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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Delphine - November 1, 2020 Reply

These scenarios ring so true – I knew I had a dysfunctional childhood and felt saved by my relationships with extended family members. (mentally ill abusive father, passive and dependent mother) Now I’m in my 60s, and in a new part of the country, and feel inept at making and forming new relationships with my peers – I have always been out of step with them, but now I’m feeling particularly challenged since I have few new friendships in this community. I have met a few people with whom I would like to become “closer than acquaintances”, but just can’t figure out how to connect with them without it feeling forced or feeling like I’m intruding. Being in COVID has made marital relationship a challenge since there is only so much you can talk about with your spouse! (sometimes we need gender specific girl talk or guy conversation!) I love where I live, but my husband feels adrift. He is much more codependent than I and has taken our children’s independent lives as a personal rejection rather than a job well done. I have always been an emotional giver in relationships and a good listener, but I’m feeling exhausted!

Alex - October 29, 2020 Reply


I am only 11 months older than my brother and the day he was born…I disapear. My mother took all his attention on him and my father was an alcoholic that everyone loved so I never get any sympathy or protection
from this monster. I raise myself I was a very lonely child that was invisible to others. On my teens my parents divorced after a very tumultuous relationship. My mother remarried with a men that to this day he does not even acknowledge my son as his grandson. My father has numerous relationships but he was still a monster that hit me savagely and constantly critieitisize my aperance and my personality. Later, I moved to the US. While there is a lot of opportunity in this country I had always struggle to go ahead in life. I and my family currently live with my aunt because I cannot safe money even if I am a good worker. My addiction has been traveling. I have travel so much that I am broke. I travel because it help me escape of my emptytenes. My wife has been very supportive but we are having problems because my addiction and because I cannot even take my son to a doctor, I do not know how to do it and I have really a hard time asking dor help to others. I see myself as a sweet, lovely person but I have also other personality that is psicopath, which I believe I developed when I was a kid because I was bullied both at my house and at my school. I read your book: Running Empty, and I have everything, every case is mentioned in the book. I still a very functional person, I am good at my job and I can maintain relationships. But I have this monster inside me that come out when I feel threat that I want to get rid off.

Jennine - October 26, 2020 Reply

I feel like my entire self was swallowed by my depressed/self-centered/high on the narcissism scale mother. She is 87 now, I am 56. She gives voice to empathy, yet is completely incapable of understanding a different point of view. I have struggled to separate from her clutches, but am still over eager to please her. Everyone “loves” her, but she doesn’t really have friends. She shows only me her real self because she has such a fragile ego. I love her and I really hate her. I feel like I have Stockholm syndrome sometimes. Sometimes I think of what my kids were like at certain ages and then myself and feel like all I was was a conduit for my mother’s feelings. It’s like this emptiness, this hole. I was in state hospitals from age 18 to 28. I’ve been therapies, medicated, blamed, victimized, but I’ve fought so hard for a real life. I have a husband, 2 amazing, successful kids I’m close to, a house, animals, a few friends. I’ve been in therapy forever. I still get so mad at myself for wanting to revisit that childhood emptiness and confusion. I’m a grown woman, there are reasons my mom was the way she was, my dad was too passive, I’ve come a long, long way. Deep in my inner core, though, is a huge black void and I feel half the time like life is play acting.

Michael - October 25, 2020 Reply

I just found this page & would like to reach out. I am 57 years old. I have never met my father & my mother died from alcoholism when i was thirteen years old. I have struggled with addiction my whole life. I’m currently in a 12 step program. Reading Dr. Webb’s post in my email, i could relate with alot of what she said. I have severe low self-esteem, do not feel like i fit in anywhere, can not trust people & don’t know how to express myself, i always feel stupid when trying to talk. I spend too much time alone, which is not good for my additive nature, but can not seem to be able to connect with anyone. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. I am going to purchase Dr. Webb’s book from Amazon as soon as i can.

    Jonice - October 25, 2020 Reply

    Dear Michael, you are looking for help to understand yourself and that’s a good thing. Two things I can suggest: When you have an addiction, the fastest way to get on the right track is sobriety. Period. Second, I hope you will ready Running On Empty as soon as you can because it may help you with self-compassion and self-knowledge, both of which are very important. All my best to you.

Jen - October 25, 2020 Reply

I wrote this recently after a therapy session, as I still struggle hugely to recover from the effects of CEN:

The hole of me

Why is there a big hole in me?

It feels like it’s been there for as long as I know.
It’s confined within me yet somehow reaches out and touches everything as far as I can think.
There’s no sound, nothing hits bottom.
Considering there’s nothing there how can it take up so much space?

A slowly expanding black hole that seems to take small pieces of me and never gives them back.

Where do they go? There’s nowhere to escape.  They haven’t left my mind or body, so where do they go?

It’s baffling to not know myself when other’s sometimes seem to know me better.
I occaisionally catch a reflection in someone else’s eyes but am I really seeing it, do I trust what I see, or is it all an illusion.

Who am I and what do I want? What are my dreams, my aspirations, my motivations?
The questions go off into the hole of me, trying to find a wall to bounce back from but nothing breaks the silence.

The expectant tension, tightness in my head and chest, internally frantically thrashing, restless, frustratingly wanting to break free to escape this seemingly unknowable place.

Urges to hit, claw and stab at myself to tear away the apathy, lethargy, dullness and guilt.
To live in great big red splashes of colour.
To breathe some kind of life into those sad emotions instead of steadily dwindling and making my life smaller.

I feel sad and pathetic, ungrateful and useless, a spoilt little child not able to open my eyes to the world of possibilty. Instead dragged down and ever inward by the blackness of the hole of me.

Anonymous - October 21, 2020 Reply

I want to thank everyone who wrote these comments and Dr. Jonice for building this platform and for trying to understand CEN . This might sound wrong but knowing that there are so many others who feel the same way, makes me breath a sigh of relief. I’m just 20, and well, in these 20 years I’ve never felt more relatable than I do right now. So, thank you. I have an elder sister and she is not perfect but is somewhere there. And I have never been good in studies. Above that, we are Asians so it’s either an A+ or being invisible forever. So, whenever I get low grades, my dad would look at me with disappointed eyes and lecture me for 2-3 hrs. But he has never asked me why or what happened. It is extremely hard for me to concentrate or even sit still until and unless, it is something I am deeply interested in. My dad calls these lectures a conversation and that he listens to me. I recently, mentioned this to my sister and she defends him, explains him? I dunno. By saying that he reads body language. I do agree that body language can tell you a lot about someone but it isn’t the only thing, right? It is as if my words don’t matter. He expects me to listen to him. I don’t want to. If he doesn’t, then why on earth should I? Whenever, something goes wrong even by default, it is my fault. No questions asked nothing. Me. That’s it. Even if it is his fault. Now, I’m used to it so I don’t care anymore because I know that even if I try he won’t understand anyway. And because my ‘issues’ are inside my head so I’m the one who’s forcing them upon myself so my whole family thinks I’m mad. No one at home asks me anything, and it makes me so angry because I go out of my way, ignore my deadlines just to help them in whatever. They just assume. And I wouldn’t have questioned this behavior of his or anyone else’s, if it was, you know, something they did with everyone. My little cousins get to be more vocal than I could ever allowed to be. Now, because I’m older, I do try but get tagged as rude, impolite and crazy. I have always been a troubled child and I accept that and I used to lie a lot. I was growing up and they still hold on to that. Everyone looks at me weirdly and skeptically as if I’m a mad woman. It makes me so so tired. It makes me want to do nothing because anything that I do doesn’t matters and they’ll find faults in everything anyway.
Thank you for hearing me out. Means a lot.

