AdobeStock 222477248 e1546716683129

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!

Your comment can be completely anonymous. Only your entry into the “NAME” field will show in your comment. Feel free to enter Anonymous.

**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.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Alistair Maclaurin - July 2, 2024 Reply

I had food, very good food. I had shelter, a very big house and garden. I had clothes, very good clothes. I had a good education, boarding school. I had good holidays. I had a lot of freedom to come and go. I had a monthly allowance.
I was given a car. I went to college.

And no one said they loved me.
No one said it will be alright.
No one hugged me.
No one picked me up when I fell.
No one was interested in what I wanted.
No one asked me what I thought.
No one listened to me.
No one said I was good at anything.
No one said well done.
No one said, yes have a go.
No one!

IOLA - January 31, 2024 Reply

This is a welcome resource. I genuinely appreciate y’all sharing your stories…as well as Dr. Webb’s replies. Thanks to all.

My story can be reduced to some basic emotional facts. Like many of us here, I definitely shut my feelings down at an early age. I knew something was “wrong” with my custodial parent – my bio. mother. My earliest memories are her openly mocking my emotions/crying so I taught myself it was safer not to indulge them. I spent a good portion of my childhood explaining that she was the adult and I was (a good!) child. Much to no avail. She must have had a tough time as a single mother, insisting that she didn’t need the help my bio. dad or other family offered, while pursuing a PhD from a reputable ivy university as the first black person (and woman!) in a specific field/her department. She seemed miserable but I do not believe she knew it. In hindsight she was depressed. Once divorced she never sought out a relationship. As an only child, I felt like I had to be “her person” and equally felt like a despicable burden who needed to take care of her and contribute to the household, her reputation etc. So much so that when she gave me lovely birthday cards composed and sold via Hallmark or whatever…I was well into my teens having to talk myself out of believing that she was making fun of what I wished I had – how I longed to be “seen” and appreciated.

Fast forward once: I’ve been a mother myself for 17.5 years and have 3 kids. I have had to confront and heal from emotional neglect, casual cruelty/viciousness, gaslighting/straight up lying, feelings of terror and fear, general anxiety, panic/attacks and (despite being forced to demonstrate a galactic degree of competency and high achievement from an early age) scary low self esteem…all in order to be an open, honest, accessible and (for the first time in my life) resilient parent and person. I feel fortunate to have turned things around. I am a direct beneficiary of healing the generational transgressions of my family. I am grateful to be on the other side of my childhood because my “captive” life with my bio. mother had me battling the feeling that I was a functional resource meant for her use/to be used up, that I was unloved & intolerable. Certainly never good enough no matter how high I soared. Collectively it strongly compromised my will to live.

Fast forward once more: she is living a life as a fairly young, physically healthy retired person who is wholly taken care of by me and others. She can/is willing to take care of her personal hygiene (for which I am grateful too). Literally any other daily/survival activity, her health and finance management is taken care of by myself and (I am beyond thankful) and right now…a few family members willing to step in for the short term. But she has and continues to wear out her welcome.

For the most part I am okay. I’ve created emotional and physical boundaries. I am clear on my priorities and what actually sustains me. But it is time consuming to care for her and I struggle with anger and sometimes rage. I am inherently still “her person.” You can imagine how tricky it is to maintain a connection to someone like this human being. She presents as a narcissist – she has not-a-thing to give me or her grandchildren (I’m talking attention, love…) and is only interested in those devoted and interested in her. Otherwise she is a ghost. It’s reminiscent of my childhood. A connection strictly on her terms only. Nothing reciprocal about it. *And,* in addition to needing to manage her emotional relationships with others now that “the mask” has slipped, I am subject to her persistent bad emotional habits (dishonesty, name-calling, inexplicably…blaming etc.) I feel trapped. It is emotionally exhausting. Help. How can I learn to cope?

Jen - January 31, 2024 Reply

My father was 18 when I was conceived, my mother 15. It was during the draft for Viet Nam and not wanting to go fight, my father took the advice of a lawyer to have a family to take care of to avoid the draft. My mother was impregnated, fairly against her will, as she tells it, he does not disagree.
They married before I was born, he took a job in a steel mill. They moved to a small apartment across the street from the mill. When I was 4 months old, she left.
He went to his parents, who in turn went to her parents, they asked her what to do about me. She said that I should be put up for adoption, against the protests of my paternal grandmother, who wanted to raise me.
As an infant, I was physically and emotionally neglected by my teen mother.
At 6 months old, I was adopted by parents who were both college professors. I can remember feeling that my mother loved me. Unfortunately, their marriage fell apart by the time I was 4, she was gone and replaced by my step-mother. We did not get along. I can remember the exact moment, as a 4 year old helping make a bed, not taking it very seriously, that she decided I was going to need a strict upbringing. She never made a secret of the fact that she had never wanted children. She only was there because of the relationship to my father. I was sent away every summer, all summer to camp. She complained about the cost.
There was no love to be had from her, or my new father. He let her do the child rearing without comment. Their wants and needs were always most important. I did only the things they wanted to do or wanted me to do. Constant criticisms, lecturing and only focus on how to do what they wanted. It was stifling.
My adopted mother was only around at Christmas and birthdays. Her love was shown through material gifts.
I did not have any emotional support through the time I left home at 17.
Needless to say, it was debilitating. I always knew I was adopted ( I can’t remember ever not knowing ) I have felt like I am autistic at times, like I have a personality disorder at other times. I have an extremely hard time knowing how to express emotion and how to effectively deal with the emotions of others. I mimic what I think is the right response and over the decades, this has actually served as a fairly effective way of connecting with other people. I have had a a total of 7 therapists, been suicidal, been a cutter.

I am a survivor though. I have found a way to see all of these parents as just flawed people. People living their lives, as messy as lives usually are. We all have flaws, we all make mistakes and we are all influenced by things out of our control. I have had the strength to make sure that people in my life that don’t feel safe are not allowed to stay in my life. I have been able to find other people who were my chosen family, to listen to me and help me feel and deal with my emotions. Overall, I think that being objective and forgiving is the best way forward, while also being honest and acknowledging one’s own flaws. I feel pretty good most of the time now. I am in my 50’s…. still plenty of life left to continue finding what feels good. There is hope.

    Jonice - January 31, 2024 Reply

    Dear Jen, thank you for sharing your story with us. You have made impressive progress in figuring things out and putting yourself in a good position to live and enjoy your life. All my best to you.

ken - January 30, 2024 Reply

Thank you Dr. Webb, Listening, watching and reading your books have helped me understand how CEN has been impacting me all my adult life. I’ve spent time in 12 step groups relating to people whose parents were abusive. I always felt that my situation was different because my parents seemed to be genuinely loving parents. I was raised in the Christian Science religion which could be the poster child for CEN because of the amount of denial of emotions it teaches in the name of being “positive”. I have shared your book with other Ex-Christian Scientists who have also benefited from your expertise on this subject. CEN showed me that although my parents might have loved me, they certainly did not know how to protect me, and they certainly did not know how to validate or teach me how to access my emotions growing up. That deficit caused me to be in and out of therapy all my adult life. Running on Empty was an eye opener for me about how loving parents can be unconsciously abusive by neglecting their children’s emotions. Listening to Dr. Webb’s reassuring, encouraging and sincere voice as she lays out practical steps for regaining emotional literacy has been very healing in my life. Thanks for being so passionate about sharing your knowledge!

Mark - January 30, 2024 Reply

My parents separated when I was around 3 years old. My mother took my sister and me to Germany, where we lived with her parents for a while. Eventually we returned to live with my dad and his new wife in California. while I vividly recall the day he picked me up from the airport, I don’t have any memories until I was about 12 years old. When I was 13 I was sent to live with my grandmother in New York, after spending the summer with my uncle, who lived nearby our home in Campbell, CA. After nearly a year with my grandmother and then moving to my aunt’s house, my father gave my mother full custody and requested that she come to pick me up. Despite my family in New York being so protective of me, after seeing my mom, after so long, I cried and agreed to go with them. I didn’t know much of my mother at this point, except that my dad would sometimes use her or rather her new husband in attempts to scare me straight – saying that he would send me to military school. I finished school in Frankfurt and joined the US Army, wanting to go anywhere else. I ended up being sent back to Frankfurt. After I completed my military service, I went to visit my dad, the first time I had seen him since I was sent away. While I had a good time and introduced my wife, there weren’t any meaningful conversations, as there really never were. I don’t recall him ever speaking directly to me unless it was for disciplinary reasons. I visited him again about 5-6 years later, which was the last time. He passed in 99 and I didn’t make it there in time, which affected me greatly. During COVID I separated from my 2nd Wife of now 24 years, I opted to move away, to Frankfurt, a place I knew. I was suicidal for a time, not seeing any great reason to live. My business and my family had both collapsed, I had lots of debt, and my income was brought down to minimum wage jobs. I started therapy then though, and my therapist introduced me to the term Childhood Emotional Neglect, after which I was searching for more information – found the book “Running on Empty” which helped me greatly to better understand why I have so many behavioral patterns and thoughts. it’s a big relief just understanding where they come from. I’m still in therapy, and likely will be for quite some time, but there has been quite a shift from the darker days, not all so long ago. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and insights on this topic, I didn’t know existed a year ago.

