The 5 Greatest Myths About Emotional Neglect

Of the hundreds of psychological and emotional conditions, Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is, in my opinion, among the least widely understood.

That’s because we have spent decades talking about and studying the negative things that can happen to a child. As we’ve done all of this vital and important work, we have overlooked, and essentially ignored, an equal but opposite force: what fails to happen for a child.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (or CEN): A parent’s failure to respond enough to a child’s emotional needs.

Here are five natural, automatic assumptions that are frequently held and expressed, even by mental health professionals.

5 Common CEN Myths

Myth 1 — CEN is a form of child abuse.

This has been the default assumption of many people for many years. In professional articles and research studies, Emotional Neglect is typically lumped in with the various forms of child abuse. It’s assumed that all of these forms of childhood mistreatment belong in the same category, and have similar effects upon the child.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth. While abuse is a parental act; something a parent does to a child, Emotional Neglect is a parent’s failure to act. The emotionally neglectful parent may never hit the child or call her (or him) a name. A mother (or father) simply fails to notice or respond enough to her child’s emotional needs.

Not only does CEN happen differently, it also has different and distinct effects. Since the cause and effects are all different from abuse, the path to healing is also different.

Myth 2 — CEN happens more often in single-parent, divorced, or widowed families.

Contrary to how logical this assumption may seem, it’s not at all true. CEN is not about the number of available parents, or even the time available to spend with parents. It’s a matter of the emotional quality of the parent/child connection. Does the parent truly know the child on a deeply personal, emotional level? Does the parent notice, validate and respond to the child’s feelings? Does the parent teach the child how to tolerate, manage and express her emotions? These emotional aspects of parenting are not necessarily related to whether a parent is single or married.

In fact, many single parents are aware that their single parenthood, divorce, or loss has affected their children, and take extra care to notice what their children are feeling and support them.

Myth 3 — CEN is not as damaging as abuse.

It is true that CEN causes a different set of challenges than the experience of childhood abuse. But it’s not true that the effects of abuse are worse.

CEN is a quieter, less visible childhood experience than abuse so, as you might expect, its effects are quieter and less visible. But this is also what makes its effects more pernicious. Those who experience abuse will be impacted by it. They will grow up feeling perhaps violated, unsafe, and mistrusting. They may struggle to feel emotionally (or even physically) safe in relationships.

The effects of CEN are more like carrying around a weight. The CEN child must push away his emotions. In adulthood, he lacks access to this highly connecting, grounding, and enriching part of his life. He finds himself living in a gray world, feeling alone. Since he likely can’t recall the subtle and invisible emotional neglect from his childhood, he feels innately flawed. He assumes that he is to blame for these struggles.

Myth 4 — CEN is the result of a lack of love from your parents.

Ironically it’s often the most loving parents who emotionally neglect their children. This is because love and emotional attention are not the same thing and do not naturally go together.

In my experience, the single factor that most predicts a parent’s likelihood of emotionally neglecting her children is not whether she loves them. It’s having been raised with Emotional Neglect herself.

Myth 5 — All therapists know about CEN and how to treat it.

Virtually every therapist understands the foundation of CEN: that when a child’s emotional needs are not met, the child will suffer negative effects into adulthood.

However, there is far more to the concept of CEN than this general foundational point.  What are the specific effects of CEN? Exactly how and why do they happen? How do you know when a patient has CEN? How do you treat CEN specifically? The answers to these questions are not common knowledge in the professional mental health community. Nor have they been the subject of research. My goal is to change this in the near future.

The Takeaway

CEN is real. When your parents fail to respond sufficiently to your emotional needs, it does not matter why. It leaves a mark on you as you grow into your adulthood. This mark you share with others who grew up in a similar way. This mark can be healed.

CEN can be invisible when it happens and also hard to remember once you grow up. To find out if you grew up with it Take The Emotional Neglect Test. It’s free!

To see a list of therapists who understand CEN, visit the Find A CEN Therapist List.

To learn much more about how to reclaim your feelings and use them, see the book Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.