Al - October 21, 2020 Reply

My Mom used to scream “I wish you’d never been born!”
My Dad was killed when I was 7. Mom had a lot of anger not only because she lost her husband but because she was emotionally neglected and abused as a child. Her father suffered from alcoholism and used to beat her up while her mom did nothing. He once broke her nose for having her feet up on the table. She ran away when she was 16. Knowing that she didn’t receive love and support helps me understand why she was emotionally absent throughout my childhood. My brother is 49 and he is still bitter against her for how he was raised. He blames all his problems on his upbringing. For me, I get very angry when I think about it so I try not to focus on it. However, I’m really glad there’s a name for what I suffer from. Being emotionally neglected has left me insecure, unconfident, fearful and resentful. I too, like millions of others feel like I don’t belong and I’m uncomfortable in my own skin. I was never able to grieve my father or stepfathers deaths growing up cause I didn’t want to contribute to my mothers depression. I have no memories of ever being consoled or asked how I was doing losing 2 fathers before the age of 15. My brother who is 5 years older, became very mean and abusive after our first Dad died. When my stepdad came along he kept my brother from abusing my mom and I but when he passed from colon cancer, my brother started the abuse again. I had to grow up under his wing of torture, disrespect, game playing and ridicule, along with physical abuse. It was not just sibling rivalry. It was a lot more. His own psychiatrist fired him years later. When my mom and brother are alone behind closed doors, they verbally abuse each other. I was stuck in the middle of that mess and even participated in the verbal abuse when I was living with her. Now that I’ve moved out and to a different city, I don’t have to be around that anymore and refuse to go visit them unless I have my trusted safe friend/roommate to come with me cause they won’t act up if he’s there. I love my family and appreciate all the good they have done for me but the underlying anger towards both of them can overwhelm me. I feel mom did the best she could given where she came from yet it is much more difficult to forgive my brother for his years of abuse. I guess I should be grateful I even have a sibling and that my mom is still alive but I often wonder how different I would be had I never gone through any of it. The saddest part is that it continues between them. Moms excuse is “Honey, every family fights behind closed doors”. To that I say, “maybe arguing is normal but the lying, deception, betrayal, threatening and blackmailing along with verbal assault is not ok and I refuse to be part of it”.

Emily - October 21, 2020 Reply

Hi, I’m a 65 year old woman. I’ve been divorced a year. Very happy to be on my own after 43 years. We were too young and should never have married. But I was trying to show my mother that I could indeed find someone who wanted to be with me. We are both happy to be apart. And still friends. I wish I would have had the courage to leave him sooner. I am a HSP and just in the last year learned about CEN. This has answered my question about “what’s missing?” So, now I will try to repair myself. I’ve been working on this since I was 30. I started counseling after my mother died. She was such an unhappy person. Her upbringing was an unhappy experience as well as mine. I believe we are a product of our childhood. Her happiness was doomed from the start. Her mother died when she was nine months old. She was raised by 2 aunts until sometime during her forth year. I believe she was molested by an uncle during this time. Then my grandfather remarried. My stepgrandmother was very nice but very Victorian in that she loved greatly but had no idea how to express it. They had 3 sons that the sun rose and set over. My mother didn’t have much direction, didn’t learn a lot of social skills.

My parents had 3 sons before me. Things were not going very well by then. Mother started drinking as a teenager. Continued through her marriage to my dad. I found my report cards from recently. In grades K, one and two I missed 2 to 3 weeks of school each year. I believe a lot of this was because she was too hung over to get me ready for school. My father traveled for work. She would accuse him of having affairs. He had a temper and would wake us all up shouting at her to stop needling him. I would run crying from my room yelling for them to stop. My brothers would come after me and shove me back into my room. Then my father would leave. One time my mother hid his car keys so he couldn’t leave. He literally tore the living room apart. Broke furniture, gouged plaster out of walls… It was bad.

So, I’ve been digging out with a lot of good counseling. My best friend told me I was highly sensitive. She knew because she is as well. Just knowing that has helped. Now I’m going to work on the neglect. It feels good to have a direction to go towards. I’m writing this because I want whoever reads this to know that there is hope. You can make changes in how you react to life and feel better. Find a counselor. If you don’t feel like you can talk to the first counselor you find, go to another. There are so many qualified people out there who genuinely want to help. Good luck!

    Prue - October 22, 2020 Reply

    “I am a HSP and just in the last year learned about CEN. This has answered my question about “what’s missing?” So, now I will try to repair myself. I’ve been working on this since I was 30.” Emily, you’ve written what I’ve just discovered about myself – HSP, CEN and I’ve found what’s missing. Now to build a new way of living.

      Jonice - October 23, 2020 Reply

      Good work! You’re on your way now.

Anonymous - October 20, 2020 Reply

I’m not really sure if I have CEN. But a few things I remember that weren’t really child friendly was the night my parents split up. After that, not everything was the same. It’s worse now (I’m 15). My mom Is always yelling at my brothers and me for some of the stupidest things, my mom and her boyfriend are always arguing, and they let my youngest brother get away with a lot of things. She also criticizes us for what we do, and if we don’t do it the way she wants it done, we did it wrong. And she always acts as if she can never be wrong. She always talks about how I’m always in my room and never around anyone, but when I am, she’s almost always in a bad mood. She told one of my brothers that she wants kids that listen after telling me I don’t listen. She also told my youngest brother that she’ll always love him the way he is, but she has /told me that I look like a homeless person, I’m so awkward, why is it so hard for you to speak up, and “don’t you think that if people think you should grow your hair out (I got a pixie cut), maybe it didn’t look good. I always feel like she’s gonna yell at me for something or criticize me on what I’m wearing, so it’s just easier to stay in my room where I can’t hear any negative remarks.

vidu - October 19, 2020 Reply

Hi Dr Webb,
Recently I got to know about you and to be honest I really didn’t believe that I had CEN till a few months ago, but that kinda made me feel there was really something went wrong while I was growing up, and it’s not me and my self alone that should be blamed. That said thank you doctor for putting such effort into those who suffer from CEN. But my current problem is that I sometimes feel that therapy has answers with my trust issues and all but would it really make a difference? I’m sorry if I’m implying something wrong but i feel like the reverse psychology effect, althogh i know what i have and the way out i tend to stay put where i stand even i feel opening up to someone is not the right move. The main reason i feel that way is that from my experience with my friends i give them the best solutions for their love lives and everything in between, and the problems they tell me feel like if i were you id bottle’em up and find a solution myself rather than tell anyone. I know its weired but judging by them really feels like opening would have the same impact when someone does to me, with you information Dr i really feel like i know the cure but i dont wanna have it. Im not scared but when comparing to the people ive met i really feel staying alone is the best cause no one gets me like i do even i refuse to find a partner or a relationship because of this. I had one relationship and me being paranoid really drove me crazy so Dr i feel like i need a cure but on the other hand i refuse to take it. So thats what ive got in my plate right now Dr and thank you for doing such a great work

Mark - October 19, 2020 Reply

Good morning!
Dr. Jonice thank you, @ 59 years old and a quarter century into inner healing, you are the first to mention the actual root causes of much of what ails me.
My case is unique in that I am also an HSP, with all of my senses tied to the spiritual realms. I see, hear and feel especially well in both the natural and the spiritual senses. I have also been under attack through the people of this world since the day I entered it, beginning with a brother 2 years older who poked me right in the eye the instant he saw me, and has successfully chased me out of my own family beginning at a very young age. Mom, a manipulative, narcissistic sociopath. 9 siblings who could care less, and learned to stuff all their pain instead of working through it. Dad traveled a lot and also used the belt a lot and otherwise was distant.
I have a question for you, perhaps you might write a blog to address it, if possible. Please forgive me if it doesn’t come out clearly.
So, been chased away from family, all of whom think wrongly about me and so does the world. This is the enemy setting me up for failure. How to break through the barrier of lies stacked against me for 6 decades? I am right now in the place of being ready to break the barrier, first to family then to the world.
I actually believe a lot of us are at or near this place right now, as there is a shift taking place in the world right now, lending itself to the breakthroughs we can see happening now, and on the horizon much more to come.
Thank you for your wisdom and willingness to address the issues that seem hard to find answers to. Thank you for being here for us, I look forward to your reports as they come through email, etc.

    Wendy - October 21, 2020 Reply

    Hi Brian,
    For me, joining an organization called A.C.A. -Adult Children of Alcoholics and other Dysfunctional Families have helped me to get in touch with others who feel the same way.