Linda - October 31, 2023 Reply

Dr Webb I have watched so very many videos on this subject. But yours seem so realistic, easy to follow, I can understand the impact of CEN and also see how you suggestions can start the healing process. I wish you could be my therapist. The list you mentioned of therapist trained in CEN, where is it? I cant find it anywhere. Can you please send it to my email address?

Amy - October 1, 2023 Reply

Hi. I’m listening to the audiobook of ROE, and I am looking for the “practice sheets” that are said to be on the website. Can you point me to them please? Thanks!

    Jonice - October 10, 2023 Reply

    Hi Amy, they’re under The Book tab of my website. The links are there to download.

Anonymous - December 22, 2022 Reply

Dr. Webb –

I apologize for the length and the timing – right before the holidays.

I am 65. I grew up, basically, as an only child. I have (had) two sisters but they were in high school when I was born and one recently passed away. I was raised on a farm outside a small town in the Midwest. My father (deceased) worked in a steel mill for decades and our farm was a work of the heart for him in trying to keep true to his rural upbringing. My mother (also deceased) was a stay-at-home mother. I enlisted in the military after two years of college and recently retired after 43 years of combined federal service. I never wanted for anything and was never physically abused – just a lot of hard work on the farm. I was not present when my father died but co-signed my mother’s removal of life support when she passed away about 10 years after him. I was not particularly close to my mom. I was closer to my dad but he was a “matter of fact” guy without a lot of outward emotion. I grew up to be a “matter of fact” person with a pretty long “fuse” who works at not being overly emotional about things (NOTE: I answered YES 16 times on your questionnaire). These qualities have stood me well (I guess) during my career. But, I often wonder if I am too “numb” to certain things.

My wife (of 40 years at this time) lost both her parents within a year in her early teens. Her mother from cancer and her father from a heart attack. Her oldest sibling (brother) contracted polio and was already wheel-chair bound when she was born. She has two older sisters. She lost her brother and oldest sister a few years ago over the period of about 18 months. None of these deaths were “pretty” as it were. Only her brother’s passing (actually while at work in his 70s as he was quite the survivor) was “peaceful”.

She experienced a lot at an early age and I understand it BUT that does not always make it easier to deal with. She has been diagnosed with several conditions: GAD (officially), major depression (officially), C-PTSD (officially), BPD (unofficial), CEN (unofficial), HSP (official). She and our one son (32) love each other but don’t see eye to eye on many things. Specifically, spending time together and at holidays and family milestones. She is obsessed with spending time with him (my opinion) and our relationship is not enough.

I never placed an extreme amount of emphasis on holidays or family events (birthdays and anniversaries) but I never forget them and I try my best – I just don’t do them very well apparently. I do not know why. Nor do I like all the socialization and commercialization surrounding them. I didn’t even want to have a retirement ceremony after 43 years – I just wanted to shake hands and do hugs. Lately I have come to despise them as my wife does and is very vocal about it. I understand her childhood was chaotic but I can’t seem to wrap my head around how important these things are to her. She has had several therapists, only one of which seemed to really help but that one had to end her practice unexpectedly for family reasons and the parting did not go smoothly. She also was on medication briefly but, right now she says she is done with all that because she is tired of being the one that needs to change.

I try to make every decision based on how she will react/feel and I have no hobbies/outlets of my own really since I feel guilty doing things without her. I sometimes feel, maybe in error, that I am trying my best but to no avail. I am not trained or equipped to deal with this and sometimes, I admit, I feel like I don’t want to anymore. She really is hard to please long-term and when things do not go the way she expects/wants she can become (in my opinion) a petulant child that is angry, sarcastic, vindictive and mean though I really don’t think she means much of it – it was how she got attention as a child. She also will constantly bring up issues over the span of 50 years which I refuse to do. And the number of things that can “trigger” her (I hate that term, sorry) appears nearly infinite so these issues are always just below the surface. Maybe I am like the parent who doesn’t want justice as much as he wants peace.

I have tried counseling in the past but, admittedly, have been unable (or unwilling?) to find a compatible one and commit to it long-term. I have also been told that we need “couples counseling” and without her there it really won’t help that much.

There is, obviously, much more to this and, admittedly, it is one-sided. Bottom line is that I am seriously evaluating my life decisions (marriage and having a child) and I don’t want to be. I also have a chronic condition (Crohn’s) that makes me fatigued, forgetful and, sometimes, irritable because of constant, underlying discomfort so that doesn’t help though I have learned to adjust to it.

She really is a great person if she would let herself be so. And she does try but, she is so wrapped up in negativity, guilt, feeling outcast and regret (in my opinion all or mostly self-imposed) that it affects her relationships, her physical and emotional health and makes her want to “throw in the towel” when she is in the depths. And I really don’t know how to fix it or how much of her current condition I am responsible for or have made worse.

There appear to be some CEN counselors in NC per your website but the closest is about 90 minutes away. I am willing to travel if it may be beneficial.

Any insight from you or the community??

Rick - November 8, 2022 Reply

Dr. Webb, I have asked this question in another question box, but am submitting it here, also.

Someone very close to me has BPD. We have found a very knowledgeable therapist who focuses on BPD, but she only does online sessions. My question is this: In your professional opinion, can DBT therapy be effective if it is all provided remotely in stead of in-person? Thank you

Louise - November 1, 2022 Reply

Hi Jonice,
Have you or anyone else found a connection between CEN and chronic pain conditions? If so do you know of any research around this?
I’m asking because it relates to my masters dissertation and my own personal experience.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this.

    Jonice - November 7, 2022 Reply

    Hi Louise, I don’t know of any connection there, I’m sorry I’m not more helpful on that.

leah - September 26, 2022 Reply

While I read a lot and write a lot.
I have always had a hard time watching movies.
I can’t read novels.
My heart cannot take watching a movie.
As a child, I never could join the family for watching a movie. My parents were glad to let me leave the room (while they all watched).
I am stuck here now.
I function fine.
I parent my children.
But I can’t tolerate watching any NEW movies with any substance whatsoever. It’s too much for me.
This makes me feel weird.
I can’t tolerate reading a novel that might touch my heart.
It’s too much for me.
It all hurts too much… even if it’s happy.
I can only read non-fiction and focus on my work.
I’ve read and done work on CEN for almost a decade.
I wonder if anyone else can relate?
Many thanks all,

M - August 26, 2022 Reply

I cannot seem to download the Changes sheet from the book page (I can download the feelings list)… Any suggestions?

    Jonice - August 30, 2022 Reply

    Since we’ve not received that problem before, I’m assuming it’s your equipment or wifi connection. You can try on a different device or move closer to your router. I hope this helps!

Anonymous - July 3, 2022 Reply

Through self guided research, I have found there are many avenues a person could go down to heal mentally and emotionally. At times, I’m overwhelmed by the options. How is a person supposed to decide where to start and what to work on?
A little history… I was sexually abused as a child by my older brother and my step father. My brother’s abuse lasted for several years and included constant fear and him threatening to kill me if I told anyone. I told my mom in the only way I could what was going on, but she didn’t do anything to stop the abuse. She once told me being sad or mad was unacceptable and she only wanted to see me if I was happy. When she learned that my brother had raped me, it was all about her and how much I hurt her by being abused. To survive all of this abuse and neglect, I shutdown my feelings. I used self harm to cope and I excelled in school to find validation.
Decades later I married a narcissist and had 4 children whom I love dearly. We divorced after 15 years. After a year spent finding which way was up, I went back to college, became an RN, and started therapy. I’ve learned skills and tools to use to manage flashbacks and help with processing emotions and memories. However, connection, attachment, and trust is still a challenge as is sleep. I’m discovering that healing will be a very long journey for me.
Is it possible to have too many irons in the proverbial therapy fire? Is there one area I should work on first or most? If I were to start healing from CEN, where should I start? I’ve researched polyvagal theory, CEN, CBT, and DBT. I’ve experienced somatic experiencing, EMDR, equine therapy, and integrative psychotherapy. Every time I read about an area I need to improve, I think about working on that too.
Thank you so much for your time.

    Grace - January 30, 2024 Reply

    Hi I am not a professional but I have been through family trauma with my daughter being sexually abused by my partner for years. In my experience this type of trauma needs to be dealt with on a somatic level so you may want to look into this. Our nervous system carries and holds onto early trauma and wreaks havoc in our bodies and in our minds. You may want to look into this as well as CEN. I wish my poor daughter would.

