Childhood Emotional Neglect: What Your Parents Didn’t Say and Why It Matters

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Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is, by definition, nothing. How can nothing be something? How can nothing be a source of enduring pain and struggle? It seems unfathomable… until you see it day after day, in your office, as I have.

What do you wish your parents had said to you? Answers Posted On Facebook

Anything much. I don’t remember being talked to at all.

You have a right to your feelings, & the right to be heard & have them considered.

We believe in you.

How do you feel? What do you want? I will help you figure life out.

I love you. You are enough. I am proud of you.

There is nothing wrong with who you are.

Are you okay?

Do you want to talk about it? You look upset.

 My love for you is unconditional.

There’s nothing in this world you cannot do. So stand up, shoulders back and go out there.

 I’m sorry…

I wish they meant what they said.

That I was beautiful.

You can make mistakes and I will not think any less of you. You don’t have to be perfect.

 Don’t be scared. It will be alright. Things will go wrong but it doesn’t matter. We’re all the same.

It’s OK to get angry/sad/mad.

Anything that wasn’t emotional abuse ……anything that didn’t leave me feeling worthless or that I had to please them for their attention.


Recently I posted this blog’s title question on my Facebook Page. I got many thoughtful and heartfelt responses. The quotes above are a direct sampling of them.

Why did I ask this particular question? Because in my experience as a psychologist, I have found that people are naturally far more able to think about and describe what they wish their parents had not done or said to them than what they wish their parents had done or said to them.

This distinction is also a fair description of the difference between abuse and neglect. Abuse is an action, whereas neglect is a lack of action. Our brains record and remember things that happened (like abuse), whereas our brains do not notice things that don’t happen (neglect).

Which seems worse: a parent who screams and yells at a child and calls him names? Or a parent who simply does not talk to or engage the child at all?

I have seen that failure to engage, notice, and affirm a child does just as much damage to him or her as abuse, but the effects are different.  An abused child will feel “hit,” verbally, physically, or emotionally; whereas a neglected child will feel simply “at sea,” invalid and alone.

I see Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) as one of the greatest potential threats to future generations. It is difficult to stop something that is invisible, intangible, unnoticeable, and unmemorable.

The subtlety of CEN gives it extra power. Many adults who grew up with an absence of emotionally attentive observations and questions like those listed above do not recognize the harm that this absence has done to them. And even when they recognize it, they can’t quite believe or grasp it.

People with CEN vastly underestimate its effects on them.  CEN is, by definition, nothing. How can nothing be something? How can nothing be a source of enduring pain and struggle? It seems unfathomable… until you see it day after day, in your office, as I have.

A few reviewers of my book, Running on Empty, have said that the recovery chapters are unrealistic because they are about helping readers give themselves the attention, validation, and structure that they did not get in childhood. However, I know that people with CEN can make tremendous progress toward this. It requires effort and motivation, but it is very much possible. I know this because I have watched it happen many times.

All of the emotionally neglected people who offered those many requests in response to my question hold a secret key. A key to fulfilling their own needs; a key that offers healing, solace, and fuel.

How to Give Yourself What You Never Got

  1. If your parents didn’t talk to you, then talk more to yourself. Put yourself in situations where you will be required to talk.
  2. If your parents never told you that you were good enough, then you must resolve this question for yourself. Are you good enough? Listen to your answer, and trust it.
  3. If your parents never meant what they said, then you must pledge to yourself to always mean what you say. Always speak the truth, no matter how difficult it may be.
  4. If your parents never asked you if you were okay, then you must ask yourself this often, and listen carefully to your answer.
  5. If your parents didn’t notice when you were upset, then you must try to always notice what you are feeling and why.

And so on and so on, the answer lies within you. The beginning is self-awareness.

Because once you realize what you didn’t get, this tells you what you need. And once you know what you need, I hope you will also realize that you can get it. I hope that you will fight for what you didn’t get. Ask for help and accept support because you deserve it. And then you will have it to give to your own children.

To learn much more about how CEN affects all areas of your life sign up for the CEN Breakthrough Video Series. It’s free!

