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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VVR - June 7, 2019 Reply

Hello. In your video you stated after you acknowledged your emotions that you moved away and found a community that supported you. Can you go into a little more detail. Who did you move away from. Your family? I have been doing this therapy thing for a long time in trying to heal myself. Always feeling and being told there was something wrong with me. Kept my feelings to myself and that was also a problem. Just can’t seem to get it together. However your book really hit the nail on the head for me. My family has been and still is a toxic environment for me and I know I can’t heal there.

    Jonice - June 9, 2019 Reply

    Dear VVR, it’s never good to remain in a place where you are exposed to toxic relationships that harm you. You don’t have to physically move, however. You can learn how to set boundaries inside yourself so that they can’t continue to harm you as much.

RRC - June 7, 2019 Reply

From throught my childhood i never feeled that my parents are behind me instead i feeled fear from them.i feared my dad to death when i made some mistake.i never had any frienda in childhood so i used to play alone.my mom never asked me what i want or feel.when i come up with some issue toward her she didnt gave that much attention.i never talked meaningfull to my dad till today.at 6th standard i was sent toward my uncle for school.i stayed therw for 7 years.in that period my mom and dad never called me personally.never asked how was i.i only go toward them in summer vacation.in those seven years i never feeled any connection toward them.i feeled all alone.in those 7 years i never shared my problems at school or anything else.i feared to death to my uncle.my aunt didnt liked that i am in there house.so she always hated me.i kept myself silent for 7 years.now i have completed graduation.i have only two friends.the tell me i am so weak in all ways and also say yoy are sooo aloof…silent…please help me…

    Jonice - June 7, 2019 Reply

    Dear RRC, I’m sorry you’ve had to endure so much mistreatment and pain. Please see a therapist. It is very important and I believe it will help you. All my best wishes to you.

lisa - May 10, 2019 Reply

Hi Jonice
I’m trying to click on the “N” to find a therapist and its not working.
I was able to click on “P” range for PA but there must be a glitch on the website? Thanks for your time

    Jonice - May 11, 2019 Reply

    Hi Lisa, thanks for alerting me. It’s fixed now! Sorry about that.

A non mouse - May 10, 2019 Reply

Struggling with CEN for a long time. Reading your books was revolutionary but I’ve been unfortunately unable to find a therapist who understands CEN.
I was abandoned as a child and when reunited with my parents treated like an unpaid housekeeper and childminder. My siblings don’t have the same relationship with my parents so I am always being painted as extreme and/or exaggerating. So many other people witnessed the behaviour though so I know it’s real and it happened. I don’t feel anger toward my family anymore I just want to cut them off and live my life without them. It’s very difficult.

    Jonice - May 12, 2019 Reply

    Dear A non, I’m very sorry this happened to you. Have you checked the Find a CEN Therapist page? You can find it under “Help” on this website. I would like for you to have some help navigating this problem with your family.

Sarah - May 5, 2019 Reply

Dear Dr. Webb, I’ve just read your first book and I know now I have CEN. I’m 49 and starting to learn about my emotions, thanks to you! However, I am, along with my (same-sex) long-term partner (aged 71!), a caregiver to my ‘mother in law’ with dementia who now lives with us. I find this situation so hard I cannot even begin to explain it. One minute she’s loving, next she’s indifferent, then she’s angry and cruel. To say she’s difficult would be an understatement. I know this is mainly her illness, but I love her and I hate her. I want to help and I want nothing to do with her. I avoid her most of the time but I know she loves me to bits! And I hate her for that too! I’m irritable and angry (below the surface) a lot. I’m being brutally honest here. I know some of the things I’ve said seem harsh. When I have to tell anyone that my partner’s mother lives with us now, usually I get something like “Aw, bless. Isn’t that nice?” It’s a nightmare. I used to wake in the morning feeling a heavy dread but I’ve learned to feel nothing now. My partner is trying to tell me how she feels but I can’t/won’t listen, I’m too bogged down with my own stuff. I think she has CEN, and has spent the majority of her life as her mother’s ‘therapist’. We just kind of drift through each day as best we can, wondering if we should place mother in law in a care home and then feeling so unbelievably guilty for thinking that. We’re in such a vicious circle of conflicting emotions! Sometimes I want to run out in the street and just shout at the top of my voice. Where on earth do I start on the journey to improve this situation for all of us? I do feel hopeful that I can help myself to improve but obviously I can’t do it overnight!

    Jonice - May 6, 2019 Reply

    Dear Sarah, the feelings you describe having are messages from your deepest self telling you that you need to take control of your life and start living for yourself. Please do start on the path to healing the CEN in your relationship, and change what’s happening in your life.

RL - April 20, 2019 Reply

As I progress through this recovery there is one thing that I find truly striking. Learning to recognize, acknowledge and feel my emotions has lead me to understand how I have never developed deep relationships with people and how I feel loneliness to my core. The incredible thing is as painful as this is, it is somehow dramatically more ‘tolerable’ and somehow feels ‘ok’ as compared to that hollow, dark, feeling of despair that comes from believing you are different and living life looking through a window at others. The loneliness somehow feels natural, whereas that feeling inside when you believe you stand alone as an exception–that feels completely bottomless and frankly unsolvable.

Thank you so much!

    Jonice - April 21, 2019 Reply

    Dear RL, I love the way you explained CEN recovery. I have had the exact same feeling and experience that you describe. Thank you for putting it in words that are so descriptive for people to understand. Take care!

