Invalidated Child: Invisible Adult




Our childhoods are in the past. As adults, we must put childhood behind us and focus on the now. Right?


Today we know that our child selves live within us, and that the power of that child is remarkable. Our parents’ view of us as children is the way we view ourselves as adults. The way our parents treated us as children in large part determines how we treat ourselves as adults.

This child/adult connection has been proven over and over again by research. I see it every day in my psychotherapy office; and never more clearly than in the case of Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN).

In CEN, the child is given a subliminal message, often inadvertently, that his/her emotions are irrelevant. This leaves a profound mark upon the child in adulthood. To see how this works, let’s look in on Zach as a child, and then meet up with him again twenty-three years later.

Child Zach 

Seven-year-old Zach is a sweet, sensitive boy. His brother Collin, who is six, is a loud and boisterous type. He loves to poke and pinch Zach to make him cry. Today, it has happened again. He sneaks up on Zach, who is quietly playing, and pokes him in the ribs, hard. Zach howls. Zach and Collin’s mom is in the kitchen cooking and his dad is at work. Today she handles it the same way she always does. She calls from the kitchen, “Zach, you leave your brother alone!” Zach runs into the kitchen to make his case, but his mother is not interested. “I’m busy Zach,” she says. “You need to work this out with your brother.” 

In this scenario, Zach’s mother has done nothing abusive or mean. She has done nothing obviously bad or memorable. This situation probably seems like a typical, everyday event in any household in the world. Indeed these types of incidents go on all the time, and typically they do no real harm.

But if this is how Zach’s parents handle things enough, and he receives this subtle but powerful message enough, he will grow up with the effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). Let’s take a look at what is actually happening in this seemingly everyday incident. Actually, Zach is being invalidated in multiple ways and on multiple levels.

  1. Zach’s smaller brother picking on him makes him feel helpless and angry.  By not taking the time to notice what he is feeling, Zach’s mother gives him the message that his feelings –the most deeply personal part of who he is—are not valid or relevant.

           Subtle Message: You are not valid or relevant to me.

  1. Zach’s mother assumes that Zach is the aggressor, not Collin, which shows that she does not see his true nature: that he is generally kind and sensitive, not an aggressive type.

           Subtle Message: I do not see who you truly are.

  1. When Zach’s mom says, “I’m busy. Handle it yourself,” she is giving him a subtle, powerful, though unintended message.

           Subtle Message: You are alone. Your problems and feelings don’t matter.

  1. Zach is left feeling lost in a sea of undefined emotion, misunderstood, overlooked, alone, invalid and invisible.

Now let’s look at how all of this will play out in Zach’s adult life if he is raised with enough of this type of parenting.

Adult Zach

At age thirty, Zach is a likeable fellow. His kind nature is seen by all who meet him. But Zach cannot see this himself because he does not know his true self. He is sometimes baffled by others’ reactions to him. “Why do people like me?” he wonders. Although he is an outwardly successful man, Zach is not certain, deep down, that he is worth seeing or that he is worth knowing.

Zach is a stand-up guy who takes care of his wife and children, and they love him very much. Although he knows that they love him, he does not feel their love. No matter how much love Zach receives, inside he feels disconnected and alone. When Zach walks into a meeting at work or when he walks down the hall of his daughter’s school, he knows, deep down, that he walks alone.

Zach pushes his feelings down and away so that they will not trouble others or himself. He prides himself on his individuality, yet he seldom feels that he belongs anywhere. He feels disconnected but he does not know why. He does not know that he grew up with CEN and that he is living his life in its invisible grip.

If only Zach knew what he feels and why, he could get himself on the path to healing. He could learn that his feelings matter. He could realize that he matters. He could learn to see himself as others see him. He could realize that he is worth knowing and loving.

The world is full of people like Zach: stand-up folks who are loving and kind, but who cannot see themselves truly and clearly; people who live life in vivid color but who can only experience it in black and white; people who feel overlooked and unseen; people who matter but who feel that they do not.


To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, Take the CEN Questionnaire. It’s free.

To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, see my first book Running on Empty. 


