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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Paige - June 10, 2016 Reply

Dr. Webb,

First, thank you for your dedication to this subject. The continual stream of shared stories and your attention to them is, I think, a rarity. What caught me most by the description of CEN was that it is invisible until you finally have so much informationas an adult that you see the absence. I am going to open up here. Hopefully, it will not be too much. Feel free to moderate if what I jave to say is not quite relevant, or delves into topics too controversial.

I was adopted at about one month old. Everything I’ve read about adoption has showed that at that age, most adopted people grow up as normal as anyone else. I believed what my parents told me. If I was ever a questioning child, I don’t remember. My mother told me early about my adoption and began to ensure that my feelings about it would align to what she wanted me to feel about it — that it was irrelevant. I was completely hers. My mother was desperate for me to experience what she had missed for many reasons. Cliche, I know, but it’s what she told me, right after she told me that I walked late because she held me too much. Her control in other areas of her own life were minimal, or at least that’s what she believed. My mother believed herself to be easy to talk to, made everything easy for everyone. I believed this myself about her for many years as an adult.

My father worked, came home, ate, slept, and made sure that my mother and I had everything we needed, in a frugal, but thoughtful way. He could be very charming in company, but I heard hm and my mother talking after any social activity and heard the often judgemental thoughts they actually had about other people.

Both of them were hardworking. Both had lost their fathers early in their lives. In my father’s case, he began to earn and take care of his mother and brother at the age of 12. My mother, who was 4 when her father died, attached herself to her sister.

Many of those who have shared stories have very similar things to say about their upbringings. I was certainly not abused. My mother kept a very clean house, kept me very close, did not want me to learn to care for myself because (as she has said repeatedly), she wanted to keep me a baby as long as possible. The inevitable result though was that I was recognized as ‘immature’, first by teachers, then by my peers. My parents did the best they could, but they did not see me as a person who needed to find herself or needed to learn self-regulation, cleaning up after myself, learning how I felt about anything or expressing how I felt. They did not think of parenting itself as something to be learned or researched. I don’t think that was unusual for that time, but it was unusual next to my private school peers’ upbringings. I was told how I felt, and I repeated that when asked by anyone. People who asked me questions were at best perplexd by my answers and at worst, disgusted. Few tried to be helpful, or if they did, they were either completely kind and accepting, or snide and condescending.

My parents sent me to a private school that they could barely afford, I took dancing lessons I hated and piano lessons which were tolerable. However, practicing was forbidden as it was disruptive to the clean, quiet home.

Needless to say, this type of living made me frustrated as a child and I felt shallow compared to my peers, while always trying to blend. On the cusp of 18, I got pregnant and my father went crazy insisting that I abort. I fought only two weeks before my mother, her sister, my DOCTOR (don’t get me started), convinced me I had no other choice, it was insignificant, and my dad would kill himself if I didn’t do it. I believed that, regardless of what you might think. The combination of being an adopted person, ensured my whole life about how special that was, put me over an edge I can’t describe even now. My mother has apologized for her part, but, like everything else, apologizing after you got your way leaves me a bit cold. I understand it, but it undermined the very hard truth I had accepted against my nature on her behalf for so long. My trust of others has never recovered and I had no reason to have good behavior myself. The pain I’ve caused others, the times my cynicism has been reinforced, it was all tolerable until I recognized that I wasn’t young anymore. The slightly screwed up good person I might have become got disrupted and I can’t tell now what I am. Of course, this is the worst of it. My life has had happy, mediocre, and sad times like everyone. Bonding, however, is consistently hard.

So, I hope my story is relevant and adds something. Many stories that are shared in this thread ring true to my own experience. I was loved. I was not abused physically. But the lies I accepted undermined everything and I have felt lonely and betrayed, and silly for expecting anything else. As a result, my trust of everyone else has been damaged and my behavior never met my own standards to earn trust, therefore trust others, and therefore, love. Now, at 45, I am working on myself, with the support of my husband who after 20 years I think is starting to get it.

The descriptions of CEN have been the closest of any diagnoses that I’ve read to describe and possibly help me. I’ve found therapists to suggest actions that I’ve either already done, tried, and failed, or are just completely outlandish. Also, I cannot help but think about my therapists as extremely flawed individuals who are either judgemental or completely unfeeling.

Thank you, Dr. Webb. I appreciate your dedication. Wish I could find a CEN therapist in my area, covered by my insurance. Thanks for your time.

    August - June 14, 2016 Reply

    Either thank you for the teaching in enlightenment and the subject I married a lady who experienced six years of hidden sexual my station from the age of 9 and 15 yrs of age with her mom’s cousin and I learned something about victims: whoever’s close to a victim you’ll end up being a victim as well from their victimhood. It’s very strange because I believe the Lord showed me how it worked with her and you were right on the money far as helping me she experienced a very incredible feeling I guess but she had to hide it for six years she had to hide it in the man told her that she was married but she couldn’t say anything because she is 18 once you turn 15 she became wise to it and exposed it and her parents did as you said they didn’t do it right stuffed it he wants later came out of church and in the Holters knew it and they rejected her again because the embarrassment said that she was promiscuous six years later after experiencing the same thing hidden pleasure hidden sex I don’t know what to call it. I remain faithful with her for 16 years and she was so good at hiding sex that it turned into an absolute nightmare I talk to her about her drama she’s continually wanted her parents acceptance and I told her you don’t have to worry about that but you going to use your baby your stepdad to apologize for not being there more. This went on for 16 years and then one day she objected the children is in the morning or she is giving me a hug soon I love you and I’ll meet you at the park after your message meeting she’s gone 24 days devastated me and he ripped my heart out I miss my kids I missed her so badly she did only take my tools my kids she took my best friend. Well the sick thing about it all is the step father and the mother has hated me since day one because I did what they didn’t I comforted her I, but m.
    talked about it we got it out and spoke about it but they never liked me since day one. When I came time for her dad to finally apologize and four months of planning the planned out child abduction and credit destroying money embezzling and many more planned out sabotages that father and my ex-wife will you turn on the streets with $13 in my pocket do you mind if I use some this Information in a court hearin today

    Mary - October 22, 2016 Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. Sounds like we both have similar parents. They were good, hard-working parents, but emotionally our mothers were controlling, confusing, needy and insecure.

Brent - June 7, 2016 Reply

I would be wary about any or these seminars that promise miracles. I have been to all kinds of these things and spent a lot of money,and guess what,I am still the same. We want so desperately to get “fixed” and there are a slew of gurus out there making promises.

Suz - June 6, 2016 Reply

Chuck, I do agree that acceptance of what happened to us can help us move forward. I do agree that what happened can’t be reversed. I’m not sure how one coulee reverse it.

What I do think can happen is that we can still build lives worth living. I’ve come to realize that I’m just not someone who will feel very connected to other people. I dated someone who was very connected to his family since I craved parental connection.

I did intense therapy for several years and have gone to a program at OnSite outside Nashville. In my work, I built skills I needed to be healthier emotionally. I also found that my attractions to potential romantic interests changed. I went through a divorce while in therapy.

While the fellow with the close family connections was a decent guy, it didn’t fit ok other ways. I found someone else to whom I’ve developed a relationship I want to have. I also found a small group of friends from my OnSite experience. With this group of people, I can just be myself. It’s safe.

I don’t want my mother to change and now be all huggy, kissy, warm and wonderful. My father has been dead six years. Nothing will happen there.

In therapy I found my voice with practice. I’m ok with not being close to my family of origin. I wish it could have been different. It wasn’t. My fiancée is not a substitute for the family that I missed.

Sometimes, life just sucks.

    Chuck - June 8, 2016 Reply

    Insecure attachment or childhood emotional neglect, is a belief in separation. The only way to heal from this is to become mindful of it. I’m beginning to see it in non dualistic terms. It really never happened. My life, worth, and self- esteem have always been external issues outside of myself that is has given me all my fears and insecurities. By learning to examine my beliefs, I’ve found that I have given meaning to this life illusion by misperceiving my own truth in a way that’s (false)or incorrect. By understanding the meaning to what is true, I’m finding more wholeness. I’m in my own reality and not alone at all. We are a spiritual being first, having a human experience. No one person or circumstance will ever define me again.

Chuck - June 6, 2016 Reply

Why don’t we all just accept that the damage to our emotional selves is non negotiable. The hurt, shame, anger, despair are reactions to the intensity of living in a sick environment for years. The neural pathways of our brains have been on overload by the need to be in a constant fight or flight moment. No one really understand us or why we have difficulty loving or feeling, and lack a sense of belonging. A desire to belong just does not exist for me. No one really wants to be your friend genuinely. They only want something from you, and offer nothing in return. Believe me I’ve tried to get help for myself. I’ve tried doing it there way. Without any positive results. Certain aspects of our core selves for example the abuse, trauma, neglect will impact us all of our lives. It is not reversible.

Jean - June 4, 2016 Reply

I am 56 and I have always known that I didn’t feel the same emotions as everyone else but I thought it was just another aspect of me not being “good enough” so I hid it and pretended that life was fine. Life really isn’t fine and I would very much like to come in from the cold now please and have what I know other people have – friends, family, love and acceptance. I come from a very dysfunctional family – 7 children mum and dad. Mum never wanted to be with Dad and she certainly never wanted 7 children. She used to tell us in a very emotionless way the methods she tried to get rid of the last 3 of us (my elder sister, my younger brother and myself)We never had enough of anything; physical or emotional. My parents were not cruel they were just grown ups who lived in the same house as us and I never blamed them for their attitude – It was just the way it was. I have tried really hard but I cannot remember a single hug or word of affection or encouragement from either of them. I remember I so desperately wanted Mum to notice me; to single me out from all the rest and I tried so hard to make her proud of me but I might as well have been invisible. Yes we had some presents at Christmas and went away for a summer holiday most years but as for day to day living, we were totally independent at a very early age. You wanted clean clothes? There was the sink; you washed them yourself. You wanted blankets for bed? Don’t be silly! You went to bed fully clothed or crawled in with one of your sisters if they would let you or found coats or something and learned to crochet so you could make your own blanket in time. You looked after yourself any way you could and you survived. Simple. And now roll forward to present day and I am the most independent person I know. I have no faith in anyone else’s ability so I just do everything myself and I survive. I am on my second marriage and if I am not careful that will go the same way as the first. Materially I have everything that I need but I don’t have any real friends and I don’t think I would be able to trust that their friendship was genuine even if I could find some. I have a morbid fear of social gatherings because I just don’t know how to act at them. I just feel empty, left out and never ever good enough. I have read the book Running on Empty so now at least I have a label. First step forward I suppose. First of many I hope.

    Cheryl - June 7, 2016 Reply

    My heart breaks for you Jean. I know what it’s like to be one of the younger ones in a large family- mine was even larger then yours. I also felt unwanted, and my parents just too tired to care one way or the other. As long as I was quiet and didn’t make trouble, that was all I did… the big message was “you don’t matter”, yet expectations were high to be good and successful in life because we did receive a good education. Somehow, that doesn’t work later in life. If you don’t expect good treatment, you probably won’t get it, and that’s been a long life lesson. What else did I know? You too. Don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault!

Darin - May 26, 2016 Reply

I first encountered Dr. Webb’s work listening to a podcast, on my way from my parents place to my home state, where I recently lost my job. It resonated extremely deeply with me. I always felt terrible for being depressed and somewhat disfunctional given that I came from a home where my parents loved me and provided for me. In the past year or so all of the memories have flooded back, and it’s pretty much destroyed my life. (I will rebuild it.)

Today I sent my parents a letter letting them know what I’ve been dealing with, and what the source is, and asking for their help. It was 6 pages long and included various examples of neglect. I don’t want to blame them, I don’t want their guilt. But I need them to understand that a reason I needed their help is because I’ve learned to never ask for anything and that my needs didn’t matter. It’s crazy how I look back after processing some of this and the neglectg is so obvious…but I know theyre both going to have had no idea.

I dunno why I wrote this hear, but it’s nice to know that you’re not alone, and that your issues come from somewhere external.

    Adam Coombs - June 12, 2016 Reply

    Darin – I am glad you wrote what you did. It is courageous of you to write a letter to your parents! I also was programmed that ‘my needs don’t matter’ and your experience resonated with me – especially your last line. I is nice to know we are note alone – and we are a product of our childhood, but not trapped if we can process it! All the best. Adam.

Sherry - May 16, 2016 Reply

I was emotionally neglected by both my mother and father. My mother was more physically available but I found out at the age of 30 that she was addicted to prescription medication throughout my entire childhood. My father was living at home but was rarely home due to working and enjoying his many hobbies. I have a question: How might neglect from a mother affect a daughter compared to how neglect from a father would affect a daughter?

Bonnie - May 11, 2016 Reply

I will be 70 in a few months and have been dealing with this all my life. Although my story is not as sad as the many I have read, I still have the symptoms of CEN. My parents provided for my needs and did love me but at an early age, I knew something was wrong. I have been in and out of therapy most of my life but could never figure out what was wrong. I had some symptoms of abuse and other childhood trauma but was never abused or traumatized. I have always thought I had to do everything by myself and never knew what I was really good at. And I have always had difficulty in relationships, especially with men. I seem to pick those who are unavailable either emotionally, those who were just nuts or someone who was married. Although I have never had a physical affair with a married man, I had some sort of flirting affair which I can’t really explain. All my life, I have had very low self esteem. I never thought I was smart or good at anything. I struggled with so much.
I read in one of Dr. Webb’s blogs that when some people with this problem get angry, they can have a temper tantrum like a two year old. My mother dealt with anger in that way. It was just so mortifying and so irrational. She had a miserable childhood and never was responded to emotionally and just passed it on. Now I pretty much know what happened and why. I am hoping I can over come some of these issues before I die. I am so grateful to know why I have felt this way for so long. Thank you, Dr. Webb, for bringing CEN to light. It will help a lot of people.

    Dorothy - May 14, 2016 Reply

    Bonnie, I am 70 and dealing with my childhood issues also. Thank God we are never too old to try. Unfortunately, my siblings say they are “too old to change”. It’s sad. We didn’t bond due to our upbringing. They are like acquaintances to me. I’d like it to be different, but I’m afraid at this stage of my life it will not be. I’m learning to just accept them where they are. We all felt we had to take care of ourselves because no one else would. Sad.

