Childhood Emotional Neglect Discussion Page

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

I’m sorry that I can’t answer individual questions on this page. But I 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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CM - May 19, 2021 Reply

I remember at 10years old my brothers & I were taken to live with our grandparents & step aunties & uncles in the country side yet our parents were capable of staying with us in the city since they worked there. Being the 1st born I was so confused i didn’t have anyone one to look up to because the relatives all went about doing their own things. I became very timid, kept my feelings to myself, my grandma used to reprimand me for being sad all the time as if I wasn’t contented living there. My parents used to come once a month to check on us. Over the years as I became older I had this feeling I was different, I didn’t smile like all the other girls. I kept to myself & I ended up marrying a man who was also aloof, emotionally unavailable & after 10 years into the marriage, we separated & its during my separation years now, am able to understand what I was struggling with after finding Dr.Jonice’s blog which is a life saver for me. I would still be struggling without having any road map to know how to deal with my CEN. Its been a long journey but am learning so much & definitely not the person I was 3 years ago. My goal also is to break the cycle of CEN in my son’s life too. Thank you for showing us the path to a life of embracing our feelings & validating them.

Kayla - May 3, 2021 Reply

As a teenager going into adulthood, I’ve noticed how much I isolate myself and push those I care about away. Whenever I interact with people, I always feel this sense of inferiority, and I end up coming off as this quiet weak person who has no confidence, and in a way, they’re right. Growing up, I always knew that my parents loved me and wanted the best for me, but I always felt emotionally invalidated. My feelings were never prioritized and I was pretty much made to “stay in a child’s place.” Eventually, I would stop voicing my emotions as much by the time middle school arrived. I got bullied verbally and emotionally and felt a deep sense of worthlessness. My grandmother also passed away around this time, and she was the only family member that genuinely validated my emotions, and actually gave me a voice in my life. When I brought up my feelings to my mom about middle school, and how I felt suicidal, she threatened to put me in a mental institution “where kids are drugged and have to stare at a wall all day” and shamed me for feeling that was in the first place. Ever since that moment, I could never really open up about anything super deep like that anymore, not even to my closest friends, at least not casually. I always feel like a burden every time I even mention anything negative. At this point, I’ve been isolating myself from people and binging anime to avoid the deep-rooted emptiness and self-loathing that I have towards myself. I feel anger for not standing up for myself more, guilt for being a burden, and frustration for not taking action about it sooner. Yet, I don’t talk about this stuff and I keep it to myself so nobody has to share the burden of my feelings so that everyone doesn’t have to deal with my toxic emotions and tendencies. I just discovered this program through my email, and I’m hoping that I can assess these feelings and grow to be a better person for myself and those around me. I want to be confident and take control of my life again.

Sarah - May 3, 2021 Reply

I’m 25 and I feel like falling in love and having kids is impossible for me. I’ve realised I’ve never been in love with my boyfriends and now dating makes me anxious.
Time to put in the work

Joe - April 29, 2021 Reply

Has anyone been able to overcome this deep seated, unshakeable loneliness? Whatever I do, however much I ‘do the work’ it never leaves me. Always on the outside looking in

Nancy - April 28, 2021 Reply

I grew up with only my mother, she was manic depressive, my father was alcoholic so she wouldn’t allow him to see me. I was the last child at home, born late, unplanned, I was reminded often how I had ruined mother’s life and how much she disliked me. I learned early on that my feelings were not important. I was a shy withdrawn child who didn’t fit in anywhere. This carried over into my young years, many decent relationships lost because of my unwillingness to open up. I went through 3 marriages before I found a man I could trust enough to open up to. He is kind, gentle and from a similar situation. I talk to him more than I have ever talk to any other human being. I have 2 boys from previous marriages and he has an adopted special needs son. Each one a wonderful gift from God. I have kept my childhood a secret from my children. I have always lavished attention on them because I wanted them to have what I longed for as a child and young adult. They are all happy well rounded people who will never know the pain either my husband nor myself went through. We may have had to see a psychiatrist many times just to put life in prospective but we have a 25 year marriage our boys are all grown up now. We are truly blessed.

E - April 27, 2021 Reply

It is so difficult to be rejected. I was born prematurely, detoxing from nicotine (mom’s smoked when they were pregnant back then), placed in an incubator with no human contact for the first week of my life, allergic to everything, so I had constant gut problems as well as being hungry all the time, didn’t want to be held because I was physically uncomfortable all the time and I naturally cried a lot. I must have given up on the people who were supposed to be taking care of those things. None of it was intentional, but when your parents can’t comfort you, it is easier to need no one. Then my brother came along. Temperate, sweet, cuddly. I watched my parents treat my brother in a way I wanted them to treat me. It was evidence that they were capable, I was just somehow unworthy.

