How to Deal With Your Emotionally Neglectful Parents

Now that I see what my parents didn’t give me, how do I continue to interact with them?

Should I tell my parents how they failed me?

If I talk to my parents about CEN, won’t it make them feel bad?

How do I handle the pain that I feel now, as an adult, each time my parents treat me as if I don’t matter?

If you were raised by parents who were not tuned in enough to your emotional needs, you have probably experienced the results of this parental failure over and over throughout the years and into your adulthood. Once you realize how deeply you have been affected by Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN), it can become quite difficult to interact with the parents who neglected you.

One of the most frequent questions that I am asked by people who grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect is, “Should I talk to my parents about CEN?”

It’s actually quite difficult to answer the questions above. Every single living human being had a childhood, and no two stories are the same. Indeed, the number of possible answers to the questions is as infinite as the variety of different ways that CEN can happen. But generally, it can be extremely healing when adult child and parents are able to come to a mutual understanding of how an emotional failure happened and why, and how it affected everyone involved. This, however, can be a complicated business; difficult, and even risky.

It’s important to keep in mind that it is not at all necessary to include your parents in your recovery from CEN. As an adult, you can identify what you didn’t get, and you can give it to yourself. I have seen many people go through this process with great success without ever including their parents.

That said, you may certainly feel a wish or need to reach some understanding about CEN with your parents. If so, it is very understandable that you might feel this way. If you are wondering about whether to talk to them, one extremely important factor to consider is the type of CEN parents that you have. Here are the three main categories:

  1. Self-centered, Abusive or Multiple-Failure Parents: These parents expect the child to fulfill their needs, rather than the other way around. They may not have treated you with the physical and emotional care and protection that a child needs from a parent.
  2. Struggling: These parents may mean well, but they are simply unaware of their child’s needs because they are struggling in their own lives. This might be financially, emotionally, or with caretaking of a sick family member or child, for example.
  3. WMBNT – Well-Meaning-But-Neglected-Themselves: These parents love their child and give him everything they can. But they are not able to give him enough emotional responsiveness and validation because they didn’t receive it in their own childhoods. 

Parents who are in the last two categories, Struggling or WMBNT stand a better chance of being able to get past their initial hurt, guilt or defensiveness to have a fruitful talk with their adult children about CEN. If your parents were in the Self-centered category, were abusive, or failed you in many other ways as well, see the section below called Self-Centered, Abusive, or Multiple-Failure Parents.

First let’s look at some general suggestions to consider. Then we’ll talk about how to apply them to the different types of parents.

  1. Ask your parents about their own childhoods – If you are unsure about why your parents were blind to your emotional needs, ask them some questions about their own parents and their own childhoods. You may be able to see whether and how your parents were failed by their parents. If you can see your own parents more clearly, you may be able to understand why they failed you. Whether you decide to talk to them about CEN or not, your understanding of how they got their emotional blind spots may help you feel less hurt when you are affected by them.
  2. Try to find compassion for your parents – Often, when you can see how your own parents were emotionally neglected, you can feel some compassion for what they didn’t get. This can help you to feel less angry and frustrated with them for failing you.
  3. Anticipate and prepare – Think about whether to tell your parents about your discovery of CEN. Might one parent be more able to understand it than the other? Will your parents collapse into a pool of guilt for having failed you? Will they be completely unable to grasp it? Will they get angry?
  4. If possible, take a chance – If you feel there is a potential for positive results and healing, I suggest that you take a chance and talk about it.
  5. Talk with compassion and anticipate how your parents might feel – Many parents may feel accused, defensive, hurt or guilty when you try to talk to them about CEN. It is very important to anticipate this and prevent it. Here are some guidelines: 
    • Choose your moment wisely, with few distractions, when you parents are in a calm mood. Decide whether to talk with one parent first, or both together.
    • If at all possible, have this conversation in person. It can be difficult to see what your parents are feeling or to respond to them in a helpful way via phone or electronic communication.
    • Tell them that this is a new discovery about yourself that you wish to share with them.
    • Talk about CEN with compassion for them and how they were raised.
    • Talk about how invisible and insidious it is, and how easy it is for loving, well-meaning parents to pass it down to their children.
    • Tell them what you are doing to heal yourself.
    • Be clear that this is not a matter of blame, and not an accusation; you are talking with them about it only because you want to move forward and be closer to them.
    • Offer to give them a copy of Running on Empty so that they can read about it for themselves. 

Self-Centered, Abusive, or Multiple-Failure Parents 

If you have parents who fall into one of these categories, then you are faced with a situation that is even more complex than those above. Unless your parents have changed and grown since your childhood, I am sorry to say that most likely they will not be able to grasp the CEN concept or to respond to you in any positive way.

For you, I offer one guiding principle that may be difficult for you to accept. But I stand by it, after having treated scores of CEN people with parents like this. Here it is:

Make the decision about whether to talk to your parents about CEN based solely upon your own needs. If you think it may strengthen you or make you feel better to talk with them, then do it. If not, then do not. You are not obligated to take your parent’s needs and preferences into account. On this, it’s all about you. 

In other words, if you had an abusive or multiple-failure parent, you have carte blanche permission to do whatever you feel will benefit you in your life. You, your children and your spouse come first. You do not need to protect your parents from the knowledge that they failed you.

Parents who were abusive to you as a child, either verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually, are also, by definition, emotionally neglectful. If they had been emotionally attuned to you enough, they would not have been able to treat you this way. Also, if your parents were / are abusive in any way, then it may be of more value to talk with them about the abuse than about the neglect, since abuse is far more visible and tangible than CEN. Because CEN can be so imperceptible, and hides beneath abuse, it will be very difficult and unlikely for abusive parents to ever grasp the concept.

Unless your parents have been to therapy, have confronted their own issues and abusive ways and actively changed, (for example, an alcoholic or addicted parent who gets sober and goes to AA such that his/her personality becomes truly different) they will probably be no more able to hear you now than they could when you were a child.

So ask yourself, “If I talk to my parents about CEN, what are the possible outcomes?” Will they tell you that you are too sensitive, and that you are blowing things out of proportion? Will they blow up in anger? Will they likely say something abusive? Will they twist around what you are saying, and use it against you somehow?

If any of these are likely, I suggest that you put your energy toward healing yourself, and leave your parents out of it. It is extremely important, if you do decide to talk with them, that you do it with the understanding that you may need to protect yourself emotionally. Also it is vital that you be strong enough to not be emotionally damaged by their words or reactions. This is a tall order for anyone, but is especially so when you were raised by self-centered or abusive parents.

IN SUMMARY:  It is certainly not necessary to talk to your parents about CEN. You can heal from it without ever doing so. Learning more about your parents’ childhoods and having compassion for them may help make their emotionally neglectful ways less painful to you now. However, sharing the concept of CEN with them can be helpful in some families, and may be a way for you to improve your relationship with them. Be sure to take into account the type of CEN parents that you have when making the decision to talk with them. Your path to healing is unique to you. There are no right or wrong answers. If you decide to talk with your parents about CEN, follow the tips and guidelines above, and proceed with care.

To learn much more about whether you should talk with your parents about CEN, how to do it, and how to cope if you can’t, see the book, Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children.

To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, how it’s different from emotional abuse, how it happens, and how to heal from it, see my book Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.

Above all else, remember that your feelings are important and your needs are important. Yes, you matter.

Jonice

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My mother’s daughter - June 22, 2019 Reply

I’m in my 40s, just left my parents home and want to pull out my hair. I went to visit them after having prophylactic ovarian and tubal removal for BRCA mutation and I don’t even get a “how are you feeling?” I live 2 hrs away. They didn’t call or come see me after surgery. My mom lied, said I never told her the date. My Dad is so preoccupied with my narcissistic mom. They had no clue! Not because I didn’t tell them, I did. They just don’t listen. I’m sick and tired of it. Self absorbed, totally my parents. And what sucks is, I see some of my own mothering traits mirror my mothers…ugh!

    Jonice - June 23, 2019 Reply

    It’s never too late to stop the automatic pass-down of CEN. I hope you will work on meeting your own needs and attending to your own feelings for the sake of both yourself and your daughter.

Anesha - June 21, 2019 Reply

Right now I am dealing with the same thing in my adulthood. I am 26 years old, and my mom is never their for me when I need someone to talk to. She has always been this way since I was a baby. It’s very toxic and hurtful how a person can have kids, but not really want to get to know them or bond with them. I was just talking to my mom about the way I feel, and she just blew up on me. She didn’t want to hear anything I had to say. She said that she doesn’t want to hear about any of my problems. So it’s like, when I might be feeling sad or depressed, who can I go to talk to if I can’t tell my mom about anything? This is why I’m not open to talking to people about how I feel, because growing up I was never asked how I felt. This is one of the main reasons that I do not want kids, because I am afraid that I might be the same way, even though I say I will never be like my mom. It’s a very tough and hard situation. When I try to discuss stuff with my mom, I talk to her without all of the cussing and yelling because I am a very calm person. But her, she has to get loud, yell, cuss at scream and it just makes everything even crazier. I just don’t know what to do. I’m so frustrated. I’ve been thinking about finding a mother figure and a father figure lately. It’s been on my mind to find parents who will really love and be there for me.

Rosin Mathew - June 14, 2019 Reply

I am 16 years old now.i live in saudi arabia. i was bullied by kids in my class when i was in lower grades, they used to snatch my luch and leave me hungry,throw water at me, call me names like fat , ugly and i was 5 years old. i would go to the washroom and cry not actually being able to figure out what they said , why do they hate me so much and because i was hungry. Later once, 4 teenagers approached me when i was crying and asked me the reason and i told them because i seriously wanted to tell someone(My parents are busy people and used to hit me at times and out of the kids that bullied me some were children of teachers)

They started laughing at me and said i was such a baby for crying over something like that and told that they were going to show me there are better things to make me cry.from there on they did everything the kids used to do.Call me names but that changed when i moved schools. Now i was in 2nd grade and completely new. Most of the kids were trying to make friends and so did I. I was befriended by three girls(not revealing names)of my age and in my class. They always used to get answers from me for tests, copy my activities without even asking me,take major of my lunch and not give any of theirs(woah…whats with people’s obsession with my lunches:))When i asked what was i to them nothing more than a helper, they admitted it without a second thought. Now that i stopped with ‘helping’ them they said i was useless to them aand didn’t need me. I called them all frogs and they started to pretend to cry all of a sudden and i saw their sisters(4) and 1 guy(guess sm1’s bro)standing a few feet away. the girls told them that i was bullying them and called them bad names(oh…the irony!) They said i was gonna pay for this and took me to the school ground which was practically empty and told me that i will pick up and carry the bags of my former bff’s and carry it upstairs(2 floors) everyday waiting near the gates. THey scared me so much and commanded me not to tell anyone. I OBEYED THEM. That wasnt the end of it. They used to smack me on the head, trip me so often, lock me in the bathroom and of course call me names like bitch,slut,whore,fat ,ugly(i looked up ost of the words to know their meaning…(i was pretty smart for a 2nd grader….guess not strong enough)but only understood that BITCH=FEMALE DOG the others i didn’t get it except the fact that they were bad words.

