Struggle With Self-Discipline? Follow This System Every Single Day

Many people struggle with self-discipline in many different ways and for many different reasons.

Do you struggle with:

Poor eating habits?

Overdrinking?

Overspending?

Getting yourself to exercise?

Wasting time?

Keeping a clean and organized house?

Making yourself do things that are boring or uninteresting?

Do you sometimes feel like you have no control over your own choices or actions in certain areas of your life? If so, rest assured that you are in the good company of countless others who feel the same way.

Most of those who struggle simply assume they are lazy or weak or defective in some way, but when you believe any of these things about yourself you are walking down a one-way street to nowhere.

Feeling defective makes you believe in yourself even less which makes you struggle even more. Feeling weak makes you hopeless and helpless to solve the problem, setting up an endless cycle of pain.

The reality is that almost no one who contends with self-control is doing so because they are weak or defective. Truth be told, I have often found the real cause of these problems to be Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN.

Childhood Emotional Neglect happens when your parents fail to respond enough to your needs and feelings as they raise you.

“What could this possibly have to do with self-discipline?” you might ask. Here is the answer.

The Link Between CEN and Self-Discipline Problems

Actually, all self-discipline problems boil down to one simple mechanism that’s the foundation for it all. It’s the ability to make yourself do things you don’t want to do and to stop yourself from doing things you shouldn’t do.

We humans are not born with our “mechanism” fully functioning and developed. Instead, it is developed by our parents as they raise us.

When your mother calls you in from playing with your neighborhood friends because it’s dinnertime or bedtime, she is teaching you an important skill. She’s teaching you that some things must be done, even if you don’t feel like it.

When your dad gives you the weekly chore of cutting the grass and then follows up in a loving but firm way to make sure you do it, he’s teaching you how to make yourself do something you don’t want to do and he’s teaching you the rewards of that.

When your parents make sure you brush your teeth twice a day, when they say no to dessert, when they set aside and enforce “homework hour” every day after school because you’ve been slacking on homework, when they continue to love you but set your curfew earlier as a consequence of thoughtlessly breaking it; all of these parental actions and responses are internalized by you, the child.

Emotional Attunement = Teaching Discipline

All of these loving and attentive actions of your parents, when done with enough emotional attunement, structure, and love — in other words, the opposite of Childhood Emotional Neglect, literally program your brain. They set up neural pathways that you can use all your life to make yourself do things you don’t want to do and stop yourself from doing what you should not do.

Now, here’s another very important thing. When all of this happens as it should in your childhood, you not only internalize the ability to make yourself do things and to stop yourself from doing things, you internalize your parents’ voices, which later, in your adulthood, become your own.

Unfortunately, the opposite of everything we just discussed is also true. If you grow up in an emotionally neglectful home and do not receive enough of this emotionally attuned structure and discipline, you will emerge into adulthood without enough of the neural pathways you need. It’s not that you have none of these neural pathways. It’s just that you do not have enough.

I know what you are probably thinking so let’s talk about it:

So Is This All My Parents’ Fault?

No, not necessarily at all. All parents have their own personal struggles. Many grew up in emotionally neglectful homes themselves. Most parents do their best (not all, for sure)  and give their children what they have to give. But sadly, in many cases of Emotional Neglect, the parents can’t give you what they did not have themselves: emotional attunement, structure, and discipline.

Another side of this to consider in all of this is you.

I hope that realizing that you are not defective takes you out of that destructive loop of self-blame. I hope now that you see that your parents failed you in this way it will free you up to think in new ways. I hope that understanding the underlying mechanism of self-discipline will inspire you.

For what? For taking responsibility for this problem now. For building your own neural pathways. For change.

It is never too late. As an adult, you can essentially re-parent yourself by rewiring your own brain. You can do it by using a remarkably simple but amazingly effective rewiring program I am sharing directly from my book Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.

The 3 Things Practice for Building Your Self-Discipline

In this skill-building exercise, you will be wiring your brain with the hardware that’s essential to have in order to be able to make yourself do what you don’t want to do and vice-versa. To take full advantage of its power, you absolutely must do it every single day.

  • Three times, every single day, make yourself do something you don’t want to do; or stop yourself from doing something you shouldn’t do.

It’s best to choose small, doable items that do not feel overwhelming. The size of the item does not matter, it’s the act of overriding what you want that programs your brain.

Three times. Without exception. Every single day. And don’t just do them, write them down.

To help you get a feel for this, I’ll give you some examples of Three Things that have worked for others:

Examples of Things to Make Yourself Do: Face-washing, bill-paying, exercise, floor-sweeping, shoe-tying, phone-calling, dishwashing or task-starting.

