Tag Archives for " self-discipline "

3 Powerful New Years Resolutions Specially Designed To Heal Your Emotional Neglect

New Year’s Resolutions are a tricky business indeed. According to recent research, 80% of people drop theirs by the second week of February every year.

I think New Year’s Resolutions are even more difficult for those who grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). And for some very good reasons.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN): This happens when your parents fail to respond enough to your emotions while they are raising you.

3 Ways CEN Makes Keeping Your NY’s Resolutions More Difficult

  1. You likely struggle with self-discipline. Most emotionally neglectful parents, even the well-meaning ones, miss the importance of instilling healthy self-discipline skills in their children. So it’s no surprise that many with CEN struggle to make themselves do what they should do and to stop themselves from doing what they should not do. Your Resolutions are then threatened by an endless cycle of self-blame. “Why can’t I do the things other people can do? What is wrong with me?!”
  2. You under-value your own needs. Resolutions to eat healthily or go to the gym, for example, require you to pay attention to your own needs. If you grew up with your needs under-attended, you probably now struggle to pay attention to your own needs. This struggle can tank your efforts.
  3. You may question, on some deep level, whether you are worth the effort. A deep feeling of not being as valid as everyone else undermines your efforts to treat yourself as if you matter.

I know, I know, everything above sounds so negative. You may be feeling discouraged about setting resolutions for 2021. You may be wondering the classic CEN question: “Why bother?”

If so, good news! I have thought this through, and I have some answers for you.

First, set only one resolution. Trying to do more is distracting and can be overwhelming. Second, make resolutions that will be immediately rewarding and bring quick and positive results. That way, you will set up a positive cycle that will feed itself, becoming more and more powerful every day of the year.

3 Powerful CEN-Healing Resolutions for 2021

Purposely Look For Joy in Your Everyday Life

— Research has shown that Emotional Neglect in childhood slows the development of the ventral striatum in the brain. The ventral striatum is your brain’s reward center, so if it’s under-developed, the concept of feeling joy may seem like a distant one for you. But a remarkable thing:  I have asked many CEN people to start purposely seeking happiness and enjoyment, and I have watched it make a significant difference in their lives. You may find it in a small, rewarding task that you never gave much thought, a small child who smiles at you for no reason, or a beautiful orange leaf falling from a tree. At other times you may need to make something happen to bring yourself joy: call a friend, see a movie, schedule a trip, or take a day away. The more you choose joy, the more it will choose you. You will be setting yourself on a very rewarding path that will pay off in spades.

Your 2021 Resolution: I will find at least one moment of enjoyment in every day of this year.

Use More Feeling Words

When you have CEN, one of the most powerful ways of changing your life is to simply learn and use more emotion words every day. Using a word like dismayed, despondent, incensed, blissful, morose, bland, raw, depleted, wary, strained, deflated, perky, free, quiet, devoted, or feisty adds dimension and realness to your life. Both are necessary things that you were denied in your childhood. Making this change in the way you speak on the outside will change the way you think and feel on the inside. It will also carry the added bonus of improving the quality and depth of your relationships. It is a win-win-win at very little cost to you. You can find an exhaustive list of Feeling Words in the book Running on Empty, or you can download it from the Running on Empty Page of my website.

Your 2021 Resolution: I will use one new feeling word every day of this year.

Do The Three Things

— I designed this exercise to help people with CEN develop the pathways for self-discipline in their own brains. I do not have brain scans to prove that it works, but I can honestly assure you that it does. It is a way to give yourself the ability to make yourself do things you should do and to stop yourself from doing things you shouldn’t do. These two skills together form the foundation for all self-discipline. Overriding what you want to do or not do 3 times per day, in some small way, trains your brain to be able to do so in situations when you need to. The overrides do not need to be big. They can be very small and still count. You can learn more about this exercise in the book Running on Empty.

Your 2021 Resolution: Every day of this year I will, three times, in some small way, make myself do something I don’t want to do, or stop myself from doing something I should not do.

No matter where you go, and no matter what you do in 2021, you can re-program your brain and take control of your life. Keep it simple, take control, and find your joy. Take your needs seriously, and let yourself feel.

This will be your way to treat yourself to a changing, more positive life through 2021.

This will be your way to finally, definitively, realize, and believe that you are worth the effort. And you matter.

To find out if you have CEN, Take the Childhood Emotional Neglect Questionnaire. It’s free.

To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) and how to heal it to improve your relationships, see my new book, Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children.