Brian - October 19, 2020 Reply

About 25 years ago, I was diagnosed by my psychotherapist as having ” a most severe emotional block to learning and performing normal work task”. I grew up in dysfunctional family, where I experienced severe emotional neglect. I withdrew into myself and I have never really succeeded in making friends etc as I have no self esteem, confidence or self belief. Because I do not accept myself, I cannot form friendships with others. I have received counselling, but they do not understand my condition and why I feel so lonely and inadequate. I live in Ireland and our public mental health service is meaningless and the psychiatrist tells me to privately access mental health service, but I do not know if there is any point as I am now nearly 77 years of age. I have got some inkling into my condition by reading some of the notes of Dr Jonice Webb but I have not yet bought the book as I have a difficulty in understanding instructions. After the Covid 19 lockdown I must try and acquire the book “running on empty”.

GAYLA - October 18, 2020 Reply

I have wrestled with CEN, not knowing that that is what it was for years now. I am in the process of renewing my mind and that is helping a great deal. I am also willing to face things like a victimization spirit that has caused me to make wrong choices over the years- that I know is going to free me. I am also facing alexithymia – being numb from expressing myself to protect myself from pain. I would like to find a support group where I can be transparent about all of these issues and heal in community!

Jamee - October 18, 2020 Reply

I grew up in a large family with generational narcissism and possible sociopathy in addition to growing up in a Christian cult. Every form of abuse was visited on my life at one time or another from one or both of these entities in my life. My mother was the narc but my father grew up in a severely abusive home so he was emotionally unavailable. I no longer have a relationship with any of my family of origin except 2 cousins who also stopped drinking the family kool-aid of narcissism. Reading your book helped me identify that CEN was a part of this mess that I only started healing from about 6 years ago. I’m not done yet but things are much better. However, in addition to growing up in this mess I married a man much like my father who I believe also has CEN and is emotionally unavailable. The problem is that he does not yet want to do anything about it while I’ve been healing for some time. Anyway, that is the short of it all. I have learned to remove toxic people from my life….I just need to find some of the healthy kind to move forward with as some of the things at the end of your book require having people like this in your life in order to continue making progress. I feel a little stuck at this point until I can find and build some healthy relationships.

    Matt - October 19, 2020 Reply

    Thanks for sharing. I was interested if you wouldn’t mind sharing what kind of Christian cult you were in. I was in one as well and it was called Christian Science. I have some issues coming out of that overall obviously. I also have general CEN issues as well. Again thanks for sharing. May you find the best path to follow in your healing journey.

Heather - October 18, 2020 Reply

I have been going through spiritual healing and deliverance which of course greatly impacts on my emotions. Sometimes I feel like I am 2 people. When my husband asks me a question, sometimes I have to think of the answer, by which time he gets mad, because of his own issues. I have to explain that I need to think about it but it can take a while. If I’m under stress it takes even longer. As for feelings sometimes how I think I feel seems completely inappropriate for the situation I am in. I can be completely aloof from the reality, like if someone I know dies, even when my father died, I couldn’t cry in the first place. My emotions seemed detached from the reality of his death. I loved my dad and it’s over 30 yrs since he died, I felt sad but it was like it didn’t register in an appropriate way and I never grieved properly. I feel I have grieved more now than I did at the time. I was 28 when he died I am 61 yrs old now.

    Cathie - October 19, 2020 Reply

    Hi Heather, I can understand what you mean about feeling detached and confused about how you really are when questioned. I felt far deeper emotions about deceased pets than my parents, now both gone, and other people. It’s all about our childhoods I think. Cathie.

Anonymous - October 18, 2020 Reply

I am reading Running on Empty right now and it is helping me a lot. Have Running on Empty No More waiting for when I finish. Is there a section in either of the books that helps with loss of a parent who was emotionally neglectful (and basically abandoned us as well -she kept in touch a couple times a year). Never expected the deluge of emotions her passing has brought to the surface. Learning so much of why I am the way I am from all this. And glad to know not alone.

    Jonice - October 18, 2020 Reply

    There is a section in Running On Empty No More about how you can heal your CEN if your parents are gone. Keep reading and you’ll find it!

Jill - October 18, 2020 Reply

I’m 66 years old, and just recently admitted to myself I’m broken and damaged. I’ve lived my life thinking I solved all my problems thru 10 years of intensive therapy. I raised four children alone and felt proud of myself for doing that.

    Jonice - October 18, 2020 Reply

    You should feel proud of that, Jill! Give yourself credit while also addressing the work that’s left to be done.

Lilly - October 18, 2020 Reply


I was raised by my mother and a nice adopted father. She married again, so from the age of 8, I lived with her third partner and my half sister.
I often pretended to run away. At 16, I knocked on the door of my real dad who had told my mum when I was three to stop sending photos. He disowned us.
He gave me his number in case I needed anything at 16 but to this day refuses to acknowledge me. A year later he told me not to contact him again but did girl out for part of my studies! Two years ago when I was in his country and asked if he would like to meet, he said not really! He was super wealthy and my siblings went to top schools. I grew up lower middle class. Rubbish school. Always broke but really entrepreneurial. I made it as a reporter none the less! But am always poor and under working after lots of vile work place bullying.
So, last year, I had a year of PTSD and I could not sleep for 12 months.
It is along story, but I gave all as a reporter to help an erstwhile famous celebrity to get back on her feet, and helped her with her health. She ended up calling me a malignant narcissist, threatening to kill me, and I am still paying off the debt. She is worth a few million but I picked up all the costs. I lost two rental homes in the midst of it. She threw me out of a dance group I moved countries to be part of when she encouraged me to dance now which I almost studied. It meant the world to me. While I was taking out loans to get another apartment and car on a work trip, because she had a schizophrenic attack after insisting a dubious contact of her’s collect us at the airport – he got her beyond terrified and thinking she was going to die which derailed her and the relationship – she was playing a rich new contact famous mummy and daddy got for her to replace me as her hook up person or ‘agent’ to buy her expensive items. I had apparently wronged her by reacting when she started triangulating horribly. She kept telling me I was nothing. But I thought okay she is unwell!!!At a meeting on said trip with a producer i wrangled for her (after she had already called me a malignant narcissist to her once and so said producer did not want to meet her again) but who had previously wanted to produce a show with us, she screamed her head off in a restaurant to the producer insisting me going all out for her – landing top agents, stylists, producers, work offers – was again because I was a malignant narcissist. I had never heard of narcissism before she called me it!!
I got behind her to give her a push because she gave me one and energized me so incredibly, and I adored her and decided to go to bat for her. I do that occasionally. I crashed after two weeks of her being psycho with me and threatening my life with her friends coming to get me with guns. I was forced to turn to my sister cos I lost my home, and realized abuse from my sister over the years was so bad it is serious abuse. I have grown up thinking I am evil when I am all giving. I set up my sister’s career and today she owns two homes, and sends her kid to private school – but after I asked her to recommend me for a job she was not taking in my old office where she had the live contact, but where I had been bullied out of a job years ago I was great at, and right after this incident above which left me temporarily homeless, she called me a narcissist and told she would never talk to me again. She has not. That is two women I gave all to help doing that right next to each other – silent treatment, throwing me out of my family and dance family and ignoring my serious vulnerability – and I crashed for over a year. My poor mum had to rent me a studio or I would have been homeless again and her toxic partner was just horrible later even though it allowed me to rebuild. He and my sister jointly bully me. Re these two incidents, I lived on borrowed money. I barely worked. I had panic attacks and anger all night I could not overcome from them. But I danced and swum everyday and just kept the studio. Two years later I am slowly healing and realizing how disgusting my sister was my whole life. I swim every day to overcome chronic insomnia. I could not swim for 45 days during lockdown. There was nowhere. She is probably the only person with a private pool within miles. Did she offer?!?!?! How could any two women be so sick to a tiny poor single female they know was disowned as a baby that gave all to help them?