Examples of Things to Stop Yourself From Doing: eating a piece of chocolate devil’s food cake, buying a pretty necklace online, having that one more drink when out with friends, or skipping class.

Try to do this program regularly. If you slip, start right back up again. If you keep at it, you’ll notice that it will become easier and easier for you to self-regulate, manage your impulses, and complete unrewarding but necessary tasks. Your self-discipline will build and grow and eventually become an active, hard-wired part of who you are.

To learn much more about how Childhood Emotional Neglect happens and how to heal it, and to read more about the relationship between Emotional Neglect and self-discipline, see the book Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.

Three things. Every day. You can do it.

Jonice

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Heidi - February 7, 2021 Reply

Doctor, I don’t believe Love and attentive actions are the same and can be driven by many factors.

Taza - February 5, 2021 Reply

I have been working with this concept for a few months now, and I’m gratified to say that it does become easier over time!
My “make myself do” are: 22 minute exercise TV show, 6 days a week; and take my vitamins twice daily. Working now to add washing/moisturizing my face every night before bed.
My mother was clinically depressed, had chronic pain, and died when I was 11. Not much in the way of good habits to learn from her–also, not her fault! It’s taken many years to allow myself to take care of me. Routine self-care has been very elusive!

Marion - February 3, 2021 Reply

Hi Jonice
Are you saying that putting things off procrastinating is only because of CEN? This is confusing as I grew up with CEN, but was also brought up with doing chores, coming in for dinnener etc. Also I am an emotional person too and can show my emotions whereas my siblings can’t, yet I’m the one who ended up with depression/anxiety. I want to discuss things with my siblings but can’t due to them being intimidating and just cutting me off or making a blunt comment. It’s all so confusing!!!

    Jonice - February 7, 2021 Reply

    Dear Marion, I would not put the word “only” on anything in psychology because people – and families – are so complex. I encourage you to run things by a CEN therapist and see if you can figure out what kind of role, if any, CEN has played in your life and your siblings’ lives.

      Marion - February 8, 2021 Reply

      Hi Jonice,
      Thankyou so much for your reply. Unfortunately I cannot afford a Therapist. I appreciate that Psychology and Families are extremely complex. Are you saying that I might not have CEN ? Growing up we didn’t discuss emotions and although i am emotional i am only learning now through you to be aware of how I’m feeling. I believe that my siblings have cut their emotions off to protect themselves (we lost our Dad and Uncles growing up), but unfortunately they are self righteous and not approachable to communicate on an equal level. My Mum unfortunately couldn’t deal with all our feelings/emotions as she had so many other things to deal with and had CEN herself. We all had to get on with it and cope separately. I’m struggling whether it’s best for me to not have contact with my siblings anymore.

Jane - February 2, 2021 Reply

Thank you Dr. Webb, I really enjoyed reading your article and it made so much sense to me.

I struggle with procrastination and leaving jobs until the last minute eg paying tax, bills etc. I dislike cleaning but am pleased when it’s done and once again leave it until absolutely necessary.
I spend a lot of time faffing about avoiding these jobs so do not feel I spend my precious days off work in a productive way which leaves me feeling annoyed with myself. Instead of just getting on with things!
Definitely going to give this idea a go, I think I’ll benefit now I understand the reasons behind my behaviour. Thank you for explaining so well!

However I will reframe the word “should” as this causes me some anxiety. My mother was a controlling freak and narcissist and “should” or “don’t” were her favourite commands. Even when she told us to do things there was no encouragement or explanation, so often I was at a loss as to how carry out these orders!

I think I will reframe the “shoulds” to what I need to do and what isn’t beneficial for me to do, but your message is still the same. Thank you!

Audrey - February 2, 2021 Reply

Dear Jonice,
Do you think there’s a link between self-discipline and self-care? I’m quite disciplined regarding work and commitments, but I struggle to make time for hobbies like reading and watching films (I love both activities, and I find myself planning and wishing to devote time to them, but hardly ever doing it). I’m also quite organized, so that doesn’t seem to be the problem…

Is there any “strategy” you would recommend?

Thank you!

Leta - February 1, 2021 Reply

Lack of self discipline also is a characteristic that inactive ADHD individuals struggle with. Do you think there could be some overlap.. perhaps with parents that suffer with ADHD not having the skills to teach? Could this be another reason emotional neglect occurs?

PS we have had a recent diagnosis in our family. So I noticed an overlap. My mother has ADHD.. but was also emotionally neglectful. I can see a generational link with my grandparents.

