Raised By Emotionally Neglectful Parents: 17 Signs to Look For

17 Signs

What kind of parents fail to notice their child’s feelings?

Since this type of parental failure (Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN) causes significant harm to the child, people naturally assume that emotionally neglectful parents must also be abusive or mean in some way. And it is true that many are.

But one of the most surprising things about Childhood Emotional Neglect is that emotionally neglectful parents are usually not bad people or unloving parents. Many are indeed trying their best to raise their children well.

3 Categories of Emotionally Neglectful Parents

Type 1: Well-Meaning-But-Neglected-Themselves Parents (WMBNT)

  • Permissive
  • Workaholic
  • Achievement/Perfection 

There are a variety of different ways that well-meaning parents can accidentally neutralize their children’s emotions. They can fail to set enough limits or deliver enough consequences (Permissive), they can work long hours, inadvertently viewing material wealth as a form of parental love (Workaholic), or they can overemphasize their child’s accomplishment and success at the cost of his happiness (Achievement/Perfection).

What makes these parents qualify for Well-Meaning Category 1 status? They think that they are doing what’s best for their children. They are acting out of love, not out of self-interest. Most are simply raising their children the way they themselves were raised. They were raised by parents who were blind to their emotions, so they grew up with the same emotional blind spot that their own parents had. Blind to their children’s emotions, they pass the neglect down, completely unaware that they are doing so.

Children of WMBNT parents generally grow into adulthood with heavy doses of three things: all the symptoms of CEN, a great deal of confusion about where those symptoms came from, and a wagonload of self-blame and guilt. That’s because when, as an adult, you look back at your childhood for an explanation for your problems, you often see a benign-looking one. Everything you can remember may seem absolutely normal and fine. You remember what your well-meaning parents gave you, but you cannot recall what your parents failed to give you.

“It must be me. I’m flawed,” you decide. You blame yourself for what is not right in your adult life. You feel guilty for the seemingly irrational anger that you sometimes have at your well-meaning parents. You also struggle with a lack of emotion skills, unless you have taught them to yourself throughout your life since you had no opportunity to learn them in childhood.

6 Signs To Look For

  • You love your parents and are surprised by the inexplicable anger you sometimes have toward them.
  • You feel confused about your feelings about your parents.
  • You feel guilty for being angry at them.
  • Being with your parents is boring.
  • Your parents don’t see or know the real you, as you are today.
  • You know that your parents love you, but you don’t necessarily feel it.

Type 2: Struggling Parents

  • Caring for a Special Needs Family Member
  • Bereaved, Divorced, or Widowed
  • Child as Parent
  • Depressed

Struggling parents emotionally neglect their child because they are so taken up with coping that there is little time, attention, or energy left over to notice what their child is feeling or struggling with. Whether bereaved, hurting, depressed or ill, these parents would likely parent much more attentively if only they had the bandwidth to do so.

But these parents couldn’t, so they didn’t. They didn’t notice your feelings enough, and they didn’t respond to your feelings enough. Although the reasons for their failure are actually irrelevant, you have not yet realized this yet. You look back and see a struggling parent who loved you and tried hard, and you find it impossible to hold them accountable.

Children of struggling parents often grow up to be self-sufficient to the extreme and to blame themselves for their adult struggles.

4 Signs To Look For

  • You have great empathy toward your parents, and a strong wish to help or take care of them.
  • You are grateful for all that your parents have done for you, and can’t understand why you sometimes feel inexplicable anger toward them.
  • You have an excessive focus on taking care of other people’s needs, often to your own detriment.
  • Your parents are not harsh or emotionally injurious toward you.

Type 3: Self-Involved Parents

  • Narcissistic
  • Authoritarian
  • Addicted
  • Sociopathic

This category stands out from the other two for two important reasons. The first: self-involved parents are not necessarily motivated by what is best for their child. They are, instead, motivated to gain something for themselves. The second is that many parents in this category can be quite harsh in ways that do damage to the child on top of the Emotional Neglect.

The narcissistic parent wants his child to help him feel special. The authoritarian parent wants respect, at all costs. The addicted parent may not be selfish at heart, but due to their addiction, is driven by a need for their substance of choice. The sociopathic parent wants only two things: power and control. 

Not surprisingly, Category 3 is the most difficult one for most children to see or accept. No one wants to believe that his parents were, and are, out for themselves.

Being raised by Category 3 parents is only easier than the other two categories in one way: typically, you can see that something was (and is) wrong with your parents. You can remember their various mistreatments or harsh or controlling acts so you may be more understanding of the reasons you have problems in your adult life. You may be less prone to blame yourself.

7 Signs To Look For

  • You often feel anxious before seeing your parents.
  • You often find yourself hurt when you’re with your parents.
  • It’s not unusual for you to get physically sick right before, during, or after seeing your parents.
  • You have significant anger at your parents.
  • Your relationship with them feels false, or fake.
  • It’s hard to predict whether your parents will behave in a loving or rejecting way toward you from one moment to the next.
  • Sometimes your parents seem to be playing games with you or manipulating you, or maybe even trying to purposely hurt you.

Helpful Resources

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) can be subtle and invisible when it happens so it can be hard to know if you have it. To find out, Take The Emotional Neglect Questionnaire. It’s free.

Knowing the type of emotionally neglectful parents you have is tremendously helpful. It helps you improve your relationship with your parents, as well as protect yourself emotionally. Learn much more in my book Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. 

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

This post is an update of an article first published on PsychCentral.


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Grace - May 16, 2023 Reply

I have a questions for all of you who have responded: Do having children help or hinders your sense of self, belonging and recovery from your own traumas?

    Jetta - July 2, 2023 Reply

    Having a child helps my sense of self. I am not sure what you mean by belonging, but I can see having a pregnancy having a baby and small child to interact with everyone at family gatherings increased my sense of belonging in my family. Then when my child turned out to be neurodivergent and not fitting the family expectations, that sense of belonging eroded to the point of me feeling alienated by their impersonal, judgmental reaction to my child. Seems familiar as the same way I was rejected just for being/expressing myself as an individual by late teens, and having a child in the mix has made me a lot more aware of this as it happens. As far as recovery from earlier trauma, I had done a lot of work already and again the presence of my child reawakens that stuff, compels me to be conscious of how healed I am and where I’m not. In this context parenting feels primarily like a strengthening force, like at this point with a young teen “I’m running this race for both of us” as my motivation for all the things I do. Any healing and recovery and I do, now, benefits both me and my child.

Harmen - April 28, 2021 Reply

Thank you for an insightful post. I recognize a bit of all three types of neglectful parents in my own parents.

There is an element of my parents having grown up in cold families themselves, I see that especially clearly with my father, who had a hard mother, as far as I know.

There is something of the struggling parent within my mother. I would not be surprised if she has struggled with some sort of low-level depression for many years.

And there is authoritarian streak in my father.

I do recognize all three responses within me. I felt sick and scared sometimes to bring up something with my father. I wanted to help and support my mother, who often felt as if she struggled. And I also recognized the signs of the first category.

I am especially intrigued by the remark that your parents feel boring. Mine always did, not in a sense of “old people are boring”, but in a more visceral sense: there was a greyness to our family, a lack of joy and silliness and a strong desire to conform. I have always felt that.

Thanks for the column, it gives me much to reflect upon.


June - April 26, 2021 Reply

A few years after my father died, I found I had a tremendous rage at him that I could not reason out. I was 42. I still have it 30 years later. My mother died when I was 19 after a long illness. He was a workaholic and owned a Grocery Store. We hardly saw him. She suffered from his absences & so did my brother & me. Will I ever be able to get past this rage?

Mari - April 26, 2021 Reply

There is also a mixed type. I am not sure where I belong, I believe there is a spectrum of all these types. I don’t feel that anxious talking to my mother and stepfather but they behaved horribly towards. I talk to my mother when she calls intermittently. I just want to get off the phone but still feel like I need to stay on before my mother wants to hang up. I know this is a problem with my boundaries. My mother was depressed but I think she didn’t even realize that she neglected me, my stepfather was I guess narcissistic. She grew up with a depressed mother and a distant mother and for some reason she believes I had enough because they provided for me and as a kid I wasn’t affected and my predicament is due to genes (the best simile to my growing up is a like a piece of weed growing by the side of a road) I don’t feel guilt or empathetic toward them. I harbor anger. We have a superficial relationship so I don’t have such strong reactions. They totally screwed up my life, I had a horrible childhood and still struggling in my life. To be truthful, I sometimes consider suicide and don’t do it because of my daughter. I’ve been depressed for most of my life, starting very early on. I am on antidepressants and in therapy and I have very few friends because I don’t feel like I have much in common with normal people and this hurts. I married for the wrong reason and want to get out now but it’s very hard. Also I don’t want to burden people with my issues they can’t understand. I wanted to expand my network but Covid has been horrible. I have some hope of taking control of my life but I have endless challenges in my life and everything is hard especially now. I am looking for the meaning of my suffering in spirituality. I tried to participate in the Adult Survivors Childhood Abuse group but found it very restrictive for me.

Candice - April 26, 2021 Reply

Why do you speak of parents yet use “her” when using a pronoun. Dads can be a source of neglect as well.

    Jonice - April 26, 2021 Reply

    I do normally try to use “their” because yes, of course fathers can be emotionally neglectful just as much as moms. Thanks for pointing this out, I have fixed it in this article.