Andrew - June 30, 2022 Reply

Simply thanks for finally articulating this syndrome. I am 75 and have survived but not lived that well because of extreme CEN. I hope to get maybe a few years anyway where I can live without this dreadful burden of lonely desolation and emptiness.

Peggy - May 10, 2022 Reply

I answered the CEN Questionairre and found I answered yes to almost all the questions. I have also learned how this has worked to keep me stuck in unhealthy relationships. Several of them have been narcissistic relationships which only adds more pain.
I am 68 years old and my parents have long been gone. I am now left to pull some healing together for myself before the end of my life which I want to do. I am having trouble trying to figure out the best program to meet my needs. Beyond Dr. Webb, there are so many practitioners out there, but Dr. Webb’s approach really fits. CEN therapists are not available in my area. Financially, I am limited as I am retired. I am having trouble figuring out which of Dr, Webb’s programs might help me. I don’t need a heavy duty program, just something lite enough to help me work through the issues that have come from realizing what happened to me in my life…maybe from a client’s perspective. I’ve run on empty so long in my life and blaming myself I am just tired out and want to find some peace. Talking about it constructively might help, I think

Marion - May 9, 2022 Reply

I found what you talk very interesting. Alot what you talk about fix right in how was raised. I would learn more about. I come from abuse background. My father would hit me when did some wrong. Than turn around hit me for crying. Than went left home and got married walk into more abuse. I ever knew that I had feelings. I would like learning more about programming. Thank you

    Jonice - May 10, 2022 Reply

    Dear Marion, visit the Programs Page of this website. Also, when you take the Emotional Neglect test you are automatically signed up for my newsletter and that will keep you informed and introduce you to new information to learn about CEN.

Patty Lou - March 25, 2022 Reply

My Neglect was really intergenerational. My story is so very long, that after I wrote it, it was 30 pages. I know it is too long to add here, but my lifelong search was so productive!
I found out that my mom’s grandfather was killed by his wife or her boyfriend…and that my grandfather saw it when he was 7 in 1911. His life was cut short at 54-years due to his alcoholism which I feel was his way of making the memories go away! He was my first death experience when I was just 10. His daughter was my mom. She was so abusive and it all began when I was three, or at least that is my first memory of it. My daddy was also intergenerationally neglected! I had always been told that he was 2 months old when his mother died of pneumonia but my son found on Ancestry that he was actually 2 years old. That explained so much for me. He was such a great loving and caring parent, if it had not been for him I can’t imagine how screwed up I would be! However with that said my mom not only abused me, she was also mean to my dad. I witnessed that myself! He took it as after loosing his mom he just wanted to be loved, and he became long suffering! I learned that from him and both of my 2 husbands were ill-chosen and really as bad as my mom was. I remained with the first for 13-years and the last one for 17-years! They both were unfaithful more times than I could count, emotional abusive and only seemed to really care about themselves! One is working on his third wife and the other is on his fifth!
My children saw so much that I can’t imagine how they grew up to be loving, caring beings! I now have a granddaughter who is growing up with a great mom and dad. I see her receiving all of the love and attention from my son that my dad gave to me. Her mom is caring, loving and patient and my granddaughter is receiving all of the love and attention that my mom didn’t give to me!
Now my mom and dad are gone. It took me forever to get over the death of my dad! When it happened I honestly didn’t see the sadness from my mom that one would expect after a thirty year marriage. When my mom died, I found a strength inside me that I would have never known I had! My strength was being kind at our eleventh hour. Telling her I loved her (even though she never told my dad and I that she loved us) and thanking her for those qualities that I feel I saw her do to make a nice family home.
The one solace I got after my dad’s death was knowing he would forever be with his mom in their afterlife!
I have lived a very full life as my dad was in the military. We traveled a lot and I remember each place we lived! I learned so much about people in other countries and other parts of our United States!
I became an RN and the empathy that my daddy showed me as he told the bedtime stories, many of which I am sure, were about his childhood gave me the ability to care and feel for other people. I suppose I have retired from my profession, the pandemic has made it more dangerous! But, I keep my Continuing Education Credits up to date just in case!
Thank you for allowing me to share. The 30-page version is so full of CEN events, I could only give the highlights here!
I found searching for the WHYs that it all happened very helpful as I work to recover from my own CEN!

Anonymous - March 18, 2022 Reply

I have felt invisible and as if my life is of little consequence from my adolescent years forward. As a child, sadness, or any difference in emotion, was seen as ingratitude or disrespect. I was deeply shamed for expressing myself. Many serious issues were swept under the rug. My parents divorce, my grandmother’s passing, my parents emotional abandonment.
I was lost and don’t think anyone even saw me. I still feel like it (life) is just too difficult. Why does this have to be a lifelong battle? I feel invisible now with my spouse and dismissed or invalidated by him and overlooked by others.
I really desire healing.

    Jonice - March 20, 2022 Reply

    Dear Anonymous, I’m so sorry you have always felt this way and I understand why you do. Please learn everything you can about CEN and choose some healing steps to begin working on. My book Running On Empty (you can find it in libraries for free) would be a good place to start.

    R. - October 22, 2022 Reply

    Dear Anonymous,
    It’s been some time since you post, hope, you feeling better today.
    Just wanted to leave a note as your words resonated with me.
    Thanks for sharing giving me the brief moment of not feeling so entirely alone.

    Julie - January 30, 2024 Reply

    Dear Anonymous, I feel like I wrote your post myself. I’m sorry you have to feel the pain and empty void as I do. A lifetime of waiting and searching for that “thing “ to bring happiness and peace, that I now know doesn’t even exist . I’m sorry for you.

lisa - March 6, 2022 Reply

Hi, Growing up I could never understand what my problem was. There was never any obvious abuse but rather what wasnt was the problem. I didnt know about this invisible neglect until I came across your book. Your book has been a total eye opener in my life. As a parent now myself, it has been so helpful in guiding me and shutting down the inner critic that is always telling me I’m doing wrong.
I grew up with a narcisstic perfectionist father and a permissive mother. My mom was so busy trying to codependantly please my dad, that there was no time to look at me and see what I was lacking emotionally. I grew up as an only child with hardly any rules. I lived on fast food, went to bed any time and was an under achiever acedemically – something I regret as an adult. Any interaction with my dad was trying to seek his approval and produce an image that he wanted. Something I never managed.
My mother was too overwhelmed by his ever growing demands and she is a conflict avoidant person that she just let me grow up and be left to my own devices. I was never encouraged to persue my passions, hence my cluelesness to my hobbies, preferences, dislikes and values . I was just trying to survive and not really live and enjoy. My best outlet was escaping into fantasy world where i would imagine I was somebody else with different parents.
As an adult I really struggle with saying no, self discipline and some other CEN symptoms. Im trying to follow through the book step by step. I think Ive read the book 5 times . Each time I gain a new understanding.
Thank you Dr Jonice Webb for helping me start anew. Your book has been the best self help book I have ever come across.

Billy - March 5, 2022 Reply

I was reading one of your article on Procrastination,I having been suffering from this for a quite long time,when I read the story about Life of Lisbeth,a Procrastinator it dawned on me that growing up no one aplauded me for any good I did and this has created a situation where I feel sad when I’m sometimes congratulated.I finish work when I’m underpressure,the work I would have done long time or sometimes I feel as if people are using me.
Thank you so much for your work

ada - March 4, 2022 Reply

I always felt guilty about feeling deprived, emotionally, in my family. Because I come from a wealthy family and I had absolutely everything that a child, a young adult and an adult would want. I literally felt guilty feeling unloved. I equated love with material comfort. So what else do you want beside all these material stuff, I would tell myself.
So not only I felt unloved, I felt like an ingrate for not appreciating what my parents were giving me.
It really wasn’t until I read your book, Running on empty, that I almost felt vindicated emotionally.
My mother loved my sister more and she never ever hugged me and has never told me she loves me. though I am 63 and she is 91 years old. I never touch my mother physically, unless I have to help her walk around.
I had to teach myself to be different with my own children. Only after years of therapy, I have been able to get to the point where I don’t need her love.
My father apologized to me before his passing for not being present emotionally and putting my older sister on the pedestal at the price of ignoring me.
I have a good life now with my own nuclear family but
it’s very sad that I had to go through that as a child.

    Jonice - March 10, 2022 Reply

    Dear Ada, my heart goes out to you. Material wealth can be a gaslighting effect in a CEN family, and this is what you had to grow up with. I’m glad you’ve been able to form a good nuclear family of your own and I hope you are proud of yourself.