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Michael - March 22, 2016 Reply

Thanks for writing this. I just learned about the concept of invalidation and it explains a great deal of my childhood. After my parents divorced when I was 7 my mother forced me to see a psychologist against my consent for 6 years. She kept lying to me by saying I was “depressed”. No matter how much I objected, no matter what statements I declared, I was forced to see a psychologist for 6 years. 6 years of me being told my one of my parents that I was mentally defective. 6 years of being pulled out of class in elementary and middle school which eventually led to social isolation due to the classmates learning about it and mocking me for being crazy. 6 years of psychological therapy against my consent despite no history of behavioral problems and with no legal representation. Meanwhile, despite no diagnosis of depression the psychologist had no mercy on me by never saying the only sentence that could have mattered. “Your son does not need my services”. Instead I was forced into psychological therapy for 6 years. The word therapy doesn’t even deserve to follow the word psychological in this case; the word humiliation or dehumanization would be a better fit.

As a 29 year old man you think it is possible to have any measure of self-esteem after that brutal measure of psychological invalidation, parental invalidation and peer humiliation? Absolutely not.

Invalidation is a huge problem. If they have just accepted my true and correct answer and my not being depressed then I wouldn’t have had to undergo 6 years of psychological humiliation. Instead my humanity, dignity and individuality was invalidated and tossed aside as having no greater worth than trash

Still learning - December 23, 2015 Reply

I had this happen to me as a child. I was the one who did everything wrong, was not allowed to defend myself, and punished because my parents decided I was liar. This happened repeatedly. If I tried to defend my self to my father would would get in my face and scream at me to quit lying and stop making my mother upset. These are my first memories.

I was never hugged, never told I was loved, never comforted when I was sad. It was all very traumatic. I felt invisible and alone and that I didn’t matter. People who have been through this tend to downplay the experience and have no idea this affects the rest of one’s life.

I am 43 now and still working things. I have come to the realization that I need to forgive, and take a Buddhists’ look at things.

For one, my parent’s weren’t in perfect families either. They went through different forms abuse. How are they supposed to know how to raise child to feel loved, heard and respected? Like all of, they raised us the best they knew how. Even though it was never spoken to me, they did love me, they never laid hand on me. I was always fed, clothed and had a roof over my head. To this day, I respect my dad for all the hard work he did.

The most important thing I learned though, is that validation comes from within, if we are waiting others validate us, we will never be

I still have bad days, the memories sometimes get to me and that’s what led me to site. But I think worked through it for now. Thank you for writing this,I know you are helping people.

BDT - October 11, 2015 Reply

Wow. I really feel like I’ve found something I identify with.

Growing up, my dad was what I’ve found out to be a narcissist and my Mom just, really, did her best. I am the 2nd of 4 kids. My mom protected my older brother who my dad picked on….my younger brother was a cute clown and my sister was the baby. I just kind of grew up, I wasn’t a bad kid, got good grades. I really felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere but I wasn’t an outcast either, just another kid in school. My Mom was busy dealing with the other three and I just figured that if I didn’t cause any problems that was a good thing. I kind of wished that my parents would come to my ballgames or things I was involved in but I understood that they were busy, I didn’t take it personally.

As an adult, I’ve been pretty successful at work, have a wife I adore, great friends….anything a person could hope fore. However, I’ve always felt a a little dubious as to why these things worked out for me. Deep down, I know I don’t deserve them and have always felt that it could all disappear. I don’t fight with my wife because I’m afraid she’ll be mad at me. I take responsibility for everything that happens which kind of makes me dubious about the whole victim thing…but a few minor thins aside, I have a great life.

My relationship with my family is…well, I’m the “successful” child in that I’m solvent financially and happily married…so my mom’s attention is more about helping my brothers and sisters with whatever they have going on and keeping my dad happy. I’m also 1000 miles away. I’ve always rationalized it as that I don’t need their attention/help/concern so that’s good, right? Plus, I don’t live close. However, as I get older, I’ve gotten more resentful of my family without knowing why. I’ve often thought that, gee, what about me? I’ve manifested a few behaviors in my personal life, things that are probably not that bad but feel a compulsion to hide from everyone (I’m not a serial killer or anything.

Anyway, I’m not sure what that all means….but, it sure seems to be something I identify with.

picaflor - August 9, 2015 Reply

I normally don’t comment on articles I come across. But this has touched me so much.

I was adopted at the age of 3 with my older sister who was 6. Something I have heard all my life from both my parents was a conversation they had when they adopted us. My mother asked my father, “Are you going to favor M (me) because she’s so “pretty”?” he responds with “No, I will favor C (my sister) because she needs us more”.