Jonice

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Michelle - July 23, 2021 Reply

Someone had the wisdom to post some time ago an analogy that has helped me put my CEN into perspective and I thank her very much.
Her analogy went something like this:
Going back home to visit with parents and expecting things to be different now that I have an understanding of my CEN is like going to the hardware store in search of bread. I can search all over the store and never find the bread. I can leave and return still looking for bread but I will never find bread at the hardware store. Eventually, I will learn not to look for bread at the hardware store and just accept that it won’t be there, but I can go in and look around at the items they do have and maybe find something I can use.
I will be 55 in October and I think I have finally let go of trying to please my parents. My husband of 30 years and I are empty nesters. He has been very supportive of my journey and I am looking forward to the next 30 with him and not worrying about what Mom and Dad think.
I can walk past the hardware store now and just window shop and be happy with all the things in my life.

    Jonice - July 25, 2021 Reply

    I love that analogy and I’m glad it gives you understanding and solace. Thank you for sharing it!

Peter - July 20, 2021 Reply

Thank you so much for just recognizing and talking about CEN. My parents hardly ever talked to me. Especially my mother. I learned to suppress my emotions. When I was 13 I started feeling so abnormal. I just didn’t know what normal was. I started to get angry and frustrated about it. I of course kept it to myself. My parents were very kind to many people and always got excited when they were with other people. Well on two separate occasions I happen to run into 2 different college students that knew my parents. They recognized me but I didn’t them. They both told me I had the most wonderful parents in the world. Well I of course came to conclude my anger was bad and had to be stopped. A few days later I woke up and could see this tall black wall and at the top was a light. I knew that my parents were on top in the light and I could not see them and had no access to them. This my way of resolving it. Allow them to be good and suppress all my emotions Which I did. There are other times where I suppressed my emotions. I got married but of course have had a very difficult time sharing how I feel even after 44 years of marriage. My wife had 3 kids and wanted to have another child with me but I didn’t want to pass on this awful baggage so we did not have a child. Me and the youngest child who was 2 1/2 when we met hit it off. I found I could express my emotions with her and it was safe. It was wonderful. When she was 13 we had to discipline her for something she did. Her birth dad came over to talk about the discipline. During the conversation the thought suddenly hit me, who am I that her real dad has to argue with me. I gave in of course. Well she left with her dad and I collapsed on the floor and began to weep. I pounded the floor and kept saying, you idiot you have no right to those feelings. I spent many years after that trying to erase all those memories as I had no right to them. This feels so good just to be able to say this!!!

Karen - July 19, 2021 Reply

Our mom died when I was 12. My brother was 6 and our sister was nine. Our dad wanted us to have a mother, so he married a woman with 2children, and we 4 moved to their house.
Our stepmother was abusive and emotional neglecting of us 3. Less abuse on me as I was close to high school graduation, but still I see it’s effects on me. Our dad didn’t recognized CEN, of course, but eventually divorced this unhappy marriage and abusive parenting. But this had my brother in the step family from age 8 to his teen years. Our sister would not leave the stepmother and has been estranged from my brother and I for decades. I think that there is no closure from CEN and it affects, but you can heal alot with therapy and introspection.
This was a short version of my CEN story. It took me ten years in counseling for me to cry telling it–I was just trying to cope by burying my overwhelmed emotions for so many years.

Joe126 - July 19, 2021 Reply

“Neglect is a form of rejection,” someone wrote above. That rings true. Being ignored, not listened to, having your feelings and opinions dismissed or disregarded as unimportant, all that hurts in the long run when it happens routinely for years and years growing up. You end up feeling like you don’t matter. Then you might even treat others in a similar way. We all want to be listened to, respected, and treated like we matter. We need that to be healthy.

    Jonice - July 19, 2021 Reply

    Well sad, Joe126. All very true.

Kara - July 18, 2021 Reply

“The effects of CEN are more like carrying around a weight. The CEN child must push away his emotions. In adulthood, he lacks access to this highly connecting, grounding, and enriching part of his life. He finds himself living in a gray world, feeling alone. Since he likely can’t recall the subtle and invisible emotional neglect from his childhood, he feels innately flawed. He assumes that he is to blame for these struggles.”