Deborah - October 18, 2020 Reply

Dear Dr. Webb, my husband and I listened to your book; Running On Empty. We both could related to so much in it. Also, I have tried reaching To see if we can get private counseling and reached out three times through your appointment link, but have not heard back. Is there another, better way to reach you in regards to this? Thanks.

    Jonice - October 18, 2020 Reply

    Dear Deborah, I’m so sorry you haven’t heard back. I’m not taking any new clients right now but may in the future. If you live in MA, feel free to contact me in a month or so at to see if I have any openings then.

Karen - October 18, 2020 Reply

In my growing-up years at my childhood home, I felt loved but never allowed to express frustration when belittled by my Mom and Sister. So “many” examples come to mind, but right now I am remembering the friendship forged between my Mom, my Sister, and my 8th grade Teacher. My teacher belittled me in front of the class by saying I sounded like a horse; and if I didn’t answer as quickly as she wanted (in front of the other students), she would berate me because my sister (a year ahead of me) would have answered more quickly). These things were made to seem normal. I could write a book about my treatment at home in comparison to my sister—never mind that I excelled at the very top of my class academically and really, really wanted to please. In eighth grade, I probably did sound like a horse because my parents were chain smokers, and I later found out I was allergic to smoke. My problem throughout life has been that I do not know how to command respect. Even at my advanced age, my Sister can dish it out. The sting is not as harshly felt as it used to be, but I would love to know how to shut down her verbal abuse. She pretty much keeps the verbal abuse one on one. Occasionally, she dishes in public; and although I am better, I still wither (shrink).

    Jonice - October 18, 2020 Reply

    Dear Karen, this is harmful treatment you are describing. It’s very, very important for you to protect yourself from your sister. I encourage you to seek help from the Find A CEN Therapist list so that you can have some support and guidance in doing so.

    Jamee - October 18, 2020 Reply

    Karen, it sounds like you may also be dealing with narcissism within your family. Your mom and sister both sound like they may fall into this category. I would suggest watching some YouTube videos on the subject to see if this may be what’s going on. Some of my favorite people on this subject are Dr. Les Carter (channel called surviving Narcissism) and Dr. Ramani. There are many others but these are my two fav’s. If you feel like that is what you are dealing with you will find a FB support group affiliated with Dr. Carters site and run by his partner Laura Charanza. It is an amazing group who support each other without drama (at least no manufactured drama).

Anonymous - October 18, 2020 Reply


I’ve been feeling lonely, sad, unwanted, unloved, unable to mingle with others ,

For as long as I can remember, I now know that is because I was emotionally neglected By my parents, but what I don’t understand is why I was singled out , all my other siblings got their fare share of attention , but my mother chose me to treat in a different way,

    Jonice - October 18, 2020 Reply

    Many parents end up neglecting the child they have the least in common with; or the one who was born at the “wrong” time or the “wrong” gender, etc. In other words, it’s random and not your fault! The reason has everything to do with your mother and likely very little to do with you.

Mary - October 18, 2020 Reply

I’m from London are there any CEN therapist here?

    Jonice - October 18, 2020 Reply

    I believe there are. Check the CEN Therapist List on this website!

SJW - October 18, 2020 Reply

Just a piece of advice please… having children made me realise my own childhood traumas but I am scared that I traumatising my kids due to my unsolved issues… how do I respond to my kids’ negative self talk? Often my 8 year old boy says he wants to kill himself and die when disappointed or frustrated with himself as nobody loves or wants him! thank you , ST

    Jonice - October 18, 2020 Reply

    Dear SJW, this is something to be very concerned about. I strongly encourage you to consult a licensed child or family therapist near you so you can describe the entire situation and your son’s feelings. All parents need help sometimes, and I think it’s important for you to accept some help with this. All my best to you.

Andy - October 18, 2020 Reply

Hi to whom may read this I’m 42 I’m British. About 3 months ago I came across DR Webb’s content on CEN. I was shocked to find out the reason to why I feel like I have all my life. To understand about CEN was a relief and answers a lot of my questions. However it has had a negative affect on my life too since self diagnosing myself with CEN. It’s made anxious and desperate to find the correct help in therapy. I understand CEN but need help to overcome it and don’t where to turn. One problem I have revised is that it is not very known about amongst therapists or a lot of therapists don’t know how to treat the condition properly. My main problem/symptom is I’m unable to recognize my emotions. You could ask me about a certain situation an agreement with a friend for example and ask how it made me feel emotionally and I would be able to answer the question. It’s almost like someone in that moment has reached into my head and removed all my emotional vocabulary. Or another example is have you ever been on the phone before and have to spell a word let’s say for instance the word machine. Someone may ask to spell machine and give an example of of a word beginning with every letter. So m for??????????? And then for a few seconds who can not remember any word beginning with the word m. The only difference is after a few second you’d think of a word beginning with m. However when it comes to someone asking me how I emotionally feel or how a certain situation made me feel my mind remains completely empty

Will - September 21, 2020 Reply


I read your book “Running on Empty” and it really helps. On Page 173 in Self-Care Part 4: Having Compassion for Yourself, paragraph 2 you say self compassion is a “…higher order aspect of self care…..that can only come when you care enough to treat yourself.” Can you flesh that out a little more? Could you suggest some literature on the orders of self-care? I think I agree with you and this seems really important. If you don’t practice enough self care, then you won’t care to practice compassion for yourself. What is meant by higher order. fascinated.

    Paige - October 18, 2020 Reply

    Look up Kristin Neff. She specializes in self compassion.

Cat - September 14, 2020 Reply

Hi Dr. Jonice,
I am a 50 year old female with my own wonderful family and husband. However, since I left home at age 17 to move in with him, I have had bouts of depression, anxiety, anger and sadness over the dysfunctional family I left (Mom, Dad, 3 sisters) for the past 30 years! I’m sick of it! I came across your YouTubes several night ago and am excited to read your books. I have always struggled with a roller coaster ride of loneliness, lack of confidence, hating myself. Yet other times I am extremely confident and on top of the world. I have a lot of friends but still feel loneliness when I don’t hear from them often. I feel apart and rejected from my mom and sisters at times which sends me crying. My oldest sister won’t speak to me since I left home 30 years ago – I reconciled with my parents 25 years ago but continue to feel a lack of closeness or a connection to them. From the outside it looks fine. I know different from the inside. Now my 2nd sister is rejecting me due to something that is 100% her fault. My father lives apart from my mother and has little to do with our lives. When I phone him he talks about himself, never asks about me or the grandkids (narcissist). These articles and eventually these books will help me not go down tbe rabbit hole of depression and help me realize that it’s them, and not me! I made it out! Your wise words have also made me realize that my sensitive thoughts (HSP) have to change. They are not based on normalcy.
Thank You!!!!!!

Jane - September 11, 2020 Reply

I have to say I’m incredibly let down that you sold out your gender and use exclusive male pronouns. Work that’s no doubt crucial, and you slap women in the face with your 1950s sexism.

    Jonice - September 12, 2020 Reply

    Dear Jane, I was nowhere close to born in 1950. I use pronouns going back and forth between “he” and “she” in order to avoid “they.” However, recently, “they” used singularly has been labeled as proper English so I’ve started doing that which is less clunky. I am the last person who would ever turn my back on women’s rights and empowerment.

    Deej - October 18, 2020 Reply

    Your comment reads like an assault. It’s entirely inappropriate. It’s an ad hominem attack and it’s unwelcome on a board where people have assembled to embrace kindness and support for others.

    Louise - October 18, 2020 Reply

    Wow – all the wonderful work Jonice has done for CEN sufferers, and you choose to focus on THAT?

Alex - September 11, 2020 Reply

I just listened to a podcast you did with another doc (can’t recall her name). You made a statement that stopped my in my tracks. Something about falling into a marriage that presented itself.

    Jonice - September 12, 2020 Reply

    Yes, I was probably saying that CEN people don’t get to know how they feel about things so they are vulnerable to be taken wherever the tide takes them. If you are not consulting your own feelings, you are vulnerable to falling into careers, marriages, and other choices that may not make you happy or fulfilled.