Caz - February 28, 2022 Reply

Our mum getting us away from a violent dad from age 3 to be constantly moving from one man to another. Settling again with an emotionally abusive partner me aged 9 yrs But this time partner very emotionally abusive and watching my brother getting hit. Mum not emotionally available just surviving to keep a roof over our heads. She started with Rheumatoid arthritis age 35 totally dependent on this man. I just blended in so as not cause any trouble or get hit like my brother. No guidance through child/teenage years just ended up getting married age 18 to get away from this nothingness only to just jump from the frying pan into a fire of abuse from my own husband of 5yrs. Managed to leave only to make same mistake just wanted to be loved and seen
Tried to take my own life 19yrs over dose. Just got released from hospital no follow up. Tried again 42 now 57 my own health problems trying to find some meaning to my life. Having private counselling which as helped we explore my mind and why I behave and think the way I do. I know mum was on survival mode and I can empathise on such a hard life she had. But it’s left me damaged with panic attacks and anxiety. Medication just numbs doesn’t solve anything. Live in UK we have a health service but not much help with mental health especially childhood neglect.
I’m estranged from my daughter, who also became abusive to me so much so I’ve had to cut her out of my life and grandchildren. What ever I do for her it’s never enough I just go around in circles to try and fix things for her. Ended up having an emotional breakdown. That was 2yrs ago.
I people please and appease putting their emotions above myself. That inner child/world needs love compassion understanding I am working on this each day now 2yrs been heart breaking but eye opening at the same time. I wasted so much of my life doing what other people want me to do just to be seen.
I do have a Christian husband who is loving and trying to understand my outburst or totally collapsed an emotional reck. It is getting better with myself spending time looking at this inner world
Thank you for reading

Teresa - February 28, 2022 Reply

My father (1916-2011) had undiagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder. He was very rigid in his thinking, a frightening tyrant at home, and unable to empathise with anybody. My mother (1920-1996) was a narcissist whose feelings were more important than anyone else’s in the family. I (born 1944) was the eldest of six children, one of whom died in infancy when I was five years old. This combination of parents meant that my emotions were ignored, punished or belittled for my entire childhood. It has taken me a lifetime to realise what was wrong with my parents and what is wrong with me.

I was surprised to see that Jonice does not mention the deeply damaging effects of ASD parenting in her recent article on ‘Three Types of CEN’.

    Jonice - February 28, 2022 Reply

    Dear Teresa, I’m sorry you endured so much neglect and harm in your childhood. Generally, ASD parents would fall under the well-meaning category if that was their only challenge. But your father sounds like he had more going on that might put him into the self-centered category. Being a frightening tyrant is not a part of ASD.

      CAM - March 29, 2022 Reply

      I would be interested in more information ASD parents as well. After my (teenage) nephew’s diagnosis with high functioning ASD, I suspect my mom also has ASD. It would explain a lot about her parenting. In particular, it would explain the harsh emotional outburst she expresses she becomes overwhelmed or confused by social signals and cues. As a parent, she directed this anger at us as kids. My nephew often directs it at anyone around him.

      Karen - January 30, 2024 Reply

      I would like more information on how having an ASD parent may contribute to CEN. My dad is on the spectrum, as am I, but my mom was not. Both of my parents were neglectful and my mom also was narcissistic and forced me to mask because my ASD behaviors and thought processes reminded her of what she thought were my dad’s problems. They divorced when I was 4 1/2. Mom and I were able to reconcile after she got cancer and after I got my ASD diagnosis. Dad thinks that everything neglectful was Mom’s fault and doesn’t see how his ASD contributed, even though I never felt comfortable sharing emotions with him and wouldn’t share the full extent of how Mom treated me (or didn’t.) Dad would also have outbursts when things didn’t fall into his rigid way of thinking, and still does.

    Maria - July 2, 2024 Reply

    Oh, yes, I can relate. My parents are both deceased now, but I believe my mother had undiagnosed ASD. (My son was the one who suggested it, and it makes so much sense.) My father put her on a pedestal and demanded my siblings and I do the same. She was never to be questioned. My oldest sister was her favorite, and I was definitely the least favorite. I was diagnosed with ADHD in middle age, and I’m also an HSP (highly sensitive). I was routinely mocked and punished for my struggles – I was a “drama queen,” “looking for attention” and just generally willfully bad, apparently. I grew up feeling I was unlikeable and unlovable, and I still struggle with these feelings. I was sexually harassed by a male fellow student in high school, and my parents didn’t even care when I told them. My mother never wanted to be bothered with me. I think my relationship with her can be summed up by an event that happened when I was in about the 5th grade. I wrote a story I thought was really good, and I brought it to her and asked her if she wanted to read it. She said, “Oh, no, you don’t write the kind of things I like to read.” I felt like she had driven a knife into my heart. I remember thinking to myself, “If I ever have children, I will never EVER say that to them.”

      Jonice - July 2, 2024 Reply

      I am so sorry that happened, Maria! I’m very glad you were able to learn something positive from that painful event.

John - February 27, 2022 Reply

I learned about CEN several years ago.

My CEN came from my mom. She abandoned and divorced my dad in a very toxic way.

She sought to raise me on a pink pillow so that I would not be like my dad who all of her family loved. She tried her best to keep him away from me like making him pay a $4,000 bond back in the early 60s. She told me that she really wanted a girl not a boy.

Then she started telling me that I was her little man and that I did not need to feel fear, anger, hurt ect. for she would feel those enough for the two of us.

She constantly spoke badly about my dad, but he never did the same.

In therapy, I came to see that my mother had made me her emotional partner, but then the memories came that showed me it was much more than emotional.

I’ve written a poem about all of this, “Mammas Don’t Raise Up Your Sons To Be Substitute Spouses”

While the CEN books come close to describing the emotional impact of a child’s experience of their parents’ divorce, I wish they would come closer to talking about how I experienced it.

The result of all of this was an overly sexualized life, sexual identity confusion, not feeling like a typical man, bi-sexual orientation, being afraid to get married as well as not getting married until late plus marrying an abusive person like my mom.

Anonymous - February 27, 2022 Reply

I was 13. We were going on a bus trip. I got on the bus when it was empty to wait for everyone. As I sat, an older man got on, & after looking around, without a word came & sat by me. I was alarmed & didn’t feel right. I was wondering what to do when my mother stuck her head in the open door of the bus. With relief, I thought she would save me. But she only looked around, saw the older man sitting by her young daughter, frowned, & went back outside. Hurt & confused, I got up quickly & left the bus. She never acknowledged what she’d seen, or said a word to me. And we’ve never discussed it in the 41 years since.
When I was between 8-15 years of age, my father would pull his underwear down unexpectedly, like if we were watching tv, & “shake himself around.” My mother saw him do this many times. Again she would frown, say stop it, & keep walking. The two of them were unhappily married for nearly 20 years. She told me MANY times growing up that she “prayed he would have an affair” so she could divorce him & it would be acceptable in the eyes of the church. (I say CHURCH, not God. There’s a huge difference). A year ago it finally dawned on me that wasn’t her husband’s sexual abuse to her child be ALL the reason one would need to divorce, & if the church didn’t like that, who gives a sh*t, do YOU need to be told what’s RIGHT??? I asked her that… She refused to comment, & told me “why are you always bringing up the past? Can’t you get over anything?? I don’t have any patience for you.”
I don’t want any apologies, NEVER have. Just acknowledgment that I felt then & now, that she does not love me, & that I am correct. Who does she think she’s fooling? NOT ME. Does she really need to lie to herself so badly??? Well, if she’s ever semi-conscious in a hospital bed dying, I certainly WILL NOT be crying over her & begging her to tell me why she didn’t love me–that was what SHE did with her mother. Like Sam Smith’s song “Too Good at Goodbyes” I AM the line that says “everytime you leave me, the less I love you.”

Treece - February 27, 2022 Reply

It has taken me so many years to finally understand what is wrong with me. I grew up in a somewhat stable home, and had lots of friends when I was a child. But as I grew my life had no direction and was not good at making healthy lasting relationships. I had a childhood friend who would always say to me, “you’re book smart but you don’t have any common sense. I finally figured out what she mean’t at about 55 years old. I am 67 now and have come to understand more clearly why I would get statements from boyfriends as they rejected me. These are some
“you don’t even know what you feel”
“You are a child”
“I don’t love you”
“You don’t have a sense of self”.

It has been a very very lonely life, and hard. I have been in survival mode most of my life and so confused and unloved. I have been blessed to have jobs that has helped me to process and understand myself better. (School teacher, Massage Therapist). I have depression, and feelings of worthlessness. But thank you Dr. Webb for your help in understanding my life. I read your first book, and am ready to read the second. The main problem I had was the same as another person, that you’re book talks a lot about healing relationships. My problem is I have no relationships or marriage, the same as Opal had describe. I just want to know how to create relationships. Thank you for all you have done Dr. Webb

Peter - February 27, 2022 Reply

My parents were elderly when I was born. I was their only child. My father was very happy to have a child. My mother didn’t want children as it would interrupt her social life.