This is a quote from the article above and sums up perfectly what my experience has been. The weighty feeling, the aloneness, the blame and the grayness together limit one’s potential in all areas of life. Thanks Dr Webb for so articulately describing the daily reality of CEN.

Sandra - July 18, 2021 Reply

Hello all,

I would like to share an excerpt from: “The Tao of Feeling – Harvesting Forgiveness Out of Blame” by Pete Walker, M.A., a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping individuals recover from growing up in dysfunctional families.

The following is quoted from Chapter 5: “The Four Essential Processes of Grieving”. “HOW REASON CIRCUMVENTS GRIEVING” (pages 101-102):

“The rational mind can be a tremendous obstacle to recovery. When its logic and reason are enlisted in the service of denial, the thinking mind finds innumerable reasons and ways to short-circuit the grieving process.”

“Americans (Note: Pete is American) are very practiced at convincing themselves that their pain should be dismissed. They routinely trivialize and dismiss their hurts and losses by comparing them to the more dramatic misfortunes of others. Starving children and homeless people are routinely invoked as reasons for disavowing painful feelings.”

“We are also commonly talked out of our pain by being told how much worse we could have it…”

“Using comparisons to rationalize pain away is like ignoring termites in the back porch because the unfortunate neighbours have termites throughout their whole foundation. When pain is ignored because it does not register high enough on the Richter scale of compassion, it does not magically resolve itself. Banished from awareness, it works away destructively in the unconscious as do the termites in the ignored porch.”

“There are many other ways of silencing grief that pass unchallenged as conventional wisdom. …statements like: “Dwelling on it only makes it worse…” “Do something to help someone who is worse off than you!”…”Don’t wallow! Occupy yourself with something productive.”

“Many of us recite these homilies to ourselves in times of pain and, with the best of intentions, pass the same injurious advice on to others. Unfortunately, this advice is hard to challenge because it sounds so rational. Yet it is nothing less than the destructive tyranny of logic over feeling, mind over soul.”

Sending you all kindness, compassion and love.

    Jonice - July 19, 2021 Reply

    Wonderful, helpful words. Thanks for sharing them, Sandra!

Gladeye - July 18, 2021 Reply

I was never told I was anything. No one encouraged any talents or interests. I’ve often held jobs that were beneath my potential, because I am so afraid of failing and disappointing others. I am afraid of most other people (though they would never know), because I’m so fragile. The slightest criticism sends me on a downward spiral. I feel like I’m shell shocked.

    Jonice - July 19, 2021 Reply

    Dear Gladeye, I encourage you to connect with a qualified therapist and allow someone to support and guide you to learn your own strengths and needs and feelings. You deserve to feel better and there are people who can help. Check the Find A Therapist List on this website!

KT - July 25, 2016 Reply

Thank you all for sharing your stories, it’s like a mirror into my own life. Feels like I have grown up into an adult robot due to being raised CEN. Like Sally, I have acquaintances, but no true friends. I don’t feel lonely, but I know I should. I’ve been told over and over by romantic partners that I’m cold, aloof, unemotional, even during times when I was trying my hardest to be a good partner. At work, it’s like I’m invisible. Etc.

My parents were both physically/emotionally/verbally abusive and also completely aloof. I can’t remember one time receiving a hug or an “I love you” unless there was an audience. “Bad” behavior was swiftly and often violently reacted to, and everything else ignored. Like someone said above, sometimes I wasn’t sure what i was being punished for. But unlike others, I have never mistaken their behavior as “normal” love. I knew I wasn’t loved. I also know that I’ve never developed the capacity to love others. If parents were in a bad mood, there was punishment regardless of behavior, if they were in good moods, we were ignored. I was a straight A student but never received any praise for that. If I got a B, I was lambasted until all hours of the night. I actually preferred, while growing up, to be ignored because at least there was some peace in that.