    Ashley - May 18, 2016 Reply

    I never knew I had anger issues until my ex-husband told me i was full of rage. Twelve years later and 3 therapists later I am better. BUT this book was like a revelation! I still felt CRAZY and beat myself up about EVERYTHING. I have a 12 year old daughter and am so grateful to have the tools to not pass this on to her. THANK YOU DR WEBB

    Penny - June 3, 2016 Reply

    I’m 50 and your story sounds like mine. My mother said I should go to,therapy which I have over the years and it has helped. But after I told her that some of my depression and relationship issues were because of emotional neglect and how others were affected, she asked if I was taking my medication, another time she suggested perhaps I was gay and she had talked to a gay friend who would help me. I’m neither. She and my father who would much rather we all (there are 9 of us) would just go away, would much rather I was crazy than take any responsibility. I’ve been off anti depressants for two,years and haven’t talked to them much at all for two years. It has been painful but also I feel stronger than I had for,years. I finally had a serious relationship and, even though he was emotionally unavailable and I broke it off, I’m proud of my progress. know she and some of my siblings say I’m crazy or depressed, but I just want little contact since they constantly lie and I’m scapegoated, especially if I say no. I feel angry that I have missed out on so much, but I am slowly cutting out friends who,use me and am now saying no to extra tasks at work. It’s hard, it’s terribly lonely, but I’d much rather be on my own than be taken for granted and used as an option rather than a choice, and I refuse to spend the rest of my life being made to feel grateful that they even allowed me into the family. I feel for you and was so happy to read your story. Thank you.

Jim - May 11, 2016 Reply

My mother died when I was a year old and my father sent me off to live with his sister and her husband “temporarily” while he “got back on his feet”. And no this is not a misprint, I lived with them until I was 23 except for a period of 2 years when she threw me out because I started to speak up for myself after 18 or so years of keeping my mouth shut and “not making waves” and I couldn’t take it any more. I ended up living with my father for those two years and I really got to know how much I disliked him. I resented the fact that he was uninterested in raising his own child and that despite my aunt telling him to “find that kid another place to live”, repeatedly for a period of many YEARS knowing that I was emotionally and sometimes physically abused, he did nothing to help me out. I believe he was a very depressed individual to begin with and he had no ability for responsibility. SO I had 3 “parents” but none of them were very useful. After a time my aunt resented me being there and my uncle was always a cold fish. My father through his depression always stated that he was ready to die, which I found incredibly selfish knowing full well that I was stuck between a rock and a hard place with no ability to do anything about my situation. But I continued to be passive because I was threatened with “going to the Orphans Home” and the like…. When you’re a kid you don’t know what to believe and so I didn’t make waves… I kept to myself and was lonely and miserable at home. Since that time my father has mercifully died and my aunt and uncle and I have come to an understanding, and we have long since reconciled.. We have a good relationship now but they are in their late 80’s. And both have come to realize that many things they did were wrong… They didn’t believe me when they said my father was miserable depressed and uncooperative They just saw me as an ungrateful child. I was anything but, but I also lacked the basic things I needed. But they believe that that is all in the past… While this maybe true, it still haunts and affects me in many ways to this day… I am unable to really do what I need to do for myself… My relationships have all deteriorated and I spend most of my time alone and miserable. I have never really gotten over the fact that I never knew my mother and resent the fact that my father did everything in his power to prevent me from learning anything about her. I was 19 yrs old before I saw a picture of her and I had to go through my fathers stuff and steal the only picture that exists of she and I in the same photo. I feel so defeated. I have gone to college for several degrees but I have never found a satisfying and rewarding career. My father sent me to college but the college of his choice was a business school and I am the least business oriented person whoever lived. It took me 6 1/2 years to get a 4 year degree, (with a 1.86 GPA and after that was unrewarding I went back to school 3 ore times to get a degree in something else but never fund anything great even though my GPA was above a 3.5. The bottom line is that I am lost, and alone I have virtually no friends or family… And I’ve been on some variant of an antidepressant for over 20 years and am in therapy twice a week for over 8 years now. I have tried many therapists and I wonder if there is anything at all that can be done to get me out of the rut I’ve been in since birth. I see Dr Phil sending people away for treatment and I sort of wish that I could have the same and straighten my ass out. I’m 55, and this shit has gone on far too long. And the thing that really bugs me is that when I was a kid I requested some form of therapy to straighten things out but it was refused… “Only crazy people see psychiatrists”. So what the hell do I do? There literally is no one to rely on.

    Suz - May 11, 2016 Reply

    Jim, that’s a rough way to grow up. It’s never too late to get help.

    There are a couple of kinds of folks who can help: psychiatrists and therapists. They’re not the same thing. Psychiatrists can prescribe prescriptions as the are medical doctors. Practicing therapists have PhD or MS and cannot prescribe meds.

    There are a variety of therapists, just like there are us people. You might try googling “therapist” + “your city” to get a list of therapists in your area. Read their bios. They’ll usually share what they specialize in. You may have a list of therapists who are in network with your health insurance. That can sometimes save you money as providers “in network” have negotiated fees with your insurance.

    Pick one, then set up an intro appointment. This is an opportunity for you to see if feel that you can work with the therapist. You can even find a check list of questions to ask the therapist in that visit. If you feel you can work with the therapist, then schedule your next visit! If not, then try the next one on your list.

    When I was looking for a therapist, I didn’t want a therapist who would use the bible or have me read religious stuff or “pray to god” to fix myself. I’m not religious. That was important for me. I asked those questions of the therapist I actually chose to work with.

    If you broke your arm, you’d go to the emergency room. If you’re having trouble with the past intruding on your life, then working with someone to manage through it is like going to the emergency room for a broken arm. I called my therapist my coach. With a lot of people working with career coaches or life coaches these days, calling your therapist your “coach” can make it easier to swallow it. Like “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. Basically, it reframes it. Seeing the therapist as a coach can help you do the work, too.

    A therapist is a guide. Honestly, I don’t think “crazy people” go to therapists. I think it’s too bad that the impression still exists. I think it takes courage to ask for help.

    “A journey of a thousand steps begins with a single step.” ~Lao Tzu

      Penny - June 3, 2016 Reply

      Hi jim. Try looking at Ross Rosenberg and Lisa Romano’s websites on Narcissistic abuse. They also have really good tools and explain Dr Webbs another way. Many of us had/have narrcacist parents. I reasilsed there is a huge difference between having children and wanting children. I believe many parents have them because that’s what you should do. But if they were honest, they never really wanted children. Also, you can be in the same house but have a different home. Your siblings often won’t or don’t want to understand your place in the family.

    Karen - June 6, 2016 Reply

    I, too have had an emotional neglected childhood up until now at the age of 55, it continues….
    I found a program that helped me. It saved my life, as I was slowly killing myself by starving and dehydrating myself. I ended up with heart disease from it. My wonderful husband, picked my ass up (literally) and put me in the car and drove me to a 2 1/2 day leadership AWAKENING PROGRAM. There is absolutlely no other program out there like this one! It is amazing. CHANGED MY LIFE! I am happy now! Happy! All those feelings, of guilt, and failure, and feeling unwanted etc etc.are all gone! GONE! This was SEVEN years ago, and I am still fine. Two and a half days to change your life. It’s a touch class. You will want to leave. Desperately want to leave. BUT DO NOT LEAVE. Just give 100% of yourself in there, and TRUST THE PROCESS. Trust the process. Go check it out. It can’t hurt, just save your life and make you feel great, because your head will get pulled out of your ass and set you straight on YOUR path. Your passion, purpose, commitment, goals, will be going on the right path. If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. So get on the road you want and GO FORWARD and don’t look back anymore. Good luck to you. and Go take the class, I promise you, you will not be disappointed. Now, go live your life like it matters, because it does.

Henry - May 2, 2016 Reply

I took the questionnaire and I answered Yes to 20 out of 22 (and didn’t have to deliberate on any of them). YIKES!

But it all makes sense. I only started delving into any of this since my parents passed away. I am in my 50s currently. My mom passed 2 years ago and my dad 4 years ago. When each of them passed away, I went through a somewhat deep introspection about why I didn’t feel particularly sad at their passing but relieved. I didn’t have any particular fond memories of time spent with either of them. Then I went through a phase of depression and some anger around a single question, “Why didn’t they ever want to spend time with me?” Then feelings of emptiness and worthlessness began flooding in and I remembered how those feelings had dominated my childhood. And I felt like something in me was broken, as in not working. Like a critical part of a machine was missing. I was like a zombie for a few weeks after each of them died.

But the weird thing is, they were VERY GOOD people. Everyone who knew them liked them. Just salt of the earth “good people”, well respected and admired in our home town. No one could say a bad thing about them. In all my childhood they never had an argument. Never said an unkind word to each other. We always had our material needs taken care of. We weren’t rich, but we never had a sense of not having enough. They were Ward and June Cleaver. So how could they have not been good parents?

I could probably write 20 pages right now about feeling disconnected since my earliest memories. Self-medicating through my teen years. Unable to find any solid direction in life (although the things I was passionate about were pushed back and considered impractical and unobtainable). I could sum up my life to date as “Unrealized Potential”. I have 3 older brothers and we never talk. I’ll get a call on my birthday from them but beyond that, there is zero communication. Like no one really cares to know what I’m doing. They communicate with each other much more than with me. It was always like that because they are all closer in age to each other. We don’t have a “bad” relationship, like someone is offended. We just don’t have a relationship, at least not one that you would typify as “family”.

Even right now as I am processing some of this, I feel like some kind of drug is taking effect. I am not sure what to do next. I have a great wife that I can talk to about it. It was actually from her processing issues with her mother that got me thinking about any of this again.

    Stephanie - May 11, 2016 Reply

    Wow, I just discovered this website and this concept, and your story definitely resonates with me. My parents weren’t abusive, narcisstic, substance abusers, any of that…they are very good people, with friends and careers and have been married to each other for almost 50 years. But emotion was just not something that was ever expressed in my home. They never argued or even raised their voices with one another (at least, not in front of me). But they never really showed much love and affection for one another, and their affection for me dwindled as I got older. We stopped saying “I love you” some time in my teen years, and I can probably count on one hand the number of times we’ve hugged each other in the past decade. My father is very analytical and all decisions must be made and justified according to facts. I had no idea how strange this upbringing was until many years later, when I went to therapy for the first time during my divorce from my first husband. I’m still trying to figure out how to overcome the results of this upbringing with my children and my second husband.

    Karen - June 6, 2016 Reply

    i know what you mean, i had 22 out of 22. Yikes!

Rebecca - April 28, 2016 Reply

My parents have a disregard for my feelings and lack of value for me as an individual. It was this way growing up, and still is today at age 45. Growing up my mom used to tell me “I might not like you, but I’ll always love you.” I was a shy kid, which she did not like and after we moved when I was 10 years old, I had a hard time making new friends. When she would see me inside the house playing alone, she would tell me “You are a zero… all you do is sit around all day … no wonder nobody wants to be your friend.” This went on routinely until one day I told her she was making me feel bad about myself and I asked her why she felt it was OK to do that to me. She paused and looked at me stunned, then walked away. She stopped saying those things for a few weeks, but eventually the same dialog returned and I just learned to stay away from her.
I was elated when I went away to college and physically got away. I felt like emotional chains had finally been removed. Only seeing her for small amounts of time prevented situations that would trigger destructive dialog. A few years ago I mentioned how I felt to my sister and asked her if she had ever experienced anything similar. She said she had not and said she thought I was being cruel to our mother. I asked her to keep our discussion confidential, but she eventually told our mother everything I had confided. I then felt my sister had betrayed me, and that my mother had been given a new reason to “dislike” me again. I know you cannot change people. I have distanced them all from my life.

marten - April 25, 2016 Reply

I took the questionnaire and answered yes to 21 of 22, so i took it again to really sit with each question and again 21 of 22. And as i sat with each question memories would float through my mind, things i haven’t thought of for years, yet through all those years i have always been isolated from everyone and everything to the point of suicidal thoughts more times then i care to count. But sometimes it’s putting a label on what i have been experiencing and knowing that i’m not alone in this hell on earth. So thank you everyone for opening up in this forum and letting a hurt little boy who grew up alone know there is a better life waiting

    Brent - April 26, 2016 Reply

    Me to. Isolated all the time. Working construction for years tucked away on a site with not much human contact and then go home to an empty house and medicate. Last year I started a service to clean moss and debris from roofs in the north west. Jobs are erratic and I could make more money sticking with construction,but this new endeavour has brought me in contact with a whole lot more people and has challenged me as well. It feels good when a happy customer hands me a cheque and boosts my confidence a bit. It ain’t easy,but there are small rewards.
    I think a lot of us are good at things because we were always trying harder to get that pat on the back (which never came). Perhaps putting ones skills out to a broader market will bring some appreciation. Not from all,but those small crumbs sure taste good.

      Peter - April 28, 2016 Reply

      Dear Marten and Brent

      Neither of you know me, and I don’t know you. My name is Peter. I was deeply touched by what you both wrote. I did the questionnaire for myself and got 2 out of 22. Yes that’s right, 2. I do not have CEN. I was very fortunate to grow up in a family where they cared and they showed it. I wish I could give comfort and peace to you guys. I’m 42 and have two kids of my own (teenagers). I pour out my love, affirmation and acceptance on them both every day. I hug them and tell that I love them and nothing they can ever do will stop that. I wish you 2 could have had what I had. I did nothing to deserve it, there is nothing particularly good or bad about me. I guess my folks just had what it took and knew how to give it. What I can say is I bet you are both awesome people who are really special. The world is a much better place because you are both in it. I can’t bear the thought you are suffering ‘hell on earth’ and I want you to be OK. At least someone somewhere is thinking good thoughts about you; I am, even if you are not. And you know what? Nothing is going to stop me thinking good thoughts about you. From Peter x

        Christy - May 3, 2016 Reply

        your words and concern are very touching. I wish all parents were more like you

          Peter Walker - May 28, 2016 Reply

          Bless you Christy from Peter

        Mattie - May 12, 2016 Reply

        Peter, I just wanted you to know that your reply has shown me what loving parenting is supposed to look like. It is something I never had, although I always knew it was missing. Thank you for this lovely post. It is helping me in my journey.

          Peter - May 28, 2016 Reply

          My pleasure Mattie. I hope you find peace. From Peter

Chuck - April 22, 2016 Reply

I just want to say… that I’m 66 years old and still dealing with the emptiness of CEN. I’m close to no one and seem to attract other people with similar issues. Therefore, making connection with others extremely difficult. Forgiveness is also difficult for me simply because my life has been very unfulfilled and unrewarding. My destructive narcissistic mother never loved me and used me to meet her narcissistic supply. She was also emotionally unavailable, self absorbed, and used emotional blackmail on me, when ever she had the chance to do so. I was the adult in the family and had learned to care take and rescue and people please others without ever questioning my own needs. Development arrests exists in me and has stunted my emotional growth. I don’t think any amount of therapy or counseling can ever reverse it. Knowing this leaves me hopeless. She, my mother has taken the wind from my sails and I still carry the anger with all the repressed emotions. They don’t serve me at all. The joke is trying to get the right kind of professional help. Medicare always pays for in most situations, people who are general in there practice, but not specific enough to deal with the real underlying issues. Can any of you relate to me?

    Vanessa - April 23, 2016 Reply

    Hi Chuck
    Yes i can relate to you and how you feel 100% although my situation differs that feeling of hopelessness and having relationships with the wrong kind of people is my life . I am 51 and have come to conclude that i will always be alone and i say that without looking for sympathy its the way it is

    Anonymous - May 1, 2016 Reply

    This is my story too! I am 62 years old, and also had a self-centered, controlling mother. She bullied my father, her mother, my husband, my friends, me, … and loved the spotlight. She told me that she was glad that she only had one child, because any more would have made her too nervous. I felt like I was the cause of all of her tension headaches and back troubles. Whenever I was brave enough to undertake a new adventure, she rushed in to form her network and take ownership and credit. I could go on and on. I have felt like damaged goods, and have contemplated “the worst” several times. Thankfully, after a considerable amount of therapy (none of which addressed the real problem), endlessly scrutinizing my beliefs/religion, desperately reading anything that looked remotely helpful, medicating, etc., it is all starting to make sense. It seems like science and ancient beliefs are finally converging, and there is scientific proof of how our childhood programming went awry and left us with a zero sum. I have just signed up for Dr. Webb’s Fuel Up for Life program, and I am beginning to feel the ice melting away. My husband and I, after nearly 40 years, are moving into what feels like a grown-up, healthy relationship. I am testing out the practice of validating others, and it is coming back to me in “truth and purity”. I would never have dreamed this possible. Every human being cries out for compassion, and I’m finding that the amazing thing is that when you try to meet someone right where they are, without judgement…if you can shed your hurt for even a moment, they meet you back. Smiles and hugs have so much more power than I have ever allowed. I don’t know you, but then again, I do. We all do. We’re in this together. I’m sending out hope to you. Take it. Own it. And when you’re ready to share, beware…the sun is really bright on the other side. 🙂

ach - April 22, 2016 Reply

Hi All

It’s great to actually read about people who feel the same way!
I have two questions, that I would really appreciate your experiences with.
Firstly-how do you say “No” when others ask for help; I’m always being asked for help, and I feel terrible saying no-but I can’t do everything, and I never seem to get round to doing things for me or really having a break-as there are other more important
Secondly-how do you motivate yourself to really look after yourselves? I live and work overseas, and I know if I saw someone else living as I do I would feel bad-but as it’s only me, it does’nt matter and I don’t care…but I don’t know if it can go on this way as it can be so tiring…

Francis McKenna - April 5, 2016 Reply

Hi Melanie

I do understand exactly where you are coming from. My mom and other caregivers just saw to physical needs thinking that if I was housed fed and clothed that was all that was necessary and that the emotional needs simply did not matter. And at the end my mom became physically abusive as a result of which her dad had to send me to be raised from the age of 13 by my godmother. But unfortunately the harm was done by then in that I and left emotional numb permanently independent of whether I feel good or bad. And I can only relate to people by willed rapport.
I think you are right explaining how you have been affected to your mom would not achieve anything. The only thing that would is following the methods in the book and perhaps good therapy for this. I really hope and pray everything will improve for you and you will eventually have good relationships. Take care. God bless and best wishes from your friend Francis.

Dharma - April 4, 2016 Reply

Hi, I recently read Running on Empty and found it really resonated with me. I have been going to therapy for a few years, and my therapist has talked to me about aspects of myself that are on the autism spectrum. After researching ASD I found I could relate to a some of the symptoms, like social anxiety, feeling different to other people, and difficulty expressing negative feelings or explaining what I was feeling. But there were also aspects of ASD that I felt didn’t match how I felt, one being that I have strong empathy, if anything I am overly sensitive to other people’s feelings. So I ended up a little confused if I was on the autism spectrum or not.
When I read Running on Empty I felt like so much of what you described was how I felt. Since my teenage years I’ve had strong feelings of emptiness, never ask for help, much harder on myself than others, feelings that there’s something wrong with me and blame myself for that, hid my real self, have difficulty nurturing, and difficulty being aware of and expressing “negative” emotions.
Do you think there is a cross-over between ASD and childhood emotional neglect? Because I feel with me rather than being a developmental disorder like ASD, my issues stem from childhood emotion neglect. I can pin point times from my childhood where my negative emotions were not validated, and where I never got to learn or help with important emotional difficulties.
I feel this book has helped me find something which I have been hiding from myself for a long time, my emotions. I realise that it’s not a coincidence that my feelings of emptiness and search for meaning started in my teenage years when I began to really try to repress any strong negative emotions. I’m uneasy using the word “Soul”, but I think that is where my emotions come from, and now I am becoming more and more aware of my emotions, I am feeling less spiritually empty. For years I have had difficulty turning off, and just relaxing, as the rational side of my brain would fill the void left by my emotions with almost torturous chatter. But now that my emotional side is filling that void I am telling the rational side that it’s ok, it can relinquish control. I think it will be a long time before I am where I’d like to be, but I’m going in the right direction, and I thank you for that.

    rachel - April 20, 2016 Reply

    Hi, the lack of empathy in autistic people is a myth. In fact many autistic people are more empathic, they just struggle to show this in ways that non-autistic people recognise. Many autistic people also say they hide their feelings of empathy because in the past it has been met with negativity, so they hide their feelings so they don’t get hurt. I’d go back and look into ASD with this in mind.

    Anonymous - May 1, 2016 Reply

    Hi Dharma, as an educator, I have to tell you that all of the evidence I’ve seen coming our way is supporting the significance of early mother-child bonding, as well as the validation and wise teaching of parents. I have seen it in the classroom every day for the past 23 years. I suspect that those of us in our generation are in a unique position to bear witness to the destruction of “our souls”. It took an angry, extended rant (God bless my husband for sitting with me through that), railing against my parents (long since deceased), against the culture of broken marriages, prejudice, scientific devaluation via labeling, dogmatic religions, etc., etc., before I was able to release it all. But that wasn’t possible until I had learned what I now know to be true. Our most basic need, other than probably food and water, is to feel part of this love, compassion, validation, and belonging. It affects us down to our DNA. We are only at the tip of the iceberg of discovering how amazingly we are all connected. Dr. Webb is onto something big, and it seems to be THE BIG. It is starting to resonate all around us. Our parents have fallen as victims to some pretty erroneous thinking, so part of forgiving them is also separating from their beliefs and their own trauma. It’s a WOW moment…that separation. Have you seen the TED talk, “Stroke of Genius”? Yes! We can get better! It’s up to us–we who have the stories to tell. It is up to us to get better–and to make it better for those who come after us.

    Josie - May 24, 2016 Reply

    Hey Dharma,

    Have you ever read about highly sensitive people?

      Dharma - June 29, 2016 Reply

      Hi Josie,
      No I hadn’t heart about HSP. And I’ve now read the book and feel it fits me so well. Thank you so much for this. I feel the book was written about me. It’s now helping me to see that parts of myself that I’ve always seen as negative, have positives, and to just be easier on myself.

        Cheryl - July 4, 2016 Reply

        There is a good podcast about HSPs, I like it….

        Josie - July 14, 2016 Reply

        Hey Dharma,

        It feels so good to know that my comment helped you, thank you for letting me know! (you writing this back totally made my day!) I recognized a lot in your story but I was reluctant to comment. But I’m glad that I did. Good luck with everything 🙂

Christine - March 17, 2016 Reply

Hi Dr. Webb,
I was wondering if you happen to know of any resources for more complicated versions of CEN?

I’m looking for resources for those of us who have CEN due not only to a depressed mother, but this was exacerbated by the father being in the military, often absent for long periods of time due to their work, and the family having to pick up and move every 2-3 years.

I’m also wondering how PTSD later in life is affected by CEN, and if CEN causes a person to be more susceptible to PTSD stemming from vicarious trauma?

I know these are quite specific situations, but any help or resources you or anybody else may know of is much appreciated.

Thank you!

    Kent - April 10, 2016 Reply

    Wow, that resonates with me. My father was in Navy and gone most of time . Mother was emotionally abused and abandoned by her father. My mother did not know how to be loving and I grew up with no love or support. I wonder why I have problems expressing my emotions and overreacting to problems.


      Christine - April 11, 2016 Reply

      Hi Kent, It’s nice to find someone else in the same sort of situation. I’m actually in the process of trying to find resources for people who grew up in the type of situation we did. I even tried contacting the DOD, but no real help except to refer me to other sources that might be able to help. You’d think that the DOD would offer services or resources for those of us who grew up with a parent in the military. When I think of it in a certain way, it’s as if we kind of served our country in our way, as well. Of course, it’s nothing like being on active duty in Iraq or anything like that, but we still sacrificed a lot ourselves.
      Anyway, I’ll try and remember to post anything I find that might help in our specific situation. And if you find anything, please share, too! 🙂

      Kent - April 13, 2016 Reply

      I am glad to hear sadly that others suffer from such things. I have been trying to figure why I overreact to certain things.I haven’t read the book yet as I have only just now discovered it.My mother was sent with her sister to a girls home n she was 9 because her mom died . Father remarried had daughter and that’s when new mom sent girls to the home.No wonder mom was so hard core. Had no sympathy for anyone.

    Suz - April 11, 2016 Reply

    Christine, are you working with a therapist? Finding one with whom you can open up to and work with can be helpful. One who specializes in PTSD can be helpful. Each situation is unique regarding the trauma and how we process it as an individual. This is why 2 kids in the same family will often have different perspectives on what happened to them.

    Emotional neglect is a real thing. It took me a long time to understand that while I didn’t sport bruises or other markers of violence, I was emotionally hurt from my “nice family”.

    I have a different view of the old children’s saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.’ Right. NOT.

    A therapist with PTSD experience can be helpful.

    Sherry Dennis - April 20, 2016 Reply

    I can’t believe I’m reading this. I have a very similar situation. My father was in the military. My mother showed no affection to me and seemed to always punish me in a form of shame. She did not hug. I remember one time when I almost drowned to death in a canoe accident when I was 12, I actually saw her cry and she hugged me. That was the first time I thought that maybe she did have feelings for me. When my dad was home from tour, she was extremely jealous of any time my father spent with me, even to the point of staying in the room so my father and I couldn’t have any private father/daughter time. I scored 19 on the CEN test.

      A. Y. - May 28, 2016 Reply

      Sherry, you just described my family. I have all the symptoms of CEN. An eye opener to me and I’ve been in therapy for 46 years.

Susan Harkema - March 11, 2016 Reply

Hello Dr. Webb: I’ve found your book and site very helpful. As a 45-year-old emotionally neglected child of an 83-year old emotionally neglected child who is my father, I would love to hear about how to care for my adult father who lives with me now. I am his caregiver and find his behavior very difficult to deal with well. I left home at age 21 and now it’s like having my childhood in my face every day. I try to let the criticism roll off my back, but as an adult it’s hard to know how best to have boundaries, combat the self-talk that reinforces his negativity and preserve myself. Thank you.

PS. I would love to cover this on my blog as well.

    K - March 13, 2016 Reply

    I just took your test and scored 19… explains so much…

      NobodySpecial - April 4, 2016 Reply

      I am in a very similar situation. Left home at 18 and now have 90 year old mother living with me. I am 59 Have no connection with her on any meaningful level at all. However it does provide a sense of duty but would love to have someone around to connect with. A lonely life but for my dogs.

        Justhere - April 11, 2016 Reply

        I would like to know as well.

        Cheryl - April 26, 2016 Reply

        I’m in a similar situation. I feel like I’m married to my mother and constantly wonder how I let this happen. CEN helps to explain it. Wish I’d heard of it earlier in my life.

Sarah - March 3, 2016 Reply

Walls…what stronghold is that? Emotions…what torrents lied within me? My life had been a series of walls–endless locks and keys, to which only I had access to…but for some, the doors had rusted and the keys, hidden, had been lost along the way. Things were full of dichotomy. Memories something to be forgotten, love something to be given but not received. Relationships only for them and me remaining in my castle. My fears unknown, sometimes even to my self. Sometimes I would cry looking into the mirror, asking of myself what did I truly want–what were my desires, my hopes, and my dreams for life? But most things–whether actions or words had been done and said only for the comfort or pleasure of the other person. I had lost myself burying it deep–deeply and unconsciously. As a child I came from a split family. Some of my other siblings were only half siblings, though I loved them dearly. One by one, engulfed by their hopelessness of the situation–the time for arguing had passed and they left..slamming the door behind them. My mother who so many times had tried to shake off the dust, eventually succumb once again to the comfort that food supposedly offers and that strong drink that would surely heal her own deep wounds and insecurities–she was left staring wide eyed, deeply at the bottom of every bottle. My father had a heart attack when I was but fourteen, he was stabilized then the worst happened. A nightmare no child should endure. I still remember my mother calling me from the hospital at three in the morning. She told me calmly that someone should drive me and my sister over as soon as possible….I have to come to say goodbye.
My father thankfully recovered, but was diagnosed with a disease that eats away at ones heart, we later found out he also had it in his brain. Over the next few years they both went through series of depressions and my mother went to school and work full time. Leaving my sister and I to deal with everything–emotionally and physically in taking care of the house and ourselves.
My sister finally left the house to go to college, leaving me in the death of silence. My parents and I were like three strangers in one house. I not only had no person to go to or rely on, but I had to care for two other people.

When I finally went away to a good caring college, I did not know the meaning of having fun, to truly laugh–I was completely numb. How else could I have dealt with seven years of words with no meaning, hugs with no feeling, and an “I” without a self. I was blinded that my parents even had issues, that children werent supposed to take care of both parents at so young and have no love and support in return.I had been so used to people not listening, people not caring that when people actually did I was surprised and did not believe it was for real.

After two years away from home and having good,patient, and supportive friends and seeing how my parents became self destructive through no dealing with there problems I pushed myself even further and higher to work on myself and gain a stronger sense of self. I have heard of so many stories, terrible and heart wrenching. So many times I wish to be there for those people, to truly listen and hold their hand. To make them feel and know that even though their life at the moment is difficult you always have a choice. That you might feel like your life is falling apart, but you have to tap into the strength within you–its there. Everyone has a past, and it always has an effect—either you can let it define you or you can choose to it to build you. The fight is never over—either we are quarreling with others or ourselves. There is too much hatred in the world not to love at all costs–but not when the price comes to the expense of our own life. One must learn to turn resentment into understanding, and survival into truly living. Life goes on, and we must focus to do what is right no matter the personal loss or gain—it is our duty to do so—to utilize our every breathe to bettering the lives around us, whether it be our own or another’s. Moments are for living, not for passing. Time is not vent murderous intentions, killing its precious moments, but is rather to embrace life itself and to utilize it parsimoniously. Life is not for tranquility, it is for individuality. It is not for self but for others. It is not to have good, but to find the good in everything. If you truly live a moment you live a lifetime–its your life–it is your choice–live.

    karen - June 6, 2016 Reply

    Your words were beautiful. You should write a book. You are good at expressing yourself with words.

Jessica - March 3, 2016 Reply

Hi Dr Webb

Bought the audio version of your book. Im desperately trying to find the worksheet to download. Can you please or any one point me in the right direction.


    Jonice Webb - March 6, 2016 Reply

    Hi Jessica,
    Go to THE BOOK page of my website and there are three large purple links on it. They take you to the downloads.
    Take care!

Francis McKenna - March 3, 2016 Reply

Hi Jill

Like you I suffered emotional neglect growing up. I am now 72 and I am incapable of feeling positive emotion for anyone or anything. This is a direct result of emotional neglect and receiving no love. My mother was mainly responsible for this. But I have forgiven her not because she deserved forgiveness partly because I am a Christian and also because I realize that holding onto angry feelings against her would block healing and poison my system. No we do not forgive perpetrators because they deserve it but so that we can free ourselves from the toxic poison of hating them. You have done such a wonderful job loving your own kids. All credit to you for that! Take care. God bless and best wishes from your friend Francis

    Kent - April 13, 2016 Reply

    Thanks for your story.
    The only good thing to come from my upbringing is to know that I would not repeat the things that were done to me. My former wife and I shared similar stories. We decided e would not repeat the abuse we received on our children. No physical or mental abuse upon our children. They are 35 and 37 now and the kind of people so good that others complimented me raising such amazing sons.

Jill - March 2, 2016 Reply

Hello; In reading your book, my main emotion bubbling up, is sadness. I am fighting tears as I turn each page. I wonder if this is where I’m stuck… I feel sadness (self-pity?) for myself and anger towards my parents. Their faces just remain stuck in my head as I read the pages, and I can’t seem to get past that.

I had my own children (they are now in their early 20’s and doing great) and as they grew up I began dealing with major anger towards my parents, as I regarded my children with so much love and importance, why didn’t my parents have those same feelings and make those choices, for me?? I became furious and I guess I haven’t gotten past that point so I can start to heal myself. I made it my mission to provide my children what I did not receive, and I think I did pretty well; at least, I feel good about what I did as a mother and the relationship I have with both kids. I consider that a significant step in healing, and in breaking a pattern, but I still have overwhelming feelings of this self-pity that I would really like to break free from.

One solution I strongly consider is to break off completely from my parents at this late stage. Many of the same things I endured as a child still exist today and it still throws me off, touching many sensitive triggers.

It seems like I’m doing ok, I’m pretty highly functioning, but it feels like a daily struggle.

Thank You

    Nancy - March 2, 2016 Reply

    I can identify completely with your struggle. I’m struggling to heal my inner child.
    I blocked my emotions for so long, when them come up, I try to turn them off. I’m told in order to heal, I have to feel and express my anger, in order to get to forgiveness. It’s not easy but I know I have to let go. I cannot carry this pain much longer.
    I wish you everything good in your healing process.

    Joanna - March 27, 2016 Reply

    Hello, I got on the internet looking for advice concerning, How to cope when your daughters, 2 out of three, hate you because they say they have been hurt in the past by things I have said in the past.(arguments we had that we talked through and I thought we had moved on.)
    I suffered through CEN with my Military father and my mother whom is from another country.In her country she grew up barefooted and dirty but they maintained their dignity through helping others less fortunate and keeping up an image of social hierarchy. I am presenting these details only to get an understanding of the background. My grandmother was a saint who fed and sheltered the homeless on the island. My mother was the youngest of seven girls and 2 bothers after her. She often told stories of how jealous she was that her mom paid attention to strangers and not her. How her sisters hated taking care of her(bathing and brushing her long hair) because her mother was always helping others.She became one to look out for only herself and did not know how to be nurturing. The phrase I heard a lot as a child was, you’re a kid, You don’t need that. I was determined NOT to be that parent. I married a man just like my dad, military, strict and self absorbed. I did not attended college because I was so involved in my children and family. There was no time, in my head, I would have been selfish to take that from them. I thought. I was The Best mother. I cannot describe in words my outlandish,bursting forth, wave, of a need to be there for, provide for at all cost, make them feel loved and accepted by their mom. I protected them from the harshness of their Dad.( he has problems with kleptomania and has been arrested several times.
    Now, they hate me. My 23 year old(graduated college, living out of town) just said she never wants me in her life and when I ask why she says,That I wont admit that I said hateful things to her. I’m a talker, I always have to talk out feeling, respectfully. We had 1 argument(Before her 1st and only boyfriend at 21, I was her best friend)about me trying to convince her to buy a lesser car out right instead of making large payments. We talked through it, I thought, and we both were angry by words the other said but I moved on and have found out months later that she was pretending to be okay with it. I try, as so many people have said, wait, she will get over it, she is a child. Just wait. In the meantime my second child(19 and away in college) has also gotten angry that 2 years ago in the midst of divorcing and money woes and college tuition and buying used cars, I said out loud. Why did I ever have 3 three girls? She told her boyfriend and now he hates me too.(I never new she was mad, she was pretending to be okay, I just found this out Friday Mar 25,2016) My youngest 15 yrs is here at home listening to all this and has decided I am controlling and say mean things. Despite the fact that this home revolves around her needs and wants. It doesn’t help that my ex is in Egypt. Has not raised the girls since 2009(7 yrs)
    I’m 50 yrs old. I’m in school to learn a career,I work the remaining time in the day, struggle to get my third daughter where she wants to go and the things she wants. Just so I can support my dwindling family.
    I feel my 1st daughter Has Bi-Polar behavioral disorder. But then I feel like I’m only blaming her and I have some part in it but then I feel really strong about how I worked so hard to be a conscientious mother. Because of my husbands mental struggles(kleptomania) I feel this plays a part in it. My first and third daughter are just like their dad. Loners, don’t like to be touched, self centered. But then my middle daughter is just like me, very sensitive therefore aware of others feelings, very eager to please, outgoing, never met a stranger.
    Please, someone, give me feedback. Even if it is harsh. I will take in the critic, try to see what I have done wrong. I’m really at the end.
    Please forgive that this was so lengthy.

Lynn - February 27, 2016 Reply

I’m a woman who grew up emotionally neglected – thankfully I found Dr. Webb’s book awhile ago and it has guided me in my own self-growth and healing. I’ve reached a point where I don’t feel that individual therapy has more to offer me (in a good way) – but feel that I would really benefit from a support group of other adults dealing with the issues surrounding CEN. I wonder if there is a way to find such groups or find a therapist willing to start one – or perhaps the whole issue is still not well enough known or understood? thoughts?

    Jill - March 2, 2016 Reply

    Hi Lynn; I would be interested in this as well.

    Francis McKenna - March 3, 2016 Reply

    Hi Lynn

    A few of us who are victims of childhood emotional neglect have set up an ongoing Yahoo support group for this. If you would like to join please email me on God bless and best wishes from your friend Francis McKenna

      Jonice Webb - March 6, 2016 Reply

      I think the idea of a support group is great! I can’t participate regularly but would like to perhaps check in on occasion. Dr. Webb

      Lynn - March 8, 2016 Reply

      Appreciate the ability to share in an online group. I accepted the invite for the Yahoo group, but for some reason, I am not able to read or post in the group.

      Also for those who might be interested in group discussion using Facebook, I am willing to set up and moderate a group there – and would designate it as a secret group so that any discussion is held private and is not searchable. Feel free to send me a private email, if interested. Thank you.

        Carol - March 20, 2016 Reply

        I would certainly be interested in joining a group…either yahoo or FB. Please post information here is a group is established. Thanks so much!

    Lucinda - March 3, 2016 Reply

    I’ve been looking for a support group too!

    Sandra - March 18, 2016 Reply

    I come from a family who endured extreme abuse. My sanity and ability to move through life is secured in a learned skill where I choose my path. It is not founded in the blaming of others including abusive parents for whom I have become. Although I still have issues with trust I work at it every day. Sometimes I succeed and other times not. I do know that my world is mounded by what I choose. I am important and I no longer give the power to others to influence how I feel about or react to my life and those around me.

anonymous - February 14, 2016 Reply

I appreciate Dr. Webb’s research on Childhood Emotional Neglect immensely. My journey to discovering my struggles and trying to work through them has been greatly enhanced by her information.

    Francis - February 24, 2016 Reply

    Hi Jonice

    There is one effect of childhood emotional neglect. You may not know about. That is emotional deprivation disorder identified by Dr. Conrad Baars in the 1980s. It basically means the impossibility of being able to feel anything for anyone or anything which is what I suffer from. Very often, as in my case, it leads to depression and anxiety. The answer that was found by Dr. Baars was affirmation therapy. Basically giving the client. The love that he did not receive growing up. All of the symptoms of this disorder are listed on Dr. Baars website. I am now 72 and still dealing with the effects of this disorder. Among other things, it is found to delay cognitive development, something I experienced an increase in my late 60s, when depression and anxiety, had eased up a bit. You are sincerely Francis McKenna

Jim - January 29, 2016 Reply

I noticed that the extensive feeling list ends with the “S”s and wonder if part of it might be missing.

    KU_mom - January 31, 2016 Reply

    My daughter has been struggling with the pain of a very bad breakup for a year now. Prior to that we hot along fine..sometimes we has arguments but for the most part I thought were close. Right after the breakup she began talking about how I never really cared about her, ignored her and never made her feel loved.I was shocked and tried to tell her she was wrong. A therapist we met with twice believe a that she is suffering from Childhood Emotional Neglect. The same therapist met with her alone at the next visit and my daughter now refuses to go back to her or anyone else because it is too painful. She does not feel that it is fair that she has to go through this.. She wants me to fix it, to make her feel that she matters and loved, to help her get the life back with her old boyfriend. I cannot find àny information anywhere on what a parent can do to help their child with CEN.

      Jonice Webb - January 31, 2016 Reply

      Hi please watch for my next week’s blog on It will be about how to mend a relationship with an adult child in a CEN family. It’s wonderful that you’re so motivated to connect with your daughter! Don’t give up.

        n.g. - February 7, 2016 Reply

        I have a question I’d love you to answer or blog about Dr. Webb! How do you know when to move away from your parents to get well? I’m in my mid 40’s and moved to be near my parents as they are in their late 80’s now and it seemed like I was “supposed” to do that to be a good daughter. It was when I moved back and I was back in the CEN environment that traumatized me in the first place that I began to be able to see the CEN and it’s effects and after spiraling downward and my life getting worse before now, thankfully, getting better. Your book was instrumental in helping me make sense of so much that felt like trying to see something straight in a fun house mirror! I’m at the point where I’m realizing the full effect of the CEN and am hurt, angry and resentful and balancing that with living near them and having to make any time to care for their needs feels like I’m caught in a guilt cycle. They seem to think I was raised in a vacuum and all my problems are my fault because they are perfect and provided everything and I had so much. So, how do you know when maybe you need to get away to get some healthy distance to be able to be in a healthier relationship with your parents?

      Francis McKenna - March 3, 2016 Reply

      Hi Ku-mom

      I am not sure how to fix this. But perhaps having an open friendly discussion with your daughter might be a start. You could ask her to tell you in what way she felt unloved ignored and uncared for. And if there is any truth in what she says expressing regret for these things would be helpful. Also you could suggest that both of you have a new start in your relationship. With regard to the boyfriend if she could explain to you what went wrong perhaps that would be fixable. However if he did not want to continue with the relationship nothing more could be done. Take care. God bless and best wishes from your friend Francis

Shelly - January 10, 2016 Reply

I just ordered your book after ‘thinking’ about it since last October after reading your posts at PsychCentral. This CEN has to be the answer to my craziness that has been me since my childhood. My first and only attempt at suicide happened at 11 after swallowing a bunch of my mother’s supplements or something like that. Nothing happened of course! To this day, I have no idea what they were. My father was an alcoholic who mentally abused my mother. I saw one instance of physical abuse when he threw shoes at all of us, mom and me and my sister. We ended up walking the streets of L.A. looking for a woman’s shelter to sleep for the night. I remember sitting at a bus bench for quite awhile and then sneaking back in when my dad was passed out. My mother was an instigator though. I never saw any affection between my parents, or heard them say I love you to each other or to us. They both came from broken homes with alcoholism. Both of my grandfathers died from alcoholism. Fast forward to now at 51 years of age who is contemplating suicide and spiraling down fast. My daughter who is 20, almost 21, has a boyfriend, school, and friends who have her attention. Due to a mutual ‘break’ from Me, she is spending a couple weeks at a friends house and communicating when it’s important. I don’t want to lose her. The way I’m acting though, it’s a sure bet I may. My dad was a quiet man. Us kids never knew if he was mad or what. We walked on egg shells most of the time. When I had my daughter, I was determined to raise her differently than I was. Her father whom I divorced, was a drinker who did it somewhere else because I wouldn’t allow it in the house. I was/am a control freak so he stayed away. It takes a lot to say I’m a control freak. I think this thing with my daughter is another control freak thing with me. The crazy thing is that my entire life I kept my distance from control freaks. I ended friendships over that. I’m quiet and introverted and felt people saw that and took advantage. Now I’m thinking there was something else at play. And another thing, after my divorce, my daughter and I moved back in with my dad. I noticed I was still walking on eggshells even when I was in my 30s! I have a feeling he used to yell at us as kids when we made too much noise. I think it’s because of him that I’ve grown to be extra sensitive to everything like perceived insults and threats. Needless to say, I talk to myself about what I’m really hearing and that’s helped me stay at my job for 4 years.

So I’ve ordered your book, I am looking for a therapist and trying to make amends to my daughter. I’m trying to tell her I Love You but it’s hard to put it into words. Also trying to give her space to become the adult she wants to be. I realize at her age she needs an identity and to find her own way in life. I’m trying to let go.

    Karen - June 6, 2016 Reply

    You will find that the more times that you SAY “I LOVE YOU” and do it with a GOOD STRONG HUG. No back patting. BOTH arms, tightly around her, and hang on until SHE wants it to stop. DO IT.
    I am begging you to do it and do it every single time you see her AND when you leave. It will get easier for you each time, and it means SOOOOOO much. Please believe me, when I say it means so much. I had to do this with my MOTHER. She NEVER said it or hugged me. I wanted that. So I HAD TO DO IT. Now, she comes up and hugs me before I can hug her. It’s very nice, and I am crying while I read your statement and crying while I write mine.
    Your daughter needs to live her own life, and you need to let go. Damn it’s hard. I am doing it with my daughter. YOU WILL lose her if you don’t let go. Don’t critize her, just be supportive and LOVE HER. Also, if you guys text, text her everyday with just a thought about her, like I am thinking about how much I really love you, or how much you mean to me, or just I love you. thinking about you, just wanted to say Hi, I love you so much. Stuff like that GOES A LONG WAY. I am 55 and would love for my mom to do that to me. I do it to my daughter and she does it to me. I took the CEN and USED it to know what NOT TO DO with MY children. I am a good mother, and did NOT learn that from mine. I learned it from what I wanted my parents to do, stuff I never got. I got a lot of material things, but never physical or verbal love, or encouragement or we’re proud of you. Nothing. So everyday, my kids got a huge does of love and appreciation and approval and praise from me.

criss - January 8, 2016 Reply

I am so confused and tired. I have been with my CEN partner for almost 10 years and want to end it. I am starting to get myself sorted out financially so I can take care of our 2 young children independently. He seems oblivious to this, but he seems oblivious to most things. The latest pain is from moving 3 hrs away to a community I’d never heard of so that he could accept a promotion. I also gave up a promotion I had been offered around the same time. I did this because it was supposed to be a substantial promotion and he told me I would be able to not work and stay home with our 3 year old. We’ve been here just over 6 months and there have been some positive things about moving but I would prefer not to be here. He recently decided that he’s not making enough money for me to stay home after all but instead of talking to me about it he decided to remove all the money from our joint account and tell me I had to get a job. We fought and he claimed he never told me that I wouldn’t have to work and that I was confused or misunderstood. Completely false. I got a part time job in the evenings but he says I still don’t make enough and he wants me to work full time and put our son in daycare cause that is what “everyone does” and he doesn’t think he should have to take care of our kids by himself while I work. I am also currently in graduate school to get a degree where I will finally have financial security and more options but it will take time to complete. He does not help watch the kids so I can study unless he feels like it and acts like I’m not in school at all.
His basic attitude is that nothing in my life has anything to do with him. I just found out by text earlier today that he removed the automatic deposits to the joint account that have been put in for years so I wouldn’t have access to that money. He didn’t even mention he was making this change. Then when he got home he just came in like nothing had happened at all…” so how was your day” no mention of anything. It’s crazy and painful.
I am confused because of my own childhood issues and so many years of this empty, twisted relationship. I am almost incapable of determining what is “normal” and trying to decipher my responsibility for our problems.
The worst part is that I am not allowed to have any reaction, emotions, or discussion about his actions (or lack thereof) or he completely shuts down and falls apart to the point he can’t function and the whole household is thrown into chaos and the entire episode is my fault for “provoking” him. So no matter how hard I try not to I ruminate constantly about how to help myself and trying to understand what is happening. I have been depressed for years and no longer recognize myself.
I have just recently recognized what is happening with him. He has been recommended by an eap to get emrd treatment for ptsd and he says he will but never does. I have given up hope that he has any interest in improving our relationship, lives, or himself. I keep reading about how I can’t blame him or hold him accountable but I have lost years of my life to this and he WILL NOT help himself/us.
I usually just avoid him then he is perplexed why I am unhappy.

    Jolie - February 5, 2016 Reply

    Hi Criss. I can relate to how bewildered you feel in your relationship. I just want to say that his taking control of the money is a big red flag. I am the CEN/BPD in my marriage and thought that our finances were secure, but they were being eradicated by my “normal” husband, who helped himself to our savings…all of which were my inheritance and our only retirement money. We are in our early 60s and he has now been unexpectedly unemployed for 14 weeks. I have not been able to work at a job in years, due to my emotional issues. So difficult! Anyway.. Just follow the money and put a lid on it, if you can!
    If you are lost in your relationship and he is not helping you out, it sounds like it might be time to cut your losses. Part of understanding the CEN person is recognizing what they are capable of. As he falls apart when questioned, does not remember important discussions, does not support you emotionally, or reliably help with the children, then perhaps his CEN makes him incapable of being a good husband and father. If this is the case, then it does no one any good to remain in this relationship, where he can only fail.

      Mandy - February 26, 2016 Reply

      This sounds like an abusive relationship Criss. I would recommend reading “Why does he do that?” by Lundy Bancroft.

    Karen - June 6, 2016 Reply

    If you really love him, and don’t want to leave him, send him to a two and a half day program that will change his life. He will come back a changed man, for the better! It saved my CEN life! Literally saved my life. Live your life like it matters, because it does. If you don’t really love him, find your money, put a lid on it, finish school, get your degree, and then take your kids and RUN. But, if you love him, send him. Make sure he stays there. It’s a tough class in the beginning, but you MUST TRUST the PROCESS. IT WORKS. THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS of people have gone to the program and every single one sends a letter of thanks to this man. Everyone. Been seven years for me, and I still get goosebumps thinking about the fire I have inside me now, burning with passion, desire, commitment, and a healthy love of life, and left there with the tools needed to make sure I can keep that fire going. When you are on fire, people come for miles just to watch you burn. I live my life with heart, body and soul, now. Left my past where it belongs, behind me, and now when I drive down the roads of life, I look straight ahead thru the windshield, and only glimpsing in the rear view mirror on occasion. Before that I drove 65 down the highway of life looking in the rear view mirror. Not anymore. Live your life like it matters, because it does. If you love him, send him. If not, run, because it WILL NOT get any better until HE WANTS it to. He has to WANT to make it better.

Suz - January 2, 2016 Reply

I agree. A therapeutic relationship is a relationship. Try another therapist until you find a decent fit.

One caveat is that we self-diagnose and can be very fused with the rightness of it. A therapist you can work with effectively will meet you where you are and will be helpful directing your work.

The therapist I recently worked with guided me to places I didn’t think I needed help on. Yet, he was actually right. I still did the work practicing new skills and working to let go of old ways that weren’t effective.

I don’t know what I don’t know.

This helped me when I felt stuck and afraid. I started seeing the bigger picture that I didn’t know existed until we shed light on it.

If the therapist your working with is dismissive then you may need to find someone else.

While my therapist didn’t share CEN with me, I found it in my own at the point when that relationship was coming to a stop spot. Interestingly, we covered most of it in therapy, just not as CEN. Be aware that if the therapist you’re working with is addressing your needs, that’s tge most important thing.

Some therapists are stuffy, know-it-alls. Just find someone who is a decent fit. Fit can change.

Walt N - December 15, 2015 Reply

Until discovering CEN and what it is, I’ve spent nearly all my 65 years wondering “what’s wrong with this picture”. I knew there was something wrong and it somehow related to my growing up in an emotionally distant family, though I never thought of this situation as any form of abuse let along anything bad was actually done to me. It all appeared perfectly normal. I’m the oldest of two siblings. Both my parents are authoritarian (still to this day) and were raised in authoritarian households. What my parents say is final (to them) and even now (in their eyes) I have no right expressing a dissenting opinion with them.

Showing or expressing any feeling was strongly disapproved, usually in the form of a scolding or being told my feelings are “mistaken”. No validation, no love, no approval of any kind. Can anyone imagine having a child, raising him, and being totally indifferent to their life for decades at a time? My parents don’t even know who I am. It’s hard to even talk about this as I’m tempted to feel as if I’m complaining and my complaints have no validity. You know what… what I’m saying is valid.

The most devastating part of what happened is going out into my adult life completely unprepared – for relationships, navigating the workplace and a career, interacting socially with others. I spent my entire life on the margins as a perpetual outsider looking in. I never felt part of anything. If I had any purpose in life it was completely unknown to me. I learned what I needed to know on my own, much of it the hard way. I functioned very successfully in life and never actually lived.

Until the last 2 years or so I got by with this and got along. Finally I retired and had time to sit back and reflect on the years I existed but never really lived. My father had a brief conversation with me when I was 46-47 years old, expressing disappointment that I had not produced any grandchildren. My sister (4 years younger than me) had two daughters and four divorces. You know what… I’m actually glad I never had kids. I spared them from what I experienced. More likely than not I would have done to those kids what my parents did with me and I would have never been aware of it. If CEN is passed from generation to generation, I put a stop to mine (thank you very much).

I became very motivated to transform my life two years ago. What got me going was raising the questions, “How can those around me have relationships and families? How can they experience love, compassion, validation and so on and for reason(s) unknown to me I never could? “. The answer is quite simple, I possess the ability to experience all those things despite the fact my ability remained hidden for 65 years, despite all that occurred in those years. Beneath my trauma lie resources yet to be discovered and put to use.

I actually found a purpose in life… to undo what happened to me. I can’t get back much of what I’ve missed in life but there are things I can still do and the determination to get them done. Most of all I want the relationship I never had, the emotions and feelings I’ve never experienced. I can envision myself having the time of my life being some lady’s “winning lottery ticket”. Doing this is not only about me, it’s touching others too.

As of now, my work has included taking on a life coach (starting a year ago), developing my spirituality (Christian and Buddhist) and just rolling up my sleeves. Having a life coach proved invaluable – being held accountable, discussing ideas and perspective (feminine point of view a huge asset). I haven’t considered counseling but would do so if a need exists. My discovery of CEN filled in a lot of blanks and confirmed much of what occurred in my childhood.

Understanding what happened in my childhood resolved a lot of questions and raised others. I’ve had to process feelings (mainly some form of anger) about what I experienced. My (Buddhist) Dharma teachings have been extremely valuable – anger creating harm (and little if any good) to others and myself. What I did with my anger is not to be confused with either forgiveness or “anger management”, I simply chose not to be angry as there are better things for me to do. Both my parents are alive (approaching 90) and living nearby. I haven’t confronted them or forgiven them. I have realized that both my parents went through the experiences I had. I’m not excusing or justifying them, I am recognizing what happened. I honestly don’t know if I will ever forgive my parents either before or after they are gone. Part of my own personal work could lead me in that direction and if so, so be it.

    Lynn - January 1, 2016 Reply


    I’m inspired by your story. Much of what you’ve written resonates deep within me and I have experienced those same feelings and used the same expressions myself, i.e. – feeling as if we should not express thoughts that could be considered as complaints, on the outside looking in.
    Several years ago, I went through a very difficult divorce that led me to working with a therapist and later, a life coach, but Buddhist thought has helped to save and heal me….but in the end it was all inner work.

    Best to you, fellow traveler on this path. Happy New Year.

    Tsui - January 10, 2016 Reply

    I am so glad to have found this website. The trigger for me to search online resource is that I am going for travelling and I tell my mum about it, she just refused (i am 30 and financially independent) and scold me and threaten me not to have any mother daughter relationship if I insist of going. It was a button pushed I know, I get so angry and I can feel rage coming out from my chest that has been accumulated over30 yrs. I can literally exploded when I hear this, I want to punch things, I want to throw the phone, I want to shout, I need to do things to vent that out of control anger. at the same time, I hate her so so so much. I wish she die she suffer.

    I remembered when I was young, she scold me, never appreciate me, I have never remembered a moment that I was being praised, all I remembered is that I am behind the peer, I am stupid than others, I am not lovable because I am stupid…..I have to absolutely obey her impulse thinking otherwise I got punished of ignorance for days and weeks with cold mean words. Those toxic words however all strangely entrench in my growing and unfortunately I have carried it with me still into my adulthood.

    I cannot regret my mum how she treated me and she even went away with other men and left me with a broken family, I had 5 tough yrs forcebly living with her boyfriend who mentally abused me. I still don’t understand why a woman can have so little compassion and love toward her child? A mother should be instinctively protect her child not hurt the child. What those bad parents want? Are they happy to see their child fail? Is it really hard for them to appreciate their child authentic feeling? Why?

    Now what this blog was saying confirm the feeling I have and I am one of those child with CEN. The only things I want is to accept myself and change as much as possible, not to like my mum.

    Laura - January 29, 2016 Reply

    Your story resonates with me. I’m 51 and both my sister and me did not have children. I have known all my life there was something seriously wrong with my family but never really put my finger on it. In my 20’s and 30’s I felt so incredibly low, depressed, disconnected from life and people. Incredibly low confidence, no belief in myself. I saw therapist after therapist. I spent a lot of money on therapists and of course had low paid work as I didn’t have confidence in myself to get a well paid job despite having a degree. I could never understand how others managed to make relationships and have children. I had the view that that was not meant for me though I wanted it I had no idea how to go about getting it. I always thought why am I like this? Always looking for answers. I was hard to understand why I felt so bad. I wasn’t physically or sexually abused although my grandfather wasn’t particularly wholesome in his attitude towards us but no one did or said anything to stop him. (Grandparents lived with us- four adults baring down on us) My mother died 3 years ago and my father is 93 with dementia and is virtually helpless. I have no feelings for him, just indifference. Just these last few years I’ve started to understand what has happened and stumbling across this website has finally put a name to it! When my mother died I thought that’s it I have to start living so I finally parted from a man I’d been with in my 40’s who had major mental health problems, anger and rage and I genuinely think borderline personality disorder. I have since met a lovely man and we live together in a beautiful little cottage. Its not perfect, nothing is but I am happy after all these years. I also work with dogs in a rescue centre and this is my passion. I came to this at the age of 47 so it’s hard but wonderful. Never give up! Life will get better, if you find a passion follow it!

      Alison - February 6, 2016 Reply

      I can so relate with what you have written. I am 41 years old and have felt a deep inner emptiness and an inability to enjoy life. I have had many low-paying jobs even though I have a college degree and I just earned another degree which I am not using at the moment. I have been through so many therapists who have not helped and am living in a guest house that is attached to my parents’ house. I moved to CA for 2 years and gained some independence but am still financially dependent on them now. I want this cycle to end! I am a Christian and am going to be going through something called The Exchange which I hope will help me. I have parted ways with 9 people in the past 2 years for various reasons and currently have 3 friends. I feel disconnected from the world and people in general. I went through alot of emotional neglect and a lack of structure when I was a child. I hope that things will drastically change before I turn 42 in October so that I can actually feel connected to other people, make more friends, eventually get married and have my own family and have some sort of meaningful career. I don’t think it’s too late for me at 41.

        Laura - February 11, 2016 Reply

        Hi Alison, it’s amazing that this site exists. It feels like there’s a community of people out there who understand. I send my best wishes to you.

      Vanessa - March 13, 2016 Reply

      Hi your story and age is similar to mine.
      I am 50 years old and in an eleven year relationship with what i think is a narcissist.
      I have an older sister . She was daddys girl. A brother. He was mummies boy. Then there was me. My mother used to hit me on the head and tell me she never wanted three children . That i was a mistake. She said girls were nothing but trouble so she cut my hair so short i looked like a boy.
      My father sexually abused my sister ….i dont know if he did it to me but i know that whenever he came near me or grab me my skin crawled and i tried to get away.
      Now at 50 i have a son who was brought up by his dad who did a wonderful job . My son so far doesnt want to know me. I couldnt cope being a mother and thankfully my marriage ended and my son went to live with his dad before the cycle of me inflicting CEN on him could take hold. He was just a baby.
      I live in australia . I have no family or friends. I am such an angry person no one can put up with me.
      I was a registered nurse for seventeen years but havent worked for eight years and since i left i have lost all purpose .
      My mother hasnt spoken to me for years . I dealt with the pain sort of i wrote to her and eventually sent her a letter still abusive and angry about how i felt but not as bad as the ones I had torn up.
      A therapist said i have borderline personality disorder.
      I have been suicidal for most of my life and have had two serious attempts the others were just a cry for help.
      I feel like im in a bubble that I’m just watching everyone else live their lives. I am extremely dysfunctional a social phobic angry and used to be violent. Hopelessness is with me every day.
      I dont know what to do

        Laura - March 13, 2016 Reply

        Hi Vanessa, your situation sounds very painful. If you’re in a difficult relationship it must be even harder to deal with the CEN. Are you still seeing a therapist? It sounds like you need an outlet to express your feelings and get support. I send my best wishes to you,

          Vanessa - March 15, 2016 Reply

          Hi laura
          I want to rid myself of this emotional pain its going to be a long haul but if i want to be free of my old self then it has to be done. Does anyone knoe of a good therapist in perth australia or any groups …..i had a bad day the day i posted sort of brought back bad memories but today i feel stronger. It helps knowing there are others out there with similar feelings it helps.
          Thank you laura for recognising how i feel no one has ever done that before.

        Laura Parker - March 16, 2016 Reply

        Hi Vanessa, I sincerely hope you find the help you need. I too went through a bad time when I started thinking of the past after discovering this website. It has triggered many memories. My sister and me used to have conversations about the family and we couldn’t get to grips with what it was that had led us both to feel so bad. Now I feel I understand what it is and what caused it. I do hope you find a good therapist who understands what’s happened in your life and helps you to heal from it. The book Running on Empty is a good place to start. Good luck Vanessa.

Sharon - December 14, 2015 Reply

I just found this website, after attending a workshop today on trauma, getting “triggered,” and coming home to an empty house because my husband left today to travel for business. It’s been a bad evening. Dr. Webb, I will be ordering the kindle version of your book and look forward to reading it.

I have been a clinical psychologist for over 20 years, and am embarrassed to say that despite being a well respected psychotherapist for many years to other traumatized people and attending my own therapy off and on for over a decade, it has only been in the past few years that I have truly begun to understand the effects that childhood emotional neglect has had on me. I grew up in an intact, stable, middle class family. My parents never touched me beyond what was required for taking care of my physical needs when I was young. I was never told I was loved. If I was upset, I was told by my mother that I needed “an attitude adjustment.” My father, who was more emotionally sensitive, worked three jobs and often deferred to my mother in terms of parenting. The irony is that my mother was a high school guidance counselor, and prided herself on what a great job she did with the kids she helped. My parents always said they raised me and my brothers to be independent, and because I was so competent, driven, organized, mature, etc. they “stopped parenting” when I was about six. Unfortunately, that was true. They provided food, shelter, clothing and practical support, but otherwise I was on my own. My brothers and I were latch key kids. We were involved in church, and took family vacations. Outwardly everything seemed fine, and my mother always bragged about what a perfect family we had. I bought into her delusion until I was in my twenties and began to understand not only how much nurturing I did not receive, but the enormous impact it had on me. I have emotional “flashbacks,” triggered in the context of intimate relationships, in which I am completely overwhelmed and either rage at my husband or withdraw and feel completely unable to cope. The overwhelming feeling at these times is that I am an inconsolable two year old, which I know is the reality of my childhood. My mother talks about what a “difficult child” I was because I cried all the time, and she speaks with pride about the fact that she knew she needed to “not let me win” our battles. She is still alive and thinks we have a perfectly normal relationship despite the fact that I never call her, she never calls me, and I only see her at family gatherings in which there are enough buffers present to protect me from having to talk to her for any length of time.

I stopped providing outpatient therapy five years ago because I no longer felt I was being helpful to my clients. I have too much of my own work to do. I am not sure, though, whether I will ever feel free of the enormous damage that I believe is biological and hard wired. All I can do is keep working on healing, like everyone else who is experiencing the impact of well-intentioned parents who had no idea how much they were hurting their children.

Michael - December 13, 2015 Reply

I read running on empty a little over two years ago and have read it twice more since. It was a revelation for me in shedding light on a childhood I accepted as normal when it clearly was not. Your book helped me to finally identify why I felt, behaved and believed as I did and for that alone I am grateful to you.

I am still struggling with cleaning up the damage and residual pain from my childhood. I am still very much battling the pull-push monster that was created back then. It still controls my life.

How do I find a solution to this fear of abandonment and the desire for intimacy that tears any potential relationship apart?

    Dorothy - December 27, 2015 Reply

    I too read the book a year or so ago. I wish I had an answer to your struggle; still dealing with it myself. The Duke study about neurological effects and at the attached has me asking the question as to whether these neurological effects can be reversed. I would love to be in a brain study to find this out. Until then just knowing what makes me act like I do and trying to sit silently with my emotions and asking myself the questions has helped somewhat. You’re never too old to try; just turned 70 this year and I’m congratulating myself a little for fighting this.

      Michael - January 1, 2016 Reply

      To be able to slow down and be with your thoughts takes strength and can be a meditative salve. Fight the good fight as they say Dorothy.

      I have article loaded and will read it shortly. My mind has been on this subject as well.

      If the brain has a short time to learn speech, why not other skills? That failure to produce enough oxytocin (due to neglectful parenting) damages the receptors for that hormone leaving a person with a life long feeling of emptiness? The other side is the person who does get the connection they need leaving them as 3/4ers full in their perspectives.

      It is interesting stuff

Brent - December 12, 2015 Reply

I have read a small library and have gone to many retreats promising enlightenment,to no avail.
I stumbled onto Jonice Webb on the internet and ordered her book. Bang,right on the nail. I had always felt unloved and empty. I never strived for anything for there would never be any support or encouragement.
I went to a therapist and was excited to show her the book. She was not interested. I guess it will be a long time coming before CEN is more widely acknowledged. Kind of like going back 200 years and asking doctors to wash their hands,or trying to explain to the learned that the world was round and the earth revolved around the sun. Jonice webb could be like Martin luther going up against the pope. We have this huge psychiatric institution so firmly entrenched in its ideas and lack of humility and get their backs up with any ideas threatening the established dogma and piety . The establishment is sick and a lot of those who practice within it. Take the church for example.

    Gina - December 27, 2015 Reply

    If the therapist you saw was not interested in a book that is important to you, then you need a different therapist. I have seen several therapists over the last 20 years, and all of them were interested to hear of any book that I found helpful or meaningful.

I deserved better - November 30, 2015 Reply

The worst part for me is that my parents will never know my truth, they will never understand that I was neglected emotionally, even my siblings, we were all treated differently by our parents. I believe that every sibling, depending on their birth order grows up in a different family. Because I was the oldest child in this dysfunctional family, I took on the brunt of the abuse and also acted in the role of therapist for both of my parents at a young age..

I was provided with a typical suburban childhood, piano lessons, camping trips. but there was real emotional deprivation from both of my parents side, because they were both too wrapped up in their own issues ( my mother, for worrying that my grandiose , distant father was cheating on her) ( my father, for his own loss of his mother at the age of five, and being raised by an abusive stepmother) to raise me up and pay attention to me, they never helped us with our homework, went to any of our sports games, rarely attended church with us.

My mother developed severe mental illness, became paranoid and mean, and overtly abusive to me. My father divorced her when I was 16 and my brother and I went to live with him, while my younger sister went to live with my mother. My dad taught me how to judge my self, and others, I learned to stuff down my feelings, he never let me develop my own view of the world, just his own views. He would take me out to dinners, just me and him, so he would have an audience, about his own life, his past, his background, his view of the world, long speeches. I had to listen attentively, and of course had to agree with all the things he said, otherwise, I felt i would be kicked out. I also felt special going out for these dinners with my dad, having his attention, not realizing that he was using me to exercise his narcissism, that he truly was not interested in me as a person, he was just using me as an audience.

My father is a very successful businessman, it is unfortunate that in this society that if you are successful with money, or n business, you are looked up to and seen as a “good person”. His employees all love him, think he is a kind and gracious employer, he thinks that he himself is a great man, built himself up from nothing. He was the hero for “rescuing us” from our mentally ill mother.

I travelled for much of my twenties and worked abroad as a nurse, I fell out of favor with my dad, when I was in my mid thirties, unmarried and childless, then he dropped me, no more speeches, never calling to see how i was doing., I did not meet his expectations, he seemed ashamed of me. He was with his third wife at this point. It was not until then that the house of cards fell apart, it dawned on me how bad he made me feel inside, ECN is insidious, he negated my feelings, never taught me to speak up for my self or what I thought, and that opposing views that were not his would be heard and appreciated but disregarded, negated. He has always insidiously eroded my self confidence, did not respect my emotions and prevented me from growing up properly, he would say one thing and do another, He never provided me with a template, a sound role model for what a good man is, I married in my early 40s, and had a child. Now he just LOVES his grandson, he loves babies and small children, probably because they are sources of attention, and children can’t turn away from his words, he is also living out his own childhood when he sees a young baby. He is only capable of serving his own interests and viewing the world from his own self serving perspective.

My husband has a very similar background of emotional neglect as me, we have had a lot of problems in our marriage, as I get better and I now understand why we were initially so attracted to each other. He also shares a lot of characteristics of my father, cold aloof, hard to disagree with, but we are both survivors, I understand him, and he understands me, he does respect my space and I respect his space.

I won’t share with my father the emotional neglect I experienced with him. He will disagree with me, say we had a much better childhood than he did, and I should be grateful. I would have to explain point by point what he did, and he would refute every word and steamroll the conversation, like he always does., I don’t have the energy for that.

Rationally I know that it is in my best interest to forgive him, ruminating over the past and being triggered is a hard state to be in . – but my inner self does not feel this way yet. When he passes away ( he is 70 now) I don’t know if I will mourn him. I am a good person, a kind and loving person, who had to raise herself. To be disconnected from him sets me free.

    Trish - December 1, 2015 Reply

    You and I share very similar experiences, I’m the oldest daughter of 4 kids & played the role of scapegoat, parents to my younger siblings and mediator/confidante in my parents disfunctional marriage. My father was a CEO where he was revered & adored in a church organisation & we turned up every Sunday at church looking like the perfect family even though there was physical & psychological abuse at home.

    I am 43 & after 15 years of therapy, self development I have finally gotten to the bottom of my families dynamics this year although as I child I did realize things were very wrong.
    I would encourage you to research ‘Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Families and especially Narcissistic Victim Disorder as well as CEN to see if it rings true for you. After years of therapists talking about depression, suppression, abuse, religious conditioning etc which was all part of the problems the Narcissist stuff absolutely nailed the situation & I was able to put the last piece of the puzzle together, see the overall picture and understand why my mind could not let go of the situation- it was like a detective that can’t let go of a cold case, now I have the truth my energy goes into healing the dynamics that I can now understand fully and I am at the end of the tunnel.

    Due to our religion, it was ‘righteous’ to forgive & forget- this was always held against me when I brought issues up, as a child I was very observant, aware and had a good memory, so for my parents I was enemy number one as I was a witness to all their behaviour which they hid from the outside world. They had to shame, diminish and abuse me in the hope that I would believe I was the problem (scapegoating) and not them (all done unconsciously of course). I just wanted accountability but they were wanting to get themselves off the hook, if I did forgive & forget I would expose myself to more of their games & be utterly disappointed & confused when it all happened again, which it always did.

    What I now realise is that I am dealing with personality disorders (Dad- Narc & Mum some BDP & codependant) which means-
    -they will likely never take responsibility for past behaviour & hence are likely to repeat bad behavior in the future so I will need to be alert
    – my parents behaviour is sociopathic, they project their own terrible actions onto other people, blame them & then they act like the victims- they say their children are the perpetrators.
    -they will continue to scapegoat and demean me when our opinions differ around these issues
    -the only way you can have a healthy relationship with a Narc is to have no or minimal contact (to get out of their games to get on with your life)
    -I have never & will never been seen by them for who I really AM- only as who they NEED me to be to suit their version of events
    -My parents are unable to love me, what they taught me was enmeshment and codependance NOT love
    -because this was normal for me I then attracted people with similar issues & was constantly wondering why I was repeating the patterns & suffering exhaustion, not having my needs met etc (Narc Victim Syndrome)- understanding CEN is important to recover from this.

    For these reasons I chose this year to have no further contact and move interstate to have the freedom to truly be me and not constantly feel on alert, to have a safe space to grow.

    Thank your memory for not giving up on you. Forgive for your own heart & what it brings to your life, not to let your parents off the hook & leave the way open for them to continue bad behaviour. Forget because you have great boundaries & you no longer need to be hyper vigilant (essential with a Narc) & you are safe to move forward with your life. I hope this helps, I wish you all the best.

      susan - December 10, 2015 Reply

      I too, share a very similar stories as yours. My parents were emotionally unavailable for me but my younger brother seemed to get more attention than I. I was also the scapegoat, the placater and was always being compared to my brother for not doing things quite as well. My father, a military lifer US Navy, did quit well in his career. He started as a sailor and went as high as one possibly could being an Enlisted Man. After retiring a 5 star Master Chief, he wrote a Best Seller autobiography about himself. Became a self made millionaire. Though my parents were divorced when I was 15, there was still a good portion of his career that we were around. He does not mention his family at all in the book.
      When I was just 12 years old, my father kicked me out of the house, stating I was going to be the ruin of his career. I was an out of control child, and had begun to act out with extreme by age 10. I went to school on one of the military bases on the island of Oahu, and was caught smoking in the JPO (Junior Police Officer) room in the 5th grade. That was the beginning of my reaching out for attention that my father could not deal with, so he abandoned me. Last year I forgave him abandoning me, and all things gone wrong. But I still do not live up to his standards, so out of the blue he unfriended me on FB. It’s ok, at least I finally know it was never me who couldn’t handle things.
      My mother did nothing, when he kick me out, as she was afraid of him. So I went alone into the jungle and grew up to be like all jungle animals do….wild. For three years I lived on the beaches, hippie dens and places most people would not even believe, let alone want to hear about. But I survived with very little physical trauma, that I could speak of.
      When my parents got divorced, my brother and I went back to California with my mother, where the rest of her family treated me as an outcast. I grew up feeling like never being good enough, always doing things the wrong way and second best to my younger brother. Having straight A’s in school should have been A pluses. I quit school in the 9th grade.
      One thing I thought might do some good was to get some counseling. And, while it did help me to understand alot of why I did the things I did, it did not bring the family any closer. Nobody in the family but myself sought help, and nobody wanted me (the mental one) to tell them what the problems were. No, it had always been me, and it still was. Only now they wanted even less to do with me. I was no longer of any use to them, because they couldn’t get away with blaming me for all that was wrong. I was not the scapegoat anymore and was pushed, once again, away from the family unit.
      My mother is the infectious one that keeps the family sick. She is co-dependent and helps in ways that make her feel good. She offered to put me through dog grooming school and I built a moderately successful business from that. But I got a diagnosis of Cancer and lost everything, as I had no help to keep it going. My own mother didn’t even believe it because nobody else in the family had ever had cancer…how could I. Once again, on my own. Today, I have been Cancer free for more than 20 years, but more distant from my family than ever.
      Ironically, two days ago my brother (whom I’ve not spoken to in 35 years, even though we live in the same city) was diagnosed with liver cancer. Which brings me to where I am today. I am experiencing emotions that I cannot understand. I did send a card for my brother, but I will never know if he got it. In it I briefly offer my sympathy and told him I love him, and that I am praying for him and his doctors. I do not want my brother to die. Why? Because I dread being the “other” child left.
      I have never been married but do have an adult child 37 years old. She is my only heart felt family. She lives 1000 miles away. She is well loved by all the rest of my family and she sees how unbalanced the family unit is. This all hurts me tremendously, at times I wish hard I wasn’t here anymore. I can’t fix it and I hate being around it. I am disabled now and cannot just get up and move, or I would. I can’t help my mother right now, with her grief, because she makes me feel unwanted. I am going to order this book and I hope it helps me find more meaning to my life, because the life I have now isn’t even worth living.

      Traci - December 15, 2015 Reply

      Wow are we siblings?
      Because it appears we have thd same parents. My name is Traci and I am 23. I would like to hear more from you. If it would not make you uncomfortable, I would love to hear more and as you for some advice via email… If not that is OK. My email is
      Your post was very helpful.

        susan - January 17, 2016 Reply

        Hi Traci,
        Well I’m just now getting around to going through all the emails I’ve not had time to check. As I mentioned in my post, ‘not wanting to be the “other” child left’, should my brother succumb to his cancer…has now come to pass. My brother died on 12/30, and with that came even deeper emotional burdens for me. Some of which I will never be able to resolve…and none of it do I deserve having been loaded down with.
        I have been reaching for resolution with my brother for years, but to no avail. While in the hospital (200 miles away)I sent a card, given to my mother and then via his wife. He never got it, because she lost it. Of course, I didn’t find this out until today. He had surgery…was home for Christmas (I sent another card for Christmas and it was lost, too)…went back into ICU and died three days later. I found out nearly 12 hours after the fact, by way of Face Book…on somebody else’s page, not even a friend. Nobody thought it mattered??? I wasn’t important enough??? Didn’t want me there??? Maybe thought I might do something CRAZY??? I have no idea. But then, to add insult to injury, at the last possible moment I decided to go to the funeral (nobody expected that), my mother was more concerned about what I was going to look like…how I was going to act…and what I might say, than she was glad I’d decided to go. Well, I went to the reception, too!
        I could not accurately describe how I am feeling if my life depended on it. Only to say that my grieving ended at the time I learned he died, as I was left out of his life.
        I have never been made to feel so unworthy in my life. And by my own mother no less. I may not always know what normal is, but I do know the way I am around my mother now, would definitely be considered NOT normal. I don’t really even want to be around her and, so much so, that I am putting my property up for sale and leaving the state. I moving where I will be close to my daughter, and for the first time in my life, I don’t feel the need to ‘prove’ my worthiness or have the desire to even want to. As sad as this may sound, I don’t care that my 80 year old mother will be by herself.
        It has nothing to do with me wanting to show or make her feel like I’ve been made to feel…all my life. It has everything to do with me wanting to know life…and, hopefully, discovering the love of it.
        I don’t mind sharing with you, Traci, through email contact. So, keep an eye out for mi_kikat.

A Sensitive Daughter - November 19, 2015 Reply

I didn’t quite realize I was emotionally neglected as a child (and even an adult) until I really started to explore my feelings deeper last year – my anger always stemmed from long-standing childhood wounds that never healed. I had set many boundaries with my mother- I first let her know I didn’t want to hear about her problems with my father, and she became enraged at me for that. Then, I slowly stopped taking her calls-I would become physically drained after listening to her endless complaining on the phone to me. I would communicate to her through email mostly. Then I moved away- about 1000 miles away. I thought that would help somewhat, and it did, but I would still get emotionally effected- triggered- by both my parents when I spoke to them. After a very difficult year in 2014, I literally had lost most of my possessions, my business, and my health, and my parents were not there for me. They didn’t call me to see if I was even alive- instead my mother emailed and told me about how she lost money gambling the week before. That pushed me over the edge- it was at that moment I realized my Mother may have a mental illness; to not even realize her daughter was suffering severely and she was more upset about losing a few bucks at a casino. Right then and there I knew I needed to protect my emotional health better from them and wrote them a letter. I told them I loved them, but I was extremely disappointed in them and said I was better off without them. I divorced my parents and haven’t spoken to them in almost 2 years. Although it was the right thing for me to do, I won’t deny that it was extremely hard to let them go from my life 100%. They never reached out to me after my letter- but then again, why would they. I realize now my parents don’t love me, and I don’t think they even love themselves. I’ve never heard them ever say “I love you” to me, or each other. I do believe we have a Soul family in our life- people (strangers) have offered me more love, kindness, support, and encouragement than my birth parents ever had in my 39 years of life. I value those people – my soul family- so much

    Melissa - November 20, 2015 Reply

    Hi Sensitive Daughter…I am visiting this site for the first time and I can so relate to your comment. I’m so sorry you have to live through this, and I am sending you a hug over the cyberwaves. It is so difficult, I know. Trust that you are not alone!! There are other sensitive daughters out there, and we nod our heads as we read your words. Emerging from broken dot com has been a good site for me as a sensitive daughter. Good luck to you, and Happy Thanksgiving. You are free from the chaos of that loveless relationship…That’s a source of gratitude, right there. xo

      A Sensitive Daughter - November 22, 2015 Reply

      Thank you so much Melissa, I appreciate your kind words. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well 🙂

Maria Cruz - November 17, 2015 Reply

I am a mother of a teenager of 17 years old that lived only with his father for 7 years (from 8 until 15 yeas old). The reason it was that his father made my life so hard, that I left my own Country to be able to survive, financially. I got out of the divorce with nothing and I did fight for 3 years, until the my son made 8 years old. Then I took my chances in another Country, leaving my son behind. My ex-husband stayed with all our money (and it was a lot), so I believed he would be very well financially and he would take well care of our son. I requested only one thing: no problems on my monthly visits. Though, his father did place problems and last years I was only seeing my son one time a year, for only 15 days. At the same time, his father neglected “my son”, emotionally speaking, but also clothes and food (dinner, because at lunch it was on the school). Sentences like “You are no good for anything” or “You don’t have an opinion” were frequent. My son learned to shut his mouth and hide his feelings.

Almost 3 years ago, I flight to my Country and I got my son back. He was not well psychologically and physically. He has asthma and his father never gave him anything for it, or went to follow-up medical appointments. At this point, my son is with me, but I don’t see him getting over this past situation. He is in a psychologist now, but I don’t see any improvements. What I see it is wrong is: low self-esteem, unable to express good feelings, no motivation for anything except playing games and watching movies. Since we changed Country and we are going to do it again (now to the United States), I am worried how can he follow his studies, since he is going to be out of Europe without an high-school diploma (he will have to do the GED in the US). Please advice, if you can.

David - November 3, 2015 Reply

Our family was quiet. Country folk. Scandinavian in background. One talked little. When a tragedy occurred, talking stopped. In our family, my 11 year old brother died when I was aged 9. We were struggling anyway, but that put my parents over the edge. I had no parenting from that time onward. That was the beginning of a life in, what I choose to call, “The House of Untold Uncertainties”. I was just expected to do what I was told, and to “be seen, and not heard”. My implied question of, “What am I, chopped liver”?, was met with killing silence. I know that we missed out on each other, as survivors. I want to develop a life that is dear to me, and to at least, one other, before it is over.

Ruth - November 3, 2015 Reply

Hello! I’m impatiently waiting for your book to arrive, but before I get it, I have some questions that don’t leave me:
I feel this is connected with attachment theory. With a narcissistic parent, with family separation, with anxious-avoidant / disorganized relationships between caregivers and kids. I’ve been studying a lot of this, and doing inner-child work, feeling my feelings and learning to love myself more. But I’m still attracted to (and chasing) people who are unable and are unwilling to meet my needs, where I find myself wanting to give all of myself. I’m a fan of Alice Miller, Teal Swan, J. Bradshaw and other authors who tap deeply into the topic.

What is your opinion about romantic dynamics of CEN and how can we love ourselves into change of these dynamics?

Thank you!

andromedian_drone-based_warrior_chef - November 2, 2015 Reply

any comment you may care to give to show links between CEN and increased risk of addiction problems in later life would be welcome Dr Webb.

I believe the blind spots left by CEN have lead to my own long history of heavy cannabis use, started properly when I was 24, now approaching 40. My desire to not smoke has lead to a lot of learning (but not evident outward results) in recent years.

I’ll throw this additional question into the arena here, aware that there simply isn’t the availability of background research to throw me back a clear answer, but…. it’s to do with connection between healthy emotion and the thyroid gland – my intuition has told me for some time now that my hypothyroidism (underactive) -(diagnosis at age 23, unusually, cos I’m a man, albeit a very sensitive, yet heterosexual, one) – is connected directly to CEN. Has anyone else mused upon the connection meaningfully? I suspect Chinese styled physicians might come forth with opinion on this more readily but i don’t know…

Life has been a struggle for me most of the time since leaving home, I also see the havoc the CEN affect has wreaked on my wider family on the maternal side, isolation, obesity, addiction, suicide, all connected I believe. I’ve tried discussing this with my parents without success, the opposite actually..

If there’s a silver lining to this little story cloud it’s at least my understanding now that emotion is like water, it’ll search a way to get out if it can. It found an outlet in music for me, which became my profession, I can play very emotionally and do, it’s what’s gets me hired and around the globe, but that’s no substitute for human connection. I must have done 30,000 miles this year, played at Carnegie Hall NY so I can officially stop practicing, fine, but I’ve got not a friend who calls for a chat…it’s the rat park experiment in slow motion ….

Next life I’ll have this stuff down in no time! (& that’s not a goodbye note lest anyone read it so)

Thanks for your work Dr Webb.

Disclaimer – i genuinely know and believe my parents to be good, wounded, loving are we all, to some degree

    Sonia - November 23, 2015 Reply

    Hi! You sound like a very lovely man. Like you I am learning about CEN and my life situation is starting to make sense. I am a woman full of life, loving, intelligent, successful and yet, very lonely. My phone doesn’t ring very often. I have very few real friends and I long for connection and intimacy. I am replying to your post because I felt compelled to uplift you and to share in this common bond of CEN. Our parents did not know any better and our lives have been diminished because of it. Now that we know better we can look for and find ways to nurture ourselves, and love a happier life going forward.

      andromedian_drone-based_warrior_chef - February 1, 2016 Reply

      Sonia – thank you. It took me 3 months to spot your reply, but I’m glad to. Validation is a powerful positive and you just gave some. The longing in me for personal connection left as a result of what we’re all reading about here, won’t be dissimilar to that felt by many folk here…maybe Dr Webb could make more money with a dating site for us wounded animals on the side! Unlike many posters here I suspect – this wounded child is in Europe, one of the natives. Seen Trainspotting? Yes, there! (minus the heroin thankfully)
      Thanks for the reply Sonia – I wish you, and every similar reader here, strength on their journey forward.

        Shelly - April 1, 2016 Reply

        Warrior Chef, I think you may have something with the hypothyroidism and CEN link. I was diagnosed in January with a slow thyroid and was going through all the usual stuff like gaining weight, tired, etc. In December, my daughter, 20 at the time, decided a mutual break was needed between us after I messaged her a ‘novel’ on how I can’t take the pain of her rejection of me and that she needs to be somewhere else. Now 21, she lives with her boyfriend in the neighboring town. Since taking thyroid meds, man, my moods have stabilized and me and her have a good relationship. We went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and spent the 6 days together. I know that in my reading, hypothyroidism wreaks all sorts of crap on our bodies. I was surprised at the amount of ‘wreaks’ and that I could identify with a bunch of them. I still have depression and some anger towards my parents who I believe should have never had kids. My two brothers and I are feeling of the repercussions more keenly as we age but I can bet that both brothers would disagree that we are the walking wounded, wounded by our parents. Our parents grew up in broken alcoholic homes and were shuttled to boarding schools, and in the case of my mother, shipped off to live with aunts because my grandmother was starting a new romance. Gosh, I could go on and on but I won’t. Good luck with your recovery!

Gail - October 31, 2015 Reply

I’ve just been reading your book, and from the start I felt that you were talking about ME! I answered “yes” to all of the questions in your quiz. But when you started about stuffing down your emotions, I began to doubt that this book was for me. My problem has always been that I have too much emotion and for much of my life have been unable to stop myself from expressing it. I’ve always been told that I have a face like an open book… everyone knows what I’m feeling just by looking at me. I think the fact that I am 70 years old is significant in that I have been on a very long learning curve as far as my emotions are concerned. I do have discipline and am able to deny myself the things that I feel are detrimental to my health, but even though I am able to push through doing things that I really don’t want to do, I know inside that I am just a big phony.

I also have given too much of myself over the years, and as a result have been taken advantage of. I’ve had many relationships in my life that were unhealthy (and sometimes unsafe.) My friend of 40 or so years expressed it this way: “It’s as though you feel that you don’t deserve any better.” She’s right! Every time something bad comes my way, I feel that sinking feeling that by now is very familiar and almost comforting, because what else could I expect? I certainly don’t deserve anything good.

Of course, intellectually I know that’s a load, but deep inside that’s the way I feel. I had a childhood that was considered normal, but came away feeling that I was flawed in some way, that my feelings and interests were not approved of and I should try to conform to my mother’s ideas of what I should be interested in and feeling. As a result of her snooping and reading my diary, I learned that privacy was not allowed in our home. The feelings I had discussed in my diary she deemed inappropriate for “a good little girl.” I grew up without any boundaries and wouldn’t have recognized one if I had fallen over it. Mom didn’t recognize any boundaries where her kids were concerned, but she certainly established them with regard to herself.

I could go on and on, but I think you can get the drift. My problem now, at 70 years of age, is that I am so afraid of falling into another hurtful relationship, I am in danger of becoming closed off altogether. I’m trying to keep my core group of family members and close friends, but they are the only people I have any contact with. As a result of a lifetime of bad relationships with men, I no longer have much regard for them at all.

I hope to start therapy soon through our province’s mental health system, and I will discuss your book with my therapist. Thank you for recognizing CED and for providing useful information to people who suffer from it.

Lydia - October 31, 2015 Reply

I’m so happy i found this website because i believe i was emotionaly neglected, i have bought the book, running on empty and can’t wait to read it. I feel messed up by my childhood and feel alot of resentment towards my mum but i also feel guilty for feeling like this because i know that she loves me and she is mentally ill and could not cope. My mum has severe schizophrenia and she was unmedicated until i was put in foster care at age 7. She was a single mother and would not let my dad see me as he did not want to be with her anymore, i feel like she totally disregarded my emotional needs by keeping me from seeing my dad for her own selfish reasons. I also feel like she was ignorant to my emotional needs by treating me like a baby. As i got older she did not encourage my development in any way, she talked to me like i was a baby, she pushed me about in a pram even when i was 6 years old. When i was in primary school she turned up during break and made a scene by shouting at the teachers. I’m now 20 years old and have depression and anxiety and alot of issues. I’m looking foward to reading the book, running on empty and i am also thinking about seeing a therapist to work through my issues.

Jonice Webb - October 31, 2015 Reply

Hello all of you wonderful commenters! I love to see all of your questions and comments. Unfortunately I’m not able to give you personal advice. But I have started a new online CEN Recovery program. In it, I’ll be answering a lot of the questions that you’re asking. The first two free videos are already available and the third will be next week. The 3 videos will only be viewable until 11/5 so watch them soon. Here’s the link to the first one. Just enter your email address to watch it, OK? Take care!

    David - November 1, 2015 Reply

    Hello Dr. Webb,
    I was hoping you could offer me some advice on supporting a friend, ‘L’ who I suspect has CEN. I have known her only a few months but we quickly developed a close friendship and she has been happy to confide in me. All through her childhood and adolescence her mother was bed ridden with depression and father showed minimal affection to both she and her sister, dragging them to the pub where he got slowly drunk with his friends. She dabbled in drugs after school with older peers for a few years. L is outwardly positive and very giving to residents in the care setting where we work. However, she can be emotionally detached, judgemental, mistrustful and very controlling in the way she manages her relationships. In recent weeks she has been more distant towards me, rarely even answering texts. I love her very much unconditionally but don’t really know how to deal with this behaviour. It is quite upsetting watching a potentially strong and loving, lifelong friendship going down the pan! Any ideas and advice on how to handle this would be much appreciated.
    Regards, David

Bridget - October 29, 2015 Reply

Dr. Webb,

Do you have any advice or reference material for assistance with an unusual situation – My mom is in her 70s (father deceased), I am in my 50s, after a lifetime of mostly dealing with CEN.

My mother recently had a heart attack, along with what she claims was a near death experience. Suddenly now after all these years, she wants to be close to me, spend time with me, get to know me, etc. She even went so far as to say she wants to spend time with me before she dies 🙁

I am sure this is helping her soul, but is foreign to me and I am trying to figure out how to respond. I am not so cold as to reject her gestures of reaching out, but it’s causing a bit of conflicted feelings for me.

Nancy - October 25, 2015 Reply

Being an ACoA (from my perspective CEN to the max)I will be re-reading your book. My husband has all the characteristics (though he doesn’t “get it”). His family history supports it. His “stiff upper lip” stance is hard on my inner child. And being a man, he wants to “fix” me, and when he doesn’t know what to do to make me feel better, it upsets him.
Since my grandson was born I’ve noticed how things have been triggering me more than ever. I guess I see my neglected child every time I look at his precious face. It was suggested I try EMDR therapy. I’ve had three sessions, and am wondering if we have a therapeutic relationship. When uncovering feelings and memories, he felt I wasn’t in a healthy enough place (I suffer from depression)to work on my unresolved trauma. I’ve been working on being more positive by listening to affirmations etc. trying to heal my inner child. I have been on SSRIs for 22 years, could they be having a negative effect after all these years?

ed - October 24, 2015 Reply

I was subject to CEN and struggled but learned how to get by and I thought I had recovered. I was flattened by a virus,and during a 10yr battle to get well lost most of my memory for about 3yrs. As it came back I was different,much of what I had thought now seemed deluded,who was I?

I seemed to have shed much of my early conditioning and with it the justification for who and what I thought. I am rebuilding a life but like one washed up on an alien shore from a wreck.

This is a bizarre place to be and I don’t even know what to call it just as before finding CEN I didn’t have a name for what had happened to me.

I am a surviver but even we need help sometimes

Andrea - October 22, 2015 Reply

Dear Dr. Webb,
I read a few pages of your book, Running on Empty and since I am definitely a child of CEN, (all my siblings are) I’d like to know if you had written a book specifically for adults. Since my child is now 18, I rather not read about what parents need to do. I’d like to know how I can help myself. At age 52 I am still struggling! My siblings are worse off than I am.
I have been to therapy over the years without much success.
Thank you for your support.

Ano - October 19, 2015 Reply

I think raising awareness for emotional neglect is even more important than I realized before, now that I have worked on my own experience with it.

In my view, there are 4 reasons why it is so important to raise awareness of emotional neglect in contrast to emotional and physical abuse.

1. It is more widespread than abuse.
2. It is not recognized as readily as abuse.
3. It is not treated as efficiently as abuse.
4. It can be healed more completely than abuse. (It is possible to “fill the tank” when that wasn’t done in childhood, but as abuse is an act, it is not completely reversible.)

Therefore, I am very grateful for your work and hope you gain much support for it.

Anne Howell - October 13, 2015 Reply

For the first time.. I understand what has been torturing me for the last 62 years.. I have always felt like a loner. but always wanted to be in a group and part of a group, yet I felt no wanted nor liked me.. even today as a member of a BOD with 4 people, I feel as if I am always the last to know and the outsider, only being asked to be on this BOD because they did not want someone else to ask… I still think this is true. I want to be included in the worst way and yet if they do something without me, it devastates me… this has made relationships almost non existent in my life. I throw away friends and never speak to them again…I was the unwanted girl for my mother… air kisses and no hugs still continue… my brothers are much more emotionally intact and have scores of friends as do my children.. thank goodness.. This gives me hope that I am not crazy or depressed… this will help me understand my actions..why I no longer am close to any of my friends and why I would do anything to be accepted. I am hoping these feelings can be reversed… 62 may seem old, but I still feel like the 25 year old standing outside her circle of friends.

Joe - September 30, 2015 Reply

Your book “Running on Empty” described many aspects of my CEN very precisely. It was of great help of me in understanding the roots and consequences of my denial of emotions.

There are two points in which my experience doesn’t quite fit into the framework of your book and other readers migth share:

Regarding the definition of CEN, you rightfully stress the part of the parents’ failure to attend ENOUGH to the child’s emotions. However, subsequently you focus on the reasons why parents don’t do enough and do not elaborate that this ENOUGH is different for every child depending on their biological make-up. So, children in the same household who receive the same attention can be differently affected.
As in my case, I had very strong anxiety that was never validated, discussed or addressed and therefore struggle with CEN while my sister has less problems even though we received similar attention.

Secondly, the struggle with self-discipline is something I experience as well even though I had clear guidelines and structure when growing up. So I think there might be something else at work than the lack of exposure to structure, maybe a lack of reward because one never feels at ease even after having completed the task.

Mark B - September 26, 2015 Reply

Thanks so much for writing the Running on Empty book. It gave me a perspective that I never had before . I’d always known I was pretty neglected, but didn’t have an idea of where I was on the spectrum. The CEN did a lot of things including delaying my mental and social development, which only added to the neglect. I used to think I must be autistic or something, but all the tests said I wasn’t…

Even therapists I’ve worked with didn’t pick up on that (CEN) as probably a root cause. I took your questionnaire on CEN. I got 22/22 and I would change most of the “sometimes” words to “usually”.

One thing I’ve often wondered about is the sinking feeling I get when something is going (or going to go) wrong. I’ve heard other emotionally neglected people mention it but I didn’t see it in your list.

For me that feeling is a lot like extreme social exclusion, like being picked last for a sports team or being obviously excluded from a social event. I think my feelings probably started with those causes, but now they seem to occur for many things that seems threatening.

I’m wondering if you’d consider this a common symptom for someone with CEN ? It’s very challenging to deal with. Problems that many people deal with reasonably well can feel unsurvivable to me. I really do mean unsurvivable like something just beyond my knowledge/experience (and be extension my ability to avoid it) is going to destroy me somehow.

I would guess this would be extreme for most people with CEN , I’ve talked to others that have hinted at something similar, but I think most people can wall it off better than I can. Seems kind of PTSD like….

Thanks for providing a place to share. One therapist I shared only part of this with with became so uncomfortable that I ended up counseling him for the rest of the session. I didn’t go back of course.

Robbin - September 13, 2015 Reply

I was raised by parents who were both severely abused as children, and my mother was also abandoned by her mother as an adolescent. Dad was passive and fairly distant, mom was preoccupied with her own problems, including serious depression and anxiety. Both are good people who probably shouldn’t have had kids. I don’t remember much real emotional connection or guidance as a child, and I’ve felt lonely for as long as I can remember. I always felt that my needs or concerns were minor compared to what else was going on. I guess I knew we weren’t normal, but I knew it could be a lot worse, and I’ve always felt guilty about any criticism of my parents, knowing what they went through. I was very self destructive as a teenager, but have found a lot better perspective in the couple of decades since. I don’t think I’m emotionally stunted on the inside, but I feel like I need someone else’s permission to express my emotions or thoughts, or even talk about what’s going on in my life. Asking for help is almost out of the question. My fear of rejection and sense of isolation have gotten in the way of forming friendships, and keeps me emotionally distant from my fiance, and I’m tired of living this way. I’m pretty skeptical in general, but I’m going to order your book and see if it doesn’t have some insights that are applicable to me. Thanks.

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