This happened for 8 months and still hadn’t told anyone bcuz …petrified.I couldn’t tell my parents because they were full time working to be financially secure. We had weekly permanent servants who changed every week.My parents were hardly having time to interact and i didn’t know how to tell and a small part of me didn’t want them to be sad because of me…just like everyone else. But after summer i decided to be strong and then the school opened. I took their bags and threw it on the ground. they were kind of shocked but quickly replaced it with anger and intimidation. I told i was not gonna do it anymore and then pushed their buttons calling them names and went as far as calling them bitch.Then it happened for the first time….She(one of the teenage girls) raise her hand and slapped me across the face.They kind of kicked me hard…but not hard enough to form bruises or kill me or show any evidence that i was attacked. But hard enough to cause great pain.they pulled my hair and stuff and threw me on the floor. He stepped on my fingers and one of them brought their shoes to my mouth and asked me to kiss it. I felt broken , helpless and degraded. I knew from books that it was done by ancient servants or slaves.He stepped harder on my fingers noticing my hesitation. I kissed one by one all of their shoes…

They took turns and told me things that they weren’t doubtful about ….they talked like they were stating facts or universal truths. They said things close to
“dont even thing about tellin ur parents…they will never believe you and first of all never listen to you because they have better things to do”

“You are a complete dissappointment”
“You will have people come close to you but they will get bored of you”
“They will leave you because they will choose better ones”
“Everyone’s better than your worthless sorry excuse of life”
“You will hear how embarrassing you are from your own family”
“Your mom will tell you that u are a liar,fake and selfish person”
I remeber them saying thingslike these but now as a more matured person i know what they told and i remember these vividly….I mean these aren’t that easily forgetable…
This happened like every now and then like the shoe kissing and verbal abuse…Then they left for good.

I decided to let this all fade away from me…but didn’t realise that a part of ME was fading away too.I tried to tell my mom once but she said she didnt have time and got work and had better things to do.I froze and dropped the idea of telling her because she emotionally neglected me.It felt like what they said was all true. I tried being a good daughter just because…why not and majorly because i didnt waant to give them a reason to hate me like THEM. I changed school again and got into 3rd grade.

I made friends who then became best friends and we were together till 5th grade. Then i saw this obnoxious girl in my class who had only one friend who she treated like dirt. I felt bad and introduced her to my gang and we all got along fine. I became absent for 1 week bcuz i was sick and came back to school. I saw my bffs was sitting together with that obnoxious diva… I tied talking to them but they didnt wanna…At that moment I realised that she had stolen my bffs of 2 years from me…THEY HAD MOVED ON WITH SOMEONE BETTER…from then on through out 6th,7th and 8th grade i made friends but regular good friends ….no bffs just to make sure no one can leave and live a impact free life.

I rekindled myself with some old good friends and new ones and became comfortable.I dont know whether we are best friends or what but we are good friends.But the effects on me…I am self critisizing,feels threatened when someone talks to my friends,very low self esteem,no self love,only self hate and i am …seriously fat and never have felt beautiful or pretty.

Well that’s my social life. My relationship with my parents are pretty strained now.My parents never heard me out especially my mom. I tried many times after that incident but i couldn’t muster enough courage to do so.I didn’t know what to expect . My mom’s pretty judgemental. She nags me all the time. No matter what I do she is never happy or satisfied with me. She herself has called me fat and fake.At times it feels like she is deliberately trying to prove THEIR points. At times she makes the exact same statements THEY made about me. She was never there to correct me before then how dare she criticise me? My parents tell me that I am not trustworthy because i lie all the time about having body aches as a kid when it was time for school….only if they knew i wasn’t lying

They say that they dont trust me…I feel like screaming that “You broke my trust way before I broke yours!!! I was bullied I was harassed and you were never there…If i couldn’t bring myself to tell you then its your fault! I can’t trust anyone completely. I am scared that I would be used again and disposed off. I am broken and shattered. I have zero self confidence and have no talents! While all you care about is my grades,what other people say about me,how irresponsible i am and just keeps on nagging me and paying attention to everything revolving around me but…Me!”

It’s been a few years since I thought that I had forgotten everything but each time my says or talks like THEM … I completely lose it. I spent hours in the bathroom …crying. When I thought that those nightmare were over now i feel them coming back to me. My parents always question me why I have a hard time listening to them, and doing what they say? It’s because when someone instructs me to do something with authority over me I dont feel like listening. I hate myself for listening to THEM and listening to someone makes me relive it again. Ask me to do it with a litttle nit of gratitude I’ll do it and don’t ask me with authority. No one has authority over me..

I dont know what to do about all this. I still dont trust my family to tell them all this. Mom is judgemental and i am scared of people judging me. Will accuse me and say its my fault? I hardly talk to them now that they have taken away my mobile thinking that would make me a better person. Invading my personal space and not caring about my emotions is their way of changing me for the better? Should I consult a counsellor or psychologist ? Thoughts…. Thank you to every one who will read this.

    Jonice - June 16, 2019 Reply

    Dear Rosin, I think it may be possible that you are having a trauma response to extreme bullying. I strongly encourage you to talk to a school counselor or psychologist. Definitely, and the sooner the better!

Fi - June 14, 2019 Reply

Thanks for this article Jonice. I have spoken with my parents about CEN about 6 months ago and my mother told me what I felt was ‘ridiculous’. I explained why I wanted to talk with them about it and neither of them understand why I can’t just move on and not worry about it. I endured an emotionally abusive relationship many years ago before I met my husband and the trauma I had experienced during that time had been triggered by the way my mother was speaking to me. She was talking very patronisingly and condescendingly to me and my father as my mother likes to be in control at all times. It got to the stage where I had enough and felt the need to address it with her.
After speaking to both of my parents about how I was feeling, my mother has taken it very personally and said she doesn’t know how to talk to me. My dad is trying to be a little more understanding but mum tries to stop him from talking because I had said I want them to listen and not try to ‘fix’ things for me. I am an adult (46) with a family of my own – my supportive husband and I have two primary school aged girls (one who I feel may be on the autism spectrum and my parents regularly point out her differences in front of her). How can I deal with their constant judgement and gas-lighting? Will they ever understand that my feelings are real and valid? I have had to put boundaries into place to help myself heal as they have only once asked me when it would suit me for them to come and stay (since talking with them about CEN), otherwise they had always assumed that they can come and go as they please. A little win but our relationship is now tense and I still feel anxious when they are around.
They only really talk about the weather and their comings and goings – nothing real or deep. It feels like they are afraid to feel anything. They are WMBNT parents – I know they love me and my siblings. I would just like a more meaningful relationship with them. Is that too much to ask from them?

    Jonice - June 16, 2019 Reply

    Dear Fi, kudos to you for trying to talk with your parents about CEN! If nothing else, the response you got does validate your experience of CEN for your whole life. I’m sorry to say that a meaningful relationship of any kind may be too much to ask from them. It is very painful to keep going back to a dry well and finding no water there. Again. I hope you’ll put your focus on the people who can have a meaningful relationship with you, and keep your parents on the other side of a protective boundary.

Leslie - June 13, 2019 Reply

My family never understand my feelings. They weren’t there when I need them, they just fade away. They always scold me for little things and never supported me on anything. Sometimes I just wish that did they not wanted me?

    Jonice - June 13, 2019 Reply

    Dear Leslie, I hope you’ll start focusing on yourself more. Some families are incapable of truly seeing their children. Focusing on your own needs and feelings is the answer.

    John - June 16, 2019 Reply

    These kind of parents waiting to get ready things for life. They manipulate their children with fake plans and emotions.
    In the end the children fail in their dreams. Even you try to find the reasons like the article advice or looking to see the past to find why they do it will not give advantages. This is because your parents are not supporting you with honestly. Support means time of work and that is why I consider talking to them a total failure.

      Jonice - June 16, 2019 Reply

      Dear John, it sounds like you’re referring to abusive parents, who are typically not receptive to any talk about CEN. But some WMBNT parents can hear it. It all depends what kind of parents you have.

Avin Malmquist - June 12, 2019 Reply

I grew up in Memphis Tennessee. I moved from my alcoholic step-mom when i moved to Florida. She would physically and mentally abuse me and my little brother. Although i was older and i got it much worse. Part of the reason she was abusive was because she was abused as a child. She’d tell us stories of how she had been raped. and how she would wake up with blood all over the walls as a kid. And i don’t live with my real mom because she was abusive( i had heard stories from my parents about how she would slap me when i cried when i was a baby). And now i live with my financially struggling and broke in debt father who never has time to talk to me or is always gone working. I feel super lonely. I was diagnosed by two separate psychologist with PTSD( right now i’m only 15). I am always being made fun of in school. Because everyone says i’m super insecure and paranoid(probably because of my step-mom). I got into the wrong group of friends for a while. They had me doing all types of drugs and crimes. Such as robbing stores, robbing homes, robbing people, and much more. It completely ruined my grades freshmen year. And my relation-ship with my family( i over heard my dad one night talking on the phone about how he doesn’t trust me). And I’ve heard my dad cheat on my step-mom( who i no longer live with). He literally fucked her all night when i went to sleep. And my dad had a women who smoked crack move into my house to watch me while he was working. She took me with her to buy it(from her scary gold toothed dealers) . And she spent all the money meant for food for me and my little brother on crack. I eventually gathered the courage to tell my dad and he kicked her out. And my asshole friends jumped me(beat me up) and robbed me for my weed. So i stopped hanging out with them. And now i have nobody, no friends either because none of the good kids in school want to be around me. I started boxing. And my boxing coach(who used to be homeless,he lived in the back-room of the boxing gym) moved into my house to watch me when my dad is working. I am currently 15 years old. Any help or advice? There’s a lot more stuff that’s gone on(not all i’m willing to talk about)

    Jonice - June 13, 2019 Reply

    Dear Avin, your story breaks my heart. The only thing I can recommend is to find a guidance counselor at your school and tell him or her what’s going on in your life. You are living with things a 15 year old should never have to experience. Please talk to a guidance counselor!!

Her 2 - June 11, 2019 Reply

I am struggling I have not had a relationship with my father because he has had his own mental health issues and believe providing finally was enough. I have not talked with him over 7 years and I was told by my brother he had a stroke and asked do I want his phone number. I knew there would be a day like this but still feel angry. Thoughts?

    Jonice - June 11, 2019 Reply

    I’m sorry I can’t give professional advice on this. The only thing I can say here is to put your own self first.

PJ - June 10, 2019 Reply

My father was verbally and emotionally abusive using the silent treatment often and over trivial things and treated each of us as if we didn’t exist when we received it. Every time I received it I had high anxiety until he started speaking to me again. I have healed from two episodes of depression and still have anxiety symptoms. My dad died in 2015 and my psychiatrist/therapist helped me work through my childhood to rewrite an accurate narrative. When my father died I thought I had a normal childhood but I was emotionally numb. Through the therapy I got through complicated grief, can feel and identify my emotions. I understand the abuse was wrong and recently confronted and said goodbye permanently to my abusive father. During the last two years of his life he could express emotion and was the kind of father a person wants and I remember and respect that man. My mother was ignored as a child, beaten and cheated on by her first husband and then was married to my father for over 50 years. She removed herself emotionally from the situation and worked nights. My therapist and I discovered many boundary violations and emotional incest throughout my childhood and adolescence. While my mom was working I would sleep in my dad’s bed. I am aware of one sexual abuse incident when my father touched my breasts during a “tickle fight”. My therapist senses much more happened but I have no other memories. My mom is 86 and recently told she has heart problems and needs to limit activity and has nitroglycerin. I wish I could ask her what she knows if anything about incest but fear I would get flat denial or I have no idea but that can’t be true as an answer. Given her fading health not sure I can live with confronting her

    Jonice - June 11, 2019 Reply

    Dear PJ, I’m so sorry your family legacy carried so much pain, and it was put on you. You do not have to talk with your mom to heal. I hope you’ll keep working with your therapist. All my best to you.