To learn more about how to give yourself and your children what you never got yourself, see the books, Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships.

A version of this article was first published on It has been republished here with the permission of Psychcentral.


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Penny - December 6, 2021 Reply

I ran across your article on emotional neglect & came to your website. One time I printed out a list of feelings because I didn’t know what my options were! Needless to say, you have perfectly described my emotional state of being! I’ve been out of therapy for a few years, but what a tool “emotional neglect” would have been when I was in therapy!

As you have said previously: it’s never too late. Now I have my tool moving forward.

Thank you

Rhoda - November 29, 2021 Reply

This is an article I so relate to. What makes it even more relatable is that, growing up I found myself saying these kinds of words to others, including my little brother. I have always been craving attention from my mum (I grew up without a dad around), that I turned into the kind of person I wanted to have for a mum, I think. Today, my little brother is grown, my mum passed away. and my friends are grown and are busy with their families, so now I’m alone, I realise what’s been missing all along. It’s such an isolated, lonely stretch, and I am seeing a psychotherapist now. I am considering mentioned your CEN work to her, although I don’t want to intrude too much on her own practice! Anyway… Thank you for your work, Ms. Webb!

    Jonice - December 1, 2021 Reply

    Dear Rhoda, I encourage you to mention CEN to your therapist or have them read this article that you relate to. Skilled therapists are always looking for good ways to help and you are your own best advocate.

Des - November 27, 2021 Reply

Hi Dr.Webb, Please give us more & more examples of what a parents failed to tell us resulting we suffer this CEN. We never experienced it so we never know. I like the examples you’ve provided so far in most of your articles. It helped me to understand more clearly than abstract examples. Thanks

    Jonice - December 1, 2021 Reply

    Thank you, Des I will try to do that.

Evan - October 28, 2020 Reply

I cry every time I read your articles, as they ring so true. I’m a 31 year old, highly-sensitive male that failed a suicide attempt 2 years ago, and now back living with my parents, broken. I’m struggling so much with CEN and the deep emptiness that comes from lacking a sense of self. I’m trying very hard to be more self-aware and express my honest emotions, but all the invalidating responses that I get from family/friends makes me feel so wrong/misunderstood/alone, so I isolate further, strengthening the nihilism and depression. Professional help has just led to higher dosages of medications, which just remove my emotions entirely. I just can’t seem to heal fast enough before invalidation, guilt, and doubt pushes me back down, making me think it doesn’t actually matter and that I’m a lost cause. The pain is so very real.

    Jonice - October 29, 2020 Reply

    Dear Evan, you deserve far better than this. Check the Find A CEN Therapist list on this website and set up an appt. with a therapist. If you cry when you read my articles, that means that you need specialized, targeted help with your CEN. Please reach out. Most of those therapists are doing telehealth visits during the pandemic.

Leah C - July 6, 2020 Reply

I ask myself if I’m good enough, as this is something I struggle with. But good enough for whom? Me? My parents? I don’t know who I need to be good enough for.
I wonder if you could clarify what the question means, Jonice?

    Jonice - July 10, 2020 Reply

    Dear Leah, I can answer your question for you. You are good enough! I encourage you to try to not measure your worth based on other people’s opinions but focus instead on getting to know yourself better, inside and out. that’s how you finally realize you are good enough.

Twila - May 18, 2020 Reply

This really resonated with me. My parents were “emotionally absent”. They never asked anything about me, about my day, how I was feeling, nothing. Never showed any interest in me. So I never really learned what I was feeling, or that there was anything about me worth anything. Now, at 51, I can mostly recognize how I am feeling. I still struggle with “am I good enough” and relational issues are a daily struggle. I never had conversation in the home growing up, so I don’t even know how to carry on a conversation. I have never known a deep, personal relationship with anyone.

    Jonice - May 20, 2020 Reply

    Dear Twila, it sounds like you’ve made some good progress. I recommend you see a CEN therapist too help yu with learning to have emotionally intimate conversations and be vulnerable.