You may be saying, this is just abuse, not CEN, but I was raised to be seen and not heard. My parents often ate their big meal during the day at work (their employer provided a huge cafeteria at night) and weren’t hungry at dinnertime. If they weren’t hungry, in their minds, my brother and I didn’t need to eat b/c we must not be hungry either. My birthday was often ignored. My mother had a hysterectomy when I was 10, so that by the time I got my first period, she was “over” that part of her life and left me to deal with it on my own. It never occurred to her that I might need guidance b/c it was over for her. She actually resented when I asked for her help, so I only asked one time, then felt too guilty to ask anymore. I had to procure my own feminine supplies at age 12, without an allowance or transportation into the city, which meant mostly stealing them out of the houses of friends/relatives. Not my proudest moments, but otherwise i had to stuff paper towels in my pants. These are just 2, but by far not the only 2, examples off the top of my head where I didn’t feel like a real person with real needs. My father told me when I was 25 that he didn’t consider me a real person until I turned 18. He seemed surprised when I told him that little kids have feelings and needs just like adults. At least that was some validation that it wasn’t all in my head.

I was not allowed to ask for things b/c that was a sign that I was selfish and stingy. Hungry? Keep it to yourself. Need hygiene products? Go without. Have a bad day? No one cares, who do you think you are? Having an issue in school? Deal with it on your own. Angry about something? You must have mental issues. Happy about something? It got taken away. I learned to keep all issues and emotions to myself, which eventually led to violent outbursting as an adult. It had to come out sometime, some way. Again, not proud of that behavior, but I didn’t know what was going on.

In the end, the only thing to do was withdraw as much as possible, keep a low profile to avoid punishments or abuse, and wait to turn 18. Am I still messed up at 40? Yes. But I know none of it was my fault, and I’m better able to deal with “this is what it was, and this is how it is.” They were raised exactly the same, developed zero empathy, were expected to have multiple children by society at the time, but without the capability to reflect on how to be a better parent than their parents were. What is the point of being mad at people who don’t even know they’ve done anything wrong? They ruined the first 2 decades of my life, I refuse to let them take the next 30 or 40. I don’t feel depressed or unhappy so maybe I’m one of the lucky ones? I do feel like I can’t tether a partner into my personal dysfunction, though, I have chosen not to bring children into this mess, and for the most part, not be involved in romantic relationships, seeing as how I just hurt the other people over and over. I’m healthy, strong, independent and living life how I want to at this moment, so at least something good came from all of the chaos.

Sorry so long, just needed to vent.

    azannie - September 2, 2016 Reply

    KT, I had the same experience with my mother when I was 12 and began menstruating. I told her and all she said was ‘how cute’ and that was it. No help from her, no offer of products. I went on to have many embarrassing episodes for the next year or so until my PE teachers at school became involved. My dad was quiet, as me and my brothers are now, which for me is excruciating, and my mother was the one who handed out the discipline. I have problems of being way too over sensitive now and it gets worse as I get older. To the point now of my having trouble keeping a job because of being an introvert and being over sensitive about it. I do have a daughter and I fear that I have done some damage to her but I was always involved when that ‘time’ began when she turned 12. I always said my kid or kids were going to be raised differently than I was but I wasn’t touchy feely and my daughter has acknowledged this because I have mentioned that there was none of that while I was growing up. Glad you are healthy and strong and living the life the way you want it. Me? I’m flailing..not doing well.

Sally - July 20, 2016 Reply

After reading Soulfulpsy’s professional response, I sat for a while thinking about what was said and the affects of CEN along with overt abuse. Also, I thought about Sandybrook’s comment, ‘I can’t believe you are sane.’ The following is part of my life story.

I believe deeply that if a neglected and overtly abused child, such as myself, is shown love from another source then, that is the one factor that may prevent the child from going insane….

I was blessed to have a grandfather who loved me with all his heart and soul; I loved him equally as much, too. I was nine when he died and I was grief stricken! I went to his grave every week with flowers and the time spent there with him was in the beginning painful and yet a great comfort to me too. I did this for at least the first two years or more after his death when, I then believe that I had come to terms with his loss and had healed. I was able to move on.