    Jonice - February 1, 2021 Reply

    Dear Leta, that is a good question. I have no solid answer or data for you linking ADHD to CEN but I will keep watching for links. I do see many ADHD parents, even though they may be challenged to pay prolonged attention to their child, are able to emotionally observe, validate, and respond to their child. So I don’t see ADHD being a direct or singular cause of CEN, but it may be a factor in it.

    Rachael - February 1, 2021 Reply

    Hi Leta,
    My therapist recommended I read Scattered by Gabor Mate. It talks about ADHD as a trauma response. I haven’t read it yet so I can’t vouch for it, but I’m excited to do so. I think it might link ADHD and CEN in a way, or at least pull ADHD into the bigger discussion around how trauma and neglect affects us, instead of isolating it as a brain chemistry problem.

Lori - February 1, 2021 Reply

Hi Dr Jonice,
THANK YOU for pointing out that most of us who struggle with this AREN’T lazy. It helps to realize that all of this time I have put myself down and felt shame, guilt etc over not accomplishing stuff I’ve wanted to get done doesn’t mean I am a bad person and it may in fact have to do with childhood stuff.
Mine feels a little different than what you describe though. We DEFINITELY had structure…time to wake up, time to sleep, we had to do homework at a certain time, chores during the week (doing supper dishes or folding laundry etc) and HEAVY cleaning every Saturday from 8 AM to 1 PM. We had a short time (perhaps a half hour) for lunch. Mom worked during those hours so my stepfather was in charge and if HE worked as he often did on Saturday mornings, I was in charge and let me tell you, it BETTER be done as he wanted or else there’d be no playing that weekend and likely a punishment!
In fact, he was so disciplined (he was in the military at one point) that we often felt we were in a boot camp of sorts with regard to chores. I admit, there were a few times when I got much older (mid teens) that I dared rebel a little bit which was so UNLIKE me. I would do that by leaving one pan unwashed or, much more likely something more subtle like not wringing the dish cloth out and placing it where he wanted it. I’d be in my room and my sis and I would hear him start winding up from muttering to griping loud enough for us to hear it etc and we’d momentarily at least, laugh to ourselves. I knew SHE wouldn’t get in trouble but I would so those occasional rebellions were worth it to me.
As an adult, when I first moved out and for many years thereafter, both at home and at work I was a perfectionist. I’d HAVE to have everything done just right or I’d be so stressed! One time, a friend helped me move out of one apartment into another and she (thinking she was only being helpful which was true) offered to “keep working” on a day I had to work for several hours. I said okay, if you want to but was a bit hesitant. I told her specifically what was a priority to me to get done and she agreed to work on that. When I got home, I saw that she’d moved in a piece of used furniture she’d found discarded (this was years ago) that was “still in decent shape” because she knew I needed extra seating space in my very large living room. I lost it, I told her that thing HAD to be out of my house and that I hadn’t ASKED for that. I needed to feel in control of everything I guess?? Anyway, she took it out of the house and I did apologize to her and made sure she knew I appreciated her help and that I KNOW she was just trying to help. We were fine but that is just one example of how set in my ways I was for many years with regard to cleaning, household organization, working outside the home etc
But for the past 10 yrs perhaps, I’ve dropped all of that. In fact, since I’ve been on disability for mental health issues, and have developed fibromyalgia, spinal stenosis (not severe) and other medical issues incl. most recently chronic severe pain in my hips/upper buttocks, lower back, knees and upper shoulder/neck, I can’t do the things i once was able to do now that I’m older and I find I procrastinate now which I HATE.
Thanks for the tips to change that! Lori (Velveteen Rabbit)

Alison - February 1, 2021 Reply

Thank you for this advice, Dr. Webb!! I’ve struggled all my adult life terribly with self-discipline and didn’t know where it stemmed from! I’m going to try this!

Kara - January 31, 2021 Reply

Actually I’ve just realised on rereading your article that previously I focused on 3 things I shouldn’t do. This time I’ll focus on 3 things I should do!

Kara - January 31, 2021 Reply

Thanks for the reminder Dr Webb. I tried this in relation to spending money when I first read your book a couple of years ago and found it did have benefits. I now automatically think twice about spending money. For instance even though I’m a great fan of online shopping, I’ll now go all the way towards placing an order up to hitting the “buy now” button, but then leave it for 24 hours. A day later if I really still need (or want) it, I may buy it, however am more likely transfer it to my wishlist. Funnily enough I find doing all that (rather than actually buying the thing) seems to satisfy the urge to spend. There’s been innumerable opportunities during the pandemic and lockdowns to splurge on online shopping (often out of sheer boredom) and yet I’ve managed to save several thousand dollars that I would’ve otherwise spent. Now you’ve reminded me I’ll do the exercise again, only this time focusing on another aspect of my life, ‘cos I know it works. You’re right, it’s deceptively simple but oh so effective.