Her - June 5, 2019 Reply

I broke down reading this.. I could feel the knots in my stomach everytime I could relate.. I fall into the “Self Centered, Abusive, and Multiple Failure Parents” category. I am turning 30 this year. My father has never been involved in my life. I think he wanted to be, but gave up. I have a hard time not blaming my mother. My mother has never been emotionally stable herself. She dealt with childhood molestation and abuse. Her mother passed away when my mother was 30. I feel that stunted her emotional growth. I was 10 years old. It definitely stunted my emotional growth. My mother is also substance dependent. I want to say “addict”, but I feel that she supplements for prescription medication she should be taking. I don’t think I had a childhood. Or I did because I wasn’t beaten or molested. I had a childhood with the neighborhood children. Their parents involved me in their households, which I am thoroughly grateful for! I think the “village” that helped raise me, while my emotionally unstable mother tried making it through the next day, helped me and hurt me at the same time. I feel passion and empathy, but have trouble conveying my emotions. I feel my “village” abandoned me because of my mother. I feel so much guilt because I love my mom. I love her so much. But she causes so much self loathing in my heart towards myself. She doesn’t make the best decisions, but I know she means well. I can’t blame my “village”. My mother brought me into this world and didn’t take responsibility for me like she should have. I have a hard time blaming her and defending her because I know she did the best she could with the emotional capacity that she has. I am so tired.. I am angry most of the time. Passive aggressive. Nonchalant. Lonely. I’m an only child. My mother is an only child. I feel like I literally have no one. I’m on my feet supporting myself, but it is so exhausting..

    Jonice - June 5, 2019 Reply

    Dear Her, any time I hear a story about a lovely person being harmed by their mother, it makes me think the same thing. Please, please, please focus on yourself. Take care of yourself as if you are mothering a child which is you. Pay attention to what you feel, want and need, and resond to those feelings. I hope you will read my second book, Running On Empty No More, because it has a lot of potential to help you do this. You can find it in libraries as well as bookstores.

Tiffani Kate - June 1, 2019 Reply

The past 72 hours have been hard. Really f**king hard.

I got into a fight with my dad Thursday night. Since then, we have not spoken to each other. I don’t remember what we were yelling about, but we were both very angry. He yelled at me and told me to go sit outside the kitchen for an hour without dinner, my phone, my laptop, or anyone else. On top of that, it was pouring, but at least it was a covered porch. When he yells at me, he invades my personal space and follows me, standing above me and backs me into the wall. We are now not on speaking terms. I feel uncomfortable in this house and I am scared of him. I have never seen him like this before. It’s frightening.

Since Thursday, I feel my heart drop like a roller coaster heading downwards every time I see him around the house now. I feel like a golf ball and he’s the driver, ready to hit me. Every time I see his angry face, I feel the urge to punch him in the face, so he can feel how I feel. But I didn’t or I’d be kicked out of the house for good, which is the last thing I want. My family sides with him and the only person that feels my pain and never leaves my side is my boyfriend and best friend, who I have been with for three years.

After another fight my dad and I got into yesterday, my boyfriend drove us and treated me to a romantic dinner in an upscale town overlooking the beautiful Hudson River. We got drinks and I felt better because I was with the love of my life. But as soon as I got home, my heart sank again. For the past few weeks that I’ve been home, my dad makes me give him my phone so I can get some “good sleep”, but the past 3 days, I haven’t been sleeping well. Him taking my phone, looking at my text messages, invading my privacy, and looking at and talking to me like he wants to kill me not only upsets me, but upsets my boyfriend and our friends.

I’m in pain. I need to get away. I honestly don’t know what to do and I’m very hurt.

    Jonice - June 2, 2019 Reply

    Dear Tiffani, you don’t mention your age in your comment. But I think it’s important to talk to an adult outside of your family about what is going on. A guidance counselor at school would be a good choice. Please do talk to someone about this!

Denise - May 31, 2019 Reply

I’ve been looking for help for a few years now. My parents always wanted me to be the best daughter, have only A+ grades and that would make me the best for them. My dad was quite loving but my mom..I always remember her being cold. If my dad would hug me she would say “come on, cut it off. Now you love her but you didn’t want her. You wanted me to have an abortion and then you said she’s not your daughter, that I conceived her with someone else. Stop being fake”…these are the words I kept hearing all my life, since I was a little kid to now, on my 30. It was all true but I never understood how can you tell a little kid these kind of things..it’s something it should’ve stayed betwen them. Then when I had my first boyfriend, at 21, I suddenly turned into the worse kid for my mom. She would say I’m a bitch, she would call me so many bad names, she would cry and say I’ll end up killing her. If I wanted to go out with college friends she was calling me a cunt and acused me of sleeping with several men which wasn’t true. I was the best kid ever and I wasn’t thst kind of girl and it hurted me to see that my own mom didn’t know me. But when she needed money, I was a good girl again.Years have passed but I feel so emotionally damaged. Now I’m married, I have a beautiful daughter and sometimes I feel I turn into my mom which I hate it. Not to mention she lives so close to us but she won’t come see us, she texts me to ask how I’m doing but..I had days when I felt so sick I could barely care for my 8 month old daughter and I told her I feel sick, I told her I can barely stand but she never asks me if I need help, if I can take care of my kid. She instead advises me to take a pain killer or take a nap. I had days when I had nothing to eat right after I gave birth because it was hard to balance everything but she only kept saying I need to get up and organise myself. I asked her to cook for us like 2 times and she came, she quickly cooked and left right after, as if she was running from us. But if I want her to come for a walk to a park or just come spend time doing nothing, she’ll come in a second…but only if I ask her,otherwise she’s not coming to see me or my daughter although I stay at home every day. My husband keeps telling me to call my mom and ask for help and I refuse. i refuse because I stopped wishing for help and because I need to see my mom caring for me, caring to call me and offer her help…I told her I’ll pay someone help me clean and do laundry twice a month and she didn’t say a thing. It hurts so bad..I’m sorry I’ve been messy with my writting but it’s just so much information and needed to take it out

    Jonice - June 2, 2019 Reply

    Dear Denise, it seems that you may need to change some of the ways you are vulnerable to your mom. Please read my book Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. It has lots of good advice for your situation. You can get it at most libraries and bookstores. All my best to you.

Sarah - May 28, 2019 Reply

I am really struggling with the fact that my parents aren’t asking me any questions about my wedding plans. I have never been married and my fiance was previously married and our parents couldn’t be more opposite. His parents ask me about all sorts of plans for the wedding and the only thing my Mom has ever asked is where I got my invitations made.
For a while, I wasn’t sure if my Dad would walk me down the aisle or not. A few weeks after the invitations went out, my Dad informed me that he and my niece would be driving up and that my Mom was not planning to go to the wedding because it was “too far of a drive for her” (it’s a destination wedding in another state), despite the fact that my Dad will be doing the driving. The ironic part about this is that you would think my fiance’s parents would be less enthusiastic about the wedding since he is getting remarried (to me), whereas I have never been married and none of their daughters had an actual wedding. (My fiance and I are paying for it all ourselves….I’m not even asking my parents to help! Just attend!!!)

As a result of all of the above, I have kept my engagement and wedding plans low key (have yet to reveal on social media that I’m engaged and have been since last July), because people will inevitably ask me things like, “Are your parents excited?”, “Is your Mom excited for you?”, etc. and then I’d have to awkwardly explain the whole “my parents aren’t talking about the wedding at all” situation. To be perfectly honest, I really don’t know if they are excited, based on their behavior, but their behavior really hurts me.

I have been doing a lot of reading lately to try to figure out why my parents are acting the way they are and how I can overcome my personal challenges as a result of my family of origin issues. I’m not a psychologist, but I’m seriously wonder if my Mom has narcissistic personality disorder and my dad is her codependent who no longer stands up to her in any argument and has just given up on having any relationships with others? My parents are both retired….when my Mom was working, she at least had to deal with other coworkers who held her accountable for her behavior (at least in the workplace.) Now that she and my Dad are both retired and they don’t participate in any social activities with other couples or groups, I feel her behavior (i.e. the highly criticalness, the rudeness, pessimistic, talking to my Dad like he’s a kid–in public, etc.) have gotten worse. Since a Narcissists (from what I understand) tend to avoid situations that require them to show emotion, I wonder if that is the underlying reason that she is not attending my wedding?

In either case, it really hurts my feelings and makes me feel like my parents have abandoned me now that I’m an adult. When I talk to my fiance about the situation, he tries to help by telling me that’s just how they are. Maybe that’s the case, but it still hurts knowing your Mom isn’t attending your wedding, not because she’s deceased or gravely ill, but rather just because it’s too far away. 🙁

    Jonice - May 29, 2019 Reply

    Dear Sarah, I am so sorry that your parents are treating you this way. I hope you will be able to look to your fiancee and his family and the friends who care about you to fill the empty space your parents are leaving you with. And, above all, focus om yourself and healing your CEN.

Only child - May 8, 2019 Reply

I am an only child who grew up in a home where my parents thought they were perfect parents and I had to be the perfect child. Both parents had disfunctional childhoods. My dad was an alcoholic and my mom and I were both verbally and emotionally abused. Throughout my life they have let me down in so many ways. As an adult, they have been in and out of my life. I finally confronted them about my childhood and we didn’t talk for 5 years and then one day they reached out and we began to rebuild our relationship which lasted for about 4 years and then they went back to their old ways. I finally wrote them a letter and asked them what family meant to them and what type of relationship they wanted and explained to them what family meant to me and what type of relationship I wanted. My thought was to find out what they wanted from our relationship, so that I wasn’t hoping for something they would never be. Instead they sent me a card that said, We’re not sure what you meant by that, but when we do, we will let you know. Four years later and I still have not heard. Just recently I have mailed them several cards and sent an email with no response. I am sending one last note and if I don’t hear back I’ll know they have written me and my family out of their lives. It is so heartbreaking. I’ve lived my life always wanting what could never be. They are truly incapable of loving me or my family. How do I move on…how do I heal?