It got worse. I became so frustrated and angry and sad, that I’d act out which made the dynamic worse (especially in a military family where there are the right way and the wrong way to do things and I managed to do everything wrong). I invested too much in romantic relationships thinking that person could fill up the emptiness I felt since I could reconize those things. It leads to a lot of poor choices, is enormously painful, and I still feel totally alone. Intellectually, I know it’s not the truth, but my inherent conditioning tellsme otherwise.

K - April 26, 2021 Reply

I grew up with my mom, my folks were divorced and I saw my dad sporadically as a kid. my mom was depressed and I always felt an inordinate amount of pressure to make sure she was doing ok or to not rock the boat because she was in such a bad way. It has left me able to read people phenomenally well but I have so much trouble knowing myself. I have been really working and learning and listening to my own needs and cues since I never did as a child. She ahs passed away now and I am beginning to find some space and feel some freedom. I wonder if anyone else has experienced a sense of freedom after their parent has passed who suffers from this.

    E - April 27, 2021 Reply

    I have the same experience regarding being able to read people. Of course, that only goes for people I’m not married or related to, but generally, I can figure out what motivates someone and what triggers them, and thus, what their emotional currency is. When you grow up ignored and waiting for your chance to matter, or having to know when to duck, you can pick up a million little inarticulable cues and assimilate them in seconds to form a general construct of that person. Are they physically safe? Do they present themselves in a manner which is totally opposite of who they truly are? (I get so uncomfortable around people who aren’t able to be truthful with themselves- going along with the overcompensation is exhausting). Are they likely to throw you under the bus for a mistake? Do they feel ignored? I had to dig through an enormous amount of horse poop to find the pony, but it’s there, and it’s a gift if used for good.

Oliver - April 26, 2021 Reply

Dr.growing up in a polygamous family , in Africa and was abandoned by my mum . she is struggling now to really play the part of a mother in which I never had.I think I don’t even feels sometimes I got a mum as usual. what can I do ?
was bullied by step mothers, brothers and sister ;grow up seeking comfort all round friends and family member but can’t hold it prefer my loneliness .feels always insecured and not to be hurt and am too emotion and sensitive .
getting to 50Yrs I can still feel the pains .
I turn to like anyone with almost same character as me .( being lonely as me or had same up bringing as me( CEN )
I was like a slave kid , I most work before I eat at an age of 4, its has being up and down ;
Got girl friends they never understand the pains in my heart even my friends. Decided lock myself in doors even attempted to kill myself but thank God it`s over.
Recently had your two books last year has made me feel much better .Living Abroad and my job has being playing a good part too.
Thank u so much