After a few years my father got cancer, and all my mothers attention was looking after my father, I was left in my room to read a book.

I didnt go to primary school, as I would spend the day in my father’s hospital room
he needed quite a few surgery. It was good for him to see me. I read a lot a books.

When I did go to school I knew more than the students that had been at school but I had no social skills at all, still don’t.

I didn’t have friends, I joined clubs, but I was an outsider. I was introverted. I volunteered for various roles, I have learnt skills of behaviour at meetings. At the beginning I could not speak now I can but still feel uncomfortable.

I like animals more than people.

People mocked me, called me gay. But I was not interested in anyone when a teenager.

Friends told me lies, then said they were joking I could not understand. Friends were no good for me.

My mother continually told me she wished I was a girl that I was useless. Hit me a lot when I did something she didn’t like. I stayed in my room. Sometimes she laughed when she was hitting me.

Eventually she arranged for the doctor to poison my father with overdose of morphine when the cancer became terminal.

She was always right and whatever I said was always wrong. She gave instructions to me like the army.

Her whole life she never once said she loved me, or tried to understand me. She always cooked great meals, but we ate with tv going and never talked.

When I was 33 I moved to a city far away.
I felt guilty that I should help my mother in her old age but I was traumatized.

She died in 2011, but I stayed the same.

Gina - February 27, 2022 Reply

I learned about CEN a few years ago & it made a lot of sense. I have zero contact with either parent, stopped bothering with both of them about 5 years ago. Both were abusive and it was very intentional. I had a learning disability they just didn’t bother to get me or my sister help for, the irony is my father is an LCSW and worked with troubled kids for a while. My mother is a criminologist by education. They knew but did nothing. They had their own brush with CPS when I was young regarding my sister and after that, they avoided any kind of doctors or authority figures like that. They brutally & violently punished us for doing badly in school. I have had to take it upon myself to get the proper help for things, I also discovered I have vision problems as well that should have been addressed decades ago. I kept learning things from other family members in recent years the abusive, sneaky things my mother did to sabotage any kind of life I tried to have as a kid or a teen, and suspect my mother is a Munchausen’s mother she was always diagnosing us with mental health conditions. Yet did nothing to really get me help. I know it isn’t real now. She did numerous violent things including something to my pet kitten when I was 6. She is very good at acting like she has no recollection, doesn’t remember, or never did or said anything. Or the big one of our need to learn to take a joke after being cruel and sadistic and enjoying it at your expense.

My father was just disgusted with us and honestly couldn’t stand to be around us at all. I think he viewed our learning disabilities as grotesque since we would never be as educated as him and could barely stand to be around us at all.

Both were alcoholics & drug addicts. I was told to never tell people what went on in our home. I could never bring friends over or go anywhere.

I always knew there was something wrong with them but I didn’t realize how much it affected me. I get it now. They enjoyed being violent, abusive people, they really lived for it. The last I heard no one is talking to my mother anymore. Shocking!

A few years ago the flood gates opened for me when I received some information from a family member I was close to & discovered I needed glasses and direction for my learning challenges. I was also well into a stable healthy relationship & finally having someone who loved & cared for me instead of abusing me gave me something to compare it to. I finally lived in a home with peace instead of chronic chaos. You don’t realize how different that is until you have a thing to compare it to. Profound.

I am pretty angry but I realize that this was not my fault I dealt with it the only way I could as a little kid. My biggest challenge now is to stop coping the way I did. I can feel angry, ask for things or just be a confident person and not have someone tell me I am a horrible selfish monster for respecting myself and enjoying my life & a conceited mess for not walking around fearful weak.

I just wish what they did, had not led me down so many painful roads. A lot of things I have been through didn’t have to happen for me. At least I am in a good place now, my life is very good, I am not the shock absorber for their own issues and self-hate. No one thought I would amount to much, that I would be dead, in prison, or some other institution but I am not. I have had a lot of success in many areas.

My goal is to live as well as I can in spite of the people around me who wanted me to fail so they could use it for their selfish needs. Me doing well is probably the worst thing that could happen to them.

Joanne I - February 27, 2022 Reply

My father died when I was 7 years old from cancer. It was quick, diagnosed, and gone within a year. My parents were about 3/4 finished building a new house and we were scheduled to move 2 months before he died.

Later that summer, I was sent away to stay with my aunt for a week, and when I returned my mom and 2 older brothers had moved us into the new house. My father was never mentioned, we did not put pictures of him up nor did we talk about him on holidays, it was like he just disappeared.

I think my mother got swallowed up by her grief and went through the motions of raising her youngest child. When I was 12 she had to go back to work, money was tight. I was seldom hugged and to the best of my memory, she never told me she loved me. There was just nothing left for me.

    Jonice - February 27, 2022 Reply

    It’s so very hard when a family treats a profound loss as if it never happened. It is often done out of extreme grief, and is a powerful form of emotional neglect.

Bigboy Billy - February 27, 2022 Reply

When I first got your book about CEN and it was by coincidence.I’m glad i did.I was born in a family of Five boys and one girl, four of them including the girl they are late.We were born from different fathers which we did not have any relationships my mother had a very strong character(also late) because of this environment we stayed with different families some were good families others were not as good.This environment taught me to survive at a tender age by behaving well otherwise we would find ourselves with no where to stay.I did not have the chance to go to school formal when I was young.We lived what I call nomad life I could not show any emotions well later on I went back to school of cause as an adult got married have two children they are both grown ups.There was a time me and my brother we went to stay with my father as children my brother who was older than me beat one of neighbors child and my father wanted to chase him I refused to remain behind I think at that time I was around the age of six or seven we walked in the night to our mothers relative.when you grow up in such environment I discovered that you either become a perfectionist or people pleaser.The thing is I did not grow emotionally let alone heal from the trauma I would have gone through.Actual I’m now discovering my self because what I didn’t know is love.What I’m glad about is that I’m alive

    Jonice - February 27, 2022 Reply

    We’re glad you’re alive too, and thank you for sharing your story with us.

QueenVictoria - February 27, 2022 Reply

My younger sister died from a life limiting disease when I was 6. She was never spoken about again. My parents were overprotective and critical of me. They didn’t want to lose another so their demands were suffocating. I was also verbally and physically abused. I “believed” my mother had something to do with my siblings death and I wouldn’t let her touch me. There was no communication about what happened to my sib. I turned away from my own mother because she turned away from me. Then we got a cat. One day she gave the cat away. My sister also disappeared one day so I didn’t trust her. Sibling disappears, cat disappears???? Could I just disappear??? My parents always had their door closed to me. I stayed alone in my room. I never got the chance to have another sibling. They never should have been parents. There was no love or support only criticism.

    Jonice - February 27, 2022 Reply

    I’m so sorry you had such a lonely and scary childhood. I encourage you to start giving yourself the attention your parents couldn’t. You absolutely can heal.

celeste - February 27, 2022 Reply

What’s interesting for me as I reflect on my relationship with my mother and examine what kind of parent she was is realizing that she exhibited behaviours from the different types at different points in her life. Sometimes she was emotionally absent but generally well-meaning, and sometimes she was rough with me because she expected me to be a reflection of the image she wanted to present to the world, like I was just an extension of her rather than my own separate person. There was always a level of self-involvement with her behaviour, though, and when that level went up, I and my needs became less visible. I don’t know if my experience is similar to others, in that she wasn’t just one type of neglectful, or if I’m mislabeling it because I’m still parenting her and minimizing what she did. She passed away some time ago, so the only resolution I’ll get is with myself.

Lorraine - February 9, 2022 Reply

Six days ago I stumbled across three words that explained a lifetime of asking myself, “what is wrong with me?”
Emotional Childhood Neglect. There were 22 questions asked to determine if I had been affected by CEN. Answer yes or no and keep track of how many yes’s there were.
I counted 22 yes answers. Every question was written about me and my life. The best way to describe how I felt was, Excited anxiety. Even after 15 plus years of therapy, many hospitalizations due to major depression and overdosing on pills, one psychiatrist after another, and etc, never once did anyone ask about my childhood experiences. Naturally I kept them on a shelf assuming my childhood was not an important factor in my mental illness. I’m 62 years old and until less than a week ago thought of myself as a nobody that should have never been born. The more I read about Dr. Webb and her work in CEN, the more my brain was whirling. I could go on and on telling my story, but here and now is not the place or time for that. Anyone who’s suffered as I have already knows some parts of the story. Now that I’m aware of this Revelation, I only wanted to share that what I do with it is up to me. Less thinking, more action, is needed now that I have something to work with. At last there is a glimmer of hope that self healing can begin. Thank you Dr. Webb….