Girl - May 7, 2019 Reply

My parents always worked hard to provide. My dad used to beat me up a lot and when I went upto my mum she wouldn’t save me coz he would beat her up too. Anyway while I was in my teens she decided to divorce my dad and I stood by her. But I had a boyfriend and she made me feel guilty. My sister was a kid when they got separated and she kind of fell on her. Telling her that everything wrong happened to her. That I am a horrible person like my dad. Whenever I tried to help she would just make me feel guilty of ‘deceiving’ her. She tried to control me too much and when I wouldn’t let that happen she would stop talking to me or saying mean stuff. My parents neglected me all through my childhood. She was closer to my sister, made her help herself and refused to take mine and then blamed me for not helping her and loving her. Now my sister hates me as well. Last 2 years have been too hard on me. Somehow I never voice myself in my other relationships, friendships as well and end up cutting everyone off because they were being mean to me. I have never known unconditional love. My grandparents were loving but I think they suffocated her. She starts fights, I try to do everything right but its never good enough and she finds something to blame me for everything wrong happening. My sister had an accident and my mother wouldn’t really allow me to see her in hospital. I am at home. She told me my sister also doesn’t want to see me because I didn’t help and left them both to fend for themselves while enjoying my college life. I was only trying to escape from situations home immersing myself into alcohol and partying in college. But I can’t escape anymore. My college is done with. I am preparing for my post grad but she calls me selfish on a daily basis. There’s no support. I started having extreme panic, palpitations and insomnia before exams. I wouldn’t even study hard. I am friendless and have no boyfriend. I literally have noone and it feels like I am in a hell hole. Idk what to do. Its just I don’t want my mother and sister to deal with the aftermath that I don’t commit suicide. Somehow I lack inspiration, feel broken, and completely alone. I am in my 20s I don’t know what to do

    Jonice - May 8, 2019 Reply

    Dear Girl, please please find a therapist and get some support with all of this. Ask your primary care dr. for a referral and/or look on goodtherapy.org. for a therapist near you who specializes with emotionally abusive families. You are young, and you can heal. But you will need help and support. Best wishes to you.

jon l - February 6, 2019 Reply

understand that very well and my parents were emotional neglect and provide everything with money and home and food but emotional needs and when child not noticed this until a teenager and got anxiety from that and wished family different and now with my better half in life my wife who pulled me out and seeking proper help and awesome call centre job makes a difference and changing routine in life overall as we all accomplishing this year and yoga and awesome friends and my wife and daughter and kitties and Chihuahua. That rocks. Parents are responsible for this.

Sarah - January 23, 2019 Reply

I can’t believe how my parents could just shut me and my children out. Never wanting to do the mother daughter thing with me or spend time with the grandkids. We invited them over for Christmas dinner only to be snubbed they went out to a restaurant which is something they never do they just do not want to have anything to do with us but will not come out with it and say what the problem is it is so hurtful.

    Relic - April 19, 2019 Reply

    Love, i spent all my childhood being hated on by family memebers of my generation. and my mother did nothing but also join the train. I just dont understand how she can throw her only child under the bus for those “better” than me. Funny part is they arent lol. now she is with them and here i am with no mother and when she gets sick or something i have to deal with it. I stayed away from her for 3 years and it was bliss if i wasnt going through a divorce. called her she never picked up my phone. did i mention i told her i have a brain trauma after her friend she introduced me to tried to kill me and she was literally hopin gi was dead. i wasnt. she was shocked to see me alive. i did everything i could for her but it seems its time i completely cut her off. she did mention not to go to her funeral. i doubt i will. i dnt hate her but the fact that she is so shallow and has no compassion or love for me always flabbergsted me. I try not to be like her to my daughter but yeah… i just grew up wth negativity about me, around me. they hated me and my mom just doesnt support me in anything. i realised her mom was also a non supporting mother thus her lik this but she just wants to use me and doesnt love me. cause she doesnt love herself. so let them go. focus on you n your family. you are atleast here..

      Jonice - April 21, 2019 Reply

      I’m sorry you had this experience Relic. You deserve better! Thanks for your supportive words to Sarah.

Dinah Shazwani - January 23, 2019 Reply

Hello Dr. Jonice, you mentioned that knowing about our parents background helps us to feel compassion towards them. What if i know their background but failed to sympathise?

    Jonice - January 23, 2019 Reply

    Dear Dinah, do not feel pressure to sympathize with your parents. I suggested that only because being able to understand how they got to be as they are can help you. If it does not happen, it’s probably because too much harm and pain were caused you.

Star - January 8, 2019 Reply

I have a niece i love dearly who is neglected and abuse emotionally and physical. I have been every where to learn there is no help for this child. If i mention to social services that she needs help i too suffer abuse and threats. I am sickened to learn after a whole year of going to every organisation in the uk thats mps too that there is no help for her. Any time i mention her ruff treatment social name me to parents and the child and i am made to suffer. 2018 was the worst year of my life and im a loving caring adult and i came close to taking my own life because i adore this child and it sickens me to know i cannot help her and anyone i ask for help just run back to parents saying this woman says this about your treatment to ypur children. Im devesated that in the 20th century we just let these bad parents destroy children.

Toni - January 6, 2019 Reply

I have a beautiful family and a loving husband. But I have times when I cry uncontrollably because I can’t understand why my mum doesn’t call me or ever ask to see my kids. The worst part is that she spends time with my brothers children. My brother and sister are my mum and step dads full biological children. My step father always hated us and had no problem letting us know. When we were young they would be taken on holidays and my older brother and I were left home. They were taught how to drive and went to private schools. I had to teach myself to drive and buy my own school books after I got my first job at 13. I’ve never understood how or why they would want to treat us so differently. I’ve actually searched the net for services where you can pay for a ‘surrogate’ type older woman to call now and again or spend time with me like a daughter. That’s how much I want that connection. I just wish my mum could have adopted my older brother and I to a family who could have loved us unconditionally. I have learnt that it is my job every day to love my children and make them happy, not the other way around. I’m determined to be the best mum I can be. I just feel incredibly sad that I will never have that for myself.

Dixon - January 5, 2019 Reply

Both my parents were clueless on my needs. They did pamper me too much with good dinners and pumping up how good I was based upon on A+ grades in school. But they lacked any concern about my emotional development. I had a lot of problems with anxiety and life’s disappointments which their “praising” of good grades didn’t address. They never even talked about basic human “needs” with relationships and that they could be difficult. It was like, when I fell on my face with girls, I was so devastated and had no feedback or encouragement from parents. It was like they were relieved I had no girlfriends to speak of because I wouldn’t get any girl pregnant. I turned to drugs and alcohol to deaden the pain and put off “life” until after I graduated college. I got involved in gay sex but gave that up too because it was gross and unfulfilling and I couldn’t do it unless I was stoned or drunk or both. When my dad found out I had taped one of the gay sex episodes with his camcorder, instead of talking to me and disciplining me, he acted perverted and happy he had a sex tape of me and told me not to tell mom. I sort of shut down and never believed anything he told me from then on. I feel sick even talking about this……but both parents were neglectful although what my dad did wasn’t just neglectful but very abusive even if he didn’t physically abuse me….the psychological damage messed me up for the past 30 years.

Anonymous - December 31, 2018 Reply

Could you please write something about the situation I find myself in. I’m an elderly parent who over the last few years have realised I was brought up by CEN parents and in turn have brought my children up emotionally neglected. i have tried to talk to one son about this but he is so angry with me he won’t listen. I find this extremely difficult especially when I see him doing the same with his daughter.

    Jonice - January 1, 2019 Reply

    Dear Anonymous, please see the book Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. It’s got a lot of information about exactly how to reach out and connect with your adult child, and how to talk with him about CEN. I think you’ll find lots of help in it. All my best.

I’m not the crazy one! - December 31, 2018 Reply

EMDR has opened my eyes to so much. It has taken locked memories that I could only perceive and emotionally react to through a child’s perspective and has allowed me to remember, process, and perceive those same experiences now through an adult’s perspective. This has offered me a chance to emotionally react to these memories in a less intense way because I understand them wholly, not in the limited capacity that I was brain washed into understanding them by my CEN family. I was often told that I would “get over it” or that I was “unappreciative” or that I “never look at the good things.” All phrases my mother still says to me. Chances are, many of you CEN children have experienced trauma of some kind, whether it’s big or small. EMDR works, and it’s proven to work faster than talk therapy alone. I am only in the beginning of my self healing. But I’m already seeing a difference in myself and how I react to my triggers to my anxiety, and it feels good that I’m breaking the cycle so my own kids don’t fall into this goddamn black hole of confusion when they’re older. I’m proud of myself. I have a lot more work to do, but it’s possible when you’re informed and if you find a good therapist. Thank you, Jonice for your work. You were the start for me- you defined what I’ve been struggling to identify.

    Me,too - January 4, 2019 Reply

    Dear Not Crazy,

    Amen on EMDR! I have also found that EFT is a great help especially for those times when I’ve not been to do EMDR in awhile.

    I’m also trying craniosacral therapy right now and finding it very helpful and powerful, too.

    Another super duper helper is Qi Gong. There are a number of practitioners we like that have YouTube channels — Dr Jeffrey Chand, Sifu Anthony Korahais, and several others. So helpful for so many things, including depression and the residual of trauma in our bodies.

    Many blessings to you as you heal and break the chain of pain for your children and grandchildren to come!

      Me, three - May 1, 2019 Reply

      Dear Me, too- Yes for me as well on the EFT! (Emotional Freedom Technique/ Tapping). I love it as a great self-help tool, especially used between visits to therapists. I heard there’s a documentary on it but I haven’t seen it yet (“The Tapping Solution”). I also do Emotional Stress Release (ESR) and read A Course in Miracles. I mean, I’ve literally needed miracles, because I’ve had such bad self-sabotage issues, and had major difficulty believing that I deserved good things and to feel good and happy in my life. My mom falls into the “Self-Centered, Abusive, or Multiple-Failure” category (all of the above, actually). Sad.

        Jonice - May 6, 2019 Reply

        I am sorry, Me Three. Keep working on yourself. And protect yourself from your mother.

Dorothy - December 30, 2018 Reply

If both parents are dead, I am stuck in front of a wall. With a therapist, all the messed up feelings transfer to them. A worse problem.

    Jonice - December 30, 2018 Reply

    Dear Dorothy, having both parents dead is not a sentence to being stuck! The solution isn’t with your parents at this point, it’s with your feelings and what you are doing with them. I hope you will start to focus more on yourself and what you feel, allowing yourself to feel your feelings, understand and learning how to manage them. All my best to you.

    Helga - December 31, 2018 Reply

    Dorothy, that process of putting your therapist in the role of your parents is a thing that happens to many people, and it can be actively worked with. When I start to feel that way, I talk to my therapist about it and we use it as a springboard for figuring out what’s going on for me right then. (Both my parents are also dead. I have written letters that I then burned and also had conversations with chairs pretending it was them, and both have helped. Jonice is 100% right – you don’t need their active participation to heal.

Keely - December 26, 2018 Reply

There is far far more to this story than I could begin to comment on. So I will start at the end…I have been taking care of my elderly Mom who lives with me, for the past 5 years. I have absolutely lost my temper (like a nervous breakdown lost my temper) on more than one occasion. Her lack of emotion transfers in to feeling a lack of respect and everything in betweeen. I have never seen my Mom cry…I can begin to share an emotional experience with her and she interrupts mid story with a comment about perhaps a bird on a neighbors roof (yes that has actually happened)…there just seems to be NO emotional connection…no feeling…and quite frankly no ability to really care all that much. I have often wondered if she may have aspergers. I am beginning to understand how this emotional neglect had an affect on my entire life in all aspects. A side bar…my Mom’s Dad was an alcoholic and verbally abusive… So much for having a respectful calming conversation about the emotional neglect…I just don’t think she would understand or have the ability to care…I just don’t know. It is horrible to experience…the myriad of emotions I have from anger to guilt, and everything in between after yelling at her. It really is so very sad to feel like your begging for emotional love and just can’t get it!

    Me, too - January 4, 2019 Reply

    Dear Keely,

    You are in a very challenging spot right now on multiple levels. Start to learn the grace of self-compassion so that you can be kind to you even if your mother is not.

    Along those lines, do you have any backup to give you a break and/or a counselor to help you through?