My relationship with my family was a distant one from the start. I relied on my sister who I considered to be my mother as she was the only person I had in the orphanage and did everything a mother should do. When we were adopted I was now provided with material possessions. I had a bed to sleep in, clothes, food and I was provided with an education. But my parents never thought about my emotional well being. I didn’t remember being in an orphanage. I didn’t have the same trauma and emotional needs that my sister did. So they showered my sister with love, they spoke to her all the time and tried to make her see how wonderful life was. In turn my sister continued being my mother. She hugged me when I cried and asked me what was wrong. When I fell it would be her who would pick me up while my parents shook there heads (I was a clumsy child). But she also continuously reminded me that they were not our parents. My relationship with my sister was unhealthy, at least in the eyes of our parents. We were too close. And I was to dependent on her. But who was I going to depend on when they never truly took the time to get to know me. They never asked me how I was feeling or what I needed. What hurt and what made me smile. I watched as my sister grew closer to them. Forming relationships with them but then turning around and reminding me that they weren’t my parents. And they didn’t feel like my parents. Besides providing for the materialistic things in life they didn’t provide me with much else.

But I was okay with it. I had my sister. Until I didn’t. At 12 they sent my sister to France for the summer. It was the first time in our lives that we had ever been separated. And that entire summer I felt incredibly alone. My father took my also adopted brother (not my biological brother like my sister) to Chicago to get test done because at the age of 9 he still couldn’t read (he was a crack baby). And I was left to my own devices. I was sent to camp and everyday I’d come back and no one asked how camp was. What I did. Did I have fun. Because you see, I didn’t need my parents. I was the “normal” child, therefore I didn’t need their constant attention like my sister did and my brother did. At least thats what they told themselves and me. All summer I waited for my sister to come back. But when she did she came back a different person. We’ve never truly spoken about it, mainly because she always brushes me aside but after she came back she stopped talking to me. Cold turkey. It was like I ceased to exist. I spent the next 4 years thinking of ways to end my life. And making many attempts as well. Downing bottle after bottle of pills. Whatever was in the house which was never much, either tylenol or advil. But I didn’t know better. It was before we had internet in our home. I just knew if I took enough I wouldn’t wake up. It was never enough. And only 2 times did it make me so sick that they had to take me to the hospital. My parents chalking it up to a stomach flu each time. They actually never realized it and at the time I was glad. It meant I could try again.

Honestly, whenever I hit a mile marker in my life it always surprised me. I never believed that my life was worth much. My adopted parents from the beginning believed that I didn’t need them and showered my “troubled” sister and my “learning disability” brother with love and attention. When I would point it out they would say, C is dealing with emotional baggage from living in an orphanage and being abandoned. And when I would point out that I lived in the same orphanage and I was abandoned by the same mother they would always say “Yes but you’re to young to remember”. And when they would let my brother do things that I would get severely punished for and I would try to point it out again they would say “Well you can read and entertain yourself, he can’t”. Or they would just say I was being the classic middle child.

I now don’t really have much of a relationship with my entire family. But I never really did. And now that I am thirty I am trying hard to work through these issues. Of feeling that my existence is a waste. That my feelings are unimportant. And now I am angry. Years and years of bottled up emotions and the first that I truly truly feel is angel and rage.

And the hardest part is knowing that I should feel grateful to my parents for adopting me and giving me a “future” but at the same time not feeling like a should feel grateful. The one thing all adopted children want is to be loved. Being taken care of is just fine but being loved well that saves lives. And its hard to come to terms with feeling grateful but not all at the same time.

Rob - June 28, 2015 Reply

Dr. Webb, This is a very interesting topic. I was recently introduced to the phenomenon of Emotional Deprivation Disorder and the work of Dr Alice Terruwe and Dr. Conrad Baar. How is Childhood Emotional Neglect different from Emotional Deprivation Disorder, if at all, and how does treatment differ?