I was blessed to have a grandad like mine and to hold such beautiful childhood memories of the many times shared with him. Every time we saw each other he fussed over me and held me in the most loving of ways. Every moment spent in his company were the best moments of my childhood. Grandad made me feel loved and wanted. He made me feel special and whole. We delighted in each other’s company. He had a cheeky side to his nature and we had fun together… we were both silly and sometimes naughty together. To this very day when I think of him I feel a warm glow inside and I still smile at those memories… they’re like flowers that blossom in my mind

Things at home were not good, but at the same time and for the first nine years of my life, I did know love and acceptance. I believe that my brain was being wired in a positive way thoughout those vital and tender years because of my grandad. In essence it helped counter balance the damaging affects of ongoing abuse that was going on at home. Although I have some awful memories of my past and have struggled for the best part of my life, I did know love.

Love is powerful!

Bless you grandad… you were simply the best x

Jill - July 20, 2016 Reply

Wow This is so eye opening. I’m now 66 and just figuring out why I am the way I am. I also know I did this to my kids, especially my first born daughter. Makes me feel sick. I am trying to make up for it while trying to get past feeling bitter about feeling so alone as a kid. My generation was raised by parents who thought children were to be seen and not heard.

Matt Foley's Twin - July 20, 2016 Reply

I was married to a spouse whom I suspect experienced CEN. She was good a superficial relationships and the platitudes and false praise that come with such relationships. But in her relationships with other adults and children/step-children she appeared to be unable to attain any type of emotional intimacy. As others have experienced; no empathy or compassion, and strange as it seems; no happiness or (significant) sadness. The primary/guiding “feelings” were fear, bitterness, and disappointment/intolerance. Family members were seen generically (my husband, my boyfriend, my daughter), as opposed to unique individuals with feelings of (including fears), of their own.

Soulfulpsy (David E. Roy, Ph.D.) - July 19, 2016 Reply

My experience as a therapist with clients for whom emotional neglect is a major theme of childhood is that they often feel half or all invisible…like the Cheshire cat in Alice and Wonderland (without the malevolent smile). Of course, the worst pattern is one that alternates neglect and intense attention. (“What must I do to get more attention?? What can I do to get away far enough to breathe??) Neglect, as with overt abuse, does tremendous damage to the sense of self-worth: “I can’t be worth much if I am ignored all the time.” That is compounded if there is a doted upon sibling. Neglect is a form of rejection, and we are (as a primate) social creatures. Safety is being in the group; rejection is tantamount to death, emotionally speaking. The work of Allan Schore (the neuroscience of the attachment period) shows what happens with things go wrong (e.g., the development of the infant’s brain is driven by the interactions with the mother and later the father). Darcia Narvaez and her colleagues have assembled a great deal of information about childcare for the small band hunter gatherer groups. The first three years is functionally an external womb because human infants have to be born with the brain only 25% developed in order to be born at all. Three years + of close, attentive, nurturing, physical connection. That is a lot to give up.

    Matt Foley's Twin - July 20, 2016 Reply

    Thank you soulfulpsy! As a therapist, do you find those who experience CEN tend to re-cast it as “normal” and then approach parenting/caregiving via the same dysfunctional tools?

      Soulfulpsy (David E. Roy, Ph.D.) - July 22, 2016 Reply

      I would say that virtually everyone I’ve had the privilege to work with has normalized their childhood, usually until a real contrast is available. Early in life, we have no comparison; this is how life is. It may not feel good, but it is “normal.” Normal is a statistical term and it actually means the average; it is often equated with healthy. But what is “normal” in an alcoholic family is far from healthy. When children (or adults) start to recognize that what was done (or not done) to and for them was abusive, this is the time that change can start (or, if already started, accelerate). I also believe we must be born with the need to see our parents as wanting to do good, to love and care for us, despite the reality of what actually happens. My experience is that those people who are too frightened to be critical of their parent’s treatment, who want to hold on to the belief that they deserved their treatment, are more likely to do the same thing to their children. But people also can be surprising, so I would never suggest that it was inevitable.

