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20 Questions to Raise Your Emotional Resilience

Will has no idea how he ended up in his career. In hindsight, he has some regrets….

Jonathan continually dates the wrong women, and then is completely shocked and devastated when they break up with him.

At the first sign of a problem in her pre-med program, Bella decided she wasn’t cut out for medicine and switched to a different major.

“I don’t care, whatever you’d like,” is Sandy’s standard answer whenever someone asks what she prefers.

If only Will knew that his true passion is helping others, he would never have become a computer coder.

If only Jonathan knew that he is actually very attractive and smart, he would choose different women to date, and be less vulnerable in his relationships.

If only Bella knew that her abilities in science far outweigh the small weakness she has in memorizing anatomy, she could have worked harder, hired a tutor, and continued on to become the thoracic surgeon she was meant to be.

If only Sandy knew what she likes, she wouldn’t be living in a house she doesn’t like, married to a man she doesn’t like, feeling trapped and depressed.

If only Will, Jonathan, Bella, and Sandy knew themselves, they would be less damaged by the challenges they encounter. They would have made better choices for themselves. They would be more resilient.

How Emotional Neglect Lowers Your Resilience

One of the most important qualities for resilience is self-awareness, or in other words, knowing who you are. What you like, what you feel, your strengths and weaknesses. Your preferences, needs, wishes, and proclivities. All of the positives and negatives, talents and faults, when all held in your own mind together, add up to a full and realistic, gut-held sense of who you are. That self-knowledge gives you strength and resilience, guides and informs you, and gets you through challenges, failures, and mistakes.

Sadly, a huge segment of the population lacks this level of knowledge about themselves. A huge segment of the population struggles through life mystified by why they do things, how they feel, and what they want. They give up on pursuits as soon as they hit a snag, make the wrong choices for themselves, and end up doing what everyone else wants.

How did these masses of people get this way? Why don’t they know themselves? Because as children, when they looked into their father’s or mother’s eyes, they did not see their true selves reflected there.

Their parents weren’t looking at all or were seeing only what they wanted to see, or saw a distorted picture of who their child really was. So all of these children grew up without the emotional attention and responses from their parents that would have told them so much about themselves. All of them grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN).

Can Will, Bella, Jonathan, and Sandy, as adults, gain the self-knowledge that they need to be resilient? The answer is yes. But they may need a little extra help and guidance along the way.

So I have compiled this list of 20 questions. Write down four answers for each one. If you can’t think of four on a particular item, skip it and keep it in mind until more answers occur to you. It may take days or weeks to search inside yourself for your truths. Be sure to honor the process and do not write down glib answers that you do not feel or cannot fully own. All of your answers must be real and true.

20 Questions to Improve Your Resilience

List Four Answers to Each Question:

  1. Things people do that make you angry
  2. Things in your life that you find the most tedious
  3. Life events that have helped to define you
  4. Things that you struggle with the most in your life
  5. Words that described you in high school
  6. Words that describe you now
  7. Things you feel passionate about
  8. People you love and care about the most and why, for each
  9. Things you must have in your life to be happy
  10. People you like the least
  11. Things people like about you
  12. Things you are insecure about
  13. Jobs you think you could do well at and like
  14. Jobs you would not like or would not do well at
  15. Skills or qualities that you definitely have
  16. Things you truly believe in
  17. Things you’re most afraid of
  18. Qualities you like about yourself
  19. Things you’re naturally good at
  20. Things you’re naturally bad at

My Closing Message To You

Will, Bella, Jonathan and Sandy, and all of you who cannot see yourselves, here is my message to you:

No, your parents were not looking. No, they did not see you. But that doesn’t mean that you are not worth seeing, or that you are not worth knowing. You are.

You deserve to be known and to be loved for who you really are. You deserve to look inside yourself and know, deep down, that all of your qualities and struggles add up to something real and good.

You deserve to look in the mirror and know that you are looking at someone who is strong, someone who will thrive, someone who is lovable, someone who you love.

To learn more about how Childhood Emotional Neglect happens, how it leaves you less emotionally resilient, and how to heal from it, see the book, Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.

Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN can be difficult to see and remember. To find out if you grew up with it Take The Emotional Neglect Test. It’s free.

Got Kids? 6 Ways to Make Them Emotionally Resilient

Noticing and responding to your child’s feelings is the deepest, most personal way that you can say, “I love you.”

As parents we want, more than anything, to do right by our children. We know that the way we treat our children matters.

But parenting is probably the most complex role any of us will ever have in our lives, and few of us enter parenthood fully equipped to meet all our children’s needs.

Especially when it comes to their emotional ones.

In truth, the way a child is treated emotionally by his parents determines how he’ll treat himself as an adult. For example, a child who does not receive enough realistic, heartfelt acknowledgment from his parents for his accomplishments may grow up with low self-esteem and little confidence in his own abilities.

You probably love your child “all the way to the moon and back,” as the classic children’s book says. But love simply isn’t enough. Because if you don’t attend enough to your child’s emotions, your child will feel ignored on some level, no matter how much attention you pay to him in other ways.

Emotions are literally a part of your child’s physiology. They are the most deeply personal, biological part of who he is. So noticing and responding to your child’s feelings is the deepest, most personal way for you to say, “I love you.”

Why It’s Hard

As a parent, it is not easy to know when and how to respond emotionally to your child. And it’s one hundred times harder when you grew up in a household that under-responded to your emotions (Childhood Emotional Neglect, or CEN).

As a psychologist who has worked with thousands of parents, I have seen firsthand that the best time to learn emotion skills is during your childhood. When your parents don’t have these skills, they can’t teach them to you. Then what do you do when it’s your turn to teach your kids?

Add to that challenge the fact that emotion hides behind behavior. It’s easier to get angry with a child who is sulking than to look for the underlying emotion that’s causing the behavior.

6 Ways to Raise an Emotionally Resilient Child

  1. Pay attention to who your child really is. Observe your child’s true nature–and reflect it back to her. What does your child like, dislike, get angry about, feel afraid of, or struggle with? Feed these observations back to your child in a nonjudgmental way so that your child can see herself through your eyes, and so that she can feel how well you know her.
  2. Feel an emotional connection to your child. Strive to feel what your child is feeling, whether you agree with it or not. Put the feelings into words for him and teach him how to use his own words to express them.
  3. Respond competently to your child’s emotional needs. Don’t judge your child’s feelings as right or wrong. Look beyond the feeling, to the source that’s triggering it. Help your child name and manage her emotion. Give her simple, age-appropriate rules to live by.
  4. Teach self-forgiveness by modeling compassion. When your child makes a poor choice or mistake, help him understand what part of the mistake is his, what part is someone else’s, and what part is the circumstance. That helps him figure out how to correct his mistake without feeling blame from you or automatically blaming himself.
  5. Show your child that you like as well as love her. It’s vital that your child not only knows but feels that you like and love her. Warm, caring hugs, laughter, and truly enjoying your child’s personality all go a long way toward conveying that feeling to your child. Knowing that she’s loved is not the same as feeling loved.
  6. Don’t miss small opportunities to give attention. Childhood is composed of many small emotional moments, and the more of these that you share, the better off your child will be when he or she grows up.

Wondering if you received enough emotional attention and true empathy as a child to give your children what they need? Since CEN is subtle and invisible, it can be hard to know if you grew up with it. Take the Childhood Emotional Neglect Test. It’s free.

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 .