Atypical - February 8, 2015 Reply

Well……here I am again,searching for my inner self!!. I am a 39 yr old woman whom has lost any sign of hope that I shall ever really find ‘ the real me’. Since 5 yrs old I was put into care….to this day I am still none the wiser as to the real story surrounding this.I went on to live with over 10 to 15 diff foster family’s all before the age of 9.Im cutting a lot out of this to shorten space.I stayed in care till 17yrs old & I then had my son(he was & will always be the best thing to ever happen to me) along with my three others. As the years have gone by my dealings with ppl socially have rapidly declined.It has not helped that for some reason I only seem to attract undesirable individuals whom are hell bent on emotionaly tormenting me.Due to meeting such ppl I have become socially awkward & just live in total isolation.I have my children ( 2still at home) others are older & live their own lives.I have no family & I have no friends…..I do not trust anyone given how fragile it seems my mental state is.I am lonely I am sad,I am hurt,and I am very disappointed in general with the lack of support or help from everyone I’ve reached out too!!. I come to the conclusion that…..not one person a actually gives a sh*t!!,nothing new though….I’ve witnessed this since 5 years old.So me being here on this site now is my efforts at self help… finding these articles,it really hits home that deep down I know I’ve suffered & even though I may never totally find whom I really am….at least I ‘TRY’. I have the most wonderful children…..any parent no matter what they have been through….CAN….. Raise emotionaly strong competent individuals who will grow to be very happy. I myself have succeeded & pride myself in them!!. Peace to all.

    Angel - February 12, 2015 Reply

    I happen to think you are a strong and very capable person to have raised children well but you need to understand that the hurt you bear from childhood should be addressed by an equally capable psychologist. Getting the right help should be your ‘absolute’ priority. This isn’t easy and I don’t know how much you have tried already, but use the same strength and the same allotment of resources that you used in raising your children to find the help you deserve. You are young and can right this! The strength coming from you simply flies off the pages.

Tim - January 26, 2015 Reply

Reading some of these comments, I don’t understand the criticism that Dr. Webb’s theory is encouraging victimhood. The prism of emotional neglect is giving me a form of structure to *understand* myself, as well as the impetus to do something about it. Who wants to wallow in victimhood? I don’t hold anything against my parents and still see them all the time. I just want to resolve my underlying issues and CEN is giving me the ability to do so.

Betsy - November 13, 2014 Reply

Is it really that I was emotionally neglected? Or perhaps I was so needy and sensitive that I had a PERCEPTION of not being important? My parents were your typical ’60s parents. I cannot place blame on them because they did not make me feel special, can I?

wally13 - August 4, 2014 Reply

This article explains so much about feelings I’ve had all my life. I was one of 8 children and although my mother tried to treat us all with love, I never felt like I was special or even really cared about. I was never able to sustain a good relationship. My fears now, are that I passed along these feelings to my children. I recently married and am constantly amazed by my husband who always tells me I am beautiful and smart and fun, etc. My prayers are that I can help my daughter heal. I hope I can convey to her that she was ALWAYS special and beautiful and I hope she will forgive me for not noticing all the unloved feelings that SHE had.

Anne - August 3, 2014 Reply

This describes me. I’m a successful writer and academic with a PhD, but have never felt loved or special. I always feel like I can easily be replaced by someone else and doesn’t matter how much money I make or how many awards I receive. I let close relationships either crumble or I’m so sensitive that the slightest problem makes me feel like a failure. I’m 44 with years of therapy, but I still feel like just another body in an overpopulated world.

Peter Anderson - August 3, 2014 Reply

Dr. Webb, thank you for your article and concern for CEN. As a LMFT, I see a lot of neglect in the home and in the office. However, not to sound picky, but I disagree with your objection when Zach’s mom says, “I’m busy. Handle it yourself,” that she is giving him a subtle, powerful, though unintended message, that he is alone and that his problems and feelings don’t matter. What I have often found in the home is that when parents are constantly intervening and offering their feedback when there is conflict, the child will often not develop the coping skills necessary to handle conflict on his own, but look to mom and dad to handle the conflict for then. One thing I’ve often have had to tell parents is, “let them handle it. If there’s a conflict, then tell them they’ll need to work it out between the two of them. They’ll be ok, because they’re learning how to speak and address how they’ve been hurt.” I don’t seen this as neglect, but as an opportunity to help the child develop skills of assertiveness and confidence. I’ve found that parents who are constantly getting involved in the sibling conflict, will often exasperate the situation, not solve it. Did I miss something? I’d love your take on this? You thoughts?