Stephanie Wynn - April 26, 2021 Reply

I never grew up with either of my parents because my mom had post partum depression after me which has turned into chronic depression which is my fault and my dad was born with hydrocephalis aka water on the brain so with his mental capacity not being where it should cannot take care of me when i was 1and half old my fathers mother and step dad got guardian ship over me but never let my mom see me or raise me they kept her from me and i saw my dad periodically which i am the oldest of 4 kids from my mom and i may have been physically mentally and neglected emotionally. And raped as a child but i feel my 2 brothers and sisters had it worse then i did and so as screwed up as it is my hood was i will take it over being with either of my parents my mom married a petafile who was physically and mentally abusive to my mom and siblings my mom stopped being a mother to my cyblings out of fearof my step dad and my step dad got my sister who is the youngest her best friend at the time was only 12 years old pregnant and so they were in and out of foster home because of that and drug use as well i tried to do everything i could to help but it never did so flash back when my grandparents became my guradians they were getting 2 checks from the state of california for me and 1 from the state of nevada where we lived and they got guardian ship because i had become so severly malnutrituned because of lack of care from my parents that i almost died as a result so i had some ot issues as a result i did ot therapy to develope my fine gross motor skills very early on now my grandparents were born in 43 and 45 they both had already had kids and raised them and had familys of there own so when they took me in my grandmother told me when i was little abd through out my life i was nothing more than 3 paychecks to them everymonth i was worthless and i was just lazy abd bad just like my mom and no will or ever care about me and it will always be that way so i was hit punched slapped kicked issolated and always told i was a pig a liar and nothing to no one and to keep my mouth shut that i didnt count and they dont care what i want or have to say because i am stupid and just like my mom and i became their own personal punching bag and servant do this do that get this get that and i was always pushed and always abused into doing better in school and i never realized it until now but by being that way towards me just made me do even worse not that i liked what they do to me as punishment but if i dont like the way someoneis with me and they go about it in either approach or making me do something i do the opposite of what they want me to because i want them to handle the appeoach or making do what they want differantly if they responded in a good way or didnt beat ne or yell at me and did it in the right way then in return they because they did it in a way thatvi liked i gave them what they wanted i dont know why i do that but i do still even as an adult which i wish i understood but so all that abuse mental and physical went on until i turned 18 and ran away to my antisocial sociopathic narcissistic ex husband and highschool sweet heart my grand parents told me not to marry him that he would be that way but being in a hurry yo escape thier abuse and neglect i didnt listen and repeated same pattern my husband was just like my grandfather so in this case saying true i married my grand father in my exhusband and from the time i was 8 -12 a cousin 4 years older borderline down syndrome but was just a little mentally delayed but he knew right from wrong and what he was doing was wrong it took me four years to tell my grand mother becausecof thier abuse and neglect i was afraid they blame or be mad at me and that exactly what happened i was called a hussie a tramp and told how dare i take advantage of him like that how dare i open my legs to him like that its not his fault he doesnt know any better than that but i was told they called my aunt and uncle and that he got grounded for 2 weeks and had to go to councelling which was a not true my grandmother called my dad knowing full well he couldnt do anything about it my cousin grew up it never happened again i made sure it didnt by always. Having another around but he grew to be a truck driver who traveled the country and raped other women as well i tried to have him prosecuted and my aunt abd uncle found out only to be made out to be a liar by my grand parents saying i always made up stories and was a pathological liar and they didnt know why but i eas just like my mother so i left at never looked back i have let them know i love them and forgive them for it all and that i am thankful that they raised me and not my parents because i may be emotinally have issues and fears of abodonement and trust but if i had any other child hood i would not know right fron wrong or have any morals value or standardss human decency or common sence that i do have and im not perfect no one is but when a child grows up and become an adult you just hope you were a good parent and did your best do they would grow up have families be good parent have carreers and be a part of society and di what is right and are good people that are honest abd hard working in life and that they have a full successful life that they want well i at least got some of that right i have morals value and standards and have figured out whatvthey did was wrong it wasnt my fault and i didnt deserve to be treated that way and me and my exhusband which was no differant than when i grew up we two kids are divorced the reason we are divorced is because i hated myself my life and niether of us wanted to get divorce because we didnt want our kids to come from broken home were togeather 17 years married 14 of them so when i started to hate myself and my life i asked my self is better for our kids to come from a broken home or is it better the example i am giving my kids that it ok to hit women and kids and to call them names and almost kill them as thier example for parents and what to expect when you get married and i knew it was wrong and didnt want my cycle from child hood to keep repeating that and my kids needed a better example for them and the only way it was going to change or get better is if i changed myself and what i was doing for the better so i started with my self esteem and worth and reminded myself i am worth it and what he said is not true and slowly started to believe it and built my self up and next i vowed to never repeat history again and end the cycle and i vowed from that dayforward that i would never allow any man to ever call me a name or lay a hand on me ever again and i had an ex boyfriend aftet our divorce ok guy never hurt me physically was good to me but had called me names well when i least expected it and wasnt looking for love it came and biteme in the ass i asked him for spare change and we have been togeathef6 years and are now engaged to be married has never abused me or called me a name but taught me what it means and how to love someone unconditionally in healthy way taught me i can be loved and will be and that i deserve to be loved everone does and to speak up and speak my mind and that im smart beautiful and despite my childhood a good person who always tries to do it the right way and that it wasnt ever my fault that it was thier issue not mine and to not feel guilty fir anything of shame and so he makes me complete safe warm and loved when we are togeather and. So i have kept my childhood barriers and walls up to protect me all my life and only let them down for him because thats only one of my coping mechanisms that i use ttheother is bottling my emotions and just not deal with them but i figured out not only is that bad for me but when i freak out that im not good enough or worried that he will just leave me and wont love me anymore that its not just trust issue and insecurities from childhood that it will just cause us to be our down fall and that if i just own. My feelings and stress and feel and get through them they get better and go away but if i dont they just come back even worse than before so own your feelings and confront them head on without fear you will feel better i like to do it through writting because i dont think i just let all flow out natrally thats why this is so long and i hope people will take the time to read this anyway but now that i am experiancing these emotions i feel like not just my childhood scars are healing but so. am i i have never been to therapy i am a highly sensitive person and now that i am more stable and am healing from all of it and finally believe un myself and know that none of have to earn love that its given not earnec and as humans we all need it to survive so everything i have said is out experiance and we may have been abused ir neglectec growing up and may have issues with cen ptsd or other trust or emotional scars and all at differant points in life but god has taught me alot latley and people use good in life to make thier life better and so do i. But not many people take the bad inlife and see the wrong or damage its done and they try thier hardest because they dont want or are scared of what they will feeling those bad things which i have in the past but instead look at your weaknesses as to use them in a way that turns them from weakness into strengths to draw from like i am stubborn its my nature and so i know how i can be with people and be unyeilding but with stuff that i know i dont want or neec in my life but i know i can do better i out my foot down and in my own way so that i dont do or keep the bad stuff away that i would normally just keep it around even though it was not good for me thats what