    Losing it and having a meltdown is not a sign of weakness. It is a cry from your overwhelmed system asking for some assistance in walking through this Really Big Thing.

    You’re not bad or crazy or weak or stupid. You are walking through something huge, and that is just plain difficult.

    I hope you can find some relief!

JB - December 25, 2018 Reply

Thank you for your article. This year I chose to establish healthier boundaries. As an empath and INFJ, it has only taken 46 years to find myself.
With clarity and peace within one’s self also makes the dysfunctional issues clearer.
Today is Christmas. I chose to call each of my parents.
I see now that my parents have and continue to “ tell “ me how to feel, or “ how I should feel.” This arises when I want to talk emotionally and look for support from my parents. Not to fix me, not to do anything, but just be present and listen.
I love me and my growth. It is hard, but I may need to learn acceptance that my own parents cannot or do not want to “ see and feel for me.”
Im not sure if that is CEN but it feels so.
It is odd limiting family but maybe that is what is needed.
Thank you for listening.
🙂

    Jonice - December 30, 2018 Reply

    Dear JB, being unseen and unfelt by your parents is the exact epitome of CEN. Good for you for holding yourself outside of your parents’ cloud. Happy holidays to you!

    Mea - May 26, 2019 Reply

    I feel this. Im an only child, and in hindsight I realise that I’ve never been able to have a rational, grown conversation with my parents about anything emotional or difficult. My thoughts and opinions have not been validated. I hace been expected to be prefect, and if I do anything wrong or deemed un-Christian by my Mother, I am made to feel ashamed and worthless. When I left my abusive alcoholic husband and asked for help,my parents refused, and in fact, ganged up with my ex to tell me regularly what an awful person I was for leaving – they are still not over it, and often bring it up, which I find re-traumatising. At a time where I had expected to be able to rely on them the most. If I ever raise any issues, they play the victim and use emotional blackmail, and I end up apologising. I’m 40, but just realising that they can’t be the people I need. They’re unable to be on my team. I’m more productive and happier on my own, although its tough when they complain that I dont contact them often enough anymore (because not talking to them is much easier). Note: they don’t contact me – it seems to be my responsibility). I feel healthier and less anxious without them, and I’m finally working out who I am and who I want to be without that constant negative judgement. Sometimes I’m still sad about it all, but making the choice to have an emotional break and move on without them is liberating.

      Jonice - May 26, 2019 Reply

      Dear Mea, I am so sorry you’ve had to come to this conclusion. Keep in mind that you don’t have to decide anything as a forever commitment. For now, you need to be separate from your parents, and that is a good way to put yourself first in a healthy way so you can grow. It takes a lot of strength and I commend you for doing it.

Tony T - December 18, 2018 Reply

Almost all of these articles talk about how to define emotional neglect or how to bring up the subject of a motion look light but never seem to address the issue of proactively changing and healing the neglect from who it’s coming from. Sure, you can go to therapy, you can address your feelings to whoever gave you emotional neglect but if the source isn’t improving, then it’s almost like a state of denial yourself. Shouldn’t you work on getting whoever was causing the emotional neglect help? Maybe they need a psychologist, a life coach? The victim of emotional neglect seeing improvements in the person that gave the emotional neglect is probably the best thing for both parties. You seeking therapy is only treating the symptoms, not the cause…

    Jonice - December 20, 2018 Reply

    Dear Tony, some parents can be brought along on the child’s healing journey, but unfortunately, many parents are not receptive or aren’t capable of learning and changing. And many, many people can heal themselves in spite of their parents staying stuck.

      Ed - December 29, 2018 Reply

      Dear Jonice,

      In reply to Tony’s inquiry of getting help for those who were emotionally negligent towards us, l can offer my own experience as evidence.

      My father, his father and his grandfather were all alcoholics. My parents, who were high school sweethearts, got divorced when l was 6 because of the alcohol. My mother remarried when l was 9. The man she married wanted nothing more than for her to be happy. He gave her everything she asked for. My stepfather passed away 13 years ago. She is now 84 years old.
      I grew up with a woman who was born to immigrants who were older. They worked hard and had a second child 11 months later. The two girls went through school together in the same class. My aunt was the smart, outgoing, social one and my mother was the sassy, smartass tough chick. I believe that this issue was one that would play itself out over and over again throughout their lives where everything came easier for my aunt and harder for my mom. My belief is that her parents, especially her mother, paid more attention to her sister than to her and she was angry about it but had nowhere or anyone to talk to about it.
      I have a sister who is 3 years older than me. She has always been my protector, from when l was crying in the crib, when my mother couldn’t pay attention to me, to school when bullies would pick on me and to when my life was falling apart (because l let it!) with being sued by my in-laws, having my wife cheat on me, getting divorced and having to try to bolster my mother in an assisted living facility because her husband had died 3 years prior. I fell apart and attempted suicide. I have no excuse for it. l just couldn’t handle being pulled in so many different directions at the same time. I wasn’t taught how to handle pressure and think my way out of situations.
      I spent 10 years trying to do different programs to “fix” myself. While listening to other men (12 step men’s group), l became embarrassed as they described how they were abused by their parents: screamed at, physically, sexually, mentally and emotionally. I felt like a fraud. I had none of that. This is where the emotional neglect came into my purview.
      Since this time, l have been working on emotionally supporting myself, loving myself (this was extremely difficult to learn to do after 50 years of cursing myself) and learning to be my own best friend.
      I tried to have conversations with my mother regarding my transformation in the past couple of years but she’s still the self centered person she always was. Except, she needs my help a few times a day and can get nasty at times because l don’t respond in a time frame that pleases her.
      She will say to me “I love you unconditionally.”… not comprehending what that words actually mean.
      My inner voice has learned to speak lovingly of my mother regardless of how she treats me because she is at an age where she can be confused at one time and be sharp as a pin at others. When l feel angry, frustrated or mad, my go-to mantra has been as follows:
      MY MOTHER LOVES ME TO THE BEST OF HER ABILITY.
      It allows her the space for how she was brought up, how she reacted to her childhood and all of the ways that she neglected me AND allows me the grace to excuse her for how she can treat me, at times, now towards the end of her life.

        Jonice - December 30, 2018 Reply

        Dear Ed, thank you so much for sharing your story. It is both painful and beautiful. I’m glad you have managed to get yourself out from under the weight of emotional neglect. All my best to you.

mastik8 - December 13, 2018 Reply

One of my earliest memories is of my Dad beating my brothers with a belt. It happened several times. My sister and I would hide but see, wailing, thinking we were next. I guess he thought that it might pay dividends later in the form of compliance. In a sense it worked because it created a distance that never went away. I suppose it was inevitable but I was spanked – even at the time I didn’t know why – and I stopped talking to him. For days. He finally had to tell me it was his right and duty. Eventually, he promised not to spank me which was the only way I would resume talking to him. Backfired on me though – he never beat me again but barely paid attention thereafter. How I, as a four or five year old, managed that I’m still not sure. Another early memory is of my Dad asking what had happened to his little boy, I had changed and he wanted the other one back. I hadn’t realized anything was wrong. I took it as rejection. The rest of my childhood is a litany of the same. Little things that indicated they weren’t paying attention.

I’ve never felt connected. I’ve lived a lifetime feeling my nose is pressed against the window. I think I just arrived into the family at exactly the wrong moment because my other siblings don’t experience this. It has effected and affected every aspect of my life.

They’re both gone. They never copped to anything. The anger eats me up.

    Jonice - December 16, 2018 Reply

    Dear mastik, please get a therapist. I don’t want you to live your life with this anger. You deserve far better!

ruthg - October 20, 2018 Reply

Ive pretty much had it with my family,kids,brother ,I dont want to be with them but cant imagine moving away my whole life seemed to start the 1st time being in a new neighborhood in grade 3 from then on everything in my eyes was that stuff was more important than emotion,my parents were in the haulocaust so thats my excuse for them never being available.My mom was close to my brother and my fathers view was give her everything then marry her off.They never fought for me in school,at work,in my marriage.I never learnt how to be a parent,or be responsible or even to be loving.I was jealous that my kids were getting everything I never got.I now believe that they feel the same about me although I fought like a lioness for them at school or when there was abuse or when they needed support,but not enough Ive been told.I wasnt a hugger so I wasnt affectionate ,their friends were always the house ,for sleepovers or hanging out and I did what I could but its not enough,so when I need something they cant or wont help.Im caring for my mom alone now and my brother doesnt help,before it was my dad. Im depressed, too much especially in the last 5 yrs and Id love to just run away.Am I being silly,overdramatic,,fed up Im truly lost and dont want to forgive anyone,go anywhere,see anyone,get dressed and have thought of leaving the country and starting over but then I miss the abuse I guess and come back.I have left before.

Anonymous - September 10, 2018 Reply

Siblings who witnessed the verbal and emotional abuse of another sibling or siblings are at risk – as adults – in continuing that same abuse to the abused adult siblings because they learned how to be abusive by watching a parent or parents. I know. I was the scapegoat in my family; I went to therapy; and through therapy, I stood up to a bullying sibling by telling him to stop, using specific examples. Know what he did? He reacted in a contemptuous way, he said he wants no contact and he’s done with me. In your next book, Dr. Webb, would you please address the potential “second generation” of family abuse and what a parent or adult family member can do to help children and adults avoid “witness abuse”?

    Jonice - September 10, 2018 Reply

    Dear Anon, my writings are all about emotional neglect, but you can find some great books about emotional abuse as well. I do plan to write an article about CEN and siblings. Sending you all my best wishes.

Jill - September 2, 2018 Reply

I’m 55 and the abuse is still going on – it surfaces once every other year or so and sends me down a very deep hole. I keep coming to a place of “enough!!”. Why am I still in this?

I encourage my fellow CEN people to either confront or go no-contact. You don’t want to be 55 and still trying you decide what to do!

Love to you all.

    Jonice - September 2, 2018 Reply

    It’s a complicated decision to go no-contact, as it can raise problems of its own. In some families that are not abusive it can be possible to set up protective boundaries. thank you for your comment Jill!

      Labeled girl - September 2, 2018 Reply

      I have wrestled with this for many years, since I found Dr Webb’s validating research. Thank you, Dr Webb, for giving us permission…. NOT to serve them yet again. I have gone no contact. It has its own pain. My family is confused. My parents are angry, and attack me all the time. All that said, being on my own & pursuing a healthy life without them is by far the most freeing option. Every time I let them back in…. it takes weeks / months to recover. Being a communicator (that I am), I am surprised to say that I recommend no contact. I usually can talk with anyone! That was part of what was always so mystifying about my family of origin. I tried to talk with them…. and they would give me a label. They would say you’re selfish. You’re disrespectful. You’re embarrassing us. No, I just wanted to talk things through. I had questions. They wanted to shut me up, and boy they did. I went onto feel that I had no value at all.
      Therapy for myself & no contact with these confusing people has led me to a life of freedom and parenting that looks nothing like theirs.
      Thank you Dr Webb, for your continual kindness to & validation of us. I look forward to Sunday mornings!
      Best,
      Labeled girl

        Jonice - September 5, 2018 Reply

        Dear Labeled girl, that must have been such a hard decision for you. It sounds like a decision you took very seriously, but in the end you decided that you must put yourself first. Congratulations for making a decision that’s opened doors for you to become healthier and happier. Keep up the good work.