M - May 3, 2020 Reply

I grew up in a family that never talked about emotions. Emotions were for the weak. On the outside everything seemed fine: financially I never lacked anything, I excelled in school even though I was always sick. Other than feeling unloved, judged, and not appreciated, the thing I remember most is being afraid of making any sound. I can’t really pinpoint the exact event that made me afraid of making any sound, but I vaguely remember my mom freaking out and beating me when I was a toddler. So, I tried to stay out of the way for most of my life. My parents didn’t believe I was sick and acted accordingly (my parents’ marriage wasn’t a good one; my mom was the one who did the talking and he was the one who was quiet)- they never believed me when I said I was so fatigued I could barely stay awake and would freak out if I took a nap in the afternoon. Since I was so exhausted, I learned to sleep in a chair, so that I could hear them approaching my room and pretend I was awake or that I could respond immediately if they called me. It took more than 15 years to get diagnosed with autoimmune thyroid disease and adrenal fatigue (on top of allergies, asthma, etc). Even after I got the diagnoses, it took 7 more years during which I almost died as a result of wrong treatments, they never believed me. Whenever asked how I was doing (which wasn’t often), I would say OK, there was no point in trying to explain anything while struggling to survive. At my lowest, my doctor said I was just making it up and the only thing I lacked was “having strong orgasms”, and my mom tried to convince me to start taking antidepressants. I honestly have no idea how I was able to go through that on my own. My friends had a hard time believing me, too, and I lost most of them along the way. What helped me was a random Facebook group on thyroid diseases that made me realise I wasn’t alone and that there was hope. I actually think the words that best describe me are “hopeless optimist”. I tried therapy twice. The first therapist was a really nice lady, but she wasn’t able to help me and I only saw her for a month or so. The other lady was terrible. I remember being so judged by her, she kept telling me I let my mom down because I was too sick to finish my Master’s degree. She also kept saying to suck it up and finally finish it not believing I had brain fog and no concentration. I started losing my memory and couldn’t finish my sentences. Once I found that Facebook group, I started reading other people’s stories which were so similar to mine. I was able to implement a lot of the things that worked out for other people and finally felt better. I found a great doctor in another country (I live in Europe) and not a day goes by that I don’t feel thankful to him for saving my life. I should also feel thankful to my mom who paid for that, but I don’t. It’s been five years since I got better, and there have been periods when we were not on speaking terms. Whenever I tried to include her and asked for advice, she would yell at me and my previous “stupid decisions”. So, I stopped asking her anything. I don’t want to spend time with her, I feel like I can’t be myself and I feel judged. I miss the idea of having a mother I could be close to, but at the same time I think there is no reason for me to try to invest my time and my energy in a relationship with her. She accused me so many times of not thinking about her and and her needs while telling people about myself, my illness, and my fears. I never told her about an abortion I had as she was getting ready for a trip to Asia. And, of course, I was never able to have a long, meaningful, and healthy relationship with any guy. Even though all I said seems a little dreary, I did manage to finish my Master’s (at 32 though), I have a successful business, I have a dog I love dearly (and it’s mutual!), I have my own place, and I’ve also started taking into consideration my feelings. I stand up for myself, I am not afraid of telling my mom what I think, but I also try to avoid seeing or talking to her. It’s not ideal, I know I will never feel a part of my family. I would love to have a family of my own, but it still hasn’t happened (I am 40). I like to think that I would be the exact opposite of my mom and that I would not hurt my own child as much as she hurt me. I would like to stop the cycle and raise healthy kids.

Lynette - April 22, 2020 Reply

I cried at some of what you shared. Unfortunately it’s too late for me my 5 children are grown and don’t want me in their lives.
The upside is that 4 are married all 5 are successful and have good lives.
I myself wonder is this just another loose marble that I can add to all the rest … a life of mental illness struggle pain disappointment in myself and a lot of deep anger.
I tried so hard.. mostly covered my internal struggles my motivation always to do better and provide for my children.
I grieve for them but have accepted their decisions.
Now I have flat lined because I have no one that I need to look after.
Sorry for the war and peace response.
I hope to write a book about my life so I can help others

    Jonice - April 22, 2020 Reply

    Dear Lynette, it sounds like you have been through a lot of pain. I encourage you to speak with a CEN therapist if you haven’t already for help with your children and also for help working through some of the pain you are living with.

