts in my mind: (1) my mum genuinely cares about me and wants to do her best, and (2) she has hurt me with her ignorance and lack of wisdom.
I am also learning to hold these two thoughts: (1) I am responsible for my feelings, no one else is, and (2) it is not my fault that I am hurting in this.

It’s beautiful to have found a website with other people who are going through something similar. I’m looking forward to reading some of your posts.

    Erin - August 2, 2017 Reply

    PS: the thing is, I feel like I’m ungrateful for posting on here. My mum didn’t neglect us at all – in fact, she was a stay-at-home mum and did creative activities with us, made us healthy creative lunches, and took us outside to play with bubbles, and all sorts of nice things. When we got older, she worked from home (self-employed) and made sure we knew she was available if we needed her.

    I was never left alone or neglected …just emotionally I felt alone.

    MG - September 27, 2017 Reply

    Hi Erin,

    I’m totally going through the same thing as you, except with my dad. My dad always was the boss in my household and I had to act a certain way or feel a certain way around him, the way he felt about things. I’ve only recently understood that I’m allowed to have my own feelings about things and they are allowed to be different than him. I love my dad dearly and he loves me a lot, but I feel like if things don’t go his way he gets upset, even if it’s like the waiter did something wrong that nobody else would notice.

    Recently, my parents came for a visit and I told myself that I am going to act how I’m going to act and if he doesn’t like something that’s on him. Whenever he is around I just get like super nervous, like I have to impress him at all times and I have to watch what I say or do around him. It’s very nerve-racking. I don’t think he knows he does this as I’m trying to get to know my mom better, she never had any opinions or advice for me growing up, especially when I wanted her advice, but he like answers for her when we are all together. For example: I asked my mom, with my dad there, that I don’t really know what she likes to do or what are her interests. My dad butted in and said she has lots of interests, and started naming off interests that were his, not hers. I looked at my mom and saw her shaking her head because they were not her interests.

    I guess what I’m getting at is I always leave wanting more information or closure or understanding when I’m with my dad but I never get it. He’s so emotionally unavailable and it’s only hurting me. At least I know this now and can make sure I don’t put myself down anymore.

Richard Trujillo - July 25, 2017 Reply

I am 54 and have just realized I have been suffering from CEN all my life. It basicly has destroyed my life. Of course I am a survivor and am not crying or placing blame. But my whole life it is like I have been an immature child trying to figure life out. Having no real sense of what I am supposed to do. I never got married or had kids. I am a great worker and have had many successes only to walk away from them because I feel trapped. My father didn’t talk with us kids at all. He sat in his chair and went to work. He never hit us and did provide for us but I never once played catch or heard any stories about his life. My mother just reacted to my dad by trying not to upset him. So we pretty much always went through her first. Dad was an only child and just didn’t seem to know how to deal with kids. My childhood felt like I was pretty much on my own. They never checked to see if I did my homework. Anything I was going through I just kept it to myself. I joined the Marines and got meritorious promotions etc. But then got out and had two years of heavy drinking. I went to AA stayed sober and learned alot but never learned how to feel what other people feel in life. My life has been a life of mediocrity. I thought I just didn’t care but reading the symptoms of CEN I was floored. But at my age it is too late.

    Emily - July 26, 2017 Reply

    Richard, it’s NEVER too late! Please don’t let that stop you from continuing on your journey of understanding. It sounds like you already have a giant portion of the work done as far as understanding how your childhood shaped who you are today. The next step, tuning into yourself and your feelings, is very do-able if you want to go there. In fact, it can and will feel quite comforting to actually notice and identify your unique feelings as your own very legitimate feelings. I hope that you decide to go there. Let Dr. Webb’s book be your guide, and if possible, find a local therapist who is either familiar with CEN, or open to read the book and learn about it as well. Flip to the back of the book and start using the extensive “feeling word list”–it’s amazing how many different ways there are to feel Sad, or hurt, or strong! I hope you decide to continue on the healing path it sounds like you have already embarked on–good luck!

    Linda - December 7, 2017 Reply

    I can relate to how you feel Richard. I am 43, never been married, no kids. Lots of quick failed, dramatic ending relations. My father never really talked to me, still doesn’t. My mother was always sad and found religion as her savior and focus. I was cared for in the monetary ways, food, shelter, etc.. but not emotionally. I have put my life through hell. I have been a constant emotional outburst. Then I hide from the world. I sabotage all my relations and successes. I have drank etc..
    I don’t know if I can change at this point. I feel I have missed all the opportunities. I missed out on being a mother, having a family, a tribe.
    Just last week I told my mother off, at 43, for the same negative feedback she gives me when never I tell her of my newest idea. I can see her filtration because I am constantly coming up with something new. I can never stay focused. It’s like I don’t know who I am. I have always supported myself but I have been a mess. And at this age it has caught up with me. The whole world is moving around me as I lay here alone lost in my head on how I accept this life of mine. I wish I was like my brothers, they did well for themselves. They handle their life and emotions well. I wish I could do over. I don’t know how to proceed. Life alone is hell but I don’t know how to live the other way either.