Opal - January 25, 2022 Reply

I have both books and have been following Dr. Jonice’s blog for years and it really rings true to me. My parents are both very kind and well meaning people who loved me and wanted the best for me. I struggled with depression, low self esteem and feeling lost and without friends in junior high/high school and college. My parents felt sad about it but seemed unable to figure out how to help me. They were also Christian Scientists, so their way of coping and handling problems was to pray and “only see the good” and “deny the reality of the seeming problem” in a very loving and well intentioned way. Curious if Dr. Jonice has worked with this population, being near the CS Mother church in Boston, and if so, if any link between this religion and CEN has been noticed.
Another question I have is regarding the idea that many CEN people “have everything” in terms of a spouse, children, friends, etc and “should be” happy but feel empty. I’d like to see more written about people of feel empty but also don’t have everything, such as people who are in their 40s, never found that partner, never had children and also struggled with finding true friendships and who feel their relationships with family and friends are somewhat superficial and unfulfilling, maybe not even ever really meeting people who are the right fit and don’t know how, especially at an older age….and who also may struggle with being unsure if they chose the right field of work.
Curious if there is a link between CEN and never finding “the one” or even the right friendships…and what to do about.
And one last question..regarding what I have read about how CEN people can have difficulty opening up or asking for help…what if you don’t have this problem but you just lack people who care enough or understand and when you have wanted to open up and share, the only choices were family members who were not interested or could not understand or friends who could only partially understand or didn’t have a depth of friendship enough to support this kind of sharing.
Sometimes reading the articles it seems like most people with CEN have all these established relationships (close friendships, spouses, children, etc) and all they need to do is learn to speak their truth…but what if you don’t really have anyone to speak your truth to? My parents do love me and are WMBNT, but I don’t feel safe to fully express with them and feel I need to maintain emotional boundaries…so I have to keep them somewhat at arms length to protect their fragile feelings as well as myself from feeling suffocated, frustrated or depressed(all things I’ve learned through the past 40+ years of interactions with them).
Love this site, blog, Jonice’s writings and books. It gives me comfort to read but I still feel lost.

    Lori - February 28, 2022 Reply

    Hi Opal,
    I’m sorry you too feel so alone. I think you make very good points that I have also wondered about. It seems like everyone else is married, partnered and living with a significant other. They have children/grandchildren, a career, social life, pets, go on vacations etc. It’s really hard living such a solitary life and I often feel like there must be something wrong with ME rather than my family because otherwise, I’d be living rather than existing.
    I am 60 now. So if you are in your 40’s or thereabouts, you still have hope!
    I had covid in January and had it so bad I was hospitalized and almost died. I also had pneumonia and found out AFTER the fact that I went into “Acute Hypoxic Respiratory Failure” and also developed “Acute Kidney Injury” from covid. My oxygen levels went down to 79 and I was given high flow oxygen and an experimental drug.
    During my hospitalization I of course was isolated so couldn’t have visitors but although my parents (they are elderly and divorced) called, my siblings who I have always been there for and taken care of, never did. Neither did my young adult niece and nephew. It was a scary and lonely time but I survived it.
    I hope you can find the meaningful connections you deserve!

      Darek - March 4, 2022 Reply

      Hi Lori and Opal,

      On paper, I “have everything”. A loving wife and four beautiful children. A good, secure job. A comfortable living. But I am dying inside, and so is my wife. I put a Yes to 21 of the 22 CEN questions. Combined with my Alexithymia and avoidant dismissive attachment style, not to mention high anxiety, ADHD and likely a lifetime of depression, and I wouldn’t wish me on anyone. My wife and I discovered everything I (we) struggle with about two weeks ago, after 12 years of marriage. I can now understand (but don’t feel) how she has been devastated emotionally because of how I proceed (she now has Affective Deprivation Disorder (AfDD). Had I known, I would have not started any relationship until I had gotten the help I needed.

      Now that we know, I am doing what I can to become the partner my wife deserves, and the dad my kids need. I told her that if I can’t do that, I will walk away, because it wouldn’t be fair to them to not.

      So while having everything sounds like a good thing, I now see that it can come at a severe cost to those around me.

      What am I doing about this? Everything I can. Upcoming shortly….full blood panel, full psychological assessment, possibly a brain scan to see if the Alexithymia was from birth or developed because of childhood, looking into neurofeedback training to help with anxiety and depression, a psychologist for therapy, a psychiatrist to overlook medication if needed, meditating twice a day, reading anything I can get my hands on. Still, it is a massive undertaking. I know I need to feed my wife emotionally, yet there are times when I don’t, because of my attachment style. She gets upset, but I don’t feel anything because of the Alexithymia. It’s a difficult cycle.

      Even if we don’t stay together, I won’t stop working on this, because I refuse to do to my kids what my childhood did to me.

      Thank you Dr. Webb, for putting a name to the aptly-named unseen force.


Ethan - January 22, 2022 Reply

I read about CEN symptoms on Reddit of all places and felt like for the first time something that described me. I wasn’t sure if I was just anxious or depressed or broken, CEN and Running on Empty empowered me to define WHY I feel broken, and furthermore a pathway to feeling alive for myself and my family.

I do struggle with one thing. I’m (in the words of the book Running on Empty No More) the self-involved, authoritarian parent. It’s very difficult for me to get out of my own way for even simple interactions with my kids. If others take the initiative to speak or reach out to connect to me, I view it as a distraction from what I focused on in the moment.

I’m struggling to find more books or resources to overcome the self-involvement piece, I would be extremely grateful if anyone had some guidance to share?

    Carl - February 27, 2022 Reply

    “If others take the initiative to speak or reach out to connect to me, I view it as a distraction from what I focused on in the moment.”

    I have the exact same issue Ethan, so you’re not alone. I don’t know how to equitably shift my attention and feel intact doing so.

    Like you, I don’t have this fully figured out yet. It may be something of a carryover from childhood, where I was I was not given proper attention for my wants, feelings, needs and existence.

    So now as an adult there is a backlash. Thus I am going to clamor to over-attend to my self and I get mildly pissed if anyone gestures to distract me from that, because it’s ‘righteously’ mine, since I’m making up for what I did not get as a child.

    Darek - March 4, 2022 Reply

    Hi Ethan,

    Same here. I have four children, a boy and three daughters. I’d say about one quarter of the time I find myself speaking to them in a way that I wish I could take back. Nothing awful, just not with enough patience or understanding. I apologize to them when I am aware I do it, but apologies only mean so much after so many of them.

    In case you haven’t, find out more about other possible things you may be dealing with. I recently found out about Alexithymia, not a much talked about topic, but absolutely applies to me. Dr. Webb has information about this on her site. It’s essentially a difficulty identifying and describing feelings. I read an article by someone with Alexithymia and within three paragraphs it felt like they were writing my story. The part that stuck out to me was when the author described how he was stressed, every day, when in a relationship. There are some questionnaires you can take to see if you may be impacted by this. If you are, I recommend reading about Afective Deprivation Disorder (AfDD), which is what your partner may be experiencing as a result.

    After 12 years of marriage, my wife and I only two weeks ago have put together what is going on. I have CEN, Alexithymia, as well as an avoidant dismissive attachment style (not to mention anxiety, depression, ADHD). I wouldn’t wish myself on anyone, and had I known these things, I absolutely would not have started any relationship until I got the help I needed. But here I am. And maybe sharing what I know will turn out to be some help that I can give myself.

    I think the self-involvement comes from not being in the moment, which has been my struggle. A week ago I committed to meditating. Over two years ago I bought a book by Andy Peddicombe, founder of Headspace. Of course my head was too cluttered and all over the place to do anything with it. Two weeks ago I picked it up again, and found out there is a 7 part series on Netflix he put together, that walks you through 7 different meditation exercises. Great, great place to start. I do it twice a day, for 15-30 minutes each.

    Interoception, a sense that helps you understand and feel what’s going on inside your body. If someone doesn’t have that, they can’t self-regulate (control their emotions). Self-regulation requires self-awareness.

    Reach out if you’d like to discuss any of the above.

    And Dr. Webb, any CEN therapists you know of in Canada?


AEG - January 9, 2022 Reply

I just learned about CEN about a year ago, I’m in my sixties. I identify with everyone here, knew something was wrong but couldn’t put a name to it so just thought it was a character flaw, or I just wasn’t lovable. I’ve gone through my entire life living this nightmare of unidentifiable feelings and, of course, just blamed it on me.

Went through huge trauma at six years old when my dad died suddenly when he was 39 years old – but everyone forgot to tell me…I waited for years for him to come through the door after work with his big black lunch box and wondered what happened to him…where did he go? Why didn’t he come home? Nobody thought to talk to me about it, from my mom to my siblings to aunts or uncles or the pastor of the church we were active in…it brings me to tears to this day thinking of this little six year old girl waiting for dad to come home and nobody explains to her, at the very least, dad’s not coming home anymore. Tension at home thick as fog, mom with five kids to raise alone, nobody talking about it but everyone close to tears and/or emotional meltdowns.