      Vee - October 18, 2020 Reply

      Hi Dr Jonice,

      Thank you for confirming what I just realized in my life in my early 40’s (right now)—I tend to fall into unfulfilling situations repeatedly (what I call unavailable), and your statement pulled it all together for me. I did it because I was out of touch with my emotions. All my life I have tried to do academia to no avail. I recently had a special person in my life die and that death led me to an existential crisis that made me face that I’ve just been wasting most of my life on dead-end career choices. Now I’m exploring art. It is difficult being unfamiliar, but I like it a lot as something I would do long-term.

      Lisa - October 18, 2020 Reply

      Omg yes. It is a sad thing to realize you fell into a marriage. It took an affair that was a sledge hammer to my family to wake me up. Thank goodness I’m only mildly old!

Kevin - August 16, 2020 Reply

Hi. My apologies… I seemed to have placed my question in your appt. inquiry form. So, I’ll repeat it here.
I noticed the CEN survey lists out all the same afflictions suffered by gifted people. How do you distinguish between two seemingly different foundations… especially with one being largely biological, and one nurture? Or do you? Does one compound the other if both are experienced?

    Jonice - August 17, 2020 Reply

    Dear Kevin, I’m not sure how you are defining “gifted.” I do not believe these traits are afflictions of intellectually gifted people. But I do think if you are a sensitive person, you are more likely to experience a CEN childhood more deeply.

roshan - August 3, 2020 Reply

Hi Dr Webb

Firstly, I wanted to say that I have read both your Running on empty books and they are amazing!

I am writing from New Zealand.

I just wanted to reach out regarding something I am struggling with in regards to my 6 year old son.

I am curious as to how I can communicate or question him when he is expressing anger. He is so young so he does not have the vocabulary to express the right feeling words.

So, is it ok if I say something like “son I can see that you are upset. So daddy can understand are you feeling “angry” or “frustrated” or “unheard”?

Is this OK?

He also called me a “dummy” the other day and when I asked him why he said that he replied by saying “because I wanted to hurt your feeling”. He clearly has a pain body here. But I am not sure how to address it.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Kind regards

    Jonice - August 4, 2020 Reply

    Great questions, Roshan. For a year-old, it may be okay to ask him which feeling he is having. Or you may need to say, “I can see how angry you are,” for example, so that you are naming it for him. You don’t need to over-focus on his feelings, but keep it as casual as possible, conveying to him that feelings matter but we do not let feelings dominate everything. For example, when he called you a dummy, you can say, “We don’t say mean things when we’re upset. Instead say, “I don’t feel you are listening to me.” That explains the rule of how to treat people plus gives him an actual sentence to use in the future.

      Roshan - August 4, 2020 Reply

      Hi Jonice

      Thanks for all the tips. I will try this.

      It is so nice to be able to message an Author or 2 super cool books and have her reply so promptly to questions.

      Many thanks

    Ellen - August 22, 2020 Reply

    Hi Roshan, I wanted to comment because I’ve been struggling with something similar with my nearly three year old.

    I could see she was anxious and worried, but trying to talk to her and ask her about it didn’t seem to be helping her move through it. I found an enormously helpful book called Playful Parenting (I hope it’s ok to mention other books here), which has opened up a whole new communication line with my daughter.

    I’ve found that often when she says something like “go away mummy!”, I can treat it as an invitation to play a game with her (e.g. by responding with fake crying) as a way of helping her process her emotions. Now she often says “go away mummy” when she needs to connect, I respond with fake crying (she says “cry!” if I don’t), and then she gives me a cuddle (and sometimes we repeat the whole cycle several times). It’s a bit of trial and error to find the response she needs each time, but I can see that taking this approach is helping her work through her anxiety in a way that talking wasn’t.

    As someone who got very little emotional validation from my own parents, I’ve been very aware of needing to provide it for my daughter. This playful approach has given me a way of doing that on her own wavelength while she’s little. Children use play to work through their emotions, so it’s about joining them there.

    I do my best to name and accept her emotions too. This has just given me a much richer way of being able to do that.

Beaner - August 2, 2020 Reply

Hi Jonice, I’m a highly sensitive person, I very much resonate with CEN and answered ‘yes’ to all the questions. Still, I see myself as very selfish and am very good knowing what my wants and needs are when I come up against someone else’s. I have no idea what my wants and needs are if I have a blank slate. I’m only aware of two emotions — anger and sadness. Can I be selfish and still suffer from CEN?

    Jonice - August 2, 2020 Reply

    Dear Beaner, I think you need to pay more attention to yourself on an everyday basis. Your wants and needs and feelings matter and it’s important for you to be aware of what they are.

MC - July 18, 2020 Reply

Hello everyone

WOW!!!! Here’s my story:
Generational CEN, age 4-13 sexual abuse (by uncle); age 23 sexual advances i.e. masturbating in front of me while I slept on my sister’s sofa recovering from an ectopic pregnancy (by brother-in-law); age 56 [9.5 months ago] sexual assault (by doctor; I’m a nurse).

That’s the short version. I’m here because my now 4th marriage is failing. Found a marriage coach who suggested my husband may have CEN and said we both may benefit from the 2 books.

So week got the books about 2 weeks ago. We both have CEN.

I’ve always known I was “off” and have had a heavy heart when it comes my my only daughter (now 35 y/o) and the pain she has endured to this day. I want to get better and do better.

My question is for all parents out there. How are you coping with all this information now and how it has affected your children?

Thank you Dr Jonice for sharing your knowledge.. It’s the only we are all going to heal; by educating ourselves.

In One Peace

    Jonice - July 19, 2020 Reply

    Dear MC, thanks for sharing your story. I love your question for all parents out there. I hope you get lots of answers. Take care of yourself.

AR - July 8, 2020 Reply

Dr. Webb,

Thank you so much for this book! I’m in my 40’s a wife and mother and have been dealing with the fallout from my very emotionally neglectful parents my entire adult life. I just finished listening to “Running on Empty” and will listen to “Running on Empty No More” next.
Both of my parents had unloving, dysfunctional parents plus a religious environment that created some unrealistic ideas about mental and emotional health. While I can see why they are emotionally absent/neglectful, my mother has been in and out of counseling for 20+ years and it has only bolstered her self-centeredness. She often made statements about how her therapist confirmed how right she was to take certain actions that only benefited her but left my siblings and I neglected. It has been incredibly hurtful to hear this because I and my sibling were the ones to pay the real price for her decisions. Is there any benefit to confronting her over these assertions?

    Jonice - July 12, 2020 Reply

    Dear AR, it can be risky to trust what some people claim that their therapists say. Self-centered people can sift what they hear so that it matches what they want it to be. I suggest you do whatever will allow you to move forward and grow, and you may want to seek your own CEN therapist for support.

Alice - June 17, 2020 Reply

I’m in my early 20s and I just left a home that I finally realized was emotionally abusive. My parents loved me, but they never understood how deeply I felt things, and they constantly hurt me with things they said and did. I’ve struggled for so long with feelings that I am selfish, lazy, and worthless, because that is what they told me.
While my body is free of that torment, my mind still constantly whispers at me that I will never stand on my own two feet. I’m trying to resist the harsh words it throws at me, and sometimes I am successful, but it is a hard battle I worry that I will never win.

    Jonice - June 18, 2020 Reply

    Dear Alice, I’m glad you’re fighting those old messages that are wrong. You can talk back to them!, You can say whatever works, like, “I can absolutely take care of myself.”

    Bob - October 18, 2020 Reply

    I was raised in a household similar to yours and when I had children I treated them the same way; even when I vowed not to. Over the years I have recognized my feelings were driving my behaviors and I turned it around. I chose to behave in a way I can be proud of, rather than how I feel about it. This worked miracles to correct my bad behaviors and greatly reduced my negative feelings. Where CEN came into the picture for me was when I questioned why I had those feelings in the first place. “Running on Empty” was a great help. I have concluded that I cannot control the feelings that pop into my brain, and that many of the negative ones came from how I was programmed as a child. Feelings are not facts. The way I improved my self image was to help others and be there for my family. All of my family relationships are amazing now. Understanding my behaviors and feelings were not my fault, and resolving to be different sort of clears out the past (that is negative) and focusses on the future (that I view as positive. My life is a book and it does not matter what I was like in the early chapters – it how the book ends that counts. Thanks so much to Dr. Webb for her amazing books (and 25 years in AA where I changed my life).