I mean by that so instead of wishing i had a better childhood or wanting to change it or look at it like ok it made me have all theses issues because of the abuse or anything else instead i accept it wasnt my fault i had no control over what my parents did and that i am capable and worthy of love and i forgive them for what they did and face those things with out fear and pure acceptance for what happened and why and take responsibility for those feelings because someone can do something to some one good or bad and just because you have feelings about it does not mean they made you feel that way no it simply means they did something and have to take responsibility for that action and its reprecussions that follow that owning and being responsible well to many times people like me for instances to feel emotions even the bad ones in order for us to be healthy adults and raise kids on the right way to process thier emotions so that they do feel them accept them and proccess them in a healthy way to become good parents or spouses or even emotionally healthy later is to be taught that right along side right and wrong and what follows after are reprecussions after ward and that in order to be a good person and to do whats right when we make a mistake or do something wrong. We tell our kids that we all are responsible to ourselves and everyone else to accept that we made a mistake that it happens and it ok but to look at what hapoenec and why and take responsibility for that by admitting what we did ir being honest about it is how you become responsible and accountable for that so now you know so you now. Know what to do to avoid that so it never happens again well i look at someone doing something and making me feel a certain way as no because they cant make me feel anything they can do something but because it is my life it is also my choice to choose how i feel and react or let that action not the person affecte in a bad way and avoid it its not healthy to do this everyone is an individual and yes my child hood was bad but it lead me to where i am today im 37 years old engaged to the most perfect best man in my eyes to me and we are both homeless yes unfourtunatley we both stuggle with addiction and our past and we are almost at a point to be clean and sober togeather and it what we want and we are happy and i know some people may judge me for that and we both are trying to get off streets abd into our own home abd work like everyone else and be contrbuting membrs of society and to many look at us like we are bad people when we are both honest and trusting hardworking people whobwant better for our selves we dont rob lie cheat or steal from anyone and if were wrong take responsibility and admit it and learn to do it right next so it doesnt happen again the love we have is pure and unconditional we have been through everything and we are at ourlowest and worst that anybody could be but we both know that our addiction is not healthy normal or ok and both want to quit and for once give us a chance to be a normal couple with out addictions in our relationship and are both working to make that happen and to live happy full responsible lives togeather because we love eachother unconditionally and accept even our faults and eachother as we are and nothing less than that so if you not only become aware of your fears insecurity scars and start to accept that your human and no matter how bad or what happened or caused thosr feelings and accept them as part of you and become aware of how they make you feel and tell yourself ok this is what ir why i am feeling this it didnt kill me then when i felt the emotions but i am strong enough and brave enough to accept and allow your self to feel them and not repress them then not only are you validating your self but also what lead you to those feelings so you are validating that its ok to have those feelings in your own mind and by allowing yourself to experiance and feel them you are accepting them as part of you so the damage having been done starts to get better because you feel them acknowlege them and that because this happened this why i feel this and its ok to feel or let the emotion be felt or made real and that it has validation from you thats responsibility to your self and any fears or feelings or insecurities you have i lookat it as the saying if it does not kill me it only makes me stronger and so i accept any respinsibilty of those fears an feelings once you forgive never forget and start to let yourself. Feel what you are avvoiding and accept them who or what they are and acknowllege thier real the and allow your self to feel them then what follows is proccessing after acceptance and that now these emotions are real and you are feeling them its it not about what you do with the feelings that so much matter or make a differance just like anything in life that happens what you do after it happens it all a matter in how you get through it that matters so proccessing is how are you going to let yourself feel these emotions and are you just going to give in to your fear and avoid them so you dont feel them no because you did that tobegin withand in doing so it may have brought you protection or made you temporarily happy or forget for awhile it happened but has it ever left you to the good things or people in your life it may have in the short run but it didnt did it and everything you felt before came right back and felt worse than before no differant that alchol it will help your hangover now but later when hung over it will be even worse because you chose not to deal with it and put a bandade over it it only temporary lasting doing that you want lasting results to heal and get better so instead you face it feel it because it not going to kill you and it will make you a better stronger person for you so take the bad and see it know it happened leave it invthe past and look to now use the bad as a tool to learn and use to bring about good things in your life and accept valudate and process and feel your emotions thats how you fix your inner child scars fears mistrust or any negative feeling you have and let them heal so you can heal and become whole againand to have the lufe you wznt without anything or anyo e holding you back you just have to believe it and wznt it and god anx yoy will make it happen it all in thev powetof mind now aftet becoming homless i have got my ged in 2009 and some colllege because i thought i wanted to do nursing so i wotking my way up i used to be a medical assistant and cargiver and pass meds to elderly but i then. Became homeless and all i have wanted to do was make a differance in people lives because people are my passion when i saw how many people out here need or want to get mental health help but no one and no access to it i felt horrible and then i thought about and suddenly nursing didnt feel right but psychology does and i want to give back to all those out here that need and want the help and somone who understands abd knows what it like and wants to help them have a healthier more productive life because they are taking that first step to that goal by seeking to get help so i want to study urban psychology and help people live thier lives off the streets the way they want to but in a bettrt way my grand parents always taught me to be propper polite common sence human decency and what is right and wrong and somethings the wrong way to raise a child j may have scarsand emotional wound because of it but i firgive them a nd am thsnkful they saved my life as an infant and gave me a beautifil life i live niw and i may have been unloved unwanted and taught all the wrong ways but because of my own strength and courage to be strong and want and believe i could change because i wanted bettter and what waz right for my kids i faced my own fears and pushed through and changed thier exame of husband and wife i made my life better and thiers and i did ended a visious cycle of abuse in my life and for the sake of my kids as well to set a better example for them so they didnt grow up to repeat the choices i made or that it was ok to treat someone that way or to let anyone treat them that way and i may have addictions which was there before my fiance even came into my life and same with him but both of us know thats not healthy and ok and that we both want to have a house of our own tobbe working or go back to college again and we both know there is a differance between wanting something to change and hoping for change but in order for any kind of change to happen you haveto be able to see that thier is a problem and what find a solution to that and do what is nessarry to fix that problem and once you do that you have to do what is required to make that change in your life and believe that you can do it and want to do it and if you stay strong and are able to its well worth it because you just made a positive differance in your life and what comes with that is knowlege that you have that power and control over your life and it belongs to you and no one else gets to live it and no one can take that away either its all a matter of going through the healing of your childhood scars and accepting that the things your parents did and hapoened and were not your fault and that those feelings and fears you feel. Now and the little kid inside you who was never aloud to express those feelings or was taught to believe that they dont matter or coukd bevloved anything if you allow yourself to feel and find a friend or someone you trust a therapist anything or if not someone weather through writting or as crazy as it sounds talk to your self out loud so you hear it record your self ttalking as well and replay and listen to it that child inside of you with emotional scars will have a listner and somone who knows. How they felt and finally a voice to be heard with and as you say it and listen to it feel and process your emotions and by doing so all those chilhood scars will heal and be validated and processed in a healthy way so the scars become not non existing but at least healed to a point that the child within will dissappear and allow more room for the adult to take its place in your head and anything left over feelings and fears or insecurity or trust issues that you and the adult part have left if you admit theses to your self or seek someone out for help in facing and feelings or fears and trust issues then you can start ti accept valudate and process and heal these issues you have and will finnally be free to live and beloved only if you want anaccept to be ready and face them i all a matter of mind over matter and how you choose to weather your storm and please anyone who does read this i am sorry its long and winded and about my spelling and puctuation im not very good at it and this and what i have to say is not professional advice or anything like that becausei have no degrees on anything what i spoke about us pure life experiance that i have been through and what i have done and all of this may or may not apply to you im telling you what works for me in helping me grow learn live and heal the child within in and sti healing the adult emotional fallout from growing up and i know some of this you may or may not know or have tried or not have tried but my intention with getting this out there is to help anyone out there that can take something or all and use it to help with them and thier life or make it better in some way and i hope that i can get people to be strong courageous and brave and to love themselves and know they deserve better but to inspire change for the better and it makes a differance if i know that it helped just one person out then that makes me feel really good and happy because that is what i was born to do and what makes life for me us to make sombody life better and to be that positive differance for some one. Please think about what i said and god bless everyone stephanie your friend who shares your ptsd and cen with you