Lou - February 8, 2020 Reply

Your book came into my life at a difficult time for me when I realised that my family never acknowledged anything in my life. I spent so long being the pleaser, listener that I forgot all my own needs. It takes work to see your blind spot but I feel more in control of my own thoughts and feel less triggered by criticism. You have enlightened me and I am grateful to pass this knowledge on to others who I now see the same patterns. Thankyou xx

    Jonice - February 12, 2020 Reply

    That’s wonderful, Lou! thanks for sharing that.

Vicki - February 8, 2020 Reply

After reading the phrases you wrote I realized that I could never imagine my mother saying any of those things to me. When I heard some positive things it was when she would brag about my dancing or how well I did in school so it would reflect on her as a parent. It would give her credit as a parent and make her feel better about herself. It would get her some positive attention. Her reaction to me always made me feel not good enough. I continue to feel that way a lot of the time and I am 70.

    Jonice - February 12, 2020 Reply

    Dear Vicki, there’s a great book for you called “Will I Ever Be Good Enough.” It’s for daughters of self-centered mothers.

H - February 7, 2020 Reply

You purposely do not publish comments that point out the errors in your article. Expecting someone to know what they need simply by recognizing what they don’t need is simplistic and erroneous!

    Jonice - February 10, 2020 Reply

    Dear H, I do not publish comments that come across as harsh, accusing or disrespectful because my work comes from my heart and I know I do not deserve that. I did change my article because someone else requested it in a respectful way.

Sally - February 6, 2020 Reply

When I told my mother I had been sexually assaulted, she said “Don’t tell your dad because he’ll kill him.” I was 10.

    Jonice - February 6, 2020 Reply

    Oh, Sally, I am so very sorry this happened to you. I hope you have talked with a trained therapist about this. If not, please do so. It’s important to understand how this has affected you. All my best to you.

Anne - February 5, 2020 Reply

Thank you for this. I am nearly 50 and am only realizing now that something critical was missing. I have begun the process of forgiving myself for not giving to my children, that which I did not know I was missing. I have given up the hope my mother will ever know or see me, but I am determined to recreate my relationship with my adult daughters by letting them know I simply wasn’t always present for them but that I always loved them and secretly wish I could do it all over again, now that I understand and love myself for who I am.

Infran - February 4, 2020 Reply

Some from me:

“We trust you.”

“Love is not about being good enough.” (Admittedly being a bit passive-aggressive here, but I think it’s important and worth saying. XD; *Conditional* love is the abnormality. …a couple things I thought about while reading. ^_^; I think I now dislike the term “unconditional love because” it makes it sound different from just plain “love”.)

And personally, it seems my parents ask “Are you okay?” at all the wrong times – like they ask it at times when injury is unlikely, or at least likely to be minor, so I get a feeling like they think I’m incompetent or fragile or something. (Tying in with the trust thing. -.-; ) When something really *is* wrong, often they either don’t notice, or they invalidate. … Admittedly, the former happens because I often try to hide in order to avoid the latter, but still, even when I *haven’t* tried to hide, my issues often go unnoticed. -.-;

Peter - February 4, 2020 Reply

All Dr. Webb’s posts are great but this is the best one I read. As I was reading, my mind kept going back to situations in my childhood when my parents said nothing. I only received negative feedback from them. When I was a teenager, they never praised me or asked if they could help solve problems. Now, I ignore their ignorance and sometimes ask them to babysit their grandchildren. Their ignorance was huge pressure on me 30 years ago.

    Jonice - February 4, 2020 Reply

    Dear Peter, please know that this lack of support and interest has affected you. I hope you are working on addressing it all in your life.