    Filip - September 9, 2018 Reply

    I had to go no-contact, since it was so painful to live with them or unable to set boundaries. I am 30 and haven’t been intimate in my life at ALL. so I did cut all communication with parents for a month. I did it couple of times. it was extremely painful, especially since my mom is toxic, in addition to CEN. ultimately, I couldn’t stand not talking to them – I felt (and still do at moment) so alone, empty, aimless, without any life direction, unable to be productive etc..

    @Jonice, I read both of your books. so I arranged conversation with my mom according to guidelines described in a book, because I didn’t want to give up. I need them to understand, approve and validate me. I can totally relate to Labeled girl here – each time I attempted to talk with them I was shut down, labeled or charged with guilt and anger. I believe working on yourself and giving parents small chunks of trauma you experienced has useful impact. I believe each time I make a little progress, a decade-long tangled trauma develops bit by bit. it’s just, I very often feel regret for all the wasted years 🙁 any advice how to stop that?

    Regards,

    Filip

      Jonice - September 10, 2018 Reply

      Dear Filip, it sounds like you’re doing some great work. I want to assure you that you have not wasted years. It takes most people a long time to get themselves ready for change, and that’s what you’ve been doing. None of this is your fault. Just keep working!

Anonymous 31F - January 4, 2018 Reply

I was born to a young mother who I believe also suffered emotional neglect and abuse. She stayed in a relationship with my father (who didn’t live with us and who I didn’t see too often). I felt very protective over my mother who I thought was only staying with my father because she had a child with him (these are some of my earliest memories). I struggled with selective mutism from as early as I could remember. It was brought up by my school that something was wrong and I never received any help. I often heard my mom criticize others for petty things (even my young friends) and I never saw her get close to anyone. She enrolled me in things she wanted to do as a kid and if I didn’t do what she wanted, all her love was taken away. She ridiculed me for crying, saying anything negative, and standing up for myself. Looking back, I had very unstable relationships with everyone in my life from a very early age. I got in trouble for confiding in friends about seeing my parents fight. My mom would even call the school and tell them who I couldn’t play with. When my friends did something to upset me, I cut them out of my life forever, instead of talking about it. As a pre-teen, I got into very depressive rock music which was my only escape. I was numb to everything. At age 15, I broke down in public and couldn’t stop crying because I was troubled with strong suicidal thoughts. My mother ridiculed and shamed me. I knew I could never come to her with anything. Finally, when 16, I decided I would either kill myself or ask my mom to take me to a psychiatrist. It took me months to work up the courage to do it. I was relieved that she was willing to take me to see someone that could help me. We never talked about it, all I said was I was depressed and needed help and she said okay. This opened up so much to me as I felt more comfortable with myself just being able to express that I need help and to be open with my feelings.

As a young adult, I made a decision to move 6 hours away from my family and I saw how much happier I became. Over the years, I continued to have rocky relationships. I chose men that I knew were awful for me and who were overly emotional. I think it distracted myself from facing real issues. I was unable to trust or handle any of my own emotions. I used to blame my dad for a lot of things but I don’t anymore and he even apologized to me for not being around as much as he should have but also told me my mother kept him away.

A year ago, I met the most wonderful man who loves and cares for me so much. I was so excited to tell my mom and like most things good in my life she told me that it’s too good to be true. We did mushrooms and LSD together a few months ago and I feel like I had start to become very negative. I had a really rough patch with him the last few months because I needed so much validation from him and I couldn’t calm myself down. He went home with me for the holidays and told me that being around my family is very hard for him because he feels the tension and he said he watches my mom bully me and I do nothing about it. He’s confused by how passive I am with her. I don’t know how I once thought my mom and I had a good relationship. Now I realize why she liked me around- I was validating that she was a good parent because I listen to her and I am normally a “nice girl”. I see how threatened she is by me trying new things and being close to other people in my life. I see now how I get anxiety interacting with her. I still feel like I have to maintain this image of being a good daughter. My mom blames me for my rocky childhood to this day, saying I should have just gotten over my anxiety and I would have been fine. Looking back, I see how terribly neglectful she was in the past and how unbearably unsupportive she is in the present.

I do not want to ruin my relationship with my boyfriend who has been very patient with me. I had an epiphany yesterday that I don’t have to be a victim. I can stand up to my mother. I can stand up for my own needs. I realized that no one is asked to be born and all that can make us happy is compassion for others and the freedom to explore the things we love. I am grateful to have met my soulmate and I feel a sense of peace within myself I have never felt before. In hindsight, I think the psychadelics made me confront 30 years of pain within myself, understand it, and let it go. I hope you can all do the same. (I am not endorsing drugs, you do what’s right for you!) I don’t know what the future holds in regards to my relationship with my mom but I know that I am in control of my own happiness now.

    33 - August 12, 2018 Reply

    Hi just having a hard time dealing with life and reading your story just been so aye opening to in a way of its like a cloudy mirror I can see a reflection/similar situation in my life. I never left a coment before but I’m starting on this journey of self help and have been considering the psychedelics for some time now as red in to it and heard that it can help and now I feel like there is more light in this long dark tunnel of life! Thank you for taking time to write it! M

      Jonice - August 16, 2018 Reply

      Dear 33, I do not recommend psychedelics for anyone. I’m glad you’re seeing a light at the end of the tunnel! Just keep up doing the work and it will pay off, I assure you.

Erin - December 30, 2017 Reply

I had a mother who used guilt to control me, but not on purpose. I felt like no matter what I did, I was a mean hurtful child and needed to be better. She’d say things like “what is wrong with ME? you don’t treat your father this way.” She also seemed to be really happy, and it seemed to fall into her lap as though the emotional baggage had skipped a generation. It didn’t feel fair, and also it didn’t feel fair that as soon as I started being kind to myself (treating myself the way my therapist treated me), I moved back with her and felt like I’d undone all that work.

I just spoke to my mother about it, and it turns out she does feel the effect, but she is really good at pretending (she’s got a terrible poker face, so it surprised me at first that she could do this). And I feel less threatened. Perhaps because I know whenever she judges me for being imperfect, it hurts her too? Whenever she looks down on me I know she’s looking down on the parts of her she doesn’t like. I feel rather optimistic, whatever it is, that through this (and more therapy) I will come through as a secure person.

Kiera - December 17, 2017 Reply

My parents do not defend me from unkind words from others. They blame it on me, citing “poor mental state” therefore I get affected. But when your own relatives (their siblings) call me fat, elephant thighs, thunder arms, when I am actually a girl who is of acceptable weight (standing at 166cm, weighing 63kg, well within the healthy weight range of 55kg – 69kg), and your parents just listen and do not stand up for you time after time, it really slowly eats you up.

It’s been happening for many years now so it’s up to the stage whereby I’ve started to eat slimming pills, go for slimming treatments and even google for liposuction options. I’m starting to think that being anorexic or bulimic will be the fastest way to lose weight so that they’ll all stop commenting about my weight (p.s. I have larger sized cousins and they say nothing about them) but I remember the time when I was severely underweight and everyone commented about how sickly I look.

It’s like, impossible to ever please them.

Now I’m thinking of suicide options, and I think I really need help.

    Mecto-grama - December 18, 2017 Reply

    Hi unknown buddy

    Oh dear.. that’s too bad, listen, first of all read all this comment please, and don’t think bad of it (i’d went through this and i think it can help you too)

    1. “anorexic or bulimic” ?? “Loss weight?” No! What you wanna do is to mess with your health status and there’s no way back once you start (basically because you ruin your muscles or even starve to death, or in bulimia, burn your throath with your own acids or even unleash a gastric illness, both having a terrible ending btw), sure it will help you loose weight but also risking your life so badly, so i highly recommend that you must not do that (why?: because its also like giving them what they want, to ruin yourself, so don’t let them to succed, ok?)

    What you can do instead, if you wanna find out if you’re on your right weight, i would suggest you to BMI (Body Mass Index)

    https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm
    http://www.smartbmicalculator.com/
    http://www.calculator.net/bmi-calculator.html

    and if you wanna loose weight.. you can go with a nutritionist, if not, you can do some excersises (running, swimming, any sport-related or go to gym) and diets along with drinking lots of water, sleeping 8 hours per day, taking meals at your right hours, avoiding fries and flours, and avoid eating too much at night (because of metabolism, it will not be taking vitamins and instead, it will be saving it as fat cells in your body) will help you up (seriously)

    2. its not ok being tagged as “poor mental state”, you know how much you’re worth (no, not less, you mean a lot!) so ignore what they say (negative stuff, of course) and stop giving a damn on what they tell at you, damns doesn’t grow on trees, they’re so limitated and expensive, so give them wisely (what i mean is that care for important stuff, not on a brat’s talk)

    3. one of the very awful things you could plan is that, you have dreams, right? you have goals! you have things you wanna do! and it can’t be that you won’t do that just because of a bunch of jerks and their attitude, no, you will purse what you wanna do so don’t think about that and go ahead!

    4. Try to understand why ppl are acting like that (by that i don’t mean yelling to those dummies like “WHY?!”, no, just trying to understandby analysis) perhaps its just another vicious cicle of them repeating what they did countered a time ago (Ex. perhaps they had been treated like that and unconciously they’re doing the same) and the only way to break that mean circle is stopping it instead of spreading it 🙂

    5. You don’t have to please everybody (im starting to learn that btw) just the ppl you believe they’re worth (again, the example of the tree of “damns” don’t give it to wrong ppl, since those are so expensive, of course) it will help you to not only avoid and/or stand deceivements but it will help you emotional and even in health terms (remember it, ok?)

    6. Remember, unknown distant buddy, that you’re worth (over 9000+), you’re so great! you’re awesome! and that my grammar is terrible because its not my main language (sorry), you will overcome this and look back with an smile knowing that you’d been able to succed and move ahead becoming into someone strong and brave, i seriously believe in you (sorry if im too cheesy XD)

    Hope you read this on time, it took me years to understand it now, so please read what i wrote and follow it to avoid the same mistakes i did and pleasey pleeeeeeeease!!!! 🙂 stay safe , be strong, yourself and brave

      Jennifer B - December 31, 2018 Reply

      Golly Mecto-grama what sensible advice. Basic and very helpful to me about self care