margaret - April 25, 2021 Reply

Oh boy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you soooooooo much!!!!
it is fabulous to see people becoming conscious of CEN and
knowing there is healing and HELP

Kristen - April 25, 2021 Reply

I have never allowed myself to feel. I didn’t realize what an issue it was until I met my husband and had kids. Now I want to get past it, but I don’t know how to make progress. Any suggestions on how to make progress on feeling emotions?

    Sabrina - April 27, 2021 Reply

    Kristen,
    I have had the same issue and also didn’t realize it. It’s a coping mechanism where you just bury your feelings and tell yourself you’re fine, nothing is a big deal, etc. What I have found helpful is Jonice’s word list, which you can find on her website or in the book. It has MANY words to describe feelings and she suggests you look at them and think about what you’re feeling and try to identify the feeling specifically. I myself often just chalk things up to ‘I’m annoyed’ or ‘I’m crabby’ rather than thinking any further because I’m not used to digging that far into my feelings. I even had to look some of them up because I simply just ALWAYS say I’m annoyed and then move on with my day. I’ve been working on this and it takes practice but it does help. You also have to really think about WHY you are having that feeling. & It doesn’t have to be put blame anywhere, but just where is the feeling coming from? That itself can be a huge help.
    Check out her site for the word list and there’s also a sheet you can print out that has you check your feelings 3 times a day. Stop and think and find a word on the list to describe how you feel -even if it’s good/happy. Just get in tune with yourself. Don’t be worried if it seems difficult at first. It gets a little easier the more you do it. Like I said, I even had to look up some words, which is pretty sad, but when your bury your feelings your whole life, how can you know what all there is to feel!
    Sabrina

Heather - April 25, 2021 Reply

I have tried so hard to be emotionally connected with my son… mainly by doing the opposite of what my emotionally neglectful mother did when I was young. That said, my son is almost old enough to go to college and begin to live independently, but I have made little progress connecting to myself. I am super proud of my son, but I feel frightened about the future without the day to day mothering role that I’ve become accustomed to.