Mary - February 4, 2020 Reply

Going through this and mental abuse and physical abuse is a living hell. I finally got my freedom from my mom this past September when she passed away, it’s been crazy how much my mental health has improved in just the last couple months. I still have a lot to heal and situations to fix because of the hell I endured, but her passing helped me realize just how toxic she really was, but I always stayed around and took care of her from the time I was a child until the day she died. Sadly, the last 18 years of abuse could have been prevented had DSS not given me back after she picked me up from school while drunk and flipped our car off the road, them giving me back gave her the ability to sink her claws in further and hold onto me. I have a lot of days where I beat myself up for not walking away from her. Staying by her side caused me to lose everything, now at 29 years old I’m having to fight to rebuild my life so I can have my children back, which is another thing she used to hurt me. I’m just glad I placed them out of my home before mom got really bad the last 2 years of her life. I spend so much time giving my children what I never had emotionally and mentally. I have this little thing I do with them, I don’t know if it will interest anyone but I ask them questions that they answer “me” to, like “who is my smart baby boy/girl?” “Who is my beautiful baby boy/girl?” “Who is my caring baby boy/girl?”. I change the questions up, but I always end it with “who does mommy love more than anything in this whole world?” My two typically very excitedly answer “me and sissy” or “me and bubba”. Seeing them light up when I do this makes me so happy.

    Jonice - February 4, 2020 Reply

    Dear Mary, that sounds like a damaging and hurtful relationship with your mom. I’m so impressed by your courage to heal yourself and try to give your kids what you never got. Keep it up!

Tim - February 4, 2020 Reply

I just needed somebody to notice that I was in pain and care enough to ask me about what was going on. A couple of events that would have been relatively innocuous in my childhood were rather painful in the moment, and the complete lack of awareness from my parents and siblings sent the message that nobody will ever care or ever be there for me. I set about deliberately and intentionally destroying my ability to feel anything from a very early age to try and make the pain stop, and although my success at this played an important role in my not killing myself growing up, it has of course had spectacularly bad results in my adult life.

I find it interesting that when I take the CEN questionnaire two of my three “no” answers are because my problem is worse than what the question is intended to diagnose, but I see that as a reflection of just how bad things really were for me. The recovery process is often slow, but I keep seeing signs of progress and I’m very grateful for that. Thanks for your work, Dr. Webb.

    Jonice - February 4, 2020 Reply

    Dear Tim, slow progress is the most lasting kind. Keep on going!

rabia - February 4, 2020 Reply

my parents never communicate with me about my feelings, likes and mother used to say study, don’t do anything. when I was upset, she starts scolding me. when I told her about any issue, she completely denies it. when I was ill, she ignores me. my father never takes an interest in my life but he does come to take credit for good things I did. they compare me with my cousins. for giving me a good education, my mother all the times mentions her favors on me. she expected me to support her financially when I started a job despite the fact she has money. she always preferred her sons to daughters. when I was happy, she compares her miserable past with my life.she never asks to help me in my struggles.

    Jonice - February 4, 2020 Reply

    Dear Rabia, please talk to a trained professional, like a counselor or therapist about this. you will need help to navigate the effects of how you are being treated.

Kathleen - February 4, 2020 Reply

I disagree with the statement in #3 about “always tell the truth” . Part of my parent’s neglect involved being brutally honest without respect for how the information would affect their children. Caring people do not tell children all the truth all the time. I was not protected from any of life’s realities. Example: I did not need to know, at 10 years old, that my mother did not want another child when she got pregnant with me, and was using birth control, which failed.

    Jonice - February 4, 2020 Reply

    Dear Kathleen, I wrote a blog about brutal honesty, which is often actually a great boundary violation. Your parents sharing this info is a good example of that. Keep in mind that everything I write is to be taken in context.

Beth - February 3, 2020 Reply

Julia and Nancy — I so relate to what you wrote. When my parents did say anything, it was “If you can’t act happy then go to your room” or “What’s the matter with you — your sister and brother aren’t upset.”