    Anonymous - December 12, 2018 Reply

    Hi Kiera
    I know your post was a year ago. I hope you are doing well and maybe have sought counseling.
    I hade the same problem as a teenager and the thing is this:
    You are okay and the conversation and focus on your weight and size is a coping mechanism of your FAMILY. If you are fat or thin, neither is okay with them.
    Do they care about your studies? Your future? Your welfare?
    These are clearly people that do not see you as a whole person.
    I went through the same thing. In the end, there was always something “wrong” with me as far as they were concerned.
    Mecto Grama gives good advice. Take care of your health, get decent sleep and excersise
    You are perfectly good enough just the way you are. Some parents and families simply do not treat their members with love and respect.
    The thing is, try to connect with teachers and other relatives who show care and concern about you. Live your own life. Trying to be “good enough” for people who are hot and cold is mission impossible.
    Believe me!!!
    I am a grown woman. The only relatives in my family who ever backed me up were my late Aunts and my Uncle and my late Grandparents.
    My parents and siblings were so confused. I never got a normal amount of love and care from them and I doubt I ever will.
    There is an old expression- you can’t get blood from a stone.
    Do not torture yourself trying to live up to their expectations- which probably have nothing to do with who you really are as a person.
    I went to counseling as a teen as the pediatrician I was seeing recommenced it to my mother. It was then I began to realize that the constant feelings of sadness and hopelessness I was feeling was a result of my parents’ divorce and their inability to show love and care for their kids. And then the other kids (my siblings) all scrambled just to keep their own personal worlds intact.
    I know this sounds like a cliche, but the fact is that it is a dysfunctional famiy system.
    Love yourself and be with relatives or other people who are not hypercritical.
    Don’t commit suicide. You are a good person and if your family makes you feel so worthless, start spending time with other people.
    I am now 61 years old. My parents are still alive and they still show no care or concern for my welfare. They are very self absorbed- for whatever reasons. I just keep my distance and try to recognize my own truth. I am courteous to them but I recognize their limitations and I just keep it moving.
    They missed the boat. They never really appreciated what a great person I am. I always tried to be the best daughter possible but it was just never enough. My parents were not the giving and nurturing type. Not all parents are.
    I know it is not nice to say but I do not think I will shed one tear when they pass away. I am just trying to take care of myself. Hurting yourself is NOT the way to go. They will not change. Go see a counselor if you can. There is nothing wrong with you. They are obviously not capable of focusing on anything other than what your weight is.
    I was a very anorexic teenager. That is why my Dr. suggested my parents find me a counselor. Then I began to realize that focusing on my weight and size was was a smokescreen for the difficult emotional environment in our home.
    When I regained my weight and was back to normal, I began to live my own life. I went to school, studied, did a reasonable amount of chores, had healthy extra curricular activities then told my parents to leave me alone. Once I started standing up for myself they REALLY thought there was something wrong with me. So – Close to death from starvation – that they could deal with. Me living and thriving – that was a problem for them.
    Do you catch my drift here? Just do your best and follow your dreams. The people who spend all their time focusing on the size of your body are not thinking about your feelings or the rest of your life. They simply are not there.
    Could you imagine spending all your time criticizing every bump and bulge in another person? If they lost 10 pounds or didn’t excersise? Isn’t there something else to the person? Their value as a friend? Their kindness? Their intelligence? Their interests and abilities?If you have health issues to take care of, just take some simple steps. Then turn your focus to your school, friends, future and others around you who offer encouragement and support for your interests and goals in life.
    Being around supercritical, negative parents who can only see you as a person of a certain weight or size – they do not see the whole human being. It is a very limited view of who you actually are! Don’t bang your head against the wall. Really. Just please yourself as you may NEVER get the response from your famiy you deserve or desire because they may just not be capable of it.
    And as a side note, as your life goes on you may meet many superficial people who are critical of you and others based on surface appearances. There are also lots of confused people out there who may draw you into their drama.
    Live your own life and your own truth. If someone makes you feel “less than”, that is not a person to affiliate yourself with. Spread your wings and enjoy your life. Don’t let anyone take that away from you ever.
    Good luck to you❤️

Peyng - December 12, 2017 Reply

My mom included me with my “sister and her” fight because I am very close with my sister. The conflict happened April of this year, and I have invited her to both: Baptism (June 2017) and 1st birthday (August 2017) of my 2nd born son. She never came. Never text, greet or anything. So, I was trying to be understanding. Texted her on her birthday on September 1st 2017. She said thank you and that was it. She deleted me, my husband, and in-laws on her social media. Yet I saw her lurking on one of my social media accounts. I did not communicate after her birthday. Did not greet her on Thanksgiving. I know I kind of feel bitter because I did not do anything bad to her, but I can’t be involve with her & my sister. Doesn’t mean I have to stop talking with my sister so she will reconcile with me. I think it’s very childish. Now, Christmas is coming. I do not really know what to do.

    B - December 12, 2017 Reply

    How do you know if someone is “lurking” on your social media?

Marco - December 10, 2017 Reply

I have been neglected my whole life by my parents, even now when I am 32 years old they keep neglecting me. I can be understanding and forgiving of the neglect during my childhood due to economical issues and that my brother who has ADHD (diagnosed in his adulthood) got all the attention. But there is no excuse in the world for it to continue to this day. I have started to think that it was a mistake that I was born and that I am not wanted by my parents (I am the youngest sibling of three). Since I moved away from home 12 years ago my parents have only visited me once in all these years even though I have been living fairly close to them all of the time. They have been visiting my sister who lives 6 hours away multiple times and it seems like they visit my brother every other weekend.I have been excluded from dinner parties, BBQ’s and I am always the one who is uninformed about family matters. It is just so painful for me and I have been carrying these feelings of shame my whole adulthood. It gets extra painful now when christmas is coming.

    emily - December 11, 2017 Reply

    crazy. very sorry to hear that. have you confronted them about it?

      Marco - December 11, 2017 Reply

      No I have not confronted them, yet. But I am seriously considering it now. I have only felt shame and sadness about the whole situation before and tried to press down the anxiety, but now I am starting to feel anger. I think that I would be better of without this painful relationship.

cour - November 6, 2017 Reply

I am 27. I am living with my mom again and I feel like giving up completely. I cannot believe how low I feel living in a home with someone who thinks only about herself. the thing is, I feel this deep sadness for her because she is recently divorced from my dad and my younger brothers (who are painfully socially awkward and always engaged in unhealthy behaviors) only choose to live at my dads house, leaving my mom alone most of the time. she acts like it doesn’t bother her, but how could it not? as she has no real friends or partner and no job. as a child I received no emotional support from them at all whatsoever. since 8 years old I remember feeling extreme frustration often causing me to fall asleep crying. nothing has changed. I have spent my early twenties traveling and finding amazing communities and living on farms, off the grid in Hawaii and other countries. I have found amazing people and felt very, very loved. however, a situation arose where I have no choice but to live with my mom again, in a crappy town. I have NO friends here and NO support from any family member. No emotional support that is. they will buy me food and provide me a place to live but when I bring up anything remotely related to how I FEEL I am replied to with silence or a weird “Why would you say that??”. They have NEVER understood me and most of the time I am mocked and disrespected by my parents and two brothers. I am 27 with a job I don’t like, at my moms who I cannot stand, with no friends. It’s amazing how the years just creep up on you because it feels like only yesterday when I was 23 and still had my hopes and dreams intact.

    TAM - November 15, 2017 Reply

    Cour – Read back what you wrote and the answer seems very clear. You are asking whether to live a life of misery or of contentment. It seems a no-brainer! 27 is still very young, btw. It’s not too late.

Joni - October 31, 2017 Reply

I grew up as a only with two alcoholic parents. A The were caring and loving in my youngest years. As their drinking became worst so did the relationship. This led to a lot of trouble in my life with anxiety and depression. They would drink and fight and pass out then act like everything was normal. I’m realizing now how much it affect me.
At 14 My mom left and got pregnant by a ex con who was abusive. She had no time for me then. But I did spend time trying to be good enough for her to choose. No luck.
My dad the remarried to a woman who hated me. She wanted me out of my house and made my life very sad and loney. Her daughter had committed suiside right before getting with my dad. She was the same age as me, I think that played into it. My dad never stood up for me and always blamed me for everything. He has never apologized or acknowledged how bad they treated me.
I ghosted my dad about 10 years ago and all family involved with him. I mean they never took my side and are still friends with my dads wife.
All these feeling are coming up lately bc I’m realizing a lot of unhealthy patterns I have and they are not letting me live. I have learned them all to protect myself from pain and drama. I do have unresolved issues. I didn’t want to leave my family but I felt like no one had my back against my dads wife.
I’m not sure if I should reconcile with my dad or not. I don’t trust him with my feeling. But I feel Scared if he died or something I might feel horrible. I have many things I would like/need to express to him. But I don’t think he can see it from my side. He is a emotional idiot.
I need to deal somehow and get over these past feelings that are coming up. It’s not healthy for me or my parner. I want to have a good life and not live in the past trying to get something I never had.
I do love my dad and I know he was raised with no emotions. I guess it’s just hard realizing you never had something you thought you did. I’m scared to contact him bc he will prob make me feel bad in some way. Also I hate my dads wife for everything she did to me.
Should I write him a letter expressing everything? Not a aggressive letter more just like letting him know my pain? I want him to know why I stoped talking to him but also he might think it’s stupid to feel that was all these years later. Idk

    Athena - November 4, 2017 Reply

    I say you tell your dad. It’s obviously eating you away inside and I think it could help in the healing process. You don’t want to always wonder, what if, or it’s going to make it worse. You’re already feeling regret if you don’t end up having a chance anymore. It’s a scary step but I think I think you can do it! I think you still have some compassion and just try to spread it in the letter you end up writing, or whatever you end up doing to tell him. You may be surprised! Good luck and I hope it all turns well for you, enabling you to move forward!

    Inneke - January 20, 2019 Reply

    I just arrived on this website tonight.

    I ghosted my father 6 months ago after enduring a lifetime of emotional neglect not because I wanted him out of my life but because I needed a break, a healthy space to feel without him in it, to review events and backdrops, and to heal. I learned that forgiveness is about setting the prisoner free and knowing that the prisoner is me. That said, I am still not ready to talk to him. But I want to, because he too needs healing. Someday, I will, for the sake of making things right in this life and to live free of emotional burden. I just realized today that my issue was not only childhood trauma due to my parental breakdown and dysfunctionality. But also and largely, I am a CEN. I recognized many of the symptoms strongly as in a younger me. I have walked a journey of healing by understanding where the damages came from and my parents’ own emotional struggles. I have done everything in my power not to walk the path of neglecting my children’s emotional needs nor repeat my history on them. At times, it takes more of me to practice being generous with my emotions, to purposely come out of my high and protective walls and be vulnerable. My husband is a man of grace in the past of 26 years, has soften much of my heart. I still don’t know exactly how to love. I am not quite there yet. But I am very conscious, to the best of my ability, to catch myself before causing damages to my significant loved ones.
    In my humanitarian work, I am able to touch lives because I understand the damages I have experienced and the healing in progress. I must get Dr. Jonice Webb’s book!