    Danny - December 19, 2017 Reply

    I get you man. You’re further down the road than me, but yeah, I’m nodding my head. Does it help that there are more of us out there? I’m new to this forum, maybe it can act as a support group, I dunno.

C - July 21, 2017 Reply

Hello, everybody. I suffered from CEN and so did my wife. In fact, her level of emotional neglect was so extreme and complete that it caused her to totally break down emotionally in childhood. I just wanted to describe her situation here in the hope of finding someone else whose life has been so severely impacted by CEN. She feels like she’s the only one on Earth something like this has ever happened to.

From the very beginning, the bond with her mother was very poor. Severe attachment issues. Her mother was very childlike herself and simply could not perform the role of a nurturing parent. The family broke up early and my wife was left alone with this clueless, helpless woman. The biggest problem is that her mother had no normal social life and led a more or less isolated existence. So as a kid, my wife never got used to being around people other than her mother. This caused her to develop extreme social anxiety to the point that she could not function at school. She couldn’t make friends and couldn’t even talk at all for the most part. It got so bad she ended up having to drop out of school entirely by the 6th grade. At that point, she essentially dropped out of the world, spending the rest of her childhood and adolescence at home alone with her mother. She didn’t get any further schooling at home or otherwise. She basically just stayed at home alone and watched TV all day while her mom worked. She had no social contact with anyone other than her mother.

I met my wife when she was 19 on an internet mailing list for people with social anxiety. When I finally met her, I was the first human being she’d ever had an actual conversation with other than her mother, which was a very surface relationship. So I was really her first social relationship. 20 years later, we are now married and the only thing that has changed for her is her relationship with me. She has remained just as isolated. As difficult as it is to believe, at 39 years old, she has still only spoken to and known one human being in her entire lifetime: me. As you can imagine, this highly unusual situation has made her a very unusual person who feels she can’t relate to the rest of human race. Other than being with me, all she’s ever had to do is sit and dwell on her misery in isolation. She’s never had a job, never finished school, never even talked to anyone else but me.

I’d just like to know if anyone out there has had a life even remotely similar to hers in terms of isolation and having her life and development as a person thrown off course so completely. All of this is a direct result of her childhood emotional neglect. Her mother simply didn’t teach her ANYTHING about how to be a normal person. Other than being provided (unhealthy) food and shelter, she may as well have grown up completely alone.

If you can relate to her story, please leave a reply below. I want to help her feel like she’s not alone in these feelings. I can relate to a lot of them. That is a big part of our bond. But I still don’t really know what it’s like to have been as alone as she was throughout her life. There must be someone else out there who can understand.

I’m going to be re-posting this over on the Childhood Emotional Neglect forum at forums.psychcentral.com if you’d prefer to contact me there. My screen name is mepc. Thanks for listening!

    Danielle - July 22, 2017 Reply

    While I had siblings in my life and neighborhood friends, I can relate to the severe social anxiety because I very rarely had actual conversations with my parents or any other adults when I was young. I became terrified of adults and especially authority figures.
    I was ok with kids when I was younger but during the teenage years, I totally withdrew. I still went to school, but didn’t have friends, and spent many years barely talking to anyone. I still feel like “why would anyone care what I have to say?” because in my family, it seemed nobody did, and it was better for me to stay quiet.
    I was able to work later and be fairly normal after I left home.
    Your wife is lucky in one respect. She has you, and you care. I would suggest going with her to stores or to a support group and very gradually getting her out in the world, so she can learn that most people are not going to hurt her or laugh at her. She will need a lot of encouragement, and hopefully can get some counseling, too, maybe even take some classes at a community college.
    I wish her all the best and let her know, above all, that it is NOT her fault

LG - July 7, 2017 Reply

After reading Running on Empty and a short course of therapy I have begun to realise the extend that I have been effected by CEN. I am one of eight (I am the third eldest) and my childhood was far from happy.