    glb1974 - August 3, 2014 Reply

    Let a six- and seven-year-old handle their own conflict? Even professional companies and good grade schools have administrators intervene between the bully (or perceived harassment) and the victim. Parents can train their children to handle conflicts eventually on their own, but ignoring the training as a parent is not good. Also, victims are validated when they are acknowledged as a person who has been wronged, even if there were perceptions involved. Again, healing takes place for the victim so the victim isn’t stuck there. Victims should be validated in all circumstances and within every relationship, if we are to advance peace, harmony, unity, and ethical practices. If adults need intervention, how much more do children need it? Neglect could be seen on a continuum and thus be deemed as mild to severe, but in all cases can have detrimental effects unless buffering effects are involved (i.e., another parent or adult offers support when the one parent or both parents do not). Severe forms could be interpreted as illicit activities involving starvation, whereas mild forms could involve lack of warmth and validation. Neglect has also been found to be one of few covariates leading to personality disorders in adults and externalizing disorders in children and adolescence. Further studies should be done in this area, but a strengths-based approach can be useful in the meantime. And what of evidence-based practices in this area? As an undergrad majoring in psychology and McNair scholar, I find this topic useful. As a person whose been neglected in many different forms but with buffering effects to prevent Pd’s but not PTSD, I find this topic validating and healing. Societal stigmas, esp. among the professional circles, also impact people’s self-identities, insofar that we are socialized to take advice from, say, therapists. But when therapists disagree, students and patients get confused, and when society tells us to avoid playing the victim, those who are wronged become invalidated and often internalizing such invalidations and its respective forms of neglect. If we could target even the most subtle messages, perhaps we could not only heal victims but also prevent victimization, neglect, and negative self-images.

      Peter Anderson - August 5, 2014 Reply

      Glb, I agree that we’re not to neglect the child. I never said that. Also, you’re examples of starvation and PTSD are pretty extreme to what I was saying about 2 brothers having to work out who gets to play with which toy. Telling the child to work on conflict is not neglect, but in its proper context, it can often be a wonderful opportunity to build the proper coping skills to develop a sense of independence, self-confidence, and differentiation. I agree that child development needs to be in the picture here, i.e. you don’t tell a 3 year old to stand-up to 7 year old. But, I also think you’re not considering the amount of coping skills children can develop in the area of conflict. Michael Thompson in his documentary/book “Raising Cain,” has done some extensive research on this issue: he believes that our modern-American phenomenon of constant intervention, especially in schools/play grounds, etc., can often do more damage to little boys (his research is in boys) than helping them develop as individuals. Sometimes the best thing you can do as a parent is say, “I love you guys, but you need to go back to your room and figure it out.” Who knows, maybe a friendship will develop and they won’t fight as much.

      Jonice Webb - August 6, 2014 Reply

      Dear Peter and glb, I think this is, as all parenting, mosty an issue of balance. As I said in the article, no one incident like this will damage a child, and indeed empowering your child to handle something is also a vital part of parenting. It’s only a problem when the child ‘s parents fail to respond to his true nature and leave him to fend for himself as an overall parenting style, giving the child the message that he is unseen, and that he doesn’t matter. This causes the kind of invisible, unmemorable damage of CEN. I hope this makes sense to address your concerns. Thank you for sharing your valuable thoughts.

Craig - August 2, 2014 Reply

As a Psychologist who’s been in the field for 22 years, I believe your interpretation and conclusions are watered down pop psychology that provides people permission to claim the victim role.

    Jonice Webb - August 2, 2014 Reply

    Craig, thank you for sharing your opinion. My goal is to talk with people rather than to them, and I realize that can certainly come across as “pop.” As for the victim role, it is rare that I don’t talk about healing in an article. The second half of my book, Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect is all about how to take action to heal from CEN. I think that understanding what went wrong is Step #1, and taking responsibility for fixing oneself is Step #2 in healing. All the best.

    anonymous - November 13, 2014 Reply

    I half agree with Craig.

    CEN is similar to the schema therapy model of emotional deprivation. I would not have described myself as deprived as a child until I had schema therapy and it explained why I felt the way I did (similar to what Dr Webb describes). How it has helped me is to notice when people invalidate me so I can choose to ignore it or walk away from it.

    I think anything that encourages a sense of victimhood traps people – everybody (apart from those who get something out of being a victim, which is a different problem entirely) wants to be empowered. I guess the point of analysis like this is to notice that you invalidate your own feelings and allow others to do the same (“I feel really stressed out”, “You have nothing to be stressed about”, “You’re right, what’s wrong with me? My emotions are stupid”), connect that with a conditioned habit (of course I do that because that’s the way I was treated as a child), and recognise that you have got into those habits because of situations that were present in your childhood but which is no longer relevant to you as an adult, therefore you can choose not to invalidate yourself but to accept that you feel an emotion and that it is valid regardless of why you feel it (no emotion is a bad emotion or a stupid emotion because every part of you matters).