Larry - June 16, 2020 Reply

I am 65, getting divorced, and only now realizing that I had no business having a relationship. I didn’t bond with my parents- when they died I felt nothing. I never learned what emotional intimacy is or empathy for others. I knew I was very different from others but thought that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I’ve only hurt and been hurt by women in relationships.
I was abusive of my wife and my two daughters and only now found out how angry my wife & daughters are at me for how their lives turned out and what they have to go thru now.
I’m giving up relationships, have joined men-only groups, celebrate recovery, and hope to find a new therapist who knows what CEN, maybe help a little?
I’ve read Running on Empty and it’s Exactly who I am, along with HSP.
I’ve been in and out of therapy, doctors, and meds for 40 years. My only successful relationships have been w/ therapists.
Please listen to me as an example to never wait to get the help you need or tell another you love that they need to seek help, I earnestly ask that none of you ever ends up like me.
Glad I could comment…

    Jonice - June 16, 2020 Reply

    Dear Larry, thank you for sharing your story in such a candid and helpful way. I hear accountability and hope in your voice and having these 2 qualities will take you someplace new. I hope you’ll reach out to a therapist from my CEN Therapist List.

Paula - June 15, 2020 Reply

I felt my upbringing was generally good though CEN, now recognized, was there. My father was not raised with warmth and caring, my mother was a perfectionist. I felt that I had to be the “good little girl” and when not, punishment was often the silent treatment. That has been a struggle for me in adulthood. When I don’t hear back from people, etc., it has been like punishment all over again. Relationships are challenging, now I know why. My parents have passed away but I see the results of CEN in my siblings. We rarely talked about anything emotional or deep in childhood and it continues as adults. I’ve been working through this with therapy, meditation and other tools to dissect and reduce the negative thoughts I have. It’s definitely better but after decades. Thank you Dr. Webb for your insights and education.

    Jonice - June 18, 2020 Reply

    You are doing some amazing work, Paula. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us!

    Cece - October 18, 2020 Reply

    Paula I can so identify. Thank you for sharing. Both my parents were passive aggressive, and my dad a victim, and I grew up learning I had to fix everyone. And my mom especially used the silent treatment and anger -I had to figure out what was wrong and how to make it right. I still get triggered by people’s lack of response. Especially on social media so I stay off most of the time. None of my siblings talk much to each other, in fact, we are all pretty separated. What has helped you the most? Well done working through this. It inspires me to begin.xx

Karen - June 14, 2020 Reply

My mother was a narcissist, father a passive co-dependant. Grew up in an emotionally abusive and neglectful family environment: mother mean & controlling with strings attached to everything: my needs never met. Father emotionally absent. Unhappy childhood, always feeling lost and empty and alone in life. This handicap of not being in touch with my emotions and doing for others (survival mechanism living with a narcissist) affected my entire adult life in a very negative way. In my 50’s I came across a youtube video about narcissism and when I listened it was about my life: my narcissistic mother and husband. My husband is my mothers emotional twin. That was the flame that ignited my research into the area of what happened to me. I found youtube videos from Lisa A Romano which talks about narcissism and co-dependancy. I found out I am a co-dependant (others oriented person) from learning how to survive living with a narcissistic parent. Being a co-dependant sets you up for a life of taking care of others needs and not your own. You become exhausted throughout life for being unable to say no (no learned boundaries). On Lisa’s youtube shows she has visitors who have books and their own youtube videos. I read all of their books and listened to all their videos. This is how I found Dr Webb, she was on a video with Ross Rosenberg who wrote the book “The Human Magnet Syndrome”. Reading about CEN turned on the lightbulb of what happened to me, and also what happened to my parents: they had CEN too: passed down as it was before them. That is why I no longer get angry at my parents, I understand it happened to them and they don’t know they are neglectful. I’ve been on a long path of self healing, self care, setting boundaries, learning about self worth and my value in this world. Everything that was missing from my life. I feel so much calmer, rested and less nervous and unhappy from figuring out what happened to me (or what didn’t happen to me: nurturing love and guidance). I’m giving that to myself now.
By reading a ton of books, and listening to hours of youtube videos by many psychologists and life coaches, I have the knowledge and tools to heal myself. You can too.

Mary - June 14, 2020 Reply

I grew up in a family that didn’t talk about feelings which as set me up for problems in adulthood. I struggle with making friends and experience loneliness everyday. I have been reading your blogs and find them really interesting and inspiring.
I have learned that my parents were only bringing me up the way their parents brought them up and they was doing their best with what they had but I still feel angry about it and can’t seem to get over it. Is this normal and how can I overcome this? Thanks.

    Jonice - June 14, 2020 Reply

    Yes, it is normal, Mary. Why wouldn’t you be angry? It makes perfect sense. If it persists and is making you unhappy, I hope you will reach out to a CEN therapist from the list so you have someone to help you work through this.

    Anne - June 14, 2020 Reply

    I have found that forgiving my parents and forgiving myself has been my greatest strategy working through my cen. I had to forgive myself first. I forgave myself for not showing up for my children. I forgave my parents for not showing up for me. I realize it’s like abuse of any sort, their is a cycle. In my recognition I have the opportunity to share with my adult children what I know now. I can attempt new ways to communicate, to be aware one can repair. I had no idea what was wrong until I read Jonice Webb’S books.

      Jonice - June 15, 2020 Reply

      That is so wonderful, Anne! Thank you for sharing that.

Joel - June 14, 2020 Reply

I’ve always known that my childhood was “abnormal” but it wasn’t until I discovered CEN that I began to understand just how messed up it was. Although I’ve always known that my mother was narcissistic, after reading Running on Empty, I can now “diagnose” her as having also definite sociopathic tendencies. She was the daughter of a highly controlling, manipulative narcissistic mother (my grandmother). The emotional environment in my grandmother’s household was so abusive that I used to become physically ill after a few days visit there even though none of the abuse was directed at me. Not surprisingly, my mother never associated my physical distress with the events in the household.

As if my mother’s upbringing was bad enough, she had the misfortune when I was just over a year old of to suffer from a debilitating paralytic tumor that took multiple operations and several years to recover from. During this time she was unable to provide me emotional support and my father was ~250 miles away most of the time earning a living. There can’t be anything “worse” for a narcissist than being paralyzed and having people wait on her hand and foot! Coming out of this event she transformed into a totally self-centered individual.

With this kind of background, it’s not surprising that I suffer from CEN. It’s probably worth noting that my father was a smart and caring individual who had, unfortunately, been deprived of his father by death at age ~9. Therefore, he was unable to provide me much first-hand emotional support and what support he he could provide anyone was swallowed by my mother’s narcissism.

All-in-all, it’s amazing looking back at it that I was able to survive and be able to marry and raise a family. I can credit this to my spouse who is one of the few really “good” persons I have met in my life. We’ve just celebrated 50 years of marriage and I credit her with helping me become the person I am today even though we had no idea how much CEN had “marked” my upbringing.

Although it’s late in life for me to try to “undo” the damage of CEN, it’s helpful to understand how it has affected my behavior over the past decades. I’m not entirely proud of some of my actions and behaviors and I now recognize that many of them were reactions to my past. My one hope is that my trying to “unwind” from CEN I can regain some of the childhood memories that I have repressed. Several years ago I began to realize that I had far less recall of my childhood than did my wife and many others. This, I know realize, was most likely repression due to the unhappiness I associate with so much of my past.