Jen - April 26, 2021 Reply

I turn fifty this year. Live with my mom, never had a relationship, did two decades of agoraphobia, and have had a lot of therapy over the years. Read everything I could, Courage to Heal, Drama of Gifted Child, Bradshaw, Brown, etc. Found CEN to be a valuable part of healing. The overt abuse was cocooned in overall we really just don’t see, hear or care for you ness.
Unemployed, delusions (?) of writing while living on disability. I have had a wasted life, but it’s my life.
Father was a three. Narcissistic ahole who molested my brother and possibly me. He was selfish, insulting, dismissive, arrogant, damaged. Mother is a two with a three-wing. Perfectionist depreessive with a suspected sexual abuse past. Thinks she was a good mother, needs to believe it. I’ve been protecting her all my life, she prefers my brother, but he won’t be the one looking after her as she ages. Do what I can in my emotionally damaged, non-driving, poor/lack of life skills way. At least I know enough to know when it is too much for me. Last time I spoke to brother, I cut off contact as he yelled at me over the phone for “going behind his back” and discussing abuse with a cousin. He’s doing “intense therapy to get over all this and never have to deal with it again.” Good luck with that. Short of dementia or a head injury, I don’t think it is possible to ‘cure yourself of the past.’ You can face it, mitigate it and find better ways to cope. You can’t SERVPRO it. (Like it never even happened).
CEN is a nasty kicker to sexual/physical/emotional abuse. It is the hill you push the boulder of child abuse up. It is an oil slick of you don’t matter-you don’t matter-you don’t matter, as you trudge uphill, Yes I Do! Probably be doing it till I die.
Use whatever you need to. Anger, self-love, forgiveness, spite, minimizing, hope, nature, blame, faith, compartmentalizing, bitterness, education, denial, love, distraction, art, understanding, isolating, Karma, dealing, facing, working, animals, addiction, business, intellectualizing, handling, society, ignoring, despairing, humor, just taking it day by day. It’s your life, whatever else it is. You need to find your way through. Hopefully, you’ll find some joy along the way.
If you can find a way to NOT pass it on to another generation. You won! If you passed it on, but feel terrible about it, it’s a close second. Take care of yourself the best you can. Know there are people out here who really get it.
Read everything you can, access the resources that are out there. This blog, with its regular updates, helps me. When things start sliding into chaos and confusion, I get the reminder that tells me, there is a reason you feel this way, or can’t. Yes, this Is something. It was how you were “raised”. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s already been done! You’re not crazy. They were ill equipt to nurture their children. It all makes sense.

    Peter - April 26, 2021 Reply

    Just to say it’s not just you – same age, still at home and never had a relationship, group 3 is incredably damaging. Keep working at it, things are changing slowly for the better, I just work on small steps at a time.

      Barb - April 27, 2021 Reply

      Same too. Late 40s, never had relationship as I find it too hard to let anyone get close, and find it very hard watching everyone else with their families around for support when I struggle along totally on my own and have done so for pretty much the last 40 years. It just gets harder with time not easier.

    Erica - April 27, 2021 Reply

    Jen, thank you so much for sharing. I just turned 47 and am still struggling. I am recovering from back fusion surgery that was necessary due to physical abuse at the hand of my father 34 years ago. So I feel what you are saying. Mostly, though, I wanted to encourage you to write!! CEN is totally an added boulder we need to roll up the hill of recovery. You are a brilliant writer. The images you painted in my mind with your words were accurate and comforting in that I feel like someone else gets it and can beautifully articulate it. I wish you the best. You are amazing.

Gabrielle - April 25, 2021 Reply

Cutting myself off from my family particularly my parents a number of years ago was the best thing I ever did for my mental health. I reconciled with my mother shortly before she died. I felt I had to let the demons go. My mother was a very closed off person but I did feel I had a better understanding of what had made her the way she was, she never ever spoke much about her childhood but we knew it was deeply unhappy. Living with my arse of a father wouldn’t helped her one iota as he had a nasty abusive nature coupled with a vicious tongue. He was nasty, spiteful even jealous of his own children. A pathetic small minded bully who undermined his children at every turn apart from one. She was smothered and when she wanted to leave home it was as if she announced she was becoming a lady of the night. We were not allowed to speak freely about anything and everything was brushed under the carpet so we grew up not trusting our emotions because we were not allowed to discuss feelings or face up to anything. My father was a philanderer and we all knew it but we all had to pretend all was rosy. At work he had a very junior position but again we had to pretend he was a big-wig! Why! It was baloney and everyone knew it because he was an idiot who rubbed everyone up the wrong way. So reading a book like this helps me realise it isn’t me and I’m not to blame, not only that it has helped by acknowledging my absolutely valid feelings and it is ok to talk about it. So thanks.

Amber - April 25, 2021 Reply

Hi Dr.Jonice. I read your first book and have been following your articles for the past few years. I’m grate full that because of your writings I have finally been able to make sense of my upbringing and many of the issues I and my 3 siblings have had throughout our lives. I believe that our parents were WMBENT. I believe that my father is somewhere on the autism spectrum. As a teenager I was mystified, hurt, and infuriated over and over again at his seeming complete lack of consideration for others, and yet he does genuinely love his family; he just has no clue as to how to be conscientious or express himself well at all. He has also struggled throughout his life to find meaningful work, and doesn’t really have friends. He’s never been tested, but I believe that if he were he would be diagnosed with a “mild” form of autism like Asperger’s. I believe that my mom grew up with CEN, her father being the old-school 1950s dad that provided for the family but didn’t get into the emotional side of things, and her mom being a homemaker with 4 kids plus looked after foster children in a lower middle class life. My mom’s mom (my great-grandmother) was struggled to raise her children as a single mom in the 1930s and 40s after she left her womanizing husband who gave her syphilis from his unfaithfulness escapades which she nearly died from. My grandma was the eldest and had to help her struggling mother get by, so I’m guessing that’s where the pattern of CEN began, at least on my mom’s side. I was wondering if you have any information on neurotypical kids that were raised by a parent or parents on the spectrum, and how this would affect the kids. I am pretty sure that I am also an HSP, and that my parents’ habitual failure to validate my feelings led to my lifelong struggles with depression and lack of motivation. I have worked hard on this with years of therapy, antidepressants (which didn’t help), and a search that finally led me to your writings on CEN. I am still working on being that emotionally-responsive and loving “parent” to myself and my inner child, as well as forgiving my parents. Ironically I had the most anger towards my dad growing up, because his lack of concern and consideration were the most obvious, but now as a 40 year old woman I have the most anger towards my mother- the way I see it my dad couldn’t help it- he is literally incapable of understanding and therefore responding appropriately to others’ emotions, but there was nothing “wrong” with my mother; she just watched her husband behaving more like the child in his interactions with his kids than the children acted themselves. But instead of defending her children or at least validating their feelings she took (and still takes) the old school position of “standing by her man,” supporting and siding with him every time. Of my 3 brothers and I, I have fared the best- I left home as soon as I could and have finally been able to achieve some modest success in life. But my elder and youngest brother live at my parents’ home, are not independent financially, and have never had healthy relationships. My other brother who is closest to me in age and emotionally is financially independent, but struggles with relationships as well, and doesn’t know how to stand up for himself to not be taken advantage of. Despite the dysfunctionality all of us love each other, but my brothers don’t see the pattern of CEN or how it’s affected our lives. Most of all I want to know more about the struggles that children of people on the spectrum have. There is a dearth of information here as almost all the literature I find is geared towards the rights of autistic people and defending their ability to be good parents. I have found almost nothing about the potential harm they can (unintentially) inflict on their kids.

PM - April 25, 2021 Reply

What would you consider coddling parents who eventually damage their Child’s adult development?

    Jonice - April 26, 2021 Reply

    I would consider that emotionally neglectful.

PM - April 25, 2021 Reply

Mom – Permissive, workaholic, divorced, addicted – promiscuous party girl.

Dad – Perfection, remarried, addicted, violent, WWII PTSD and narcissistic injured being labels as black sheep that ran away at 16.

Step dad – Child sexual predator and sociopath (extremely abused as a child by his mom and was raped in jail at 16).

Me – After 25 years of recovery just started living life in my 50’s. I finally broke the circle and am free from my past. Developed a high E-IQ and have a full healthy (non chaotic life). You can do this people! Good stuff Jonice, which I had this belter understanding you are teaching and teaching. This new electronic age has created far more emotional neglect, society has got a long was to go. I love nature, children, family, life, neighbors, music, beaches, science and God.

Lisa - April 25, 2021 Reply

I came across your book in 2017. Changed me. The pieces fell into place. Having researched my parents history, I think my mother’s emotional needs were never met, #10 out of 12 children. My father, authoritarian childhood. Whether he’s a narcissist or alcoholic is in question. How important is it to know what and why? Is a general understanding or acknowledgement good enough?

BB - April 25, 2021 Reply

My mother was a manic depressive (now called Bi-Polar) and BOTH my parents used this to control me and my brother and sister – very much Type 3. We had to ‘behave’ according to a constantly changing, unpredictable rule set. And not show emotion or draw attention to ourselves because this would allegedly make my mother ill and she’d end up in mental hospital again. So, if she was ill, it was my fault. I grew up believing I was a bad person and that the guilt and low self esteem I felt was normal and right. We couldn’t talk about it as (unspecified) people wouldn’t like that. It was our secret so we couldn’t ask anyone for help – or a sanity check.

It took a long, long time and a mammoth amount of help from my very supportive husband to tackle this – and it’s still work in progress. I totally disassociated from my parents – and largely my bother and sister who still seem blissfully unaware – and cutting myself off from them was an essential part of the healing process. My parents undermined anything positive, any success I had (at anything!). They actively encouraged me to do things that would lead to failure – in all aspects of life. Fortunately they are now both dead, which took a long, painful time to come to terms with.

Richard - April 25, 2021 Reply

As usual Dr Webb I think you talk a great deal of wisdom. What is important to emphasize though is that sometimes neglectful parents or other circumstances lead children to be given into the care of parental figures who are not biological parents. These parental figures can be emotionally neglectful too and leave a deep footprint in the mind of a person. I can see that this happened to my father who was sent away to boarding school at an early age to be taught by teachers who sometimes were emotionally dysfunctional and at other times sadistic. It also happened to me when my sister was born with a very severe problem with her jaw which took up all my mothers time while my father was at work. I was put in a playgroup for long hours run by someone who had no real idea how to relate to children and often used unnecessary shaming tactics in order to control them (such as yelling at me and coercing me to sit by myself when I was so nervous I spilt some of the milk I was given) Thus I think a really important question for CEN people is who looked after you when your parents weren’t there and were they emotionally neglectful too. Fortunately due to therapy my relationship with my biological parents has improved greatly (I never punished them or disowned them but I only functioned on a certain level with them) and my relationship with my sister is also now very good. My only real concern with your approach Dr Webb is that not enough people know about it. It needs to be bigger. It should also be emphasized all the time that healing and not blame is what it is all about (otherwise people will come up with this thoroughly unjust criticism of what you teach)

B - April 25, 2021 Reply

Thanks for providing this information so clearly in black and white, Jonice. I am so grateful for your devotion to this issue and making it your life’s work. Thank you!