Mom never abused us physically or with words, she just could not cope with the emotional needs of each and every child. Of course, I internalized it and worried obsessively from that young age that she might find it too much and leave us…no child should go through this. I decided at a very young age to be a people-pleaser and not make waves…when away from home by myself I worried constantly that my family would disappear and I would be abandoned.

I have lived my entire life with anxiety and depression, always waiting for the “other shoe to drop”. I’ve spent all these years caring for and helping everyone I knew and ignored my own needs. I always felt a deep yawning void for a kind of love that maybe doesn’t even exist. I wondered why I had a seemingly “successful” marriage, children and siblings I thought loved me, yet always doubted their love. What was wrong with me, I thought. I concluded I was either mentally unstable or had personality flaws because I almost always felt on the verge of tears. People in my life have said I tend to push them away, which I recognize now. At the first whiff of rejection, I’m gone. No harsh words, no confrontation, I just withdraw into myself. I have also found that people really don’t want to hear about your suffering, opposite of what we’re all told which is to share it with someone you love and trust. That has not been my experience. In my experience, those platitudes like “blood is thicker than water” and “family will always be there” are urban myths. It has hurt me greatly that I have no one I can feel comfortable to share with after being there for everyone else, always. Radio silence.

I was the only teenager I knew of that actually wanted to be close to my mom. I tried to carve out time together with her, but she just didn’t, or couldn’t connect in a meaningful way. Again, I interpreted this as my fault for being unlovable.

My husband was a good guy but emotionally unavailable as he endured the same type of upbringing as me. He died over 20 years ago in a motorcycle accident which I witnessed Obviously another major trauma but thought I could just stiff-upper-lip it like I had seen mom do all those years. PTSD maybe?

I look at my reflection in the mirror and don’t recognize her…so much older, with eyes that show the deep wounds…

I want to thank Dr. Webb from the bottom of my heart for naming this issue and bringing it to light. Before this, I thought I was the problem. I have been putting into practice some of the ideas she’s given, especially naming my feelings and not running away from them. Now I name at least 3 feelings a day and sit with them instead of running away. Slowly learning feelings can’t hurt me but constantly stuffing them will. I fear this new knowledge came too late in my life to really change it, but am hopeful for others.

For anyone who has decided to bear with this long story and read on anyway, a big thank you. This is my first time EVER to share these feelings. And a huge thanks to all of you brave lovely people who share your deepest feelings, too.

    Tess - January 18, 2022 Reply

    My heart goes out to you, AEG. Tears were in my eyes while I read this. It is so hard to talk about this, isn’t it? Maybe its because we’re here acknowledging our difference. We all felt “different” from everyone else, but it was the one thing we didn’t want anyone to see. And here we are, saying, hi! this is how I’m different. Yes, I am different (not wrong, not broken, not weird). it’s scary… Thank you for sharing this.
    And… why wouldn’t we read such a touching story? To the very last word!

Tess - January 6, 2022 Reply

I’ve always felt alone, on the outside looking in and just feeling different from everyone else. Less than 6 months ago I found CEN, and it has been an eye opener, has helped me improve my life quality tremendously. Just understanding it wasn’t my fault helped reduce a lifetime of constant anxiety (it actually feels weird to not be anxious all the time!). Having said that… I now feel like I’m on a journey no one else understands. Here I am trying to teach myself skills I never had, trying to grow emotional limbs that I didn’t even know could exist, and if I try to talk about it with anyone it’s like bringing up quantum physics. Which in turn then triggers the fatal flaw self talk.
I’m still the odd one out.
So, in a way it’s horribly ironic. I’m now much more tuned to my feelings, thus I get to really be in touch with how lonely I feel. Whee!
Curious to understand if anyone else found this path to be so solitary.

    Jonice - January 6, 2022 Reply

    Dear Tess, please know that you are not alone! I applaud the amazing progress that you have made all by yourself. It would be great if you could reach out to a therapist from the CEN Therapist List, under the HELP tab on this website. You deserve help and support as you learn the emotion skills and learn your true value. I anticipate a much brighter future for you. All my best.

      Tess - January 18, 2022 Reply

      Thank you, Dr. Jonice!
      For replying to my post, but mostly for all of this!
      No one from my country in the list but definitely looking at some of the skype options.

    Lety - January 9, 2022 Reply

    I felt the same way you felt when discovering CEN. It was an eye opener for me too.
    Glad to hear there is someone out there that shares this with me. I too am struggling to make changes in my life. It has not been easy.

    Fran - January 12, 2022 Reply

    Tears filled my eyes when I read about your life experiences as I can so relate to what you have endured .
    I felt like it was a gift from God when I discovered Dr Jonice. I’d had much counselling and cognitive therapy over many years to no avail and after a lot of frustration I thought that I was never going to find out what was wrong with me but after embarking on a programme in July 2021 with Dr Jonice, I actually felt HAPPY . My world turned. I also felt that I needed to work hard in order to keep this new feeling of happiness from slipping away so I’m now on the Fuel Up For Life programme and learning about myself all the time. It’s not easy as I have to open up doors that have been closed to me for a very long time but learning who I am is both scary and exciting.


Rachel - January 2, 2022 Reply

My mother is a Covert Narc. I estranged her 15 months ago for life long Emotional Neglect of us all our entire lives. I have 3 children 12-14 yrs.

I only discovered CEN 2 yrs ago and it’s changed my life. Finally, the reason why I feel like a basket case. Not a single professional (Including a Psychiatrist could pick my issue). I’ve come along in leaps and bounds since. Narc Mother, out of spite, because I have finally stood up to her at 48 yrs old, has come at me legally (grandparents rights) and is chasing temporary custody of my children so I can address my mental health. I have always addressed my mental health; situational depression. She is doing her utmost (even lying to the Court) to undermine me and have me declared unfit as a mother. It’s so so violating and my children are suffering because of it. I’m the strongest I’ve ever been and am actually handling it very well. 3 yrs ago; no way. I have no issue about my childhood (it was fun) and completely understand the dynamics of my upbringing. What I won’t accept, now I’ve bought it to her attention, is her continued Emotional Unintelligent controlling and judgemental behaviours. She has absolutely no skills in self reflection and comes from the era where everything was swept under the carpet. I didn’t realise what was happening until it was too late but she has always undermined my parenting by hiding behind “that’s what grandmas do” which gave her self licence do what ever she liked with my children from an outdated old school perspective. Both her daughters, my sister and I have emotional intelligence and mental health problems due to our upbringing and she will not concede her role in our adult life outcomes. She hides behind, that’s our journey, and it is but she will not apologise for her role in our poor outcomes. It’s insidious and I’m trying to break the generational trauma cycle. How my eldest daughter at 14 Will fair in all this is yet to be seen. She has sided with the Narc and is well on her way to being one also. There’s not much I can do as my Girl thinks she hates me. The consequences will not be felt by Narc or myself. All I can do is sit back and watch my Girl become a full blown Narc. I’ve put so much effort into my children too, for it all to come to this.

Rachel - January 2, 2022 Reply

I’m sorry this has been your story too. All the best on your healing journey ♥️✨

Louise - December 30, 2021 Reply

In Dr. Webb’s 26th December 2021 post ‘3 New Year’s resolutions to help heal emotional neglect’, one of the key points is ‘those who grew up with emotional neglect can struggle when setting goals and keeping them’. This resonated deeply with me because it is, indeed, something I struggle with. However I don’t understand the connection with childhood emotional neglect. I’d like to hear any thoughts others here have about this.

    CM - January 1, 2022 Reply

    I think what Dr. Webb is referring to is that children of CEN will have the motivation to set a goal, but then, having little confidence in themselves and their abilities will sabotage, or give up. This comes from, at an early age, not being encouraged, or having a cheering section to say, “hey, you can do this”! The doubt overcomes us and then the “what am I thinking, I’m not smart enough” self talk begins. It is a struggle for me too. I have made great strides with the help of a qualified therapist in this regard.

      Barbie - March 26, 2022 Reply

      CM, you nailed it!! I have always had the same problem, setting goals but never achieving them (or even trying) due to lack of self-confidence. I also grew up with no support or “cheerleaders” to encourage anything I did or wanted to do. I still have doubts when I start something new (career, hobby, etc).