    Jonice - February 1, 2021 Reply

    Awesome, Kara, great job! Thanks for sharing your learning process and success with us.

Richard - January 31, 2021 Reply

Thank you Dr Webb for your really wise words and approach. Although I am a hard worker – with personal projects as well as with my job I still have had problems with my appearance for a very long time and also keeping a tidy environment. I read stuff about this and the “comfort trap” which some psycologists use as a model but it just made me feel more guilty and hideously self critical. Your approach is much deeper and more humane. I would say though what has helped me with this issue is combining your approach with that of another very good therapist Dr Kristen Neff and the approach of self compassion. I now make myself go on walks for some exercise and take care of my appearance in the gentle but firm way a mother or father might make their children do so. Self compassion of course is not self indulgence (like watching TV all day with a load of ice cream and cookies) and you also have compassion for other people who are having difficult times too. Needless to say it works much better than using a psycological whip and also goes well with mindlfullness as well as all the valuable things you suggest yourself. I think appearance has been such an issue for me because a younger sister was born with some very serious physical issues and my poor mother had to spend nearly all her time trying to feed her and also visiting with her the few doctors who could really help. None of this was my mothers or fathers fault or my sisters. Sometimes life just throws up incredibly difficult situations and you have to deal with them as best you can.

    Jonice - February 1, 2021 Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. It sounds like you have learned a lot about self-compassion and holding yourself accountable.

Cheryl - January 31, 2021 Reply

Your book made a tremendous difference in my life when I first read it in 2017 and yet I have resisted, skipped over, this particular exercise. I will take it up starting today, with butterflies in my stomach, and see what happens.

    Jonice - January 31, 2021 Reply

    I’m so glad, Cheryl. Doing the 3 Things can make a big difference in your life.

GWOR - January 31, 2021 Reply

Hi Jonice :
They say a negative moment loss is now a loss moment in time never to be retrieved or held again.

And the Electric Car Battery Analogy fits if a negative charge ( self and other people) continually drains their own battery or others and and then our own battery goes dead . And the moment(s) is/are loss forever.

And until the positive charge renews the charge moment by moment even if it is a good walk we need to recharge our own battery first to keep our charge and keep a reserve charge to meet our daily range of motion and the extra expectations and demands when needed. And by all means and ways distance ourselves from all the drainers who pull our plug losing our own connection to the self first .

One has to decide does one waste one’s time in these loss moments of people, place and events or does one focus on the profit within the moment as it is for the self to decide to stay charged and moving forward in ALL the definitions of profit.

Yes if there is/are other force(s) both within family and without who are” drainers” and who sense one’s distraction to steal our energy in just the moment this is like the electric car battery continually discharging to uselessness. And we may get there unless we keep our awareness 24/7/365.

We must decide is it the self or the self and others continually draining our charge?

Only the self can make the decision , not a pill , not booze just the self to reinforce clarity of mind and purpose for the self of one’s valued worthiness to change and being charged moving forward .

If there is nowhere to charge well we do not go, we just do not start as we are constantly reversing losing our discipline of self and the loss of moment to deficit. Now totally discharged .

Discharged and drained like some of the old black & white TV skits when many comedy nights were alive in ruthless satire we got the point then; knowing there are people out there who charge themselves up first by discharging and draining others in real life for the sole purpose to get the added advantages of controlling others in their means to another’s ending being discharged and drained . And finished !

And staying with the electric car analogy we must be constantly aware of our own charging station 24/7 acknowledging and our own charge levels and recharging as we go in such difficult COVID19 times of uncertainty being locked down in a form of being locked up in the moment to just get the self going again. Not easy ! We must be kind to each other and first be kind to ourselves to keep charging positively.

And those of us who have loss or forced or being forced now to close their businesses starting last year peaking at the COVID19 moment of shutdowns have had their lights turned out permanently as the charge of survival dead & destroyed both mentally and financially must find their own charge to keep going . There are no easy answers with their chargers broken and probably repossessed.

And then we have to dig deep to call up and on our reserve battery to get us reconnecting to our charging station to move forward again .

Not easy but it beats losing those good moments when we can not recharge, gone and loss now spinning our wheels going in all directions and losing the one moment in the moment so critically needed when we are most deserving being one’s own charging station and never losing our range of motion moving forward .

And no one should fool themselves there are no magic solutions except the self must like the trained river boat pilot ensure going through the
dangerous locks, channels, canals of life & living and the precious cargo of human and otherwise must protect itself first so the self can rise another day and get others to their destination and dock safely charged to meet that other day of not losing any more moments of profit for the self in all ways not imagined and realized .