My parents were both struggling and narcissistic. I finally cut off relations with my entire family due to the whole crazy web of dysfunction and how badly it felt to me to be in relationship with them. For 40 years I struggled, going to extremes to work on myself so I could get along with them but the healthier I got, the harder it became for me to remain in relationship with them. I left for 15 years and just returned a year ago to spend a couple of weeks with my mom just before she died. I was able to forgive her and say goodbye which was good for both of us. For the duration of my marriage, I had instinctively kept my husband out of my family knowing they would have manipulated him in their dysfunctional triangulation and abuse of me as the family scapegoat. I am so glad I did. I am sure it would have been hell. However, and probably not surprisingly, my husband’s family dynamic is narcissistic, too. While he never experienced physical abuse like I did, there is definitely a lot of emotional neglect, invalidation, control and triangulation.

Another piece of my puzzle that I finally realized is that my husband has Asperger’s. Through being married to him and struggling with all of the pain inherent in the NT:Autistic relationship, I realized my dad is also on the spectrum. So much about my painful childhood suddenly made sense when I put this all together. Through being married to someone with a very similar set of issues as my father and understanding my mother’s reaction to my dad’s behavior allowed me to come full circle. That has helped me immensely in terms of understanding and healing. I am a nurse and my husband is a mechanical engineer not unlike my mom who was a mother of 5 and a dietician and my dad who was also a mechanical engineer. My husband and I have no children. For that, I am grateful because the world is going to hell and because our painful family legacy has not been passed on by us.

Now, I am focused on healing from the sequelae of physiological issues I have been given and trying to understand why I am here and what God’s purpose is for my life.

Again, much gratitude for what you provide for folks like me. Your information has been like a life ring when I have felt like I would certainly drown in a big sea of rough waters. God bless you!

Thank you,

Conflicted - April 25, 2021 Reply

I’ve been reading your articles and books for the last 2 years. I must suffer CEN because I identify with so much of what you talk about yet feel like all of those feelings and struggles can’t possibly be CEN but rather me just being “messed up”, “different”, etc. it’s such a catch 22 for me wanting to believe there is an explanation but then not feeling normal enough to own that “explanation”. Ugh! Exhausting. I struggle to accept how I feel, and most times don’t really know what I want.

    Jonice - April 25, 2021 Reply

    Sounds like acceptance of your CEN is Step #1 for you. I hope you will work on it!

Angel - April 25, 2021 Reply

My dad is Type 3
my mom is Type 1
and lil emotionally exhausted me
in the middle

    Jonice - April 25, 2021 Reply

    I’m sorry, Angel. You are literally running on empty. Now you can give yourself what you never got: emotional attention and validation. You can do it!

    Rick - April 27, 2021 Reply

    Same here, Angel

Olivia - January 26, 2020 Reply

Is it possible that a parent can change from one type to another, or be two types at once?
My father died when I was a teenager, so my mother was widowed young and obviously suffered from grief symptoms, but she never went back to being the nice mother I remember from childhood. She became always angry and easily offended, which got sharply worse when I got to my late teens/ early 20s. Instead of mellowing as the death of my father faded further into the past, she stayed angry and easily offended. Occasions like my zero birthdays, my wedding, my baby’s christening, anytime I had a problem and needed help set her off into being angry, offended and jealous. She’s been the same for 30 years now, so I’m assuming the nice mother I remember from childhood was either not real, or my father’s death changed her forever.
So did the widowhood change her into a narcissistic or sociopathic parent?

    Makuye - April 25, 2021 Reply

    Analysis means bpdividing something into simple[r] parts to understand it.
    So, it’s easier for those who experience some salient symptom to choose that as describing another.
    It sort of works as entry into understanding, but can’t completely describe anyone.
    I’d bet your mother, similarly to mine emotionally thought of her “job” as sheltering you ,finding it hard when, not having an equal to love and share, felt overwhe!med. Though my father was a brutal selfish alcoholic narcissist, his inability to love made him emotionally as absent as someone daed.

    So, the mothers felt exhausted, wanting their children to grow up , which the formers emotionally resting from the trauma – in yours’case of doing it all alone.
    Both wanted stoicism from their children.
    I find life to be beautiful and emotion to be enriching, and maybe because my mother was a teen when she had her two sons, was overwhelmed. So i pity her withdrawal into religion and her placing emotion into that, instead of familial closeness.

    This avoidance is their sorrow, and following my reading and working with Dr. Webb’s workbooks, i recognize that she had also suffered from her distant, unexpressive father and mother who had died early.

    When you read the comments in all this site, you begin to be shocked at how the neglect caused narcissistic-seeming focus. But it’s more about mutual healing and intimacy being the path the Dr.Wbb encourages. She does this with compassion for YOU, to which a lot of people respond with self-pity rather than reaching to work.
    My mother guards her self-pity through emotional distancing from her children. Al i can do sometimes is be kind, as all her interaction with us children was done when she was young, naive, alone.
    The kindness i wanted to have was foreign to a family who diverted their emotional warmth into religion reserving neglect and guarding for their family.

    So, see narcissism as fearful guarding, if it didn’t appear to totally pervade her life.

    My memory, filled with isolation and mostly no warmth, still is able to pick out instances, which i remind my mom of, of her moments of kindness, of prtectiveness. This is because i know she felt alone as did her small child.
    My brothers and sister, cold and blaming, i learned to speak of with that kindness. They still hold grudges, but i always reinforce my mom with recognitions of her trying. Resentment is what too many substitute for openness to develop, for love. My siblings generally are resentful, or avoidant (which is neglect, after all!)

Lauren B - August 6, 2019 Reply

Beth – I relate to what you’ve said… so much. All the very best to you xx

H - March 27, 2019 Reply

I am 70 years old, and have always questioned my feelings toward my mother. Reading your article is quite amazing how perfectly it fits with her personality. She has managed to fit all 3 categories in one form or another. I have been estranged from my brothers and sister between 15 and 27 years. I have a close relationship with my sister’s daughter and her children, but that’s it out of the whole family. Btw, my sister treated her daughter the same way my mother treated us. I don’t feel any regret at this arrangement. Would this be part of the effect of CEN?

    RM - January 12, 2020 Reply

    H – Not feeling regret about not having contact , if it’s numbness then that absolutely is a feature of CEN as I understand it.
    I myself am in late 40s, have been abroad and my wife has complex ptsd from a severely abusive childhood. I have began to realise that I have CEN after increasing problems in my relationship with my own parents, who have given very little emotional support to my wife, children and I. I am now in a kind of weird state of disbelief as I realise I consider my parents to be awful. I’m finding it hard classifying them though. My mother in particular not coming to help my wife with the traumatic birth of my youngest, not visiting us in 10 years, the coldness, judgemental nature. My father just talks about his own problems 95 per cent of the time and then treats you like a pariah for having non-approved emotions. I’d like to cut them out but I believe it that maybe an over reaction which is a feature of CEN (wanting to be alone.)
    When I was a boy I got very depressed/anxiety age 11 with residual effects that took years to “burn out” and I believe now it could have been cured if I’d had a touchy/feely mother rather than the “it’s your fault” kind of attitude from my mother. What hasn’t burned out I realise is the feeling of emptiness and my suppression of my emotions and the ability to
    communicate them. I’m trying hard not to pass the problem on to my own children.

      Makuye - April 25, 2021 Reply

      Meeting so many others’ parents, i found mine to really be awful. But they lived in military and war, and possess similarities to those you describe.

      A little worse perhaps. I was terrified of my father, and ended up sleeping with a weapon. But because i escaped i had only resentment at his and their emotional avoidance. That emotional poverty is the only real poverty, and i recognized it as theirs.

      Thus when these books accurately defined it (i scored 22 out of 23), i also spotted the neglect in their parents, and my brother’s relationship with his child – not to mention between us siblings!

      Their continued avoidance, which i tried to mildly penetrate, exists still, but it was learned through generations. As i said, it differs from more courageous families or families that hadn’t learned emotional avoidance.

      I can’t have it, the warmth of others, i think, but i can give it.
      You are giving it when it most matters, and you will have changed it, healed it.

Bee - March 8, 2019 Reply

Thankfully my mother passed last summer. Now I only have my father and the rest of the highly dysfunctional extended family to deal with. My parents would have fallen into category 2 and 3. And the rest of the family was the same on both sides. Highly abusive, alcohol and drug addicted, extremely narcissistic. And I was raised to be caretaker to them all. To this day I am still expected to be caretaker to them all. I am 37 now, with 2 children of my own, and I am exterminating users from my life. I have had it. I don’t care anymore about being “nice” to a bunch of people who used me, especially when I needed someone as a child. I am tired of them expecting me to change my life so that it revolves around them. Or call me constantly asking me to do things for them and say I should because we are “family.” Meanwhile they have never done a favor for me, always a one way street. I was the only one that took care of my mother, right up until the day she died. The emotional, and financial burden it put on my family, all for a woman who constantly told me I was worthless, and that she wished she never had me. Now, 7 months later her sister has cancer. Instead of leaning on her own husband and grown children, I am expected once again to be caretaker. I am not doing it. I am so tired of putting my own family, and myself on the back burner for people who don’t give a crap about us. I am saying no, and every last one of them better get used to hearing it. I took care of my mother for 5 yrs, while raising my 2 kids. I am so done. I refuse to allow any of them to drain the life out of me anymore. I am going to go back to school. Take a course I am interested in and get a decent job, so maybe my husband and I can retire at a decent age. And hopefully enjoy some grandchildren before we die. I have so much emotional garbage I have been packing around since my childhood. I am so aware of it in my everyday life. It is absolutely exhausing. I cry uncontrollably whenever I think about it. I feel the pain from my memories so vividly, that it feels like it just happened. I thought maybe I would try to write it all down. But it is so much. My hand cramps from writing and I spend the rest of the day crying. It was easier to cope when I was oblivious. I just want to go back to being a little less aware. Back to when I made excuses for them, or told myself everyone grew up with a family like mine. Or that is the way all parents are towards their children. I am just so tired. I try to tell my husband, but I don’t think he understands what I mean when I say that. Bless his heart, but I swear he thinks it means I want a nap. I’m so emotionally drained.