    Moira - July 20, 2016 Reply

    Not sure of age but probably about 6 or 7. I was in the back yard. It was summer and I had shorts on. My mom came out hollering, broke a branch off something and by the time she finished hitting my legs, they were bleeding. I never knew what I did or didn’t do to set her off. She told me to get in the bathroom and get that red out of my face before my dad came home and saw it (or else I would get worse). She opened the bathroom door, threw in a pair of slacks and told me to cover those legs. I asked myself how someone could do this to someone they loved. I thought moms love kids and can’t do this to someone they loved. Then the “light bulb” went off. Of course, that meant I wasn’t lovable because moms love kids. There was more. As a young teen, when my dad was away fishing, she slapped me across the face, scratched my face and arms, ending up with smashing a dining room chair over my head. Then told me to go to bed. I had been out front talking to a friend and did not see that she was turning the porch light on and off as a signal for me to get in the house. Guess, I don’t have to talk about how that affected me. Sadly, I married young (ran away to do do) to an alcoholic who was abusive when I did not do just what he wanted and said. Once threw a pot of hot stew at me while I was feeding a son his bottle. He was mad because he wanted my kids cleaned up, fed, etc. before he got home and wanted only his wife at the dinner table. And yes, I finally divorced him too many years later and one more child, my fifth. Sad, because now, I can see where at times, I emotionally neglected my kids in that I didn’t dig into what they were feeling. My youngest daughter (who was 4 at the time of the divorce) said I did things (such as putting a sachet under her pillow on hot nights so that she could sleep), that I said I loved my kids but never said I loved her. My oldest daughter once told me that she told a psychologist that she wished she had a different kind of mother. I was not brave enough to ask her what kind she wanted. While I have hugged and kissed my kids, I have never been the touch, feely type of person. I joke that I missed the “gush” gene. Wish I could go back and change things. Going back to school, then working full time took me more away from them. My second job after graduation had me working 11 to 15 hours a day setting up a department and my two youngest were in high school. I know I neglected them.

Sally - July 18, 2016 Reply

My dad was a violent alcoholic and the physical abuse from him was traumatising. I was kicked down stairs, punched on the head and hit with such violence that my little body was covered in bruises… this went on throughout the whole of my childhood until I was 18.

Mum wasn’t a hitter, but she hit me with her words on a deep level and left me feeling bad inside. Her lack of empathy, and affection, as well as chronic invalidation ( her normal respnse) of my feelings was equally, if not, more damaging than the physical abuse. As a young girl/woman I struggled to identify with my feelings. I’ve gone through the biggest part of my life not realising what had happened to me and struggling with depressions and failed relationships.

My ex husband said that I wouldn’t know affection if it came along and kicked me on the butt… hard words, yet other’s said I was a very affectionate and giving person. Very confusing! Sad also that I needed other’s to approve of me and to tell me who I was. I can say that I know a great many people on an aquaintance level but, I’ve never been able to form close relationships. I’m a chatty, friendly and caring person, but some have said that they can only get so far with me and then they feel a block. I couldn’t share deeper issues because I didn’t know how to or, indeed, what I was feeling in the first place. In fact it was alien to me. If someone said that I needed to open up I wouldn’t have a clue what they were talking about. Emotions to me were as elusive as a butterfly. Neither did I have any sense of who I am as a person.

It’s been a very painful life for me feeling so confused and living life on the outside and not fitting in and deep withing I felt flawed and bad. When I began to get in touch with my deeper emotions and open up, I was met with scorn and judgements from those I trusted. Now I’m very wary of people. A therapist once said that I need to marry up emotions with my head. What? I hadn’t a clue what she was talking about. There are too many traumas that are buried deep withing my soul and psyche. A clinical psychologist told me that it’s better not to start unearthing the deep traumas because she felt that I’d have a complete breakdown. I think she was right.