And we can only do this through the discipline of caring for one’s self first living in the moment before we can care or be in service to others so they have an can realize their moments of real value no matter the degree of in the now of the moment must be taken and lived or face losing the loss of this moment given as real not imagined.

    Karrie - February 4, 2021 Reply

    Excellent analogies!

Sue - January 31, 2021 Reply

Everything you say really hits home. I have 6 siblings and all but one of us suffer in one form or another from low self-esteem but I also have to deal with fibromyalgia on top of it all. My mother was very attentive to us as babies until the next one came along. The youngest of us seems to be the only confident one. I don’t feel any resentment towards her and am really close with her, just jealous of the attention she got. There was never any structure for us, no homework time, no making sure we brushed teeth or washed faces, dinner was for whoever showed up at the table. I don’t remember ever getting grounded just a disappointed look and guilt trip. My father was a workaholic, a wonderful man but hardly ever spent time with us. I am 100% sure my mom also suffered from CEN so at least I can now understand her a little more. I do love her and take care of her when she needs me and I’m always the first one she calls. Thank you so much for helping me understand why I feel the way I do.

Judith - January 31, 2021 Reply

I have struggled with tasks I know I need to do but don’t want to do. I still struggle to develop self-discipline and I’m retired! These tips to do 3 things every day I don’t want to do are great to help me retrain my CEN brain. I will write them down ✍️ each day too. Thank you. ❤️

Jill - January 31, 2021 Reply

What if you are too self disciplined and never give yourself a break?

    Jonice - January 31, 2021 Reply

    Perhaps you can build relaxation time into your routine. If you’re able to force yourself to do things, then apply that strength toward taking breaks and pursuing enjoyable endeavors.

Madison - January 31, 2021 Reply

My household was the opposite. In fact, things felt very controlling and punitive. If I didn’t do something good enough, there were ALWAYS consequences and to me, they felt harsh because I was a ‘good’ kid, rarely rocked the boat or challenged anything, but step out of line and BAM! Punishment. Now I struggle more with enjoying things because I never felt like I could just enjoy. I had to be working, proving myself all the time.

    Jonice - January 31, 2021 Reply

    Dear Madison, it is true that excessively harsh and rigid parenting can also self-discipline problems of a different variety. I hope you are able to allow yourself to take time for yourself now.

    Helen - February 1, 2021 Reply

    My parents too provided all rigors of discipline and routine but due to their own CEN were unable to provide love or any facsimile of it in any form. What they had in droves to supply to their children was cruel, unforgiving, abusive coldness. It caused hopelessness & feelings of worthlessness & suicide in me and my siblings. I can only imagine their own backgrounds were riddled with the same causing major dysfunction in their own lives and as we all know – hurt people hurt people – even if they are their own flesh & blood. It’s a devastating cycle and I’m grateful to find others who can help me to find my way up to the surface and out of this abyss.

      Jonice - February 1, 2021 Reply

      Dear Helen, it is so true that hurt people hurt people. I am so sorry you grew up this way. I hope you will work hard now to give yourself everything your parents couldn’t: attention, emotional awareness, and care.

ottorino - November 19, 2019 Reply

As long as man continues to destroy all life forms, which he considers inferior, he will never know what health is and will never find true peace. The men will continue to kill each other as long as they slaughter the animals. He who sows killing and sorrow cannot gather joy and love.

    Mara More - January 31, 2021 Reply

    True

Lydia - September 16, 2019 Reply

the above questions were spot on for me. Every morning I roll out of bed, walk into another day of loose structure. I answer all the questions above YES. And I have felt defective all my life. I ask myself questions like; why can’t I do what I need to do, etc? Most of my life I have felt as if I were a tire with a slow leak. When a child is negelected, they have no defences to reject what is said to them. Instead, painful words become believed and embedded.

I’m getting up now and doing my first “hate to do chore” of the day, thanks to you.

Taza - September 4, 2019 Reply

There is a great channel on YouTube (Lucy Wyndham-Read) with 7-minute exercise videos. There are a ton of them for different areas of the body and for general conditioning, so shop around if you don’t see one you like immediately. She’s very upbeat and talks throughout each 1-minute exercise. It was just the thing for my doldrums this morning.
I already made the bed and walked the dog.
Yay, me!

Anonymous - August 27, 2019 Reply

I’ll do things I don’t want to do, but don’t feel any reward or sense of accomplishment.
I’ll feel emotionally numb or even depressed from regular excercise, for instance, though the opppsite should be the case,

HB - August 20, 2019 Reply

I just read this while sitting here procrastinating. I love this idea, so I’m writing down 3 things for today:
1. make that phone call
2. make my bed
3. be fully packed by tonight for a trip that I’m looking forward to
and… write 3 things down for tomorrow (3 out of 4 will do for today)
Thank you so much!

    Jonice - August 20, 2019 Reply

    Excellent! But be careful about over-reaching. Don’t feel like you need to plan or do more than 3. Three is all it takes. Best wishes!

Mac - August 19, 2019 Reply

Nice bit of serendipity.
Wondering why my hard work with my C-PTSD was stalling, and then I took an ADD test.
This of course isn’t conclusive, but I do tend to fizzle around like a frog on speed and lose concentration when something or important information is boring.
So thats a now the possible triplicity of co -morbid disorders, with Dyslexia arriving at Uni way back when the exam questions went way out of focus.
Hang on, Ive been getting by, or away with it for years, I got a pension out of a job which required just that very me going flat out juggling and processing information forward in the electricity power industry .
Now? Ah I need structure, but in small bite sized chunks so as to make it interesting and create value and success for the team instead of managing to unwittingly create angry little child chaos.
Early days , and a few wobblies, but can actually feel and see the benefit of better organisation, aka I can find that bill and so on.

    Jonice - August 19, 2019 Reply

    Good work Mac!

Nancy M - August 18, 2019 Reply

I too like this idea. It provides the LOVE and acceptance that has been lacking. Otherwise, it feels like being mean to myself. Self compassion is so important.

    Jonice - August 19, 2019 Reply

    That is so right. Self-compassion makes it easier to practice self-discipline!

Mitzie - August 14, 2019 Reply

Im going to agree to disagree because I suffered CEN as a child and they created structure, specially my mother. There was always an hour after school that tv have to be turn off and I had to go to do my homework. There were rules around how many chocolates I could eat in a day and if I had ice cream in the afternoon I couldn’t have another bowl in the same day. That helped with moderation. There was a bedtime hour, and wake up at the same hour every morning. Not going to school wasn’t a choice only if I was sick for real. At the end of every semester or school year, I had to make a through cleaning in the closet by throwing out what wasn’t needed. I made my bed and clean the surfaces of my room almost every single week.
Today I struggle with beinge eating and delaying gratification. I need more of the stuff I want for me being able to do the stuff I need to do but don’t like. I think it’s because of Bipolar Disorder. My room is very cluttered and a lot of time dirty with dust. Takes me a while to clean it up, but doesn’t last. I made peace with it years ago, and accepted that I won’t be that girl that was very strict with cleaning and ordering her room. I already let go of that because also I don’t think those things are that important.
The things that do bothers me in beinge eating, and procrastinating .

    Jonice - August 14, 2019 Reply

    Dear Mitzie, if those two things bother you the most, that is a sign that it’s time to address them! Please do get some help with them. A CEN therapist can help you uncover and address the emotional issues that might be driving both.

      Mitzie - August 14, 2019 Reply

      Thanks for your comment. I will be back in therapy on October. Also I loved your two articles “7 Things Not to Say to A Daughter Who’s Healing from Childhood” and “6 Things You Should Never Say to Someone Who’s Suffering or Grieving”. I felt very validated and still read them.
      I had a book about reparenting but found it to harsh, restrictive, and strict. Didn’t work for me.

    Denise Edwards - August 31, 2019 Reply

    Yes. This is me, too. My parents enforced many, many rules and provided structure but did not meet my needs. In many ways they were neglectful, especially of my emotions and feelings. They both were narcissistic. Today, I have a hard time doing deep cleaning, organizing and planning tasks etc. I force myself everyday to do the basics and what needs to be done but I have a lot of clutter and things are not well organized. I wonder if it is a rebellion of some sort, but sub-conscious.

      Mitzie Velez - September 2, 2019 Reply

      Yeah probably it is a rebellion. The emotional part not being met and now only wanting to do things that fill all that or trying to obtain that, at least joy and contentment.

      I know for me is that those activities aren’t the most important and can wait. Another thing for me is to think what its going to give me in the short term. Its difficult to think in long term goals. I spend too much money on things that will make me feel happy at least in the short run and much of what I want is for the long term.

Grace Lyne Brotherton - August 14, 2019 Reply

I am enjoying all of your articles/blogs and the many ways that CEN can and does affect us throughout our entire lives. One of the things that I noticed right away was your use of the word self-regulate. I am not an expert in this area at all but have done some reading and well listening as our media allows us to do that these days, that we never really SELF regulate. In order to regulate as a small child we had to have someone there to help us, whatever it was we needed, a pacifier, just to be held, a diaper changed, someone to just sit with us while we played on the floor and any number of thing. I think that we still need this as we get older, even if the person is not right there beside us we are some where deep inside our brain using that or those memories to regulate, therefore not self-regulating.
Just a thought, what are yours on this topic of self-regulation?

    Jonice - August 14, 2019 Reply

    Good question! Actually, when your parents soothe you and help you regulate your feelings and your behavior in the right ways that are validating, yet with loving limits, we internalize those limits and voices, and they become our own. Then we can call upon them through our adult lives. When your parent does these things in the wrong ways or, in the case of CEN, fails to do them enough, you grow up without having them internalized enough. That’s when the problems begin.

Dr Abdulkadir - August 13, 2019 Reply

thank you very much Dr webb it is very informing article.let me tell you a good news i have just finished your book running on empty which is turkish translation i loved it much you helped me much on understanding myself and my parent iam very impressed by saying “re-parent yourself by rewiring your own brain” however i think rewiring is a process by itself begining from struggling personally we should have to create an environment working for one purpose and help you through out your way to change even what you see and hear must contain things for your goal.

    Jonice - August 13, 2019 Reply

    Interesting thoughts Dr. A. I do think when we struggle to change, we are rewiring our brains. Unfortunately, it is all to easy to give up, and the secret is to keep working at it, no matter what. Thank you for sharing!

      Dr Abdulkadir - August 14, 2019 Reply

      Yeah, Dr. Webb thank you. Your book is really helping i think it has to be presented in more local languages.

        Jonice - August 14, 2019 Reply

        Thank you! So far it’s in Chinese, Korean and Turkish. Hopefully there will be many more!

Ronda - August 13, 2019 Reply

Well I am glad to be introduced to this site and definitely look forward to reading more about it and find it very interesting that I can learn to see myself and life in general in a better, stronger, healthier, happier way of being as well as thinking.
Working on myself or my inner self and excitedly on my inner child has me ecstatic and want to jump into it immediately and hopefully find some self love there.
As a child growing up starting in the 60s I’ve lived with 2 alcoholic parents, and was treated unfairly, or maybe should say that I was the black sheep where as my younger sister was the perfect child and never did wrong in there eyes, regardless.. I was somewhat overweight but not any different in size of my peers but it was a problem apparently and I was taken to weight watchers weekly and at 11 yrs old that did something to my self worth.
When I was way younger around 5ish I was force fed food even if it was disliked. If I regained from eating or finishing my meal I sat at the kitchen table every single time and sat there all alone, even while my parents had company over visiting, I was ignored until I my plate was empty, most times sitting sadly alone and unacknowledged while tears layers my face. Thank God 9:00 couldn’t come any earlier cuz I was never more excited to go to bed..
There were many more sad stories of my childhood that I’ve kept personal up until my later adult life as who would believe ME anyway right?
Getting off the subject of sadness I’m much more interested in healing, and I hope that I’ve landed on the perfect site that will lift up some sorrows times and put a more permanent and genuine smile back on my face.
Thank you Jonice Webb

    Jonice - August 13, 2019 Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story Ronda! You sound like you are ready and able to heal so that is exciting! And bodes well for your future.

Alexis - August 13, 2019 Reply

Great ideas! Thanks Tobias

Jonice - August 12, 2019 Reply

Excellent points! These are suggestions that can help many gain control over their inner rebellious or hurt child.

Alex Cooper - August 12, 2019 Reply

Am I meant to do 3 things I’m should and not do 3 things I shouldn’t or a mixture of both? Such a great idea though.

    Jonice - August 12, 2019 Reply

    Both! Forcing yourself to do or not do is the key.

Amanda - August 12, 2019 Reply

Jonice you are such a life saver! Every tool you offer that I put to good use has made my life better and I am so appreciative! I’m taking baby steps but have seen improvement in my self discipline/motivation. I still struggle with keeping myself motivated to fully complete my task not just starting it but I found that taking little breaks is easier since I’ve strengthened my ability to start again. Thank you.

    Jonice - August 12, 2019 Reply

    I’m so glad you’re taking baby steps. That is how real change happens! Keep up the good work.

Sandra - August 12, 2019 Reply

I read this article with great interest because I’ve been struggling all my life with a severe lack of self discipline, particularly a cluttered home. I was eager to read the three suggestions, but when I read “ do three things every day you don’t want to do” I felt intense rage, almost to the point that I felt nauseated. It kind of shocked me, and I can’t figure out why my reaction was so strong or where to go from here. Sandra

    Jonice - August 12, 2019 Reply

    Dear Sandra, I would bet that the rage is related to your childhood. How did your parents deal with discipline and teaching you good habits and self-control? I hope you’ll discuss this with a therapist and try to understand it. Then, when you’re ready, start doing the 3 Things.

      Tobias Duckworth - August 12, 2019 Reply

      Your feeling seemed reasonable to me, too! I’d love for Sandra to read my separate comment response!

Clancy - August 12, 2019 Reply

I have a new routine of not going to bed until all the small but essential things I have been avoiding all day have been dealt with eg. reply emails, paying bills and budgeting … The next day starts well instead of two steps behind.

    Jonice - August 12, 2019 Reply

    Excellent routine! Good job.

Jim - August 11, 2019 Reply

I’m struggling with perhaps the opposite. I’m too disciplined, structured and non-spontaneous. But, that hyper-discipline also results in occasional, additive self-destructive actions.

I think my childhood was more about what I produced verses who I was as a person. I’m still struggling to find the joy in life.

Dr. Webb thanks for the emails. They encourage me to stop, think and get some insight.

    Jonice - August 12, 2019 Reply

    I think the way out of this for you may be simply starting to tune in to your feelings and focus less on your actions. Follow the Identifying & Naming Exercise instructions and do it every day.

Andrea - August 11, 2019 Reply

I was a very spoiled child, still am at almost 34. My mother was very cold and distant and my father was overly indulgent, but mostly to gain favor over my mother and because he was an alcoholic. I’ve never really held a job, I’ve struggled with addiction, depression, anxiety, all in a castle of stuff. I’ve been to many therapists and none of them have ever given me a solid idea like that. My stepmom tells me I need to get a job and get off some medications but that is overwhelming and not helpful. I’ve always just thought I was defective. I studied psychology in school (semester shy of finishing and quit), but your plan seems great. I’m going to try to find 3 easy things to do (like brush my hair or throw a can away after using it). Then I’ll try harder things. Thanks for this concrete advice.

    Jonice - August 12, 2019 Reply

    That sounds like a wonderful plan. I would substitute the word “spoiled” with “neglected.” In many cases, they are the same thing.

Fiona - August 11, 2019 Reply

This really resonated with me. My parents were amazing people but raised my sister and me in an atmosphere of “benign neglect”. My biggest regret in life is that I repeated this with my son.

    Jonice - August 12, 2019 Reply

    Dear Fiona, it is never too late to change your relationship with your son. Please read Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. It will guide you through the process of making changes.

Lee - August 11, 2019 Reply

Thanks Dr Jonice, the way you explain behaviours in such a non-judgemental way and offer empowering strategies to train our brains towards self-love rather than self-criticism is beautiful. You make the hard work achievable.

    Jonice - August 11, 2019 Reply

    I sure hope so, Lee. Thanks for your message!

Sheila Kay Zornes - August 11, 2019 Reply

Thank you Jonice Webb for all your wonderful advise and emails!! I will get to work on this self discipline right away! You have helped me so much I can’t Thank you enough!!! I’m so blessed to have found you!
Sincerely,
Sheila E.

    Jonice - August 11, 2019 Reply

    That’s wonderful Sheila! I’m delighted you’re on your way.

Ty - August 11, 2019 Reply

As usual, written with pointed insight and clarity. That can only come from the iterative loop of listening to your readers and patients and administering your expertise.

My entire life was recovery from an angry frightened abusive narcissistic mother and emotionally AWOL alcoholic father. Today a combination of scientifically validated insights and the resulting therapies has made this process much faster so there is much hope (for us, not them.)

If I was to give my younger self advice it would be to keep your outward actions measured and deliberate as you learn how to navigate your sometimes turbulent inner world through therapy. You can’t always control what you think and feel but you can control what you do.

Eventually your outer and inner worlds will merge and you will naturally do what’s right for yourself like finally learning to swim without effort. You won’t think, you’ll just do.

Sometimes what frightens us most is not uncovering our weaknesses but discovering how powerful we are.

    Jonice - August 11, 2019 Reply

    All very true Tyler and well said. Your last sentence is true for many, especially the emotionally neglected. Thanks for your comment!

    Rogue - August 11, 2019 Reply

    This is so powerful… it encompasses so much of what I feel. thank you

      Jonice - August 12, 2019 Reply

      That’s great! I hope you do the 3 Things Exercise. It will help.

Taha - August 11, 2019 Reply

Thanks Dr. Jonnice.
This is the most tailored advice that I ever received.
🙂

    Jonice - August 11, 2019 Reply

    I’m glad! You are welcome!

Guy-Harald Hofmann - August 11, 2019 Reply

Very well put. Thanks a lot dear Jonice Webb.
One of my new routines f.e. became: tidying up the first 15min after coming home from work. Even after a 12 hour shift.

    Jonice - August 11, 2019 Reply

    That’s a great routine. And every time you do it you are training your brain. Well done!

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