    So…I think Dr Webb’s theory can be helpful, but it needs to include in her articles that sense of ‘how you stop’. It can be freeing and empowering if used in the right way.

Michelle - August 2, 2014 Reply

So, yes, this was part of my upbringing. I knew as a child that I was not important. That was reinforced when I went to school. But millions of other children were also brought up this way. Our parents knew no better. So I am invisible despite that I have a husband and 4 daughters. So what? I don’t matter to the universe, do I? We don’t have to struggle to fix everything that is wrong with us. We can accept ourselves.

Sasha - August 2, 2014 Reply

Appreciated this article. My experience of what you have described led to my believing that if someone met me, they would not remember that they had met me, the next time we met, and so I would act out that belief. It really was feeling invisible. I have worked my way mostly out of that feeling . But as a 58 yo struggle to feel I have a constant place in the world. It causes me immense grief. I have been on a life long quest to undo the damage from my childhood, and create an identity. I think it will always be with me, but I just have always to find the threads of positiveness, and build on that. It is good to have it acknowledged in your article (will look at your web-site), but at the same time highlights to
me my deep sadness. I’m ok, but it’s always a struggle.

Dorothy - August 1, 2014 Reply

Thank you so much! As a child who was often emotionally neglected, I’ve accumulated many of the negative feelings and traits that have been described here, and I couldn’t figure it out. This morning while praying, I realized that in a key circle in which I am involved, I have been experiencing adult emotional neglect. The anxiety it has aroused is something I am seeking to get a handle on. Therefore I googled emotional neglect and found this website and am thrilled. I am expecting to be able to work through and walk through these debilitating internal and external messages as they arise and become more free than I’ve ever been. I’m hopeful.

Lisa - August 1, 2014 Reply

I’m so grateful for your work, and although I’ve been holding out for the audiobook, it may be high time to download it the electronic version (from iTunes…?) since after all, Siri gets better an better at reading aloud so that I can drive, wash dishes, get ready, or any one of a number of things I do that keep my hands busy and prevent me from sitting down.

This vignette is basically my own story with a distinct difference in the attitude of the antagonizing brother, in my case five years my junior, who learned very quickly that his provocations would result in me being shamed/punished (the bad one) as described above, whether I cried out in: pain, retaliation or the agony of disrespect, additionally I was punished when he cried (whether I was or wasn’t involved), and in the event I refused to play with him. If he broke something, I was in trouble because I was, “older,” and according to both parents, my maternal grandparents and maternal great grandparents, as the elder sibling I, “should have been watching him.”

I would’ve been about 7 at that time; this would’ve made him two years old. It’s been 25 years and I was just telling a good friend last night that the reason things are better today is only because I have up a long time ago on being equally seen, known and wanted. My brother looks and acts just like our mother, now deceased, who left my father 25 years earlier, a breakup he was deeply affected by and in my opinion still hasn’t recovered from.

So melodramatic, I realize, and I apologize for the public catharsis. I’m not sure if you plan to publish any follow up work on this subject and chose to share just in case sibling objectification and disrespect (or one could simply call it family ostracism) hadn’t come up in your research to date.

Redz - August 1, 2014 Reply

I recognise this problem in myself, and intellectually I know I am just as valuable as the next person. However, I find it difficult to know where to start in undoing what has been done. It has caused me many problems in my relationships and friendships. I have mentioned it to councillors, but all they seem interested in is taking steps to fix whatever issue i am suffering with because of this and never address the root cause.

Sheila A - July 31, 2014 Reply


I was a the only girl out of five kids in my family and sensitive. I too don’t know why people like me, although I can tell that they do. I don’t understand how my family loves me. I am a mother of 2 daughters, yet I don’t feel like a mother.
What I do know is that I have worked very hard for all of their lives to give them the emotional support and a belief in themselves that I never had.
2 of my older brothers teased me frequently and there was no one to come to my aid to stop them. I had a firm rule in my house that there was no laughing AT either of my kids. Now that they are older, especially my youngest, they have the confidence in knowing that it’s okay to laugh at things that we do and that they are not being laughed at for who they are. I never had that.
I try to treat each daughter based on who they are. We are not genetic duplicates of each other.
There was so much emotional damage caused from the neglect I endured during my childhood.
Thank you for this. I believe it is a valid view of so much of the suffering of people.