    Makuye - April 25, 2021 Reply

    I normally would not reply so often, but :
    Please do not grasp resentment. It replaces love, and is a terrible thing to hold, do, and pass on. Please work first on your resentment. It grows like cancer, and is what killed my family.

Katie - December 27, 2018 Reply

I had the first type of parents (Sorry, forgot the acronym already) but what I’ve also come to terms with about them is they blamed my shortcomings on themselves. I always had a hard time understanding math (now do accounting for nonprofits so I guess I figured it out) but instead of trying to help me it was telling me I was a failure if I didn’t figure it out. “You’re too smart to have trouble with this,” my dad would say. Comparing me to my friends and saying THEY were average, and if I couldn’t figure out math I was just AVERAGE and that couldn’t be true. They locked me in my bedroom as a six-year-old when I was lonely and scared and yes, didn’t want to go to bed, but they didn’t try to establish any bedtime routine at all or get to the root of what was wrong. I got out one night and was trying so hard to sneak down the stairs and not disturb them that I fell down the stairs and put my head through a wall. I had ticks (still do), emotional outbursts, I used to tear my hair out and leave it around the house, contract my stomach, blink obsessively. They took me to a pediatrician who one time told me next time I felt that way I should take ten deep breaths and tell myself everything would be alright. Know how I remember that? I TRIED IT. Didn’t work for shit.

I had trouble making friends. When we moved places (including moving in the middle of my sophomore year of high school) and some kids invited me somewhere (at 6pm on a school night) they wouldn’t let me go.

I was a very precocious, opinionated, smart child with a gift for music. So it became that my gift, which teachers at the local and national level told me was exceptional, defined me in the eyes of my parents. When I elected not to pursue that gift in the career path they would have chosen for me (as a performer, rather than someone who founded and runs a nonprofit and effects tremendous change at the local level), it was a huge disappointment for them, and they spent years showing up but never being fully supportive of what I was trying to do. When things got too hard, they told me to quit and go back to performing. The professional pains and difficulties, as well as the emotional side effects I was now seeing as an adult, were too much for them. Now I constantly tell myself how AVERAGE I am and how unacceptable that is.

I entered into a series of relationships with abusive men. I’ve been sexually assaulted twice by intimate partners, once at 16 and once at 32. Meanwhile, my brother, eight years younger, was never as gifted but has somehow become the favorite child with the perfect wife. His wife is the one with difficult parents and my mother is just LOVING being the more “understanding” mom. Just now, over the holidays, more potshots about how I was so difficult as a kid, reminding me how they locked me in my bedroom at age 6 “because you wouldn’t go to bed”. I’m 37, not married, have entered into more abusive relationships and self-medicating behaviors than I care to discuss. I am suicidal. I suffer from PTSD. I am extremely emotionally reliant on my three cats. I no longer enjoy sex. I constantly feel like a failure. Your description of the first type of parents finally made me put it all together. One thing’s for sure: I definitely don’t want kids.

How do you forgive? How do you move on? How do you keep your parents in your life when they’ve done this? I tell my brother (8 years younger) often that we had different childhoods (which we did, although he was clearly dyslexic and they refused to take him to therapy for that. Took him until graduate school to get it worked out.) They thought they were doing the best by us. He forgives them. I can’t. I love them, look forward to seeing them, but as I see the effects of their nonsense through the years, I don’t think I can forgive them. Maybe down the line, maybe when they’re gone. With suicide, I know I’d destroy them, which is why I’ve stuck around and tried to get help. But sometimes I don’t think any of us deserve for me to live.

Yo Mama - November 27, 2018 Reply

Everyone has a story. Mine can be boiled down.

Old parents.
too much therapy.
Husband : nutcase
New therapist: serious nutcase
New Depression emerges
Lack of trust for others emerges
later strength emerges
later kindness emerges
still stuck but getting better very slowly

Wayne - September 15, 2018 Reply

Hi Jonice, Thankyou for bringing CEN to my attention. I believe I have suffered from CEN from birth into my late teens until I went to the SA defence force to do my compulsory national service. From birth to 4 years old I believe I was exposed to extreme parental negligence as I was taken away from my parents and put into a orphanage. My 3 siblings and I where at the orphanage for about 6 months, when we where fostered by a family who had a son three years older than me.
I do not find any singular parent in your list of 3 examples but multiple characteristics in my foster parents and my reactions to them. My foster father was definitely the authoritarian and perhaps a narcissist. He passed away about fifteen years ago. My foster mother who may have had depression emigrated with her own two children without a glance over their shoulders.
I was made to set the example to my own siblings and I believe I was very protective of them at an early age. My older foster brother and foster sister in general were treated very differently to my siblings and I. The biggest example is that they both went to expensive private schools and the 4 of us went to the local government schools which were adequate.
I have read parts of your two books and follow your posts religiously. I can relate to the Romanian babies and at 53 yrs old I am beginning to validate my emotions. This is extremely difficult as you know, because CEN survivers brains are hard wired to suppress emotions. As a result I now acknowledge that I have suffered from anxiety and depression. I am sure there is a certain amount of C-PTSD involved as well.
I would really appreciate your feedback on what I have discovered. Thank you.

Mia - September 15, 2018 Reply

Not being funny but how is having special needs or mental disorders such as depression the parent’s fault? You’re saying that they have ruined someone’s life because they have CHOSEN to neglect their child. How can a mother with severe depression look after their child whilst mentally coping herself? How can a father support a child when he can’t even move without a wheelchair? People like these usually do not choose to have children and there is other family who can help the child, you can’t pin a child’s life on someone who can’t even control their own.

    Jonice - September 16, 2018 Reply

    Dear Mia, thank you for asking that question. One of the biggest points I always talk about is that many CEN parents are not at fault at all. It’s not a parent’s fault that she’s in a wheelchair, or struggling to make ends meet, or taking care of an ill child or family member; or was raised by parents who were blind to emotion. Understanding CEN is not about fault or blame, but about understanding what went wrong. That’s all I’m trying to help people do. Understand and fix it so they will not pass CEN down to their own children.

Beverley Mills - September 14, 2018 Reply

Blonde I was first to reply to you. I don’t now if you are physically, mentally disabled or both but have you always been this way? I live in the UK too and at least we get benefits here eg if we are sick or out of work. You can also claim housing benefit as well and so on. We are certainly much better off than those in the USA. We have the NHS too so you get free treatment and therapy is available free too.

My mother was category 3 but my father self involved. My experience is similar to someone else’s on here where my mother would suddenly fly into emotional rages and storm about the place yelling and shouting and often calling me or another family member vicious names. Blaming and shaming. I never knew what I had done wrong and ended up with depression from a very young age. Consequently I never learned many things in life including making friends, concentrating at school, emotional development and to make things worse I had to wear glasses and got severe acne. She had beaten me down so much my spirit was almost crushed. However at 18 I realised I could leave home and them far behind which is what I did. I went to London and got a cleaning job. I lived in bedsit land for years on a pittance but it was still much better than living at home. Can you do that blonde? If you have a disability then surely you can claim ESA? Or how about PIP? You could try for these whilst you are living at home, then sort out accommodation and leave this toxic situation. The longer you stay in it the worse your life will become.

    Blonde - September 15, 2018 Reply

    Hi Beverley,

    Yes I am in the UK. I have a long term and chronic eating disorder, my weights all over the shop and the effects of my eating disorder, either through what would be described as “behaviours” or just (just!) the affects of long term messing with your body, if they don’t kill me they will affect me physically even further.
    I do get PIP but there is a big reduction to my income when compared with the DLA I was on. All the disability evidence I had from countless specialists was ignored- the lady assessing me said she was on going on what was in front of her- I’d only had a bone scan results through a month ago, the results arrived a week before my assessment showing oseoperosis and osteopenia the week before the assessment- these are things that greatly affect me if I fall I will break things, but they don’t show when someone see’s me for 40 mins in a room, the same goes for all the other disabilities which are not obvious to see but life limititing all the same, so I lost a fair whack of my PIP. The whole thing was so stressful that my eating disorder was affected. I spoke to a welfare advisor but as I was on a reduced income and not zero was advised to not appeal because the way ATOS work is they are on commission and only likely to reduce further- so you take to a tribunial which takes up to a year to happen (and in most experiences a full year) but in the mean time you have no PIP and can only claim back X months so overall you are lucky if by the end of that, you’ve not lost the same amount as if you didn’t appeal in the first place.

    I pay for my therapy out of my PIP as the NHS have told me I am too long in the tooth (too old) for proper funding anymore- the NHS have been a lifeline to me. I’ve had a lot of treatment but what I really need is support from them- they were excellent at that but now with funding being withdrawn everywhere, and with EDs especially the focus is now on the youth- ages 16-24, with the idea that they want to help stop EDs when they first show up and place all the focus and funding on that, sort of a way to nip it in the bud if you like. But this comes at the expense of those of us with 20 year long + disorders being overlooked because they are not as concerned. I feel sad at that- I’m not even 40 yet and I feel old and forgotten. I’ve got about 2 sessions left with someone and then it’s all gone and apparently there wont be funding to go back if I ask (I have been told by two psychiatrists and a psychiatric nurse) because of the way things are now. I’d literally have to be on a drip and unable to talk type unwell to be taken in again and then it would only be for a few weeks to get be back on the street. It’s sad, it’s gutting and shocking- but these are the rules. I’ve already been declined for treatment for the underlying anxiety and depression 5 times over by my local authority, so it’s not like this hasn’t been proven to me.