Nimia - April 25, 2021 Reply

Jonice,
I will be always grateful to you, for all your work, you have put in words all the things I did not know how to express.
I have read your books and I am in your program. Please can you print your books in Spanish and I can give them to my siblings?

    Jonice - April 26, 2021 Reply

    Dear Nimia, I would love to have my books in Spanish! But the only way it can happen is a Spanish language publisher would need to work with my publisher, Morgan James. Thank you for using my work so well.

Anonymous - April 25, 2021 Reply

Raised by a mother who fit category 2, then she married a category 3 when I was 10. The first 10 years I had learned to disassociate from my body. I was made to feel ashamed of my body when I had my first mensural, my mother gave me up for adoption at birth but I was not accepted for adoption because i looked mixed race black/white, in the early 60’s mixed race was highly discouraged. So after 3 months my mother brought me home. I hadn’t had the natural infant mother bonding.

My mother was chronically depressed with her own set of issues. She married a narcissist who was brutal in his raising of me and I was told everyday that I don’t appreciate “how nice I have it.”

I was raped at 13, and made to tell my mother everything which she in turn called the boys parents bc she had run ins when she was a you g adult with the boys dad. There was history there and my mom made sure I knew what her history was. She wasn’t so much protecting me as she was exacting some revenge on the boys father. My mother pushed me for details, details I didn’t want to think about but she wouldn’t let up. She yelled at me and slapped across the face several times until it old her everything. Then her husband called me a tramp because I “let” the rape happen and how I was no soiled for any good man.

I was devastated, ashamed and humiliated by the two people who claimed to love me.

At 14 I was placed into a lockdown treatment center because I started drinking. By this time I had figured out how to use sexy to get what I wanted, a false sense of being cared for and I confused that with love. If I only laid down with a boy he would fall in love with me and take care of me. What a warped thought process.

By the time I turned 15 I had gone down to the local Planned parenthood and got birth control pills on my own.

Right before I turned 16 I was placed into a foster home. I was just too much to deal with and was getting in the way of my mothers new family.

By the time I turned 17 I was actively trying to find ways to live on my own, enter what became my husband who is a narcissist with sociopathic tendencies. Further moving me into the emotional abyss.

I always wished I could have a close loving relationship with my mother but she only wanted to be sure I was controlled and knew my place. She didn’t want to have to deal with the possibility I would have to move back in.

I hated myself for my feeling of guilt and shame of my feelings toward my mother. However, she was not able to emotionally or intellectually be a mother in any capacity at any stage of our relationship. It’s as if I was a walking talking reminder of her life mistakes.

She has since died – I felt a sense of relief but my bothe and his father tried to make me feel shame for not attending her funeral. She had decided 5 years prior that she never wanted to see me over a made up story to cover her own failings. I learned that through a misdialed call with a conversation I heard on my voicemail. In her own words, I never want to see her again.

It’s not like we had a great relationship, she was always trying to point out my failings when I was a child and then as an adult. The father I never met she told me he died a terrible death because he was a bad bad man. She told this to me during Mother’s Day brunch in a crowded restaurant where the people next to us heard the entire conversation.

My coping mechanism has always been the same, I take flight out of my body, I view the situation as if watching a play.

These are just but a few of the dysfunctional episodes that riddle my life.

I never felt safe with my own mother, or the man she can married.

5 years of intense therapy for ptsd has helped but I don’t think I will ever live a fully loved life. Too many other heartaches fill me.

Lydia - April 25, 2021 Reply

Thanks for this website. I broke up with my birth family several years ago, and I still have a fear that I did the wrong thing. But I was the only one searching for answers. And I was never validated about my feelings, ever.
I don’t know anyone else who is experiencing this, so there’s no one I can talk with. There is such a huge hole and I’m not sure I can fill it. Maybe with time.

    Lyndsie - April 25, 2021 Reply

    Hi Lydia,
    You are not alone! I have gone through the exact same thing. It’s been a few years for me too and the first year or so I kept researching, and looking for other people who had gone no-contact from their birth families, and I couldn’t find anyone or anything. So I’m very grateful that there is now a forum to connect with each other! I know what you mean about the huge hole… even though I have my extended family and in-laws, there is still a void, or hole, that I don’t know will ever be filled. 🙁 And I struggle all the time with whether or not I did the right thing. I completely understand that feeling. Everyone says I did, that I didn’t have a choice based on the way things played out, but it still just doesn’t feel natural, ya know? And I still have nightmares… which is rough. I’m trying to do more self-care… what about you? Do you have anything that has worked for you? Let me know if you’d like to connect further. It helps to know you’re not alone in this! I hope you have a good support network too. Stay strong! You’ve got this!
    Hugs,

    Alex - April 26, 2021 Reply

    Lydia, I really feel you on this. I have basically done the same (breaking up with my birth family). It is not a clean break, in that sometimes I find myself going back to them even when, for the sake of my overall well-being, I probably should not. But I do also believe that going ‘no contact’ as much as possible is essential. No matter how kindly or politely I try to bring up the problems in our family (the problems that consistently hurt everyone, even now, but yet CAN be changed), everyone else just shuts the conversation down. No one wants to communicate and make things better. It(‘s like it’s just easier for everyone to stay in that miserable, despairing state, rather than talk about it and heal. It’s a trauma passed down through our family, I think.