So here I stand; a senoir citizen who can now relate and embrace myself with a sense of understanding and knowing. I’ve learned so much but it’s taken a lifetime to get there. I thank you all for sharing and thank you too Dr. Webb for posting your very informative and enlightening article which each help me to understand more each day. Bless You!

Finally, in response to the posting at the top by SCI …. You haven’t a clue!!!

    Suzaniam - July 18, 2016 Reply

    Hi, Sally
    I didn’t get the physical abuse, until I married at 16. I also have Social Phobia. All my life I have pushed myself to do what was expected and “normal”, because I thought that was the only way to conquer my fears. I am almost 54 now, and 5 times during my life I have felt like I was making progress, then it was ripped away with another catastrophe, making my life a constant rollercoaster. I’m glad you have finally figured it out, I hope someday I will get peace. And SCI, to be so flippant about the answer to raising less troubled kids, and a better society as a whole isn’t important enough for you, (Oh my gosh you didn’t think of that!) Then keep your trap closed!

    Anna - July 18, 2016 Reply

    Me too Sally. My basic needs were met, but I was never ‘seen’. I learnt to be invisible———- my very exsitance irritated mother. I was a ‘burden’ ‘If it wasn’t for you, we’d be happy, you’re the one that ruins everything’I was told regularly. I hated myself. Bit myself till I bled. I was five.
    I see things clearly now I’m 50. All those wasted years thinking I was faulty. Gee. Thanks mommy dearest.

    Sandybrooke - July 20, 2016 Reply

    Wow what a powerful story I can’t beleive you are sane. I wish I knew you. I am a therapist because my life was like yours full of abuse. My mother was calm and unemotional and would not validate my emotional pain with my father she was afraid too. Keep on loving yourself sandy brooke

nan - July 17, 2016 Reply

This is so true!! I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Both my parents were emotionally absent. I was alone alot. Even though there were 6 siblings. Clothing, dinners, Christmas Easter were all celebrated together. But Dad was quite, didn’t chat with us, mom was too busy with relatives, terminally ill parents and her hobbies. I was extremely intelligent, bright alert yet not any interest in my education. I thought I was just an independent kid! There was absolutely no interest in me as a person. They never contributed to my accomplishments nor admired them. I was totally on my own. Well dressed, groomed, good nutrition, vacation to cottage country, part of a large family with love, but I was thinking and problem solving.as an adult when I was 12.

Sci - July 17, 2016 Reply

Isn’t this just another silly first world problem? “Waah, waah, my parents didn’t give me enough hugs and attention now I’m broken emotionally”. Meanwhile people experience real, life-threatening abuse or circumstances so harrowing they barely survive day to day. You don’t hear third world kids complaining about not being “emotionally acknowledged”; they have problems like getting enough food or water.

    Jonice Webb PhD - July 17, 2016 Reply

    Dear Sci, it is this way of thinking that continues to motivate me to write about Childhood Emotional Neglect. Thank you for your comment and take care.

      mia kulper - July 21, 2016 Reply

      Thank you. I just turned 64 years old and not to blame my mommy and whine, I am standing on the outside & looking at the adult I am and seeing a little child that breaks my heart. As a mom, I’ve been in both roles and with maturity I can empathize with the little me. In perspective, I also see my mom as her mama’s child and see where it impacted her. I am talking about people who adored their moms/who thought they were the greatest. And then as life unfolds , the truth becomes apparent in one’s own relationships and personality. Too often we mimic what we learn because if someone treated us in that manner but loved us then that must be the way to do it. Since I raised four kids and no doubt repeated some of those very same patterns, I’d like if nothing else to try to pass on some wisdom to them to rethink the norm and to also know that omission as well as commission can do harm without malice. Every child is different/some are more resilient than others. For the first world/third world problem people, why is it that everyone who thinks differently than you is a narcissist? Geez, it’s become the favorite dialog stopper after”racist”.

    Noni - July 18, 2016 Reply

    this could have been written by my mother who has no empathy or compassion for anyone who is not mentally robust and focused. At age 17 