    I was and am funding my own psychotherapy- away from the ED but it’s not cheap and with the reduction in PIP it’s only going to get harder to do that-even she says through I need something more intensive to manage what I’m struggling with- inpatient or intensive but we can’t get funding. So I see her for about 30 weeks a year (she’s away a lot) I worry a great deal about her finishing up though as I pay such a reduced rate and know few other therapists would accept anyone long term on that rate.

    What concerns me now is this switchover from ESA to UC (Universal Credit) where apparently hearing others there will be further cuts to disability components and these will be massive- the entire disability part will be erased, this apparently is due to PIP being available but the thing is, I’ve not met anyone on PIP who has not experienced anything from a 30-70% reduction to their income when in comparison to DLA. But we’re all too weak (struggling with our health) to fight back. So we continue to lose out, it’s scary.

    What I need is support- literally a person around and at night mostly because this is when I struggle the most. But it just doesn’t exist.

    That all aside, I need my mum. She doesn’t do that much in reality because there is always something more important but I need her. I don’t know exactly how to coin why. It’s important I keep myself to myself (don’t share/ignore/look as if I am fine) with my dad it’s more about money- he has strings tied to everything and can be very insulting and what would be described as emotionally abusive (but hey- at least he doesn’t hit out any more!) he doesn’t give me money as such but occasionally will buy food. This matters to me, a lot of the time it’s a life saver even if it only happens a handful of times a year. It means I can continue to travel to see my therapist when she has sessions, or can continue to pay my rent and bills (again not cheap!) I’m in £1000 debt with an interest of 20-25% not including the student loan from over a decade ago. I scare myself with how badly I am managing my money- I can’t afford to buy anything if I look at all that.

    It’s not so much food I need, it’s the chance to talk- my therapy. I’m not applicable for NHS help. Not any more, it’s been said to me 10 times over by many professionals along with an apologising nod and a “I can’t believe the state of things/this government/wtf?!” type statements. But apologies aside, it doesn’t leave me with anything but trying to manage alone, and getting sicker in my depression/anxiety and eating disorder (although managing right because I’m too “well” for treatment unless I am literally dying so I must be fine, right?!) and with that gradual slipping down comes an increase in the physical side of my health- pain is daily, stress and life limiting things happen daily and this is just the way things are. Without my parents there to keep me going I don’t know if I’d still be here. I am not suicidal- I don’t want to die, but I struggle with the mood/emotional pain and physical side of things.

    Sorry -that’s so long but it’s kind of difficult to reply to the suggestion of benefits and the NHS without going into the complexities of my situation. If it were not a government set on trying to erase the disabled, if the NHS hadn’t had a cut in real terms, if mental health was taken as seriously as it should (8% of the overall NHS budget goes on mental health yet more and more people are asking for mental health support so huge cuts are being made all over the place) if these things were not happening, maybe I would feel a lot more hopeful, but as it is, the outlook feels a bit bleak from where I’m sitting.

    Sorry- this is now hugely long and so I’ll cut here

doglover - September 14, 2018 Reply

wow. just wow
thank you so much for writing this. You must be an exceptional therapist!
I have #3 mother – sociopath/Authoritarian. I wished she was narcissistic at least…
I think and I could be wrong of course but this has been my life journey. It is easier to recover from the #3 if one cuts them off. It is almost impossible to recover and be in relationship with people so close to you (that they are part of you) who are gas-lighting you, manipulating you, thinking ooh yeah you think you are adult now…I know you are still stupid little scared child (they may not say this but they act on it) pushing your buttons.

I cut off my mother and joined therapy = THE BEST THING THAT HAPPENED TO ME.

I went completely mad in therapy but I have extremely supportive family and husband so I survived but I had to go down and visit what I dissociated from and ooh boy.

I know many people with the other two parenting style – from my group therapy and it is hard. If I am at disbelief for parenting #3 imagine how much harder it is for a person with parent #1 or #2 or combinations of any? Just hard to see your parents, who supposed to love you when you were a baby, could be so bad. Just unbelievable but true!

Thank you again

Blonde - September 13, 2018 Reply

The trouble is, when you are made aware of it as an adult child, and want to walk away, you can’t because you are so aware you keep them standing, you have the pressure of other family members to keep doing what you are doing and, possibly as embarrassing as it is relevant; because money is involved. Not only do you need to keep them standing, but they are keeping you standing and you’re too stuck, worn down and aged in your situation to get out of that trap. It’s as if they’ve bought your life and you’re left feeling like you’ve prostituted yourself out which alone brings in it’s own issues to deal with.
It’s ideal if you can spot this, and walk away, but to assume that by doing so you are going to be happier ever after or even just feeling better about things enough to compensate is a huge stretch. It’s fantastic if you can cut your ties and live for yourself, but the reality is, we all have bills to pay and wolves to keep from the door.

    Jonice - September 13, 2018 Reply

    Dear Blonde, I’m sorry you’re in this dilemma with your family. I must say that I have never seen it work out for someone to sacrifice themselves emotionally for financial reasons. The price you pay inside in terms of happiness, self-love, and strength is far steeper than most people realize. I hope you are able to navigate this difficult situation in a way that doesn’t do you lasting harm.

      blonde - September 14, 2018 Reply

      Thank you for your reply. I understand what your saying- and the point of your article. My comment wasn’t so much to post a dilemma which had an answer- the point was that in the “real world” sometimes there are no answers. Without wanting to draw out my own personal situation which I think would just add unnecessary fluff and perhaps blur or add tangents to my point, what I was trying to point out that, although it’s one thing to recognise the problem and even to know the “right” thing to do, it’s a whole other to actually be emotionally and more importantly economically sound enough to act on the “right thing” to do.

      In a situation where someone has been arguably made disabled by what you describe, it’s one thing to know what the problem is and to know what to do, but in this cash-is-everything society, unless you are able to financially stand on your own feet -which is often not possible if you have to manage and pay for your own disability -or unless you are willing to live on the streets because you cannot afford rent or enough for food (tricky when your trying to manage an eating disorder at the same time),

      In an ideal world, it would be humanity that made the world turn, but in the real world, it’s cold hard cash, and if you haven’t got it. you don’t just sink, you drown. It’s not about holidays or going out for parties and etc (neither of which I’ve done for decades) it’s simply about being able to afford to feed yourself. It would be an argument for disabilities of all types being given support to keep themselves safe, but I’m in the UK and it appears left right and center our income is being cut, our opportunities for treatment and support has been cut often to nil and the rise and rise of disability hate crimes seems on the rise if reports are anything to go by.

      It’s not just the scenario of a mal adaptive child/parent relationship going on here, it’s sibling to sibling, it’s husband and wife or partner to partner, it’s boss to employee- it’s “me too” but without the backing of a newspaper to ensure you find another job at the end of your battle should you wish to take it on. Fact is, stepping out of an abusive or neglectful relationship is a luxury and fewer and fewer of us can simply financially afford to step out. Not at least if you have for example a disability and know that living on the streets would risk your physical health. There is no safety net any more. It’s put up and shut up.

Aja - September 13, 2018 Reply


With 52 comments you obviously nailed a huge problem, parents! My mom was depressed crazy women her whole life. My dad hated her and went to work everyday so he didn’t have to see her. My life improved dramatically when I cut them out of my life. Good riddance.


    Jonice - September 13, 2018 Reply

    Dear Gary, it’s sad when parents become the biggest challenge in one’s life. I’m glad you made a decision that works for you. Take care!

Destiny - September 12, 2018 Reply

I have the sel-involved type of parents.

    Jonice - September 13, 2018 Reply

    I’m sorry to hear that Destiny. That is, in many ways, the hardest kind.

JCortese - September 12, 2018 Reply

Thanks for these articles. I’m still sort of coming to grips with the fact that this is me, and I’m fairly sure my parents fell into the WMBNT category. I’m just not sure, though. I can’t fathom why they were so angry about the abuse and bullying I was subjected to at school but turned a blind eye to it at home when it was my own brothers torturing me nonstop for pretty much all of my childhood until I moved across the country.

Now, I’m back here to help with my mom as she ages, and because one of my older brothers became sick some time ago from metastatic colon cancer, and I didn’t want my mom to lose a child with me still being on the other side of the country. He didn’t recover, and I feel horrible to say that while his loss was a shock to me, I still can’t stop remembering only the sustained decades-long campaign of torment he subjected me to with the collaboration of my oldest brother. I think it killed something in me somehow. His death was a shock, but a big part of me feels like, “Now I’m supposed to feel something?” He never once regretted what he did. Even as he got sicker and sicker, he’d still laugh and tell “funny” stories to everyone in the room about what the two of them did to me. His wife would say, “Why did you do that?” and he’s answer, “Come on, it was funny.” She would tell me later, “No, it wasn’t funny.” She knows, she went through the same thing in her family. But I don’t know how to process this or even what an appropriate thing to feel would be.

I don’t know why my parents didn’t do anything to stop him or my oldest brother when they were so angry over what I went through at school. All it meant to me was that there was no place safe. Safety meant solitude, and it still does. Safety meant expecting nothing from anyone. I don’t even know why my parents knew that I had debilitating back pain from the age of 11 and scoliosis and never once brought me to the doctor about it. I don’t know why whenever I went white and couldn’t take the pain anymore that they would tell me to just go upstairs and lie down. I’d have to go on my hands and knees and just lie there alone in my room and wait for it to stop hurting. I’d just wait it out, alone. It’s still what I do when I hurt — and I learned it in school as well when I was bullied nonstop for years. I remember begging teachers for help and leaving notes on their desk begging them to help me make it stop, and they would either join in or else say things to me like, “You have to bring yourself down to their level.” (I was one of those kids who was reading at a high school level in first grade and skipped grades. Neither they nor I had any idea what to do about that. It was a catholic elementary school, and let’s just say that I am not surprised at the recent stories about abusive nuns in catholic orphanages if my own parochial school experiences are any guide.) My parents were ultimately able to get me out of that school, but not for years after which damage was done. And they never did a thing about my brothers.

So now I am a grown-up failed prodigy, I suppose. Lots of potential, I write and write music and it seems good to me, and mathematics goes into my head like water. My old math professor still introduces me to people with “she was my most brilliant student,” and I’ve done nothing with it. I’m 52, I’m unmarried and never will be because the thought of having a male peer in my personal space terrifies me. The few times I’ve had a “relationship,” it did not go well. My experience in graduate school for physics was no better — let’s just say that the physical sciences is in need of a me-too movement as much as Hollywood ever was.

I feel like all I’ve ever learned in life is that my gifts don’t matter because the better I am at anything, the more hated I am, that the safest place to enjoy something and be good at something is where no one will see, and that if I’m in pain, I need to be silent about it and just deal with it myself.

It’s not to say that I haven’t had opportunities. I know that I do have certain abilities, and I’ve gotten notice from people who I suppose were in a position to help me, but I can’t ever move forward with it. I had professors in college try to help me, and I froze. I had authors volunteer to help with books I wanted to write, and I couldn’t follow up on it. Even recently, my harp teacher was so pleased with some music that I wrote for piano and harp that she wanted to perform one of the things I wrote publicly, and I’m ashamed to admit that I stopped taking lessons the minute she said that. It’s like I go from wanting something more than anything to literally being numb about it and feeling like a balloon that someone let all the air out of.

I’ve tried scheduling time with a therapist I found from your website, even — and the prospect of it scared me so much that I just sat in my car outside of her office (which I couldn’t find my way into) and just sat there and shook, and then drove back home.

Like I said, I’m 52. Realistically, I don’t see myself digging out from under this in any reasonable length of time. Most of my life is behind me at this point. I don’t imagine I could ever publish a book, or publish music, or get a job that really used my abilities without panicking over it. And forget relationships — the few times I’ve gone that route it’s never ended well. I’m at the point where no man would want me anyhow being 52, and I’ve had such bad luck and bad experiences in the past that I don’t trust my judgment on men OR women. I have one close friend who is in the same boat as me — neglected and ignored as a kid, and we alone understand one another. Other people terrify me. I can act normal enough to pass at work, but that’s the only social interaction I have aside from with my mom and my brother, and that still has baggage associated with it.

I just don’t know where to go from here, and it’s probably best to just keep plugging away as I am. I mean, everyone tells themselves stories about why they are the way they are, and most times, it’s all lies or rationalization. This is just what I am — someone with potential who never made good on it, a big waste. Everyone has their lie, I guess this is just mine.

    Jonice - September 12, 2018 Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story, J. I encourage you, at age 52, to take all of this on. I have seen it change lives for the better, and you still have a lot of years to live. Instead of thinking of your experience as a lie, I hope you’ll own it as your truth, and start from there to change things.

      JCortese - September 13, 2018 Reply

      The thing that really gets me is how my parents would excuse what they did to me by chuckling and saying, “They only do it because you don’t like it!” WTF does that even mean? If I sat there silently and didn’t say a word or defend myself at all and just suffered quietly, then … they’d stop? Sure. How does that magical phrase suddenly somehow make their torment my fault? Do I get to say it, too — or is it just them that gets this “get out of jail free” card by saying, “Yeah, but it’s your fault for not liking it!” How does this work? Where’s this magical rulebook that everyone else has access to so I can look through it and see if there was a way to MAKE IT STOP?

      God, I am so sick of this whole bunch of garbage. The day my mother dies is the last day I will lay eyes on my brother, I swear it.

Mary Wilkinson - September 12, 2018 Reply

Great insight! What is really interesting is that now that my parents are dead, I took up with a narcissistic neighbor! I realized it and now avoid them. They are a gay couple. The one is a controlling narcissist! Mine were catagory three! Thanks again!

    Jonice - September 12, 2018 Reply

    It’s not uncommon to be attracted toward people who re-create our relationship with our parents. I’m glad you were able to nip this in the bud Mary!

Mark in Idaho - September 12, 2018 Reply

Jonice, This is one of the most relationship toxic subjects put forth. It appears my daughter was lead through a recreation of her childhood and youth and a giant wall was built by cherry picking details and using them as bricks for that wall. Her relationship with us turned 180 degrees and now she complains about having been emotionally neglected. It has destroyed what was previously a good relationship. She was raised in a loving home with 2 siblings. We affirmed her hurts and patiently helped her past her struggles without commenting about anything said against her. We were in good family therapy. Just normal sibling bickering has now been turned into “You did not protect me from my brother’s negative comments.” and other things “You did not let me take ballet lessons” and the loving nickname you called be as a child is now seen as demeaning and much more. Now, she has built a wall so high she refuses to sit down with a counselor to talk about her issues with us.
Stop digging up the dead and move on. This regression like therapy is dangerous. Supporting the idea of emotional neglect without attempting to bring the parents into the equation is just wrong. I hope you do not enable such behavior.
btw, She has taken her emotional neglect diagnosis to her mother-in-law and the infection has spread. Now, her MIL enables this with “I’m sorry you were raised by such neglectful parents. Give me a hug.” We see the MILs posts on Facebook.

    Jonice - September 12, 2018 Reply

    Dear Mark, this sounds like a terrible experience for you. I am so sorry you are going through it! You sound like a well-meaning parent who wants to have a good relationship with your daughter. As a therapist, I have not experienced my clients making up negative complaints about parents. Instead, human beings, above all, tend to deny and ignore the problems that happened in their upbringing. Is it possible that your daughter’s point of view does carry weight for her? That it’s real for her? You are obviously such a loving and caring father that I think if you keep trying, and focus on your daughter’s feelings (instead of whether what she’s saying is right or wrong), she will come back to you. I appreciate your sharing your experience, and take your suggestions very seriously. All my best wishes for you and your family.

      Mark in Idaho - September 12, 2018 Reply

      Jonice, It is not that she makes things up. She has been taught to redefine things in her past as causative to her current adult struggles and to place blame on us, her parents. I was the first person she would turn to when she had a problem as a young adult. I would console her then assure her we would get past this, often by bringing the event into perspective. We never denied her feelings. We supported her endeavors. Then, at 23, she deployed to Iraq and got beat up a bit, PTSD and such. She comes home and rather than address her PTSD experience, every trouble she has is because she was a neglected child. She starts telling me to buy books about ‘How to Love Your Daughter, for Fathers.’ She would spend hours ripping us apart when she would meet with my wife. She refused to meet with me because she knew I knew how to let her vent and help her return to reality. “Yes, that happened. (maybe not as she remembers it) I’m sorry you experienced that. XOXO, What can we do to help you move on?” Our last talk was on the phone for more than a hour were she started ripping me apart and finished in a very civil loving manner, but still without achieving her selfish demands. She has this idea that her life path was locked by these over-emphasized past experiences. Middle child syndrome. A slight learning disability. Always taller and bigger than her peers. Very right brain with 2 left brain siblings. She is very accomplished as a Army soldier (SFC) and mom of 2 but pushes us away as the scourge of her life. Who ever helped her redefine her past as the cause and limiter of her future has done her a great disservice.
      Originally, we thought it was regression therapy but now believe she was counseled as suffering from emotional neglect. She is doing just what she accuses us of. She treats her mother’s 3 year fight with cancer like a medical case (her training background is medic and surgical tech), not a mother fighting to survive. Three word responses to updates on recent amputation surgery. We do text and voice mail because she will not answer out calls.
      I blame her PTSD and the counselor who pointed her to her childhood and such events without ever bringing my wife and myself into a session. We offered with her having total control.
      Just reading other posts, I see many who use these ideas as weapons against parents. Yes, I know that some parents were truly neglectful. But, we move forward best when we are looking forward.

        Jonice - September 12, 2018 Reply

        Dear Mark, this sounds like a complex situation that I can’t do justice to here. The only thing I might suggest is to try to be patient, and also perhaps ask her if she’ll allow you to meet with her and her therapist. And in my opinion, understanding the past is essential to moving forward in many situations.

OllieB - September 12, 2018 Reply

This article was a real eye opener!!! I knew my parents had lots of problems, but I continually blamed myself for their behavior. I am in my 60’s and need to make a long distance trip to see my 82 year old mother who is very ill.
I am already feeling anxious and nervous – but, I have to go.
Thank you for your articles – all have been helpful.

    Jonice - September 12, 2018 Reply

    Hi OllieB, I hope you will, above all, protect yourself from harm when you interact with your mother. Situations like this can be quite challenging.

MSP - September 12, 2018 Reply

Dr. Webb,
Could you please define the difference between emotional ABUSE and emotional NEGLECT?
This article really resonated with me, but after reading the comments, I am a bit confused. Many of the comments seem to paint a picture of (physical, verbal, and) emotional ABUSE, rather than just emotional neglect, and I’m having a tough time with the difference between the two..
My parents were never mean or abusive to me, but they neglected to validate or teach me about human emotion, resulting in the “ice queen” (an actual name Ive been called) I am today. My mother was mentally ill, so mostly we were all focused on surviving that. My dad was always at work and not around much. (Type 1)
I was under the impression that CEN and childhood abuse were very different things, but now its all muddy.

    Jonice - September 12, 2018 Reply

    Dear MSP, they are different! I’ve written blogs and made videos about the difference. But many people grow up with both emotional abuse and neglect, so for the purposes of the comments I don’t try to separate it out too much. i just want to respond to the person’s individual experience. From the little you described, yours does sound like an experience of pure neglect. Hope that explains it.

Jonice - September 11, 2018 Reply

Dear Beth, to defeat this Inner Critic, you have to start fighting with it. Give it a name and a face, and then start talking back. Say things like, “That’s not true,” “That’s too harsh,” or “It was just a mistake. I’ll learn from it.” If you do this consistently, it will make a difference. There’s far more I could say about this but I think this is a good place to start. Best wishes to you.

    Suzanne - May 21, 2020 Reply

    Dear Jonice and Beth, thank you for your lovely and enlightening exchange. I’ve stumbled across this article & comments in 2020, and your words are very comforting. You’ve provided a voice with words I needed at this moment. Much gratitude.

TK - September 11, 2018 Reply

I lived with number three. My mom is a true narcissist and probably a sociopath. I was never going to be as smart as her, as successful (I am more so and it really bothers her), have as many friends, as nice a house, etc. She was very free with the hitting, criticism, name calling. The stories I could tell of her intentionally setting out to hurt me, even into adulthood. Now she no longer has access to my heart. The last time she did it, I decided enough was enough and now when I visit her my heart goes into a box, high on a shelf and she doesn’t get to touch it because every time I let her, she breaks it.

Along with that, my dad was an alcoholic so we had that mess as well.

I was always accused of being “too sensitive” any time I tried to confront her on her behavior. I am sensitive, but because I am I seek not to hurt people intentionally. It has made me a more caring, conscientious person who is careful with her words and actions. I love my mom, but she is not a person I like or respect very much. I just can’t after all she’s done to my and my siblings.

    Jonice - September 11, 2018 Reply

    Dear TK, good for you! You are protecting your heart, which is so very important. “too sensitive” is a phrase many CEN parents use to shame their child for having emotions. I’m glad you can see the value in your emotional awareness. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    RJB - September 12, 2018 Reply

    Holy smokes TK! I could’ve written that comment myself lol.

    I won’t share anything with my mom anymore, including my pain. Perhaps especially my pain. Not only do I put it in a box on a high shelf, lately I’ve been gathering up all the BS she threw on me my whole life and “mailing” it back to her….where it belongs. It was never mine in the first place.

    Now I understand that she was simply trying to rid herself of all the crap she secretly carried and I was an open receptacle due to my needing her love and approval. Well, I closed that lid years ago and now it’s time to empty the toxic sludge it’s been holding. What better place to send it than back to it’s original owner?

    I feel a little bit better with each parcel I “send out” lol.

    Peace and joy to you my kindred spirit.

      TK - September 13, 2018 Reply


      One thing I have realized about my mom is that she is the most insecure woman I know. She constantly needs other people to externally build her up, so she surrounds herself with sycophants. The more of a lapdog they are, the better. I can’t tell you how many times growing up I heard, “You are so lucky to have SUCH a wonderful mother! What a blessing of a woman she is. I hope you know how lucky you are.” To which I always wanted to respond, “I didn’t feel so lucky when she was beating me this morning because there was a (single) sock on my floor.

      But she has people fooled, at least to some extent. I did ask one of my best friends if her mother knew (one of my mom’s long term friends) how much my mother lies. She is a pathological liar, which is very disconcerting for a child. You worship this larger than life being and then you hear her lie constantly, but you get beaten if you lie. How does that work?

      Anyhow, yes…she knows. So she doesn’t fool everyone.

      The interesting thing is, since I changed my behavior towards her and no longer let her touch my heart, or frankly have anything to do with the private side of my life, she is so thrown off balance she doesn’t know how to relate to me. She treats me more with kid gloves now because if she starts her crap, I just hang up or physically move away from her. I was the last kid to do that and she doesn’t know what to do now that she doesn’t have her punching bag any more.

      She’s a mean woman and I don’t play with mean people.

Ara - September 11, 2018 Reply

Oh thank you Dr. Jonice, my father is definitely a type three. It’s funny that you mention that children of these are less likely to blame themselves, I was confused at first because I still often fall back into believing I was the bad child and he did nothing wrong, but I thought about it and it makes sense, since then I was very young I used to bring this up a lot, although I had no idea how to explain it. I described it as we have communication problems, or we get angry too quick. I was too scared to bring it up to dad, I would bring it up with mum or my grandparents. Mum was extremely defensive of dad, and my grandparents said it wasn’t a real problem. I still kept on bringing it up but their responses always made things worse. It made me feel like everything dad did was right, if everyone is on his side he must be right… Right to yell and swear at me over little things, right to make my brother and mum side against me in arguments, and call me names. He would start arguments over tiny things and let them escalate into screaming matches, although the only thing I can recall saying in every argument is “I’m not mad! I don’t hate you!” I would be screaming, sobbing that I’m sorry and I love him, but he always responded by saying I was turning the world against him. I turned the family against him. I would say we don’t have to fight, because we should try to figure it out together, but he didn’t want to hear it. He thought I was being stubborn, rude, disrespectful, overly dramatic. I only let myself get mad at him once, and that ended worse than the other times. The arguments would come out of nowhere, I failed every time trying to defuse them, and no matter what I did I couldn’t avoid them. I couldn’t ever close the front door quick enough, or put things back how he had them, and even being silent started to offend him. I felt useless… I thought maybe he would change his mind about me if I did something right. He hated me complaining when I was injured, I thought maybe if I got injured really badly and didn’t say anything, then it would make him lift the standards a little, so that I would be allowed to cry or get upset over some things without getting called a crybaby. I never got injured enough for him to care. I was desperate to be hurt, even if he never saw it. I would play a game where I pretended I was injured and went to hospital. In the game my parents would care. The game… Didn’t really take long to become a little more real. I started stabbing myself with sewing pins to simulate the feeling of a cannula. I started pushing them further into my arms, further, further until only the head was sticking out. I left them in my arm when I fell asleep. They barely left a mark. Nowadays it does, I have a lot of marks all over the place. I had no idea what I was doing, that it would turn into this. I sheepishly told my dad about it when I noticed it getting bad, but he didn’t care. He said as long as I didn’t kill myself, well thats all he said. My mum doesn’t do anything about it either. I have no idea what to do now. My situation still isn’t bad enough for anyone to care. I’ve tried to think of something I can do about it, but I can’t fix it on my own. I hate myself honestly. I wish that I could die without upsetting anyone. But I can’t. But this is still on the subject of the article. It’s useful thanks, to remind me I didn’t make this up. That’s pretty much it, but thats good! Information, little bit validating lol. I live with my grandparents now so I am still walking on eggshells (probably forever) but I don’t get yelled at at all here. I still feel it, but at least I’m not in it…….

    Jonice - September 11, 2018 Reply

    Dear Ara, you have been emotionally abused by your family, especially your father. It is very, very important that you seek help. Please find a licensed therapist near you and start talking about this. It’s time to stop taking this out on yourself, and start treating yourself better. Please do talk to someone who can validate your experience.

    Maria - September 12, 2018 Reply

    Wow Ara. Your story was so relatable that I almost laughed!! My father was very much like yours. He’s a high functioning alcoholic and a very negative person and throughout the years it has only gotten worse to the point where he is completely paranoid and believes that he is being gangstalked. I never realized he was an alcoholic until I was older because he was never physically abusive. But he was always criticizing me growing up and never really showed me any affection. I also had language delays when I was a child as well and he always criticized me for it. My mother was also pretty much an enabler and was so caught up in her idealistic views about him and us as a family that she failed to realize what was really going on until very late. Like your mum Ara, she was also constantly making excuses for him and always took his side whenever my dad started arguing with me- usually over stupid little things. My mother was the loving parent, but it was like she practically worshipped the ground he walked on. No one really defended me growing up.

      Jonice - September 12, 2018 Reply

      Dear Maria, that sounds like a serious dose of CEN to grow up with. I hope understanding your parents’ neglect, and how important it is, has been useful to you. Thanks for sharing your story!

Tom - September 10, 2018 Reply

My situation is more than any of the ones listed. I grew up with a mother who was clinically depressed, paranoid and a fairly extreme hoarder. My dad is I believe on the autism spectrum but undiagnosed, and my brother is diagnosed on the spectrum. With the help of therapy I have come to terms with the fact that I was emotionally neglected by my family, but I am still very much struggling with that neglect in me.

    Jonice - September 11, 2018 Reply

    Dear Tom, you are right that does sound like extreme Emotional Neglect. You are probably continuing to neglect yourself, as would be expected. I hope you will read through this entire blog, visit emotionalneglect.com, and learn how to follow the steps for recovery. You deserve to be noticed and cared for!

    Caroline - September 12, 2018 Reply

    My story is SO similar. No one ever talked about any of it. Just joked and kept up appearances. Add to this the realization that I was the family scapegoat(just recently figured this out). I guess it’s good to know we’re not alone. Thank goodness for blogs like this.

      Jonice - September 12, 2018 Reply

      No, you are not alone! You are in the good company of many other neglected folks who didn’t deserve to be treated as they were. Take care!

Michelle - September 10, 2018 Reply

Is it plausible that I experienced parts of more than one of these? For example, I can see numerous aspects from all three of these, looking back. No one individually sticks out, and none of the three seem to sufficiently describe on their own.

    Jonice - September 10, 2018 Reply

    Yes, it definitely is possible. These categories are meant to offer ways to think about your parents. Many parents belong in more than one category.

Judy Augst - September 10, 2018 Reply

I just have to say the 7 signs to look for with self involved parents ring so true. I always knew I dreaded going to see them and it took a few days to recover my emotional equilibrium afterwards. But you put into words how I’ve felt all these years. You also captured my experience in that I’m still working on accepting that my father cared and still cares more about his agenda than anything else even though the evidence is right in front of my face. Reading articles like this confirm for me the truth of my situation. Thank you!

    Jonice - September 10, 2018 Reply

    Judy, that is a painful truth to accept. But it does set you free. I’m glad you are facing your pain. It takes courage, for sure!

Patricia Amissah - September 10, 2018 Reply

Thanks Dr. More and more explanation in your articles. My father falls into group 3 and my mom 2 and 3. Anger, anxiety and otherwise emotional numbness i’ve had since i can remember. Your book helped illuminate what happened to me. Thank you soo much. Now i can illuminate others.

    Jonice - September 10, 2018 Reply

    Dear Patricia, it sounds like a difficult childhood, for sure. I’m so glad to have helped you in any small way possible. It’s great that you want to help others, but be sure to focus on yourself!

Rex - September 10, 2018 Reply

First thank you Jonice,
My mom was a number two. She struggled her whole life. Alcoholic, low intellegiance, emotionally unstable. I basically raised her as I grew up. I was in survival mode growing up with her. Homelessness, living in cars and the worst hotels you can imagine. I probably missed half my education from the consistent moving.. I was adopted into this mess. My mom divorced from her husband when I was two years old. She had no family and grew up in a orphanage. Growing up in that environment made me a very strong person. My mom passed away a few years ago and I always made sure she had a place to live and I took care of her needs. I found ACA last year and this year I found your blog… Thank you so much Jonice!! for the blog and your books.. they touched me !!

    Jonice - September 10, 2018 Reply

    Dear Rex, I have absolutely no doubt that you are an extremely strong person. I hope you will put extra focus on yourself and making yourself happy, fulfilled and healthy. You deserve it!

Beth Hofmann-Davies - September 9, 2018 Reply

Hi Dr.Webb,
As a 46 year old woman, I have chronic pain/fibro and depression/anxiety. I’m almost done with your book, I had to take a break cause it was a lot to recognize and absorb.
My question is to do with defining where I fall in this spectrum. I was brought up out in the country (so fairly isolated) by hippie parents next door to an old fashion authoritarian narcissistic depressed crippled grandma. Dad was alcoholic, mom was slightly sub-intelligent, childlike. One older sister who was depressed and troubled and very mean to me. I was very criticized and or ignored and my only friend was my sweet mom who was like a big sister trying to take care of everybody. I realized she was different when I was about 7 or 8. She’s crippled now and lives with my husband and myself. Dads dead. I feel like I dont know who I am and don’t like what I do find. Very low self worth and self esteem. I just don’t feel loveable. I’m not sure if you can tell me which category of your system I’d fit in, so that I can read more about it in particular. Can you with just this bit of info? Thanks, Beth

    Jonice - September 10, 2018 Reply

    Dear Beth, from what you have said here it sounds like you had a combo of Well-Meaning and Struggling parenting + a mean sister. This explains why your self-knowledge and self-love was never able to fully develop. I suggest you focus on yourself and getting to know your feelings, likes and dislikes, and everything else about you. Focus less on whether you like what you find, and more on what the people who do love you now (your husband perhaps, for ex.) see in you. I have no doubt you are both likable and lovable. You just haven’t discovered that quite yet. Above all, do not give up on this work.

Victoria - September 9, 2018 Reply

…I’d just like to say thank you for taking the issue’s that have afflicted every part of my life, everyday, for my entire life, (do to my mother’s narc, socio abuse, plus horrific physical & verbal abuse & her drug & alcohol addictions) all of which she’ll never acknowledge or own any part of. Thank you Jonice for making sense of it all for me & than for sharing that knowledge with all of us.
My mother falls into category 3. I went no contact years ago because of it. She dismisses & excuses her own behavior, always has, always will. I find myself disgusted by the way she has never shown an ounce of respect or cared who she hurts & never will. I fully understand her illness & I also understand she’s suffered from a personality disorder that’s never been diagnosed because she doesn’t think her behavior is the problem & never will, so of course she refuses to see a professional & thinks we should all put up with it & treat it like it’s not a big deal so, after a lifetime of her abuse, eventually I did voice the issues I’ve got with her, only to be met with more gaslighting & insincerity & she still remains abusive.
Thank you Jonice, for often clearing up the why’s I have & offering me solutions as to what we should do to make living with it all bearable. Thank you for taking the time you do & lastly thank you for genuinely caring.

    Jonice - September 9, 2018 Reply

    Dear Victoria, thank you so much for sharing your story. Your courage in doing what’s best for yourself amidst all that abuse and pain will encourage others to do the same. Good for you for setting and holding healthy boundaries. I’m very pleased to have helped you sort things out. Keep up all you are doing!

Karen - September 9, 2018 Reply

Thanks Dr Webb, as always so informative! This article has helped me greatly in understanding my mixed feelings towards my parents.

    Jonice - September 9, 2018 Reply

    I’m glad Karen! Take care.

      Karen - September 9, 2018 Reply

      Thanks Dr Webb! Like Pieter I can see a mixture: types 1 and 2 in my mother and 3 in my father. He was very demanding and angry, also self absorbed. My mother put most of her attention to keeping him happy so that’s why she has type 2 characteristics but I think is essentially a type1. Thanks for linking parental behaviour and my adult reactions most of which I have. That makes a lot of sense and explains why I veer between sometimes having compassion and empathy for both my parents and other times really don’t like them much at all.

        Jonice - September 9, 2018 Reply

        I see many people with CEN parents go back and forth between those emotions Karen. Becoming aware of the CEN makes it finally make sense.

Pieter Boelen - September 9, 2018 Reply

For whatever reason, my parents seem to kind-of fit the bill for all those types and seem to ping-pong back and forth between them. It’s quite puzzling…

    Jonice - September 9, 2018 Reply

    Dear Pieter, that’s not unusual I’m afraid. In complex families with a lot of issues and struggles, you can see pieces of everything at different times. It may help to think about, overall, were your parents more well-meaning, struggling, or self-involved. I’m sorry you grew up in a home with so many challenges!

Kathleen Hymes - September 9, 2018 Reply

I gave been depressed since the day I was born. My mother was aware of this. Started acting out at 14 when my father died. My joke to that was always “can you imagine how much more I’d be messed up had he lived? LOL. Drugs, boys, skipping school, drpped out at 16, stayed out late, hated rhe way I looked so wore longhaired wigs, makeup you could scrape off with a spoon, racoon eyes. I was never told I was pretty, smart or deserving of love. My mother’s way of dealing with my problems always included hitting, smacking, slapping, soap scrubbed in the mouth if I said a bad word (she stopped ) when I was a child. Had I been a little bit older I would have taken that bar of soap and made her eat it. Then she would have called my brother and have him hit, kick pull my hair. I was truly a mess. She never went to th library to search why this was happening it was 1967 till the present. NEVER! She is a low IQ uneducated. Funny, she came from a very blue blood family. Hr grandfather disowned his son, His son disowned my grandmother, mother and uncle (was told to never come to visit him) They didn’t plea with their dad for conversation, forgiveness for anything they could have possibly have done. Goodbye they said and never a him again. My sister played a recording between me and my mother to my mother filled with rage, anger and accusations. I had been in therapy for years and realized I was not to blame for my for illness. I let my mother know what a horrible mother she ws to me and how I’ll be in therapy the rest of my life because of her.My mother recorded it, let my sister hear it, then played it for my brother’s family and my nephews who I was very close to. They never called me to ask what’s up. These were young men by at that time. I sent my mother articles, suggested books to heal our relationship, never read them; to her I was just bad. I am quite sick now and couldn’t understand why she had’ not called me in 3 weeks. The arguments started immediately. I have alienated all my friends with my anger and have no help whatsoever. And I just wanted my mom to talk to, to put my head on her shoulder and tell her how scared I was and hold her old wrinkled hand beg for her fogiveness. once again; she will always be my mother. I’ve seen her 2x in23 years. Instead she asked me if I’m so smart (I went on to get a BA and the whole familyI thought I was smarter than them. well this is a very low IQ uneducatd family. I am smarter but I never said anything about it EVER.) So when my mother asked me where all my friends were, she responded well I have PLENTY! So whose smarter now? I was so shocked, cried for days, then realized, not because of her or my friends I ws going to expunge my presence from this world. That can’t happen for for a bit, thinking of plans and have to get rid of everything. I was getting really scared because I was beginning to scare myself. I was thinking how I didn’t care anymore and should just hang myself. I can’t do that and leave all my gorgeous stuff to people hate me. I hav to have a garage sale to send my mother (she’s very poor) the money. I live on $798 plus food stamps. My pain is so deep, my sorrow is so great and its been going on far too long. I’ve taken classes and therapy for over a decade. DBT, 3 month class took it for 3 years. Emotional Regulation, 8 week class, took for over 2 years, meditation, yoga. Partial program for 10 weeks 2.5 hour drive one way. I thought I had BPD but my therapist said absolutely not. I went to my psychiatrist with all results of my online Personality test results and they ll aid DBT. There were no classes given and Kaiser they would have to pay for this therapy through an outside source. 2 weeks later they started the class, (it was obviously in the making.) I want to do the same with CEN. The need is so apparent. I want to purchase your Running on Empty book (one of my favorite songwriters) Not to save my live, just to explain it. Thank you so much for listening. I’m very grateful.

    Jonice - September 9, 2018 Reply

    Dear Kathleen, I’m very sorry you have had so much struggle. It sounds like you have worked very, very hard to try to improve your life. You don’t mention medication in your description. If you haven’t looked into that, I hope you will. Also, DBT sounds like a good match for you. I wish you all the very best.

    iris weber - September 11, 2018 Reply

    You need to stop calling the terrorist “mother” . She is NOT your mother.
    She owes YOU apologies, and begging YOUR forgiveness.[ I would not give it].
    Stop all contact, read Andrew Vachss. [www.vachss.com].
    He is a lawyer for children who are/were tortured by their birth-givers and sperm- donators [ NOT “parents”].
    You can recover.
    Stop hating yourself.
    Start hating her.
    Give the hate to the terrorist who deserves it.

meera seth - September 9, 2018 Reply

Dear Janice,

In the Type II Parent, the one with a struggle, you said of the neglected child:
You have an excessive focus on taking care of other people’s needs, often to your own detriment.

How do you explain this? What leads to this later age behaviour?

Many thanks. Your blogs help….greatly, to give voice to buried feelings.

    Jonice - September 9, 2018 Reply

    Dear Meera, good question! Children of struggling parents often have to pick up slack and over-function to make sure their own needs are met. They end up focused on other people’s needs and often end up being overly responsible as adults. It can make you strong but it can also be exhausting to live that way.

Rowena - September 9, 2018 Reply

Illuminating as always!

Sometimes after reading Jonice’s blogs I think that she must have been listening into my sessions with a psychologist or reading my mind better than me but that psychology!

Near enough spot on!

    Jonice - September 9, 2018 Reply

    Glad to hear it Rowena! Thanks for your feedback. Take care.

Natalie - September 9, 2018 Reply

Janice do you offer personal coaching/counseling to people suffering from this? I would love to have a conversation with you about this!

    Jonice - September 9, 2018 Reply

    Hi Natalie, I do not do any therapy over skype or phone. But you can find a CEN Therapist on my Find A CEN Therapist Page: https://drjonicewebb.com/find-a-cen-therapist-list/. All my best to you!

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