Anonymous - June 14, 2020 Reply

Thank you so much for the work you are doing… I have spent many many many years trying to combat the guilt I feel; your insights into why it’s normal that I feel this way are incredibly helpful.
I grew up in a home filled with emotional neglect. I had a mentally unbalanced other sister who just took up all of the bandwidth in the house. My parents convinced themselves that I was always just fine because my natural disposition was pretty easy-going ( even though when I was 12, I swallowed a ton of pill to – kill myself? Grab some attention ?). After that, I went through periods of doing a lot of drugs, having a ton of sex with men I barely knew ( while underage; continued until my very early 20s) .
There were a million red flags, My parents chose not to notice this. It was until I became an adult and had my own children that this really started to bother me in a different way.( I have fought fiercely against raising my kids the way I was raised). Something happened as they begin to grow, and reached the ages where I started to have troubles myself. I found I became more and more angry and resentful towards my parents…. Because I now knew how much they overlooked, how lazy their parenting was, and by that point I knew how much it had affected me throughout my entire adult life. Finally, at age 48, I told them. I told them why we lead such a distant lives even though we live near each other, why I feel the way I do about them, and how it felt for me growing up. They responded at first with anger, and then benign excuses. I know they wish nothing more than to be a part of my life now, , But it clearly is contingent upon sharing their rose colored view (false) view of our past. Well I was able to stomach doing that when I was younger I just have reached a point where I cannot anymore. I also have learned that the only way to discuss this with them is to ram it down her throat in a big fight. Obviously not interested in doing that over and over again.
I guess what I had hoped was that there would’ve been some curiosity on their part, some genuine sadness about how horrible life was so many years. Some interest? Empathy? They’ve never asked a single question since the few times I force them into an argument about it. They don’t seem capable of it, and I don’t know why.

They are nearing the end of their lives they are in their mid-80s. I try not to feel tons of guilt about this, I really still do, But it’s really pains me to have them in my life. Also they are BIG trump supporters ! An added layer of difficulty! ;p !!

It feels good to write this down, thank you.

Corinne - June 14, 2020 Reply

I’ve been working with a therapist since reading your book Running on Empty, and making strides. I spent time with my brother over the holidays and he’s realizing the effects of our Mother’s emotional neglect. Men won’t go to counseling and I’m still working to understand CEN on myself. I’d like to guide him, but how? One new problem I’ve noticed about myself and my brother is that having worked hard to please when we were young, we don’t feel motivation as we start our 60’s. I’d like to see a discussion on motivation and CEN.

    Jonice - June 14, 2020 Reply

    Dear Corinne, lots of men go to counseling! But maybe you could get your brother to read Running On Empty? Or start reading my blog? For some people, it requires the planting of seeds over time, and waiting until they take root and grow. Thanks for your suggestion. I can write a blog on CEN and motivation. Take care, and keep on healing!

Richard - June 14, 2020 Reply

I would like to share my story. I am only now understanding the inpact it had in my life. I am 56 years old. My mom passed when I was 4 years old. My grandma and grandpa moved close by to help my dad out. My mom died giving birth to my sister. There were 3 kids and I remember that day he brought us into his bedroom and told us she would never be coming home. I remember seeing my sister cry and my dad start crying and then I did. But really, I did not understand what was going on. I recall this. Later I felt stupid about it and that set the pace for my whole life.
My dad remarried and all I remember about this time was being scared and the fighting. They fought everyday and she would throw and break stuff. She may have had a drinking problem. Not sure. I remember one night again that stands out, I hid in my room when the fighting was happening, one night she started screaming and I ran out of my room and my dad had her pinned on the couch choking her. At least that is what it looked like, and ran ran over and pleaded for him to stop. I found out she had taken my mom’s photos that my dad had and ran water over them to ruin them. She was not a nice person at all. They divorced shortly after. My dad remarried again, this seemed normal. They never fought like I had seen and they are together still today.
What I will say is, it was so not normal. I know this now. There were no “i love you” that I ever remember at all. I wondered why nobody liked me. I wondered starting in jr high why i was the odd one or why i didn’t fit in like others. Started into drugs in freshman year of high school. Went into the Marines after high school. That helped a lot I believe. Found a career after getting out and been with the same company 32 years. Great you think. Me, I dont know my own worth. I got out of an emotionally abusive relationship after enduring 25 years of what I thought was normal. Now here I am trying to have a relationship with someone who does so much for me, cares for me and about me, and I don’t hard feel or know what to do. I know what to do by seeing, but feeling things is not there. I plan on reading your book and to see what I can take away that may help me. Since my divorce I have been on a self help self improving mission and that is how I found this site. There were so many things that ring true for me. Thanks

Taylor - June 3, 2020 Reply

Hi jonice, your insights have helped me learn a lot about myself, I am working on healing myself in so many different ways,
Although I’m having trouble letting go, my mother was very abusive towards me as a child and when I was 17 I decided to leave on my own, before I left my moms I had all my family’s support, but then slowly they stopped talking to me unless it was to tell me to talk to my mom, I no longer get invited to birthdays, thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. I finally don’t feel like everything that happened with my mom is my fault, but I just don’t understand why they did that if I didn’t do anything wrong. It made sense before when I thought I ruined everything, and it’s possible my mom lied to them about some things, but then what could she say that would be worse than anything she did, why wouldn’t they stop talking to her when they’ve
seen my living conditions, (I’d often not have food, water, electricity) but now I just don’t have any family, since my dad isn’t around either. It just seems to be something that I can’t let go of no matter how hard I try.

    Sabrina - June 14, 2020 Reply

    Hi Taylor, I am so sorry for all the pain you have endured. Myself, I have learned that dysfunctional families do not often work in ways that make sense. It is a hard thing to accept because we keep trying to make sense and understand and keep believing that everyone wants to do better and make things work. Sadly, this is rarely reality. The good news is, you see the difference, and want healthy relationships. I think focus on those types of relationships that are in your life right now. Acceptance doesn’t mean giving up, though. Maybe letting go, instead.

tiffany - May 16, 2020 Reply

I was wondering if it is common for CEN adults to have a desire to search out individuals who need to be ‘fixed’? My CEN Husband is always trying to find individuals with issues to help fix them.
Thank you for any input,

    Jonice - May 18, 2020 Reply

    Dear Tiffany, that may be a product of living too much for other people and not requiring enough for yourself, which surely is an aspect of CEN.

    Sharon - June 14, 2020 Reply

    I don’t know if it’s common for many or most CEN adults, but this is definitely true for me. I grew up being “ignored” as I had a sister, 1 1/2 years younger than I, who is deaf and has other disabilities. I became the interpreter and mother’s helper. Sometimes when my mom couldn’t handle my sister, somehow, I was able to step in and take over.

    Pretty much my whole life has been devoted to helping other people. I’ve worked in the mental health field for almost 30 years and am still very much involved in my sister’s care (my mom has since passed away and my father has distanced himself from my sister).

    Unfortunately, I believe helping others is my purpose in life and still have great difficulty taking care of me. I think there is also some “survivor guilt” going on, too (I feel guilty that I was born “normal” and my sister has had to deal with so many challenges and difficult situations in her life.

    So, did you have any similar experiences growing up?

Anonymous - May 10, 2020 Reply

I just finished reading Running on Empty and will next read Empty no More. I want to thank you for your help in seeing myself. I was a child who was not allowed to have emotions. I felt ridiculed and ignored and grew ashamed of being human. I never realized I’ve been hiding myself for decades and how this hinders me from experiencing the relationships I long for. Reading this book has begun to set me free. It is painful to look back and relive some events, but necessary to understand why I feel the way I do and what truth is needed to counteract the erroneous thinking. So again, thank you.

    Jonice - May 11, 2020 Reply

    Dear Anon, I’m so sorry you went through that. And I’m very glad to be giving you answers and a path forward. Keep up the good work!

CHRISTINE - May 3, 2020 Reply

Dear Dr Webb,
Thank you for writing both your books. I feel a solid, long lasting positive movement in my life is inevitably coming my way. Thank you.

Now looking forward, I still am unsure on one thing, I was hoping you may be able to help me?