Once I became psychologically incapable of being my mom’s mini-me at age 10, I ceased to exist. I grew up convinced I was fundamentally defective, horribly ugly, and not worthy of living. This lack of emotional attunement and support led to brutally abusive and controlling relationships with a psychopath as a young adult (but he paid attention to me and gave me lots of rules to “fix me”!). This ultimately ended with me barely escaping with my life and left possession-less and homeless in NYC.

All I ever wanted to hear was, “I’m so sorry (or angry) that happened to you.” But 30 years later I’ve stopped waiting because no one in my family is capable of that type of empathy. So I have had to learn how to give to myself now what I needed back as a child/young adult (thank you, Dr. Webb!). This has been the only way for me to begin the healing and stop hating myself.

Susan - February 3, 2020 Reply

I realize now that the overwhelming feeling was “irrelevancy”. My he-man-wannabe father wanted sons. He got all daughters. My mother was a cowering, uneducated woman who, at age 8, was handed 2 toddler siblings to raise. Her idea of success was to find a strongman to take care of her. Neither of them could grasp why that life did not appeal to me, and I was always an unspoken disappointment. I was openly ridiculed for wanting higher education, so I took a clerical job right after high school. Today, I am 67, divorced and no desire to remarry, childless by choice, and had a pretty good career. Now, in retirement, I have my own business. I always felt like an embarrassment to them. Today, I have a hard time finding friends and I am lonely.

    Becky - February 9, 2020 Reply

    Susan: You are enough. Often parents are so disabled they can’t give a child what that child needs. (Such as encouragement, recognition, or acceptance) Maybe look for some friendships in unusual places like volunteering for a cause you believe in. There are lots of people who would love a friend and who are lonely too. Also look for a younger woman to mentor and to help. Think of her as someone you can give the encouragement and support you wish your parents would have given to you. She may need it just like you did. Your suffering can be used to help others and bring good into a broken hurting world. You have a lot to offer.

      Jonice - February 12, 2020 Reply

      Wonderful advice, Becky. Thanks for offering Susan your thoughts!

Sarah - February 3, 2020 Reply

My mum used to accuse me of being “too self aware” and told me men were only attracted to women who were niaive and vulnerable. Consequently I found out all about the type of men attracted to naive, vulnerable women. I wish she had told me it’s ok to be powerful.

    Jonice - February 4, 2020 Reply

    I wish so too, Sarah. But you have now discovered this for yourself! So now, to make your self more powerful 🙂

Mary - February 3, 2020 Reply

My dad criticized me a lot. I am an older adult now and he still finds ways to criticize me. Just yesterday he told me how I was in a beauty contest when I was 5. I won. He said it was because the judges were fat and so was I back then. Other than I wasn’t fat, he laughs when he tells the story. When I told him it hurt my feelings, he laughed.
I have decided it is time for me to re-frame the story. My mother thought I was beautiful and she entered me into the contest. I choose to think of my mother’s high regard for me instead of my father’s low regard for me.
My mother will have been gone 5 years this coming May. She noticed when things were troubling me. My father did not.

    Jonice - February 4, 2020 Reply

    Dear Mary, your father’s way of thinking is a reflection of himself, not you. Please keep trying not to give him airtime in your head or your heart.

MARY - February 3, 2020 Reply

Wow. since I started following your work I feel like I was reborn. so true about telling myself everything I would’ve wanted my parents to tell me. I was just wondering why it is that we all grew up in the same home and out of 9 siblings I am the only one who relates so much to CEN? does CEN affect different people differently?

    Jonice - February 4, 2020 Reply

    Yes, it definitely can affect each child differently, for sure. I’m so glad you’re feeling reborn, that is awesome!

Teri - February 3, 2020 Reply

This article was an eye opener for me. You’re right that it’s very subtle and hard to understand CEN at first.
It’s encouraging that there are ways to improve and recover over time. I’m 65 and just realizing these truths now.
Thanks for your research and writing on this important topic. It’s really helping me with understanding my life in a different way.

    Jonice - February 4, 2020 Reply

    Thank you, Teri and I’m so glad!