Anonymous N - October 31, 2017 Reply

These things kind of take place over a span of years up until recent. Life for me and my sister has not always been easy and most often to the outside it looked good and happy and joyful, but it didn’t work that way on the inside of things. A few years about my mom and step dad got a nasty divorce soon after they got married and for the most part my sister and I wanted them to get a divorce because of his abusive nature. But we had no idea that it meant we had to leave our family, and our school and move back to our birth state to live with my grandparents because at that time we had become homeless. Life for my mom was very bad from the very start her parents were abusive and neglectful and when her father remarried and had three more children he favored them over my mom on top of that people who where suppose to love her took advantage of her for there own greedy needs and that also includes those who just used her and hurt her against her will. With an early life like my moms I could expect her to became bitter and angry and upset and really messed up, but never towards me and my sister; because it wasn’t always like this. When my sister and I were really little my mom was our world and vise-versa because before me and my sister were born my real dead abandon us and never made a true effort to be in our lives and on the rare occasions that we did see each other it was always filled with hurt and pain. It got so bad that I had asked my mom when I was around 4 or 5 what I did wrong to make my dad not love me anymore. She told me I didn’t have to worry because she loved me and that’s what mattered. But when the divorce happened and we moved that became less true. Being back in my sisters and I’s birth state my mom met an old ex that she had dated before we were born and quickly started dating him again, forgetting that her now ten year old children just had theirs lives turned around so completely they fell into depression. My mom abandon us choosing herself and her love life over us because she was hurting too. Eventually they broke up and we move yet again this time she ran into another old flame and they started dating a week after re-meeting. I can’t tell you what my mom felt at that time because I dont even know. Then after that we moved again, at this time my mom had found a new hobby of baking and she wanted try with us and see what would happened in we put colored dye in our cake batter what would happen, but just as we were mixing it together her boyfriend walks through the door and she ditches us to go spend time with him. My mom began showing a pattern of letting her family and her boyfriend disrespect me and my sister as people. If it wasn’t what my mom wanted then the other person would have suck it up because she was going to do whatever she wanted and with my aunts backing up her mind set she became un-stoppable, because not only would she jump on us and yell at us she would allow her sisters to do the same and they were worse because they cussed at us. Then as we got older my mom got worse, eventually she stop seeing my sister and I and her daughters or family we became her enemy, the one thing that blocked her form living the life she never got to. It was the same for my dad my sister and I became his enemy we became our parents burden. Around the age of 15 my mom and my sister and I had gotten into a huge fight and it was bad enough that now me and my sister were on bad terms, but in the fight between the three of us my mom had gone physical and attacked my sister, I had rushed to get my om off so I pushed her, and from that day on I had lost respect for my mom and stop watching how I talked to her, how I acted.On my 18th birthday this just blow-up in my face, because my mom started pushing for me and my sister to find another place to live, to move out even though she said we would just have to help with things like the internet bill and cleaning around the house more in order to live with her, and that was fine because at least I got to keep my home, but it wasn’t until I turned 19 that things really really got bad. Recently my mom wants to move because she got a new job and she doesn’t want to continue to drive and hour and since she works night shifts now, and I know that it doesn’t seem like a big deal but it is. Because in the place that we live no my sister and I finally got to experience the stability we lost in the divorce, we finally got to start living a normal life and actually make friends something neither of us have really had before so we naturally don’t want to move because we will loose that and she called my selfish for wanting to keep the good things in my life. Not only that but she recently has taken to saying to us “Well your an adult now, if you don’t like it then you cane move out no one is forcing you to live here” she has been saying something similar to this to us since we were 15-ish, I hate it so much when she says those words because were am I gonna go? I know my grandparents would let me live with them, but they have already been through enough with their son and my mom fighting each other I can’t burden them too, I don’t want to become a problem for them like I have my mom. but in-spit of all of that my mom of course doesn’t care because it is not what she wants, she always say to us “What about me what about how I feel. What about what you have done to hurt me to add to the problems in these past year, huh?” But I bite my tongue because it’s like what about how you? You continuously insult and spit on and ignore how my sister and I have been feeling for these past years what make you think your feelings take rule over ours when you never even started to consider us since that divorce. I love my mom, I have given all I cane give to her. For me that way I see it is to love with your heart and give when you cane because if I was in that situation I would want someone to step in a help me too. I have given hundreds to my mom to help keep her head above water and all I ask of her in return is to love me and be kind to me and consider me and be emotionally available as my mom, just be my mom, but she can’t even do that without complaining without feeling defensive when I get made because I feel taken advantage of because of all that I have given her emotionally, she gets pissed when I get mad about her taken advantage of my kindness and being hurt by the fact that its so hard for her to think about some else other than herself to return what was given out of love. I can’t even believer her now on the very rare occasion that she says she loves me and my sister because it feels fake like a lie, and something that she is saying out of obligation instead of out of maternal love, she doesn’t even ask us how our day was and when we hug her she acts like she doesn’t want us touching. My mom makes so many excuse about why she is the why she is why she can never be emotionally. My sister and I can never ever have a serious conversation with her about our relationship as a family because she always thinks we are attacking her she can never admit when she has wrong someone, when she has hurt them and the one time she did it was because me and my sister kept bringing it up to her but even then she just went back to her old ways. My mom is very childish when it comes to our family. And for the most part she doesn’t seem to care if we have a relationship with her or not because her world is wrapped around her boyfriend and herself. My mom never fought for us when we couldn’t never chose us and the one time she did was when she deiced not to move us in the middle of high-school and let us live a normal life. She told us that if we didn’t move with her or go live with our grandparents she would put me in my sister in an apartment on the bad side of town rent is cheap on that side, I can’t win with her, she is focused on her achieving her own happiness at the expense of me and my sister.

Even now I get on myself about my own feeling because I have been told that they are childish and dramatic that I am that way and it started messing with how I though about my life. I questioned whether I had the right to be sad and hurt an upset because I always knew some out there ad it worse then I did, so what right did I have to even feel pain because of the things I was going through, but my grand told me that I had a hard life since I was a kid even though it look clean on the outside. I just wonder were I went wrong what I did to make my mom stop caring about me, stop loving me because I would fix it, I just want to mean something to her again.

This is not to generate sympathy for myself just a means of finding from release from all the drama and sadness and madness in my life. This not meant to generate and hate for my mom, I’m just honestly trying to understand were it all went wrong.

Israel - October 7, 2017 Reply

Hi im 15 and have been reading this stuff about parenting and realized that the relationship with my dad is nonexistent,my parents divorced when i was 1 and my dad would provide for me well but never did anything besides that and would leave me for weeks on end playing videogames and never telling me to go out side or do something and he never taught me good habits like brushing my teeth, i can’t remember him saying anything besides the obvious drugs are bad and stuff like that, but am now finding trouble talking to anyone especially girls. And am super self-conscious of how other people think of me and make jokes to hide how shallow i am conversation wise, and i dont feel comfortable going to him for help on anything and never ask for amything extra from him, it seems like he just doesn’t care enough to try. And now when all this is catching up with me and i am now getting ostricized by my peers i don’t know anything. Im like a shell of a person with no personality and always think people are better than me and that is why they have relationships and success
And i try to cry but i can’t, when i go into thinking about this i just feel lost and confused and don’t know what to do to make it better.

    TA Mole - November 15, 2017 Reply

    Israel – I wish I had been as brave and smart as you when I was 15. You have realised something is very wrong with your dad, and everything you have said about you is the impact of HIS behaviour. Well done for seeking answers and looking for help. Keep going. Keep looking and asking. Is there someone at the school you can talk to, or a neighbour or a friend’s parent? Keep trying. You can and will find solutions. You are on the right track.

    Anonymous - January 4, 2018 Reply

    I would encourage you to find activities you are passionate about! Hopefully, it would lead you to meet others that like the same thing.

    You are so young! Life seems so hard at your age but it gets better. Pretty soon you can build the life you want. Financial independence can help you get out on your own and get you going towards that.

    Best of luck to you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to trustworthy people.

anonymous - October 5, 2017 Reply

hi. today, my mom told me i was selfish and very mean to my sisters. i have been mean in the past, i agree. she told me that she will always stand up for my sisters and if it was the other way around she would stand up for me; however, there have been times when my sisters have been mean to me and she told me to figure it out and it’s my fault because i’m the oldest girl. i am a role model to my sisters and my mom said very soon i won’t be. she is the only one who is saying this to me. i have two younger sisters and we are all in the teens. she is a single mom. i have no idea what to do. she always wants me to do what is asked and if she’s mad at me she will give me all these jobs. she says in the morning i am always negative, but sometimes i’m not and once she says something mean to me then i am not in the best mood. my sister wanted to go to my school’s homecoming game and i have never been to one so i was so excited to hang out with my friends. i did not ask my sister if she will be with friends or not and my immediate reaction was nooooo. i don’t know i just feel like sometimes my mom makes issues bigger then they are or she just wants me to be the best sister 24-7 in this era. like, most siblings are so mean and i think i’m pretty nice relatively. i know i will start to think more about what i say before i say it and try to be more compassionte, but what else do i do? my mom says nobody else is going to want to be around me and i can just stay in my room. sometimes i am sooooo happpy and she’s like well i better enjoy this because this doesn’t happen very often and i’m like omg.

Elise - September 17, 2017 Reply

I feel totally worthless and like i am nothing. its my birthday and nobody in my family has said a thing out it. I’m not good enough for my dad and he hates me I’m nothing to him. “you’ll go no where in life” or my mom calling me “the most horrific bitch she’s ever met” i can’t be here and nobody sees that my acting out is result of feeling worthless and never loved. i just can’t be here in this house any more but i don’t know where i would go. happy 16th to me….

    Deb R - September 19, 2017 Reply

    Dearest Elise, May I just wish you all the very best for your 16th Birthday beautiful girl. You are so precious, there is no one else in this whole world like you. You’ve probably heard the saying hurt people – hurt people…. well that’s what your parents seem to be doing. I was the black sheep in my family at 15-16, I felt unloved and misunderstood. The black sheep are the ones that absorb all the emotion that’s going on around them and then express it – but as young people there is no filter so it all comes out…. My mother said terrible things that I didn’t know how to deal with or who to turn to. I made decisions I regretted and had to live with the consequences. When I became a Christian it was as though I was able to press restart and experienced forgiveness and unconditional love for the first time in my life.
    The truth Elise is that sometimes our parents are broken and we have a choice to make to let their brokenness break us or go and find a beautiful community of people to be a part of. After causing myself so much heartache and harm I finally made a decision for my life and found a church that adopted me in then the healing began.. My grandfather wrote me once and said ‘We become like the people we spend time with so choose your friends/community wisely’. My prayer for you is that you find somewhere you can belong, extended family to live with or some supported accommodation somewhere. There will come a time when you can look back on this time as a wiser woman who chose to walk through this dark time to become an even deeper, more compassionate person who understands heartache and loss. You will be an amazing wife and mother one day and your story will inspire others. We learn most of life’s deepest lessons not on the mountain top but in the valleys. I got through those times and am now married with two beautiful strong children who care so much for others. Praying for you.

    A.J London - September 30, 2017 Reply

    Hi Elise:

    If this message finds its way to you I send a happy belated birthday. My birthday is Sept. 17 as well. I remember my 16th birthday (many years ago). It was a horrible time in my life and I really acted out. My parents never took any interest in my life so I felt unworthy of any type of healthy love. I had zero self-love. Here is what I have learned. I decided at some point to LOVE myself no matter what anyone said. I still have some bad days but they are becoming fewer.
    Elise put your mental, spiritual and physical HEALTH FIRST over any relationship! I cannot stress this enough. Also, don’t have children until you learn to love yourself and can share your inner joy.
    YOUR PARENTS ARE FOOLS

alex - September 10, 2017 Reply

The main thing to remember is that the best revenge is success – don’t do any self-destructive things, you would only hurt yourself. Also even though not talking to abusive parents for a few years is useful for self-esteem, actually being able to overcome yourself and learn to talk and respond cohesively and not being afraid is just as useful.

    Sandra Donolley - September 15, 2017 Reply

    This entire article is about how to understand the parent. Ridiculous! That’s their job, not mine!

      Stacey - October 4, 2017 Reply

      Yes! Someone finally understands! I’m 44 yrs old and my parents last year decided to not have anything to with me because my sisters young boyfriend decided to cause a fight with my son who at the time was 22. These parents just cut me off over that??!!

Anonymous - September 8, 2017 Reply

My mother is a narcissist; didn’t visit me when I was hospitalized because she “can’t” [ie, won’t] travel…this after I took medical leaves to fly out to be with her during all her ailments…never asked her for anything…never again…

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