Stuck - April 18, 2019 Reply

Thank you for putting a name to something that has plagued me since I was a very young girl. Your work, combined with Brene Brown’s research on shame, is spot-on when it comes to describing what I struggle with on a daily basis. Growing up, my mother suffered from schizophrenia and my father from alcoholism. NOTHING was ever spoken about in my house, and being an only child, I had no one to really share in my emotional experience. Essentially, I learned that there was no place for me or my feelings. We just didn’t belong anywhere. I grew accustomed to stuffing everything down and I adopted the simple (yet untruthful) phrase “I’m fine.” Heck, I even appeared that way on the outside. In college, after being notified of one of my mother’s suicide attempts, I had a quick cry in the shower and then I quickly went off to play in my basketball game as nothing had even happened. As a student, I was on the quiet side, but I excelled academically and athletically, and I was well-liked by all of my peers. Fast forward to today and not much has changed, except for the fact that I’m now a divorced, 38-year old adult orphan. Four to five years ago, my 62-year old mother passed away after a 10-year stay in a long-term care facility, my 67-year old father likely committed suicide (they just can’t prove it), and shortly thereafter I separated from my spouse. The ending of my marriage was actually a good thing, but I’m finding that I feel dreadfully empty inside. I have wonderful friends and I have no problem when it comes to finding a date, but something is desperately missing. I feel like I’m floating along with no solid place to plant my feet. I’ve been seeing a therapist since just after my mother died, but I feel that things are so hard-wired and difficult for me to change. For one, one-on-one attention makes me extremely uncomfortable. I yearn so badly to be seen and heard, but at the same time, I’m terrified of the possibility. Not sure if that’s the shame surfacing, but I become paralyzed and I shut down. If I feel the tears coming (which I feel often), I’ve somehow acquired the skill to be able to blur out the therapist’s face until I recover. I’ll cry in the car afterward (and I’ve confessed this to her), but I have yet to shed a single tear in her presence. It’s infuriating to me, as I really don’t want to be like this anymore. I can go on date after date, but nothing is going to feel “right” until I’m able to let go and allow myself to be 100% vulnerable with someone. I’m a firm believer that our purpose in life is human connection. The problem is that on the inside, I’m still so very afraid of it…

    Jonice - April 18, 2019 Reply

    Dear Stuck, before worrying about connecting with others, Step 1 is to connect with yourself. Pay attention to yourself in every possible way, especially emotionally. By doing this, you’ll gradually become more comfortable connecting with others.

      Felicity - April 19, 2019 Reply

      As Jonice has said, getting in touch with yourself is the important first step. May I suggest yoga? The main purpose of yoga is to help you get in touch with your deeper self and this starts with tuning in to your body. Dru yoga is especially helpful for this. If you haven’t practised yoga before, make sure you find a gentle class and a teacher with whom you feel really comfortable. Try a few classes, if necessary. Once you’ve found a class you like, stick with it but take it slowly. I wish you all the best.

        Jonice - April 19, 2019 Reply

        Excellent suggestion! Thank you Felicity!

Karen Keith - April 18, 2019 Reply

Dr. Webb,
I personally want to thank you for your work in CEN and for bringing awareness to this issue. As a therapist and a person who experienced CEN, your book, “Running on Empty” was truly a Godsend. It helped put the pieces of the puzzle together for me. I could not understand why I felt the way I did in my adult life. My mother had MDD (my own diagnosis of her) and spent the majority of my childhood in bed, medicated on Valium. My emotional needs were never acknowledged, let alone met. I remember feeling suicidal and hopeless . . . as a young child. As a teenager, I chose a friend who was abusive toward me throughout all of my public school years. As an adult, I chose a (first) husband just like my mother: aloof, abusive, emotionally distant. Thankfully, things began to change when I divorced after 22 years, and a year later, met a man, (and married) who demonstrated unconditional love and helped me in my healing process. I returned to college at 51 and completed a BSW and MSW, and now have a private practice. I am grateful for my personal experience in CEN, because I can easily identify it in my clients. I frequently discuss CEN with them and have recommended your books often. From my professional experience, there are so many walking wounded out there who suffer from CEN and do not have a clue as to why they feel so empty. I am grateful to you for your work and will continue to educate my clients and people in general about CEN. So important to understand one’s framework of behavior and feeling in this matter. Blessings!

    Jonice - April 18, 2019 Reply

    Dear Karen, I’m so glad you’re helping CEN people. And I couldn’t be more pleased to hear that my work has been helpful to you personally. Please do keep up the good work!

Callum - April 16, 2019 Reply

I discovered your work on April 12th and I can already tell you that you’ve changed my life. I’ve spent years trying to work out what on earth was wrong with me, constantly doubting myself and being unable to develop a consistent sense of who I was. Wanting to seek counselling but feeling like my issues weren’t serious enough, despite them having cost me a place in a top UK university, and a lifetime of guilt and insecurity. Through sheer will alone I pulled my life together from the depressed mess I used to live in, but after 3 months I realised that it didn’t make me feel any closer to the rest of society — still feeling like an outsider looking in, still feeling like I wasn’t living for myself. I’ve tried and tried and tried to fill this hole for so long, without ever really knowing if it existed. Without wanting to be too grim, I recently walked through the same forested area each day for over a week thinking how it would be a good place to just hang myself and put an end to the confusion and loneliness. Fortunately, one of those days I asked the right questions, and I found your work.

I’ve cried every day since as I think about how it explains literally everything I’ve been struggling with, and probably listened to ‘Numb’ and ‘Crawling’ by Linkin Park over 100 times each haha. You’ve truly given my life meaning, and I sincerely and deeply want to thank you for what you’ve done for me. I’ve ordered your book, I’m seeking therapy to make sure I address everything, and if I pull my life together from hereon out I hope I can get to meet you one day and thank you in person. Your work deserves far more attention and I’m going to try and spread the word for the sake of those who are suffering a similar fate. Thank you.

    Jonice - April 18, 2019 Reply

    I could not be happier reading your comment Callum. And good for you! Stay on this path and you will get somewhere good.

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