Jackson - July 31, 2014 Reply

Hi , thank you for your research and writings . CEN is something my husband and I live with . We were both neglected and ignored . We just were in a house with people . Recently my husbands mother told him she wished she had stopped having children long before he came along.

This week our adult daughter came to visit us a told me how sweet we are and how much she loves us and I think ” really ” am I really that lovable .?. I’m boring and am bad at conversation .

At work when someone really laughs at a joke I made I am truly surprised , I think do they really think I’m funny .

It has been very hard growing up i hope you can help Lot of people become more alive and validated .

Much thanks

    R. S. - August 4, 2014 Reply

    Me too and then I continue to invalidate myself when I minimize neglect and compare it to physical abuse. Thanks for commenting. It helped me feel less alone in my sadness.

    Delaney - February 11, 2015 Reply

    Your comment regarding you and your husband- We were just living in a house with people- really hit home for me. I am now 51 and trying to come to terms with all that has happened to me. Reading more, it’s no wonder I feel so alone. Wishing us all the best. Thank you for your comment.

carol burman - July 31, 2014 Reply

Dear Dr. Webb,

BRAVO, BRAVO, BRAVO!!!!! FINALLY someone is talking about this subtle, hideous problem.

I am an adult-child of this kind of abuse and at 72 I am still working through the ramifications of what it did to me mentally, physically and spiritually. I have mental illness challenges – OCD, BiPolar, Pstd, Anxiety Disorder +++ and suffer with chronic illnesses – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia and symptoms that go with these Chronic Illnesses. I believe this is all a result of my childhood; of the emotional abuse.

I started my personal journey when I was 37 – years of therapy, primal scream, to begin with and then various other therapies based on different theorists. Now I’m involved in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and finally getting help with the Chronic Illnesses.

No matter how difficult the journey; I have suffered tremendously – divorces, a daughter who is an addict, a son who has not found himself, (multigenerational) a grandaughter who has been adopted etc. but I will not give up because deep inside there is that child that continues to push me forward – to heal one day at a time. I believe it’s the Creative Child within.

What you are doing touches my heart so deeply, brings tears to my eyes because you have been touched by the pain of the child – and adult child and now you’re talking openly about this insidious form of abuse.

God bless you Dr. Webb. PLEASE continue to help us – with you wisdom, compassion, knowledge and empathy. We have waited a long time…..and FINALLY.

With respect, Om Shanti – Peace……

Carol Burman Vancouver BC Canada

    Jonice Webb - July 31, 2014 Reply

    Dear Carol, thank you for sharing your story. You have been through a lot! I’m glad that you are still working on things. You sound like a person who will fight your way out of this. I wish you all the best!

    ammyanne - March 24, 2015 Reply

    Dearest Dr. Webb & Ms. Burnham: What a Phenomenal article & a superb comment (I’m 41 & I get it all now!). Thanks, both xo

    Kelly - August 6, 2016 Reply

    I absolutely agree. As a child, I had extremely low self esteem and was extremely shy. I always felt that my father hated me, I was always being criticized. I remember going to the pediatrician and him putting me on some type of medication that tasted like mint. I clearly remember him saying this should help you with your problem child. My mother tells me I’m crazy, it never happened. I later learned that I had ADHD. Probably why I was the one always getting in trouble! As a teen, I became a big drinker. I’m 50 years old now and it still bothers me, I regret so many things in my past…never standing up for myself…not trying in school…feeling I was too dumb for college…I promised myself I would never treat my children the way I was treated and as a result, I think I let them get away with more than I should have, however, they always knew they were loved and they are doing well today. I’m still hard on myself, I struggle with depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia and still have a hard time standing up for myself. My mother will post things on FB, meant for me to see I’m sure…Everything you do is your choice…dont blame the weather…don’t blame your parents its not your parents fault, etc…any type of quote along those lines. I’ve mentioned to my sister that growing up in that house has effected me a lot, I have a strange feeling she told my mother because that’s when the quotes began, lol. My parents have mellowed and my father is much kinder to me now, however, if I hear him raise his voice or look at me with that look, I immediately turn back into that little girl again.

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