    Anyway, when you really love them at the same time, going no contact to protect yourself really feels like the worst thing in the world. A huge hole, as you said. I don’t know what the solution is, and I don’t know if the pain can ever be healed. But I did want to let you know that you’re not alone. Thank you for sharing your story here, because it helps me to also feel that I’m not alone and not the only one experiencing this kind of heartbreak. 🙁

    Diana - April 27, 2021 Reply

    Hi Lydia,
    My father was the only reason left for us being a family and now he has passed. During his 2 1/2 year illness my sisters turned my father against me. Both of the are abusive and my father would never step in to protect me. Needless to say after his death I’ve gone no contact with them all. There are days I feel so alone, without a family support system however my father’s last years proved that it was always just an illusion. I so much understand that hole you feel. I hope you can find what you need outside your family. For me God has always shown himself faithful and I know he will always lift me up. But the hole remains and it can be devastating at times.

SM - April 25, 2021 Reply

Hi! I really appreciate reading everyone’s experiences. I realized I was emotionally neglected as a child in the past year I have realized it’s been something that I’ve always felt but never found anyone to put it in writing. Both parents were workaholics with abandonment issues so they each raised me with the tools that they had at the time. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough and while I don’t blame them, I hold a lot of sadness, grief, and pain that I am working through with my therapist along with Dr Webb books! Thsnk you

zeeky - April 25, 2021 Reply

Hi Dr Jonice, I’ve recently after much work started to recognize different emotions and be able to slowly turn things around.
I’ve recognized guilt as a very prevalent emotion that is something I just learn how to overcome. Is there a specific book you recommend for guilt?
what about shame as well. that would be really helpful.
Thank you so much your doing a wonderful job and its really appreciated (I read both your books, their great)

zeeky - April 25, 2021 Reply

Hi Dr Jonice, I’ve recently after much work started to recognize different emotions and be able to slowly turn things around.
I’ve recognized guilt as a very prevalent emotion that is something I just learn how to overcome. Is there a specific book you recommend for guilt?
what about shame as well. that would be really helpful.
Thank you so much your doing a wonderful job and its really appreciated (I read both your books)

    anonymous - April 26, 2021 Reply

    Brene Brown has written several books that address shame and guilt, particularly the book “I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t)”

    MJ - April 26, 2021 Reply

    Brene Brown has some really great books on shame!

Anonymous - April 25, 2021 Reply

I don’t recall ever having a strong bond with my mom. My mother was nearly 40 years old when she gave birth to me. I was an only child.
When people asked me about her, I used to say she was “elegant and mysterious; raised in Germany by her two aunties when her parents died.”
After learning about CEN I realize she Me in fact have been depressed and would periodically be in turmoil about going back to Europe, but not being able to leave me. I remember as a child feeling surprised that she actually loved me had feelings of love towards me, but the bigger message was that she wanted to go home—her home— and I was somehow holding her back. Emotionally, she wasn’t available.
She was there in the background but we never had conversations like people do today and she rarely held or embraced me. English was her third language. She died when I was 13.

Today, my own daughter is 30 and recently told me how frustrated she is with my communication style and lack of emotional support.

I’m sure this is CEN, coloring my emotional availability for my own child. Sometimes I feel desperately trapped within myself not knowing what to do, but I’m learning to express my emotions more and more. I know that I’ve grown in the last year, thanks to your books and website, Jonice.

AnonymousK - April 25, 2021 Reply

I seem to be nearly completely disconnected from my emotions except shame and guilt. Raised by a single parent with severe mental illness and suicidal behaviors it was just too much to feel. If I felt and showed sadness it seemed to make her happy but didn’t change anything, so sadness led to more sadness, but a sadness that was exceptionally painful. So I turned it off intentionally.
And for part of my childhood there was a physically abusive stepdad in the picture and showing any anger or talking back (why do I need a jacket? I’m not cold?) got you spanked and thrown across the room. So, no anger either.

Hurt is an emotion way too deep and painful, and there’s no fixing anything in my family, so better not feel that either.

But guilt and shame…those are about ME being wrong! I can have those feelings, heck I can even try harder to be a better and better person! Those are powerful emotions! In fact, my automatic reaction to anything sad or hurtful is to immediately remind myself what an awful person I am so I can focus on that instead of sadness or anger. It’s a very powerful bait and switch I pull on myself.