My mother had depression, OCD, anxiety and eating disorders and as a result she was mostly at home although we hardly saw her as she would sleep almost all day. My dad tried everything to make her happy buying her lavish gifts like a pedigree dog, phones, computers etc. and rarely ever spent money on us, even making us feel guilty that things like food were so expensive. Although they did give us food (most of the time), clothe us (hand me downs) and put a roof over our heads, there was never any emotion there apart from annoyance and frustration on their part.

I remember my dad hugging me once, well, I wouldn’t really call it a hug but a loose arm around the shoulder. My guinea pig (one of my only friends at the time) had just died from a heatwave. When we first got him I wanted to keep him in my room but my dad refused so the poor thing baked in a boiling hot shed in the garden because of my dad. It took me absolutely balling my eyes out to get even a limp arm around me which he quickly removed before going inside, leaving me to cry alone.

My parents certainly never said that they loved me, I remember once asking my mum what the best thing she ever did was. Her response? “Having you children”. I remember thinking, well that is strange because you certainly don’t act like it was the best thing that ever happened to you.

Because my parents had so many children it was hard for us to get the attention we were so desperate for. I tried really hard in school despite struggling in my early years, eventually I was getting good grades and I wanted my parents to see how good and smart I actually was. Whereas most children would dread the “parents evening”, I wanted my parents to go, but they rarely ever attended. One year I made my dad promise he would go, thinking this was my great chance to shine I organised all the appointments and sorted out the times with each of my teachers. What really happened is my dad ran off for three days after an argument with my mum.

My parents were never interested in what I was doing, I remember being really young and taking part in the christmas play and looking down in the audience with everyone else’s parents grinning and smiling at my classmates. I just remember feeling so sad that my parents were not there.

As there was quite a large gap in age (7-8 years) between me and my older sisters I was often left with the responsibility of looking after the younger four children. This put a lot of pressure on me to grow up and be like the favourite older sister (2nd eldest), who received a lot of attention and praise from my father.

Today, I struggle in so many ways. Thankfully I have a loving and caring partner who is willing to give me plenty of hugs but even then I struggle to open up about my feelings to him. I ignore my emotions until the “emotional vault” I put them in becomes so full it explodes in fits, leaving more guilt and shame in its aftermath. When I do receive praise the happiness quickly passes and I am left with only sadness that my parents were never able to see what others obviously could.

I am in the process of trying to identify my emotions and understand them but it is very uncomfortable and I am often surprised how intense these emotions I have been trying to hold back feel. I hope one day I can move on from everything that happened to me (or didn’t happen) and live a better life.

Thank you Dr. Webb for writing RoE.