My mother is a narcissistic and authoritarian parent, my father is a permissive parent. My problem is I am not sure how to answer my mothers negative statements about me as she is speaking to me. For example on my wedding day she was commenting (it was more of a statement) about the makeup I had professionally paid for, she said ‘your make up will look good on photos, but in real life you look ugly’. I believe what she meant was that with the makeup I had on I looked like a drag queen but in photos I will look good. I was shocked and I could feel my mouth fall wide open. My aunty and cousin were there and heard it too, I looked to both of them and they just looked away silent. I was silent too, still stunned.

Then my mother continued and said calmly while nodding her head ‘it’s true’. Then some welcome distraction from someone happened and that was how it ended.

This is only one example of my dealings with her. But in this example I am confused on what my reaction should have been. If I did say something, I am not sure what I should have said.

Kind Regards

    Jonice - May 3, 2020 Reply

    Dear Christine, in some situations when people say hurtful things, a simple, “That’s hurtful,” can suffice. I recommend you get a book on assertiveness — there are lots to choose from — and work on learning this incredibly powerful skill.

    Ursula - June 18, 2020 Reply

    Dear Christine,
    My sister had the same experience as you on her wedding day. Sometimes it is really hard to give the `right`response if you have been undermined so many times, especially if you are not used to support. You hoped for another response because it was your wedding day. My parents ruined part of the event for my sister too. I too struggle with CEN but working on it. It is time to focus on yourself. with kind regards, Ursula

Sherril Munroe - May 1, 2020 Reply

I am a recent graduate of Vancouver College of Counsellor Training in Vancouver BC Canada. I am a Certified Counsellor, and specialized in Family and community counselling. I would love to add a CEN Certification to my resume. When I came across your book “Running on Empty No More” through “Bookbub” I was blown away to learn about CEN. In my 25yrs of on and off personal counselling I have never heard about Childhood Emotional Neglect. I can say that doing some personal family of origin work has touched on CEN in a very indirect way, however, did not come anywhere near dealing with CEN as its own entity. I have been reading both of your books and I am fascinated by this new discovery. In my personal opinion CEN goes deeper and gets closer to the roots of a persons issues, more than anything I have studied to this point. I am so excited to learn ALL I can, for myself personally, as I suffer from CEN , my husband who severely suffers from CEN and therefore our relationship suffers, and to help my future clients with CEN in my private practice.

My questions are:

1) Which one (or more) of your programs would you recommend I take that would give me all that I need to be a Certified CEN therapist, as well as personal healing?

2) The credits gained from your courses, would they be recognized in Canada?

    Jonice - May 2, 2020 Reply

    Dear Sherril, I would be so happy for you to become a CEN therapist. We need more, for sure! I recommend the Fuel Up For Life program for which you can earn 12 CE credits. (You’d need to check to make sure the credits will be honored in Canada.) The Fuel Up For Life walks you through all the steps of recovery, using the techniques, includes all the homework. You’ll learn how to heal others in the process of healing yourself. Here’s a link to the page that describes it: If you have any more questions you can email me at Take care and stay safe!

Gina - April 20, 2020 Reply

After realising what CEN is and facing the truth about my childhood, I am for a year now struggling with an idea that I chose wrong profession in life. I was made quiet, believed I am shy and silent type, only to discover there is so much more in me, as soon as I was on distance from home. I was always out of touch with my emotions, with life, everything. I now believe even my reproductive organs have taken the toll. (Never in my life had my period naturally, only with help of medicament. Being out of touch with yourself as a person, as a girl, woman, probably did the trick).
When the time came for me to go to university (I do think 18 years old kid cannot make such a big decision for life), I choose what at that point made sense (I guess). It is a nice profession, and I achieved a lot. I studied abroad, changed few offices, and now working in, what seems to be, really good office, again abroad. But, still, even when I finally have it all on paper, to be happy and enjoy work, I really do not. It brings me sense of accomplishment, of course, and for most part is even fun. But it is not my passion, I do not find satisfaction in this, other then proving that I can do it. I want to follow my true passion, be an illustrator, but I seem to sabotaging myself buy not working on my porftolio in my spare time.

I know where I am, and I know I do not want to be here. I know where I want to be, and how to get there. But I am still not doing that work.

My questions for you, Dr Webb would be:
– Is it possible that my childhood affected me so much, I chose the wrong profession?
– Is it possible that my body rejected seeing itself as a female body, due to CEN? (I grew up fully developed etc, but with amenorrhea and PCOS)
– How do I start working towards my new career? How to push myself? I know all the steps, all in theory, but I simply don´t do it…

Thank you in advance!

    Jonice - April 21, 2020 Reply

    Dear Gina, I’m so sorry I cannot advise you on these big questions here. I encourage you to contact a CEN therapist from the list and start seeing someone who can help you. It can be a huge help to have a therapist.

      Gina - April 21, 2020 Reply

      Unfortunatelly there are no CEN therapist in my area, but I am considering a therapy. Even just writing down those facts and questions helps a little.

        Jonice - April 22, 2020 Reply

        Many of the CEN Therapists do online treatment so that’s a possibility for you too.

LizaH - April 8, 2020 Reply

Hi Dr Webb.
I am a female, U.K. late 40’s and only recently discovered words like codependency, narcissism, CEN being the most important discovery. My parents are alive and well, my siblings also yet I have been disowned for bringing up neglectful childhood, for ‘raking up’ the past.
Only in the last 6 months have I realized I have lived simply for them. I don’t know my dreams or ambitions or what they ever were – it’s only through my husband teaching me love with patience. I realize now I am emotionally ungiving and I am still hurt and so not know how to process this rejection by my family.
I am so angry with the world it’s consuming me up… please advice which book would be the beat place for me to start to heal?
My depression and hurt is affecting my marriage as I am so serious constantly.
Thank you so much.

    Jonice - April 9, 2020 Reply

    Dear LizaH, I recommend you read Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect first. It will give you a good understanding of your own childhood and how emotional neglect happened to you and affects you. Then read Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships and it will help you work on your boundaries with your family, your feelings about your parents and siblings, and also your marriage and your parenting. all my best wishes.

Noway hozay - March 30, 2020 Reply

I am 19. I am not big with words sorry. I knew that I had cen and my brother used to hit me a lot in the head and my parents doesn’t do anything about it so my older brother hits the brother that hits me and so my mother would take care of “the brother that hit me” and he gets angry and hit me more. I think I have troubles in studying as I study all day for the minimal result and studying is a big part of my life… I suffered the effects of it when I was 17. I got over it and the biggest challenge is to be nice to my mother. I never confronted her and I will never will and honestly I am not mad or anything. Like I honestly don’t care. The biggest problem that I feel like I can’t presue a relationship because (1.sadly I am gay/2. Where I live its not okay to be that and I respect that). I have friends though. Maybe because I tell jokes all the time and I don’t want to brag or anything but I do t think I am someone that is rude. I joke a lot and I dont mean everything I say.. And I got over my past because of it. Honestly I feel like I would ended my self if I don’t have that leap of faith and I still do. Amm I just read ur book like 2 days ago and honestly well done. I don’t like for ppl to know who I am and u caught me! . I am shooock. Anyway am I know that it will effect my life and I don’t mind. I just want my future.. Ooh there is a point that I think you didn’t mention. I hope it’s helpful. : it’s hard to change some habits in front of ppl.. For example if I am someway to someone in the first time we meet. I feel like I have to be like that for ever Infront of them.. And that still applies to my parents. Just a week ago. My electric ammm the thing that shaves the beard. Just somehow got broken and I didn’t shave my face for like 5 days and I didn’t want anybody to see my face so at night I stacked food in the fridge that is near my room upstairs and just ate from it. So nobody sees me. I know wtf. Anyway I find ur book really helpful so thanks!!!!!

    Jonice - March 30, 2020 Reply

    Dear Noway, first, please know that it is okay to be gay, and you are right, you will have a future when you can be who you really are. It sounds like abuse that you have experienced in your family. I hope that as soon as possible you will seek a therapist to help you work through your experiences and learn that it’s okay to be who you are, no matter how you appeared yesterday or any other day. Humans are complex beings and we all appear different to others all the time. Take care of yourself.

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