Anyway, I finally realized I needed to be in therapy. It’s been a long long process but starting with learning to notice my body reactions (oh my arms feel tight, or my legs are in a fighting stance, or I feel like puking) was my jumping off point to starting to notice and feel emotions.

Then my eyes started watering sometimes. I wouldn’t feel sad but I learned to tell myself “well my eyes are watering so I must feel sad even though I don’t FEEL sad. Now I’m starting to feel sad when my eyes water, just a little, and I even had a teardrop the other day in therapy.

Just wanted people to know it can take a long time to start to reconnect emotions but it is possible and actually rewarding and exciting to feel things.

Thanks Jonice for your newsletters, books, and work to show people how important emotions are.

vel - April 25, 2021 Reply

To share in case it helps someone. I was a smart kid (reading at a 6th grade level in kindergarten), and then assumed to be an “adult” kid. So, I was expected to act like an adult when it came to emotions. I was the oldest of two, my brother being good looking, and typical. I also had a younger niece. Guess who got the caring.

I was also very sensitive and made fun of for that. So, taking a lesson from Mr. Spock, I learned to repress my emotions and not to need anything. I got my emotional support from the farm cats. A feral child? Yep, in some ways.

So, now I need to repair myself, and consider myself important. Happily, I have a husband to help me do that. Alas, my last therapist got pregnant, had a child and dropped off the face of the earth. Nothing like having a feeling of more rejection in favor of another child.

But I’m moving, slowly, but moving.

Adina - April 25, 2021 Reply

I love my parents and I am grateful for everything that they have given me, but something is missing. Whatever I’ve achieved, it feels like it will never be enough to please them. For all intents and concerns, I am a financially and emotionally stable functioning adult. But as much as on the outside it feels complete, on the inside, I still feel empty.

Based on what I have read in Dr. Webb’s books, I believe that my parents are both CEN. I cannot entirely blame my grandparents, as they parented as best they could. But I look at the emotional damage that CEN has caused for two generations and I understand why I have been in therapy as long as I have. I don’t know if it is nature or nurture, but I have a feeling that it is both.

Alex S - April 7, 2021 Reply

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

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

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

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

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

Coincidentally, I read a recent article in the New York Times that discussed complex grief, and I thought that you might find it interesting as well. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/05/well/family/grief-family-estrangement.html

Thanks,

Alex

    Jonice - April 9, 2021 Reply

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

    Anonymous - April 25, 2021 Reply

    Hopefully this shows up as a reply to Alex!

    Alex,

    I wanted to let you know that you aren’t alone in that. My mom was in the hospital recently and I thought she was going to die in there (alone too, due to COVID restrictions). I felt a little sad on an intellectual level. But one morning my sister called to tell me “good news, mom is not dying.” I am not one to cry, even over devastatingly heartbreaking things. But I broke down and sobbed for days from sheer grief that it wasn’t over yet.

    It was painful to have people ask how she was doing and then tell me what great news it was that she was doing better. And since I think of myself as kind and loving, well that reaction I had is just real hard to integrate let alone share with anyone else. So, you’re not alone Alex.

    Judith - April 25, 2021 Reply

    Your comments resonated with me. When my mom died I did not expect the relief and freedom I experienced. I had to make sure I didn’t go into guilt as a result of it. I remind myself where my emotional intelligence has come from and that I didn’t have emotional mentoring growing up. It’s not a guilt thing. It’s a reality thing. That has helped me through this process. I’m glad you are already processing this and preparing for the inevitable.

    Sandra - April 25, 2021 Reply

    Dear Alex,
    Thank you for sharing and for your honesty. Both of my parents died of cancer when I was in my late 20’s. Up until that time, I had already been grieving, not for what happened to me as a child — rather what did not happen. When my parents died, so did the hope I had of our relationship ever being what I hoped it could one day be. I felt a sense of relief with the death of my parents partly because their continued neglect (my Mom’s selfishness and my Dad’s addiction) could no longer hurt me. I am now grieving for my child self and what she went through and am giving her the love and care my parent’s did not and were not able to. I wish you all the best on your healing path!

asha - March 25, 2021 Reply

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

    Jonice - March 28, 2021 Reply

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

Jeff - March 24, 2021 Reply

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

    Jonice - March 24, 2021 Reply

    Done!

Linda - January 25, 2021 Reply

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

    Jonice - January 26, 2021 Reply

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

LC - January 23, 2021 Reply

Thank you Dr. Webb for bringing attention to CEN.

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

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

Maria - January 1, 2021 Reply

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

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

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

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

Anonymous - December 15, 2020 Reply

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

    Jonice - December 15, 2020 Reply

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

Time to Break the Pattern - November 20, 2020 Reply

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

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

    Jonice - November 22, 2020 Reply

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

anonymous - November 3, 2020 Reply

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

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