4 Ways Childhood Emotional Neglect Can Take a Toll on Your Physical Health

In recent years, medical and psychological journals have been exploding with studies showing the close relationship between our bodies and our minds.

Study after study shows that the way we think and feel each day has a powerful effect on our health.

For example, carrying around negative feelings (like sadness, anger, hurt, or stress, for example), has been shown to increase the amount of inflammation in your body, which then affects the strength of your immune system which makes you more vulnerable to getting sick. — Jennifer E.Graham-Engelanda, et al.; Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 2018.

Another important study showed that people who are better at regulating their feelings, or in other words managing them, have overall better physical health than people who are not skilled in this way. — Yiying Song, et al., Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, 2014.

And yet another study that looked at how couples argue confirmed what has been shown in multiple other studies: being prone to angry outbursts makes you more prone to cardiovascular problems; and holding in your anger or hurt feelings in a conflict, (the researchers call this stonewalling) over time, is highly associated with back and muscular problems. — Robert Levenson, et al., Emotion, 2016.

This is only a very tiny sampling of the large body of research that proves the close relationship between how you treat your feelings and many aspects of your physical health.

This, of course, begs the question: Why aren’t we all actively trying to get better at managing our emotions so that we can improve our physical health? What’s stopping us? What is in the way?

As a psychologist, just like other therapists, I face these questions every single day. I see how people struggle with their own emotions, and I watch the effects of it all.

I also see that the most common reason people struggle with their feelings so much is Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN)

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) happens when your parents fail to respond enough to your emotions as they raise you. It is common and even happens in loving homes.

We are all born with our emotions biologically hardwired into us. They emanate from the base of our human brains and travel through special receptors into and through our bellies.

We all have emotions, whether we like it or not. We cannot choose to have feelings or not have feelings, and we cannot choose what we feel.

This is why, if you grew up with CEN, you may be unknowingly living with the effects of CEN, destined for physical problems that you could have prevented if only you had known.

Don’t be worried as you read this. Because you are about to know. And once you know, you can reverse it all.

3 Ways Childhood Emotional Neglect Harms Your Physical Health

  1. Internalization of anger can cause heart problems. As the Levenson study above shows, holding in your anger takes a toll on your heart. If you grow up in a household that is intolerant of your anger, ignores your anger, or fails to name, discuss or validate the reasons for your anger, you learn only one way to deal with it: wall it off. This may allow you to cope as a child, but it can harm your heart.
  2. Sensitivity to stress can cause back problems or headaches. What makes you sensitive to stress? Not dealing with your feelings. When you wall off your fear, your insecurity, your uncertainty, your anger, sadness, or hurt, those feelings do not go away. They simply pool together on the other side of the wall, waiting for something to touch them off. Then, when it happens, they all surge at you, making you feel overwhelmed and stressed. So going through your life with your feelings blocked makes you more sensitive to stress.
  3. Lack of self-awareness makes you vulnerable to poor habits. Families who don’t notice what their child is feeling miss getting to know their child on a deeply personal level. So they sadly remain unaware of who their child really is. I have seen, over decades of treating Childhood Emotional Neglect, that if your parents don’t see you, you do not learn that you are worth looking at. You grow up to be unaware of your own needs, and deep down you don’t realize that your needs even matter. You then are vulnerable to eating or sleeping too much or too little, drinking too much, or engaging in other behaviors that can harm your health.

3 Steps to Stop Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) From Harming Your Health

  1. Start paying attention to your feelings as you go through your day.
  2. Learn more emotion words and make an effort to use them, including naming your own feelings see the book Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect for an exhaustive list of feeling words).
  3. As you do steps 1 and 2 you will start to feel more. Now it is time to begin to actively take charge of your feelings. Work on learning the emotion skills: tolerating, identifying, and expressing your feelings.

As a therapist who specializes in Childhood Emotional Neglect, I help people stop allowing their unmanaged emotions to damage their lives and health every single day.

I have watched people go from a near-complete lack of awareness of their emotions and a deeply held belief that they don’t matter to not only feeling their feelings but being aware of them and actively managing them.

Amazingly, once we allow ourselves to feel, along comes with it a sense of being a real person with real needs, wants, opinions and value.

A real person who matters, and whose health matters. Someone who is worth caring for. And someone who cares.

Childhood Emotional Neglect can be invisible and unmemorable so it can be hard to know if you have it. To find out, see the author’s biography below this article for a link to Take the free Emotional Neglect Test.

To learn much more about how to feel your emotions and show yourself better self-care, see the books Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect and Running On Empty No More.