Nicky - December 27, 2021 Reply

The comments above all resonate with me. I’m in my fifties and only heard about CEN a couple years ago. I’ve read Dr Webb’s book and many other articles, and it has helped enormously, just knowing it exists and has a name. For years, I thought I was too sensitive, and was just overthinking my parents hurtful or distant behaviour (especially since my 2 brothers didn’t seem to get so hurt by it) However, I never gave up on my parents, despite their sometimes cold approach. My husband used to say to just accept it, and that I couldn’t change them, but I kept tryng to make things better. And things did get better after having a huge fall out some years ago, which cleared the air and allowed me to finally say what was on my mind. After that, I was more accepting and realistic, and lowered my expectations. I tried not to take their behaviour so personally. By this time, my parents had started drinking a lot and a deep discussion was impossible. But our relationship had improved. Sadly, my dad passed away this year, and I was unable to get closure. I still have so much sadness, guilt and regret about this. Even yesterday I cried so much, longing to see him again, and feeling a sense of guilt that I hadn’t been able to accept him the way he was, and that I had always questioned his love. And that I hadn’t been able to say goodbye. Now I know that there was love, but he just couldn’t really show it. Throughout my life I felt flawed and always looked for affection. But now I’m older (and hopefully wiser) and am coming to terms with my relationship with my parents more. I am more forgiving. They did their best, considering their own upbringing. Dad was a war baby, and that generation had different priorities (for him, giving us a home, food, clothing and a holiday once a year was being a good parent) He was emotionally absent, but strict and critical and we hardly talked, especially about anything meaningful. He’d come home from work and sit behind the newspaper, then watch the news, so we kids had to be quiet. No talking at the table, either. So, basically, not much discussion. My mum had had a rotten childhood, but despite that was a loving mum when we were kids. However, emotions weren’t discussed and were suppressed (apart from anger) They were both uninvolved, didn’t guide, support me or give advice. I think they didn’t know how to. In my teens and twenties I drifted from my place and job to the next, always restless, until I got married and finally found a job I loved. I’ve always been a very emotional and intuitive person , especially when it comes to understanding others (I’m a great listener, I’m always told) yet very often I feel a sense of vagueness, confusion and emptiness. As a kid, I remember feeling as if I were looking out from a bubble, observing life..I had so many thoughts and feelings, yet they remained locked inside. I used to journal a lot, and write poems and stories and finally now, at the age of 55, I’m going to start doing that again, as it really helps me process my feelings and experiences. Sorry if this intro is a bit rambling, I’m writing in a noisy household! Anyway, nice to meet you all.
I find it inspiring that we are all at different ages and in different places around the world, yet all determined to understand ourselves and our childhoods better. That can only be a good thing for our families and friends. Thank you for your work, Dr Webb!

Kelli - December 26, 2021 Reply

Spending time with my parents during the holidays are extremely difficult. My parents where well meaning growing up and everything appeared perfect in our household. Little did people know, there was no love, affection, support, guidance, happiness, or laughter. I became extremely independent of them in high school and moved out at 16. Now at 52, my relationship with them is cordial, but we are complete strangers. They live 10 minutes from my house-we go months without speaking or seeing one another. They are oblivious and think everything is fine. Both are extremely unhappy, and negative about life and it’s emotionally draining to be in a room with them for more than an hour or so. I have accepted my parents for who they are and know it’s not my responsibility to fix or change them. Taking care of myself is top priority and I don’t feel any guilt or remorse for having ZERO obligation to them!

    Lee - December 28, 2021 Reply

    Your post was really reassuring to read, having just gotten back from spending a night at my parents’ house. Our childhoods sound very similar! I hope that you have some good recovery time post-holiday to feel peace and to replenish after the drain.

Kylie - December 26, 2021 Reply

When I first found out about CEN, I was 23 years old. I had been struggling to understand what reasons I had that led me to be addicted to drugs, alcohol, and abusive relationships, before I was 18. Any time that I had an opportunity to impact my life in a positive way, it felt too scary- unfamiliar- for me to take action.
I am now 31 years old. I have taken many steps to validate my own feelings and I continue to improve the ways I communicate my true self, with people around me. I strive to enrich my life, as well as that of others around me- by being open about my feelings and holding space for others to do the same. I’ll admit it can still be quite uncomfortable at times… I have stayed committed to improve my actions and connections, by continually chipping away at this invisible “prison wall” of childhood emotional neglect. I share as much as I can with people I want in my life. I make sure that I express how much I care and love people that I want in my life. I will never stop learning about ways I can improve, dispite living in the dark for part of my life. I do all this in hopes of breaking the cycle of CEN, so that my future children will know how to access those things (emotions), which make them truly alive. Thank you for all your information, Dr. Jonice Webb. It helps tremendously to know that there are reasons for my actions in the past- and also that I’ve never been alone in this.

    Marie - December 27, 2021 Reply

    Kylie, Very well said and encouraging.

Hellen - December 26, 2021 Reply

Today I was confronted with what has been forever a part of my life! Discovering CEN this past view months taught me that it wasn’t about me after all. Poor choices by my parents. Today, Boxing day, my mom would have dinner with our family and my brother calls and shows up unexpectedly and she chooses for him to visit instead of keep her appointment with me/us. It has broken me before and now I realize that this not acceptable any longer for me. Always trying to get her involved with our family. Always taking care of her when others would show up she turns away from me. It still hurts, only I am learning to be kind for myself and face the fact that she is always choosing all kinds of people except for those that really care. I need now to let my feelings settle and I it’s okay to be hurt. Taking care better of myself. There is still anger within me that I try to deal with… I’m 55 years old and discover that all these things wasn’t my fault. I have been thinking it was always my fault now I can/need to learn to let go and replace it with something new! Still a long to go.

Penny - December 26, 2021 Reply

Hi, I just wanted to say hello. I’m 68 years old and stumbled across Jonice’s website 4 years ago. I recognized CEN as being a big part of my personal difficulties, in combination with the childhood trauma of having to spend 15 months immobilized in hospital away from my family at the age of 4 1/2. Both my parents had emotional difficulties and were unable to help me cope with that experience and the aftermath in a healthy way. My dad had grown up in an unloving family so his go-to emotion was anger. My mom was extremely loving but unable to deal with sadness in her children.
I only started recognizing the full impact of CEN on me and on my family (spouse, children, siblings) when covid-19 restrictions left me cut off from the activities that used to distract me from my emotional and relationship problems. I currently am connected with Emotions Anonymous plus a therapist who specializes in sensorimotor techniques for PTSD. Just came across this group this morning and look forward to hearing about other people’s experiences. Progress is slow and incremental, but at least there is progress! Sharing and learning with others will be really helpful and encouraging, and I hope to help and encourage others too.

Lori - December 26, 2021 Reply

My mother passed a few years ago so her holiday traditions do not continue. I always felt pressured to perform for her and support her moods/whims. Now that pressure is gone, I still feel pressured to do something holiday-ish for my dad and brother even though I do not want to. It’s hard for me to get motivated so I typically put off holiday decorating and meal plans. I fill with dread and flood myself with thoughts of what I ought to be doing. I enjoy making plans and doing holiday activities with friends but never family. When Xmas eve comes the guilt overpowers me and I quickly create a meal event/gathering with some sort of expectation of holiday engagement and cheer. It never pans out. My family struggles to be together in that way. This year I took my father (also a neglectful parent) to a family gathering in another state. I was relieved I could just attend as a guest with no expectations. Yet, all I did was mentally judge and criticize the event, the food, the gifts. I felt like an outsider. I got down on myself, my appearance, and generally made myself miserable. I hate this about myself. I hate this time of year.

    Lee - December 28, 2021 Reply

    I’m feeling for you, in that frustrating and familiar spot you’ve described between relief and disappointment over attending someone else’s event. The critical outsider layer feels SO hard to shake! You are not alone.

Preeshmi - December 26, 2021 Reply

The story of my life is just that I on an everyday basis keep yearning for love from people around me. I don’t even know what I am looking for when I say “Love” because over all these years, I am sure a lot of people actually loved me but I think I failed to understand and see it because I constantly kept looking for the kind of love that existed only in my head (May be some idea of love that I absorbed from my environment and it’s people while I was growing up). On the other hand, there are even times when I let people trick me into thinking that they actually love me(I was even okay with any kind of love, even fake love). All this is just a very sick feeling of being in a confused state of not knowing what I really want.

My parents are really good people who did everything they could to give me a good life. I have no complaints. But I have a feeling that this constant yearn for affection and love stemmed from the fact that my emotional needs were not satisfied when I was growing up…

It is like someone went inside my head and convinced me that I was not worthy of being loved… I have no idea where that came from.

I don’t know what this feeling is… But I hope to get past this phase of my life now that I am aware of it..

I hope to find some peace within myself.

Phil - December 18, 2021 Reply

After almost 60 years of trying to put the pieces together,: Running On Empty” is a great AHA ! moment for me. Viewing life from the outside, stoic and logical, empty ,depressive ,alcoholic, being a rock or an island. Problem solving journeyman toolmaker now Peer Supporter for addictions and mental health, my life is coming together. I am an empathetic listener, but still emotionally suppressed. The puzzle is coming together being a guide to others traveling this somber road.

Leave a Comment: