What’s been shown by research to be more important for job success than IQ?
What’s a major factor in life satisfaction?
What contributes to lasting marriages and happy children?
What can leap tall buildings in a single bound? (Well, maybe not that.)
It’s Emotional Intelligence! Also known as EQ.
Emotional Intelligence has been defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships and conflicts with empathy and skill.
Research tells us that people with high EQ enjoy many advantages and benefits in life. But some people have a lot more of it than others.
Many people feel rather mystified by the concept of EQ. It’s natural to wonder how people get EQ. Are we born with our EQ already set? And why do some people have high EQ and some people don’t? And, probably the most important question of all: Can we increase our EQ?
The answer is, “Maybe somewhat.” Few things are purely genetic, and EQ is no exception. Sure, some babies are undoubtedly born with a more natural tendency toward emotional awareness and capability for abstract thought, both of which would make it easier to learn about and understand emotions.
But in the nature/nurture question, I have clearly seen that nurture is enormously important.
Childhood is a training ground for emotional intelligence. When your parents see what you feel and respond to your feelings by helping you name and manage them, you learn what different emotions feel like, and how to put them into words. You learn how to identify what you’re feeling, and why you may be feeling it. You learn how to understand why you do what you do and deduce the reasons for others’ actions as well.
Emotionally aware and skilled parents do all of the above, naturally. So they tend to raise high-EQ kids. But, unfortunately, the opposite is also true. When your parents are not emotionally aware or skilled, you do not get what you need to learn the EQ skills.
When your emotions are not noticed, validated, or addressed enough in childhood (I call this Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN), your emotions automatically become blocked off in adulthood. So throughout the most formative decades of your life, you are missing the opportunity to learn how emotions work.
You are left with a lack of crucial knowledge. Which emotion is which? What do you do with your feelings when you have them? How are your emotions affecting your decisions? How do other people’s emotions affect their behavior?
The effects of this lack of knowledge on every single area of the emotionally neglected person’s adult life are far more severe than most people realize.
Lacking a solid EQ makes it hard to handle situations when you are having feelings or when the other person is. So you are more likely to ignore issues, sweep problems under the rug, hurt other people’s feelings, or make decisions that you will later regret.
So, although less clearly visible, the effects of low EQ are so significant that I have often compared them to those of having a physical disability, such as a missing limb.
Fortunately, for all of us, that is not the end of the story. There is some very good news here. EQ is nothing other than a set of skills. And you, no matter how much Emotional Neglect you were raised with, no matter what genes you were born with, can learn them.
Of all of the things you can work for in your life, emotional intelligence is one of the most fruitful. As you study and pay attention to the world of feelings, you will find yourself changing in small but remarkable ways. You will find yourself feeling more. You will become more connected and more attuned to the people in your life, and they will feel it too.
Slowly, gradually, but with purpose and intention, you will stop neglecting your own feelings and become better able to handle others’ feelings.
What can change your life?
To learn much more about how CEN affects different areas of your life sign up to watch my CEN Breakthrough Video Series! It’s free.
To learn much more about how to increase your EQ skills and apply them in relationships see the books Running On Empty and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships.
Childhood Emotional Neglect can be hard to see and remember. To find out if you grew up with it Take The Emotional Neglect Test. It’s free.
Growing up with your feelings ignored, Childhood Emotional Neglect or (CEN), takes its toll on you. It’s true. In fact, it takes such a lasting toll that I can see its lingering effects decades later in my adult patients.
Children who grow up with their feelings ignored take a very powerful step to get by in their childhood home. They wall off the deepest, most biological part of who they are: their emotions. That way they can stop burdening others with their feelings. What a brilliant and powerful tool for your child’s brain to make for you.
But as an adult, your life is affected greatly.
The lingering effects above are important parts of the toll of Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). When your feelings are walled off, you are missing some life ingredients that will have a profound effect on your quality of life.
I know this because I see it in my office every single day.
Whether you realize it or not, this particular group of struggles affects you in many areas of your life. You are living without access to some vital life ingredient that everyone else enjoys. For example, it can make it hard to ask for a promotion or a raise at work, or to trust yourself to try new things or take risks.
But I have also seen that there is one area of life that’s affected far more than any other. It’s your relationships. As you read the 5 Important Ways below, be sure to keep in mind that none of these 5 are permanent. They are only effects from your childhood. You can fix every single one!
You can learn much more about CEN in relationships sign up to watch my free CEN Breakthrough Video Series!
Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) can be subtle and unmemorable, so it can be hard to know if you have it. Take The CEN Test. It’s free!
Consider this. Would you rather live a life filled with ups and downs, joy and sadness, frustrations and pride and surprise? Or a life that goes along, one day after another, with few disruptions or changes or shake-ups?
Choice 1 might seem scary; a little like a roller-coaster ride. On the other hand, Choice 2 might seem a little disappointing.
Don’t get me wrong, they are both mixed bags. The roller-coaster can deliver some shocks to the system, and it can be hard to sometimes feel that you are not in control of everything in your life. If you are living without the emotional disruptions and shake-ups, you may feel “safer” and more in control of things, but you may also find yourself feeling bored and unstimulated.
As a psychologist, I have come to realize that people living in the Choice 1 scenario are typically overall happier. That’s because if you are on the roller coaster, you are living life in a more powerful way. You are more connected with your emotions, and so you are probably far more fulfilled.
Choice 2 is a sign that you are disconnected from your feelings. Probably you grew up in an emotionally neglectful family. Probably you learned at an early age that your emotions were irrelevant or burdensome. Probably you have walled off your feelings as a coping mechanism.
No doubt, though, the way you are living seems normal to you. After all, it’s the way you have always lived. It’s probably the way you were raised to be. So how do you know if you’re emotionally numb?
If you see yourself in any of these 10 signs, do not despair! There are answers. Your feelings are not gone. They are still there, inside you, waiting for you to reclaim them.
You can break down the wall that blocks them, and welcome them back into your life. Bit by bit, slowly but surely, in a way that feels safe and healthy, you can reverse your numbness, and fill your life with color and energy.
Growing up with CEN you were taught to ignore and marginalize your own feelings. But now that you’re an adult, you don’t have to continue that. You can welcome your feelings back into your life and learn the skills to manage and use them.
You CAN overcome your Childhood Emotional Neglect. For help, Take The Emotional Neglect Test. When you sign up for the free test you will also receive my free newsletter which is chockfull of helpful information. I’ll let you know when my free CEN Recovery Videos start.
For even more help into and through the CEN recovery process see my two books, Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children.
If you look around, and if you pay attention you will see something very interesting and surprising: The world is filled with people who have not yet discovered their best selves.
Many are wonderful people who care about others and are trying to do good things in the world. Many are looking for a relationship or are in one, are raising children, and working at their jobs and doing everything they are supposed to do.
So how can you tell if someone has not yet discovered his or her best self? And more importantly, how do you know if you have not yet discovered your best self?
Believe it or not, to answer those questions, first we must talk about emotion. Why? Because what you feel is who you are.
First, some important facts about you:
Living as your best self requires you to be open to, and accepting of, your own feelings. Attending to what you are feeling is a way to attend to your true self. When you live this way, paying attention to your feelings and caring what they are, is living close to your heart. You are valuing and owning who you are, and this is a very important part of being your best self.
If your parents paid little attention to your emotions as they raised you (Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN), then they did not teach you some vital things that you very much need to know. They failed to teach you what your emotions are and what they mean, or what you should do with them.
It’s much easier for us to accept our positive emotions as reflections of our deepest selves. When you feel love, joy, pride, happiness, warmth or connection, these emotions are much more comfortable to own and be. Yet these feelings are no more important than the emotions that make you uncomfortable.
It is at this step of accepting the feelings we do not like that many of us fail ourselves.
When you feel angry, sad, jealous, irritated, frustrated, envious, enraged, lost, confused, weak or judgmental, for example, these feelings we must also own as reflections of our deepest self. Every single person has felt each of these feelings many times during their lives. It is a part of being human.
We do not have the ability to choose what we feel. Who would choose to be jealous or confused? Who would want to feel weak or sad or angry? No one!
Instead, our feelings, including the uncomfortable ones, arise on their own from a well deep inside us. When you can accept and own these feelings in yourself, you have an opportunity to process and manage them and make decisions based upon them (or in spite of them). This is how your emotions can guide you and drive you.
If you refuse to believe or accept that you feel angry, sad, jealous, enraged or judgmental, for example, you are rejecting who you are. Unfortunately, those emotions are actually empowered by your rejection of them. They go underground and may seem to disappear, but they continue to seep around the edges of your life, influencing your decisions and choices without your knowledge. When this happens, you have taken steps away from your true self. The longer you continue to reject your feelings, the farther away you get from your true and best self.
So how do you become the best version of yourself? Make an effort to notice what you are feeling, when and why. Accept all of your emotions, both positives and negatives. Never judge yourself for a having any feeling, no matter how much you dislike it. Listen to their messages, but know that what you do with them is your responsibility and yours alone.
So manage and use your feelings, and this will make you noticeably sincere, honest, and genuine. The people around you will notice, and they will respond with more trust in you. They will sense that you are living with integrity, and according to your true inner self.
As you pay attention, accept, own and trust yourself, you will be walking the path toward who you can be.
Because what you feel is who you are. And what you choose to do with your feelings is who you choose to become.
Who do you want to be?
Growing up with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) takes you away from your true self. Since it can be difficult to see or remember, it may be hard to know if you have it. To find out Take The CEN Test. It’s free.
To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, see my first book Running on Empty No More.
Tim and Barbie sat slumped in their chairs feeling exhausted and hopeless. A full hour of talking had failed to make progress toward resolving their conflict. In fact, they were now much farther apart than they were when they started.
I see it all the time and everywhere. In families, marriages, friendships, politics, and the workplace. People going head-to-head and toe-to-toe, often with the best intentions to reach a resolution, only to find that their attempts to discuss it make things worse.
If all these people knew that there is a simple, almost magical thing they can do to reach through the conflict, connect with the other person, and forge forward, I’m sure that they would do it right away.
As she slumped in her chair, Barbie realized that she was perseverating on her own point of view. She became aware of how angry she was at Tim for not listening and not seeming to care how she felt. Then suddenly, a lightbulb went on in her head, and she said,” Tim, please tell me again why you refuse to spend the holiday weekend with my family.”
Validation is not about compromising your own point of view. It’s not about giving in. It’s not about manipulation, or agreeing, or even resolving. Validation is something that can happen in one sentence, in one moment. It’s a blip that occurs in a conversation that can make all the difference in where that conversation goes.
“As I already explained multiple times, I cannot stand being around your brother that long,” Tim explained. “He is the most boorish, obnoxious, unpleasant person I have ever met. He will ruin the holidays for me, and I don’t want our children around him,” Tim repeated with exasperation.
Keep reading, because validation has not happened yet. Barbie is, however, listening intently to Tim’s words, looking directly into his eyes as he talks. This is something she did not do for the entire hour of their previous conversation.
“I get it,” Barbie said. “I totally understand why you feel that way.”
This was the moment of validation. If you were watching this conversation happen between Barbie and Tim, you would see Tim’s angry posture slightly relax as he took in Barbie’s words. At that moment, he feels unexpectedly heard and understood. He feels validated.
To validate someone is not at all the same as agreeing with them. It’s only a way to say that you understand their feelings. That one moment of understanding has the power to change the course of your interaction, sending you on the road to a resolution.
Change to a listening posture. Listen to what the person is saying, and try to grasp the feelings behind it. When Barbie did this, she realized that Tim finds her brother far more offensive than she does. She puts a realization together in her head: Tim didn’t grow up with her brother and doesn’t understand him as she does. Tim takes her brother’s behavior at face value and is greatly offended by it.
Tell the other person you understand why they would feel that way. You don’t need to say, “I feel the same way,” “I agree,” or “You are right.” You only need to say that you get it.
When you give someone a moment of validation, you are accomplishing several goals simultaneously. You are establishing a meeting-of-the-minds, you are connecting, and you are helping the other person open up to your point of view as well.
People who feel validated are far more open to the opinions of others. Now that Barbie has validated Tim’s feelings, he will be far more able to hear what she has to say, and imagine what she is feeling.
If you grew up with a lack of validation yourself (Childhood Emotional Neglect, or CEN), you will likely have a hard time validating others, especially during times of conflict or anger. Yet validation has the power to turn a negative cycle into a positive one.
To learn many more ways to improve your relationships with the people you care about, see my new book, Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children.
To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, see my first book Running on Empty No More.
Who hasn’t, at some moments of their life, wondered what it’s all for?
What’s the point?
Why am I here on this earth?
What am I supposed to be doing?
Does anything really matter?
I have noticed that some people struggle more than others with these questions.
And I’ve also realized that there seems to be something about growing up emotionally neglected that predisposes you even more to this struggle.
“But what could that possibly be??!” you may be wondering, just as I have wondered for years.
Today, I’d like to share my best answers to all of these questions. Of course, I don’t claim to know the meaning of life. But I can surely talk about what makes life feel meaningful.
These two important life factors offer keys to the struggle for purpose and meaning that many emotionally neglected people experience. When your feelings are under-validated as a child (CEN), you grow up pushing away, questioning, or numbing out your own emotions. This leads to 3 special challenges when it comes to feeling, as an adult, that your life is meaningful.
a) It leaves you feeling, on some level, that you’re not fully alive.
b) The feelings that should be informing you about what matters to you are not available enough.
c) Feelings are a source of passion and direction. A shortage of these messages from within may leave you feeling lost and alone.
Now back to the first sentence: “the most painful but most directly fixable.” Yes, it is true.
What’s the best fix for all of this? Welcome your emotions back into your life.
I have seen over and over again that these three deceptively simple steps can make a huge difference in how important your life feels to you.
I know it may be hard to believe, but to me, it’s abundantly clear:
The fuel of life is feeling. If we’re not filled up in childhood, we must fill ourselves as adults. Otherwise, we will find ourselves running on empty.
To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, how it happens and how to recover from it, see my books Running Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships and Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect , and Take The Emotional Neglect Test for free.
This article was originally published on psychcentral.com. It has been updated and republished here with the permission of the author and psychcentral.