    Taza - February 21, 2020 Reply

    Teri, I’m 63 & just discovered a lot of this too. I’m grateful to have found a therapist who “gets it,” and it feels great to know there are others in their 60s who are also on the path of self-discovery and reclamation!

Alan - February 3, 2020 Reply

Hi Jonice,

I love your writing, ideas and “simple” framing of complex concepts.

Having been thoroughly trained as a thinker, I have spent many years re-balancing that with learning to feel too. I’ve come to deeply value working experientially in this terrain, both for myself and with others. And, consequently, it was a surprise to me how much your “simple” framing of your ideas, has helped me. I knew every little wrinkle of my personal map – – – and – – – having the whole map shown to me on one page has been and is very helpful.

I suppose all I’m saying is that I need to balance thinking and feeling 🙂

The quotes that start this article resonate with me. I read them all thinking, “nope,” “nope,” “nope” – – – 🙂

But I do feel antsy re your “How to Give Yourself What You Never Got,” section.

I have developed the capacity to do this for myself – now. And (for me) it has taken years of Gestalt therapy – in other words, sitting opposite somebody else who refused to believe that I was not okay. Having had that experience, I can now, mostly, do some of this for myself.

My concern is that without at least some equivalent “experiential” experience, your “prescription,” is in danger of being overly cognitive/simplistic – – – decide to do something for yourself and you can do it – – – . And (of course), if I can’t manage to do that for myself, guess who I’m likely to blame – – – .

Whilst years of therapy is obviously not the only answer for all sorts of reasons, I think we need to be wary of diverting to the other end of the scale and thus possibly exacerbating the original issue.

With best wishes,

    Jonice - February 4, 2020 Reply

    Dear Alan, thank you for sharing your experience and your thoughts. I did change some of my wording because I don’t want to make CEN people blame themselves even more, for sure.

Julie - February 3, 2020 Reply

Everything Simone said resonated with me and it’s very sad but encouraging to know someone else understands.
It’s hard when you have to do everything by yourself as I’m single and haven’t got anyone I can really call a friend in real life.
My family is large but they all except one have partners and children. That one talks only about herself and I’m the only one that listens.
So at the beginning of the year I bought myself a promise ring to look after myself.
It’s extra hard at the moment but it has to be done. I’ve got a wonderful Bellydance teacher and Psychologist so that helps.
Chin up peeps

    Jonice - February 4, 2020 Reply

    Dear Julie, I love the idea of your promise ring! Thanks for sharing your wonderful attitude.

Shari - February 3, 2020 Reply

My parents were very religious and needed me to believe all that they did and be the ‘good little girl’, so they would look like good parents. I was told to not embarrass them. I wasn’t encouraged to have my own ideas or that anything I thought was valid if it was different than what they thought. I wish they would have said ‘You are a worthwhile person and your ideas and thoughts matter. You are enough! You are loved unconditionally!’ Negative feelings were wrong because it was like that would be admitting that your faith in God wasn’t enough. So one had to pretend that everything was always good.

    Jonice - February 4, 2020 Reply

    Dear Shari, part of your recovery will involve embracing your negative feelings and learning how to express them. Please get on the path of CEN recovery and it will change you from the inside in a very good way.

Grace - February 3, 2020 Reply

The CEN I experienced was likely due to both parents at work (and sister busy with her own things since she’s 10 years older than me), followed by parents’ divorce, which led to both mother and I having depression. Mother thought she would help me after she helped herself, but she never came back to me. My depression is probably marginal, and it makes it even harder to convince myself I deserve better, I disregard it when others tell me that too.

    Jonice - February 4, 2020 Reply

    Dear Grace, it is vital that you start treating yourself as if you matter. How you feel matters! Your depression matters.

Simone - February 2, 2020 Reply

I wish my parents had occasionally spoken to me, acknowledged my feelings and individuality, said they loved me and praised me at least sometimes. Instead, they only spoke to criticise all that I was and did, or compare me to my golden child brother and other mythically perfect children, or tell me they would really give me something to be upset about.
Yet they are, to this day, regarded as wonderful people in the community, but who will not admit any responsibility in our family for the gaslighting, threats and denial over the decades.

    Jonice - February 2, 2020 Reply

    I am so sorry, Simone. I hope you are now focused on yourself, self-care, self-love, and healing your CEN.

    Helen - February 3, 2020 Reply

    Mine went on to blame their devastated victim children for the results of their horror parenting, separate me from my own kids using character assination and ongoing threats. Their denial and refusal to take any responsibility they take to their graves. My children & grandchildren live in the fantasy my parents created at my expense. Extremely painful and I feel so powerless to change the outcome.

      Jonice - February 4, 2020 Reply

      Dear Helen, I am so sorry. Please do focus on yourself and what you can control. Nurture yourself to become stronger.

Sam - February 2, 2020 Reply

“You have as much right and ability to feel and do things as anyone else.” Instead of, “People having and doing things are much smarter than you. Other people’s feelings, needs always come before yours.”

    Sam - February 2, 2020 Reply

    Those were things they did say implicitly in responses to things I did or didnt do or expressed a want to do. Many limiting things were said to us and I recall no instance ever of any form of ‘you can do it’ , ‘you have as much right to try as anyone’, ‘I support your efforts’

      Jonice - February 2, 2020 Reply

      Dear Sam, I’m sorry you received so little encouragement as a child. I would guess that perhaps now, as an adult, you struggle to try new things or take risks. I hope you’re working to overcome that.

Bella - February 2, 2020 Reply

“If your parents never told you that you were good enough, then you must resolve this question for yourself. Are you good enough? Listen to your answer, and trust it.”

So if my answer is no i am not good enough (something most victims of CEN feel) then i should trust that i am not good enough?

    Jonice - February 2, 2020 Reply

    No, you should not trust your answer, Bella. Please see a CEN therapist for help with this! It’s important.

Julia - February 2, 2020 Reply

Wow. The examples are amazing. Not one of those things was said by my parents. This has brought home to me even more the level of emotional neglect in my childhood (and adulthood!). The examples are incredible! Thank you.

    Jonice - February 2, 2020 Reply

    You are not alone, Julia.

Nancy - February 2, 2020 Reply

That I matter.
That I am worth more than a dirty look .
That my attempts at finding myself were worthwhile events.
That although I am not the child you envisioned, I am still worthy of your love.

    Jonice - February 2, 2020 Reply

    All true, Nancy. I hope you are able to truly know and feel those truths now.

Erik - February 2, 2020 Reply

All they had to say was, “We know you are trying your best, and we love you for that. You really are a GOOD BOY.”

Instead, they never told me I was anything, so I grew up with no belief in myself or sense that I was anything special, wearing a cloak of shame and self-loathing.

    Jonice - February 2, 2020 Reply

    Dear Erik, I hope you are working on overcoming these old messages. Please see a therapist if you can to help you sort this out.

    Donna - February 2, 2020 Reply

    Yup. Sounds familiar. It was like I had permission to live in the same house as my parents and 3 meals were served every day but there was a minimum of attention. ************************************
    Jonice, YOU are an ANGEL!

      Jonice - February 4, 2020 Reply

      Thank you Donna!

Sissy - February 2, 2020 Reply

My Husband and his siblings were emotionally neglected when they were growing up. They exhibit no emotion as adults and that makes close personal relationships nearly impossible. I was emotionally and verbally abused as a child and the hardest thing today is that I STILL feel completely “alone”. Even though we love each other very much, my Husband and I just can’t seem to open up with each other. It’s very sad.

    Jonice - February 2, 2020 Reply

    Dear Sissy, can you get your husband to go see a CEN therapist with you? Your husband may be able to learn how to connect with you better, and you with him. Check the CEN Therapist List on this site!

Kathy - February 2, 2020 Reply

I’m sorry I missed the opportunity to participate in what my parents said or didn’t say. The one thing they always said was “I’m so disappointed in you.”

    Jonice - February 2, 2020 Reply

    Dear Kathy, you just participated now! I’m sorry your parents said that. It was wrong.

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