Nobody - July 3, 2017 Reply

Hello,
If any of you would know about my life, you would be amazed how I’m still alive. Of course I ‘m not saying I’m the worst case out of all there is, I just realized how my life is pretty bad. The main problem and the only thing I’ve been struggling all my life is fear, I just live by fear. Probably a good thing I’m a female, if I was a man.. I’d probably be a serial killer. I just want to let everything out, because I have NOBODY to talk to or anybody that would listen. I’ll start from the very beginning, and you’ll be the judges.
As far as my memory goes and what I can remember, when I was 5 or 6 my mom left me to nanny’s cause she was working (I understand that). I stayed in that nanny’s house for about 2 months, she would beat the hell out of me for no reason, she would mock me by forcing me to eat pumpkins all time (this is why I hate pumpkins). I remember precisely how one day she got a metal and beat me with it, in my head (I still have that bump).
I loved it, I loved it so much that I was the happiest person on the Earth. Now the man she married (I call him my dad), he was a great person.. such a great person. There was always plenty of food, nothing was limited (considering that all my life before I stayed hungry). I was happy, I was so happy that I would say I was the President. I went to my new school, it was fine at 1st but then I got always bullied and it kinda hurt me in some way (that moment I didn’t know how to stand up for myself).
Everything was good for me, but mom and dad argued everyday, I remember how my mom would yell and yell at him, he would just apologize and go crazy because she made him crazy (I saw everything). My dad was a military worker and also worked for the navy, he was a very good person, he had to leave often. Those moments, mom became friends with our neighbors and left me to their house. She would go to UK to meet an old friend of hers for a fling, I knew this because when she came back she would tell all about it to her friend. Her friend was good, I liked her, she was nice to me, always fed me and she believed in God and tried to tell me how God is always there. She had 2 children, who were super nice to me. It was my 12th Birthday and it was the best Birthday I have ever had in my entire life, everything was like in normal families, parents, friends, cake and presents. Everything was good from there, Christmas, New Year and every occasions went well. But before my 13th Birthday mom went psycho and she said we were leaving (I don’t know why), I understood how my dad felt and I felt sorry for him. We went to UK, stayed at her sisters house (which had a pedophile husband). All those time my mom was married to my dad he supported mom and I financially, so she didn’t have to work. But I didn’t understand why she wanted to leave from dad, we had a very good life. From that moment I left school and never went back to school till this day. But before that, I guess she was super energetic, she leaved me at her sisters house for days and left God knows where. Her sister’s husband would come on to me while watching TV or using Internet, the funny thing.. I knew what it was. But before he ever did something her wife would notice it and just tell him to leave. Soon we had to leave from their house, I guess her sister knew he was a pervert. Mom rented an apartment, got a job and I stayed there always. It went like that for some time, then we would go back to dad. It was good, then after time she would leave again and again, in an year – 12 month period she would travel at least 4 or 5 times. Spending so much money on airplanes and everything. But most of all, sometimes my dad’s income wouldn’t last, and we had to sleep in airports, in some buildings, people’s houses.. as if we were homeless. It went on like that for years, back and forth, back and forth. My dad started working 3 jobs, even then it wasn’t enough. I don’t know why we traveled back and forth to different Countries, it made no sense. Apartments, hotels, airport terminals, people’s sofa, cars, are the places were mom and I spend times at and slept. We would get hungry and go around trying to find food or any change. AGAIN as I am an adult now.. WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?! We had a lovely home, a great dad, good income and she wanted that?! So in all of this, it comes back to her friend Gail.. she lets us in her home. Until this moment even thought I was somewhat abused, my mental health was fine. Everything changed Gail. At Gail’s house, mom and her are talking about adult stuff and I go to the kitchen and tried to make a coffee (it was a shared apartment), Gail would come to me and say ‘what the hell are you doing?!’ I would reply trying to make a coffee, she would stand there and tell me disgusting things, I don’t know if I can write it over here, but I’ll try to make it more nicely, she would say ‘you’re going back and forth the kitchen and the bathroom because you want men, you want their private parts, ah you little…, you want it so bad, look at you, you’re so pathetic, haha, you are so stupid, you think even those men would want you?! You are you ugly and fat, your… wants some…. well how would you want 10 men at the same time?!’ It was worse what she said, and mom would look at me and laugh at me, she laughed so bad and Gail too, I got very angry, I was crying and mom said ‘don’t cry, save your tears when 10 men will…. you, don’t show it to me, what you want some, want some?! Gail came closer to me and I got afraid and I started running, I ran to the bathroom and locked the door, she opened the door and beat the hell out of me inside the tub, she beat my ears so badly that I couldn’t hear, she spit on me, and called my mom. Mom came and said to stay there. I came out at yelled and said what have I done wrong, was getting a coffee a bad thing. They laughed, and I said I will die and I will kill myself. This is what they said ‘go ahead, you think we care?!, you can die, do it, do it now, die and die and burn in hell. Now the question is, what have I done wrong that time?! What was my fault?! That time my mental health changed, psychologically I changed, I started to become a new person. I hated everyone, I hated people and I hated myself, I hated God and I wanted to die all the time. I was only 14 years old.

If any of you wanna know how my mother’s insults are.. it’s very severe. It will make even a normal person sick and just wow. She talks very nasty. I tried once telling her that she made me sell my body.. she turns everything against me and makes it as if it’s my fault. She loves accusations, and she certainly loves making fun of me. Starting from my appearance to my personality. Before I never knew why, now I know it’s because she tries to make me feel insecure and bad so she will have power over me. I just hate it, how she keeps telling me everyday that my body is so bad, everyday, about my face, about my personality. And most of all.. she keeps telling me that she gave me a very good life that every child would dream of.
All in all, I love her in a some way cause she’s my mother. But I don’t forgive her and this doesn’t mean I don’t hate her. I just want to leave her, I wanna get out of this and never turn back and start a new life and erase everything.
Thank you for taking the time to read this very long story of mine.

    Ann - July 7, 2017 Reply

    I am sorry that you have been through such pain, you deserve so much better than all of this. I feel like you are making excuses for your mother, I believe the only way for you to heal is to remove yourself from this abusive relationship as soon as possible. If I was in your position I would stay with a friend or possibly seek out a woman’s shelter to try and start a new life. Do not let her know where you are or leave anything behind that she could use against you in the future. You are 25, around the same age as me, don’t let this woman control you no longer, you don’t owe this woman ANYTHING. Go and live the life you want to live! One of the hardest things I believe with CEN is asking for help, go find the help you need, and do it now.

Anonymous - July 1, 2017 Reply

Hi, Dr. Webb. When will your new book about CEN be published, please?

lvglawfirm - June 23, 2017 Reply

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