Three Amazing Ways You Can Re-Parent Yourself

The First Way – Compassionate Accountability

In my office, I’ve heard from clients stories of broken phones, punched walls, and even bent steering wheels. All in the name of anger.

At themselves.

For making a mistake.

What You Didn’t Get

When a parent sits down with a child who has behaved badly, used poor judgment, or made a mistake, and says, “Let’s figure out what happened,” that parent is teaching her (or his) child Compassionate Accountability.

e833b5092cf0013ecd0b470de7444e90fe76e6d21db7124997f2c3_640_parents-and-childBut many parents don’t know that it’s their job to teach their child how to process a mistake; how to sift through what happened and sort out what part of it belongs to circumstances, and what part belongs to the child. What can we learn from this? What should you do differently next time?

There is a balance between all of these factors which must be understood. The parent holds the child accountable, but also helps him (or her) understand himself and have compassion for himself and his mistake.

What To Give Yourself

If your parents were too hard or too easy on you for mistakes, or failed to notice them at all, it’s not too late for you now. You can learn Compassionate Accountability today. Follow these steps when you make a mistake.

  1. Remind yourself that you are human, and humans are not perfect. Everyone makes mistakes.
  2. Think through the situation. What went wrong? Are there things you should have known, or realized, or thought about? Those are the parts that you own. Those are where you’ll find the lessons for you to take away from this. Take note of what you can learn, and etch it into your memory. This can be the growth that results from your error.
  3. Have compassion for your humanness: Your age, your stress level, and the many factors that contributed to this mistake.
  4. Vow that next time you’ll use your new knowledge to do better. Then put this behind you.

The Second Way – Self-Discipline

We are not born with the ability to manage our impulses. Self-discipline is not something that you should expect yourself to have automatically. Self-discipline is learned. In childhood.

What You Didn’t Get

When parents have rules, and enforce them firmly and with love, they are naturally teaching their childre how to do this for themselves. Do your homework before you go out to play. Fill the dishwasher, even though you don’t want to. You are not allowed to have a second dessert. Balanced, fair requirements enforced with care by your parents teach you how, years later, to do this for yourself.

What To Give Yourself

If you struggle with self-discipline more than most other people, it does not mean that you are weak-willed or less strong than others. It only means that you didn’t get to learn some important things in childhood. Never fear, you can learn them now. Follow these steps.

  1. Stop blaming yourself for your struggles with self-discipline. When you accuse yourself of being weak or deficient, you make it harder to get a foothold on making yourself do things you don’t want to do, and on stopping yourself from doing things that you shouldn’t do.
  2. If you are too hard on yourself at times, chances are high that you also, at other times, go too far in the opposite direction. Do you sometimes let yourself off the hook when you don’t follow your own rules? This, too, is damaging.
  3. Use the Compassionate Accountability skills you are building by applying them each time you fall down on self-discipline.

The Third Way – Learn to Love the Real You

We all learn to love ourselves in childhood; that is, when things go well. When we feel our parents’ love for us, it becomes our own love for ourselves, and we carry that forward through adulthood.

What You Didn’t Get

We tend to assume that if our parents loved us, that’s enough. But it isn’t necessarily, at all. There are many different ways for a parent to love a child. There’s the universal type of parental love: “Of course, I love you. You’re my child.” Then there’s real, substantive, meaningful parental love. This is the love of a parent who really watches the child, really sees and knows the child, and really loves the person for who he or she truly, deeply is.

What to Give Yourself

Most people receive at least some of the first type of love. Far fewer receive the second type. Do you feel that your parents truly know the real you? Do they love you for who you are? Do you love yourself this way? Truly and deeply? If you sense something is missing in your love for yourself, it may be because you didn’t receive enough genuine, deeply felt love from your parents. But it’s not too late for you to get it. You can give it to yourself.

  1. Accept that it’s not your fault that your parents couldn’t love you in the way you needed.
  2. Start paying more attention to yourself. Who are you? What do you love and hate, like and dislike, care about, feel, think? These are the aspects of you that make you who you are.
  3. Pay special attention to what’s good about you. Make a list and keep adding to it. Are you a loyal friend? A hard worker? Dependable? Caring? Honest? Write down everything that occurs to you, even if it’s very small. Re-read the list often. Take these qualities in and own them. They are you.

Growing up with mostly Type 1 Love has a far more serious impact than you think. It’s highly correlated to not learning Compassionate Accountability and self-discipline. If you see yourself in this article, read more at EmotionalNeglect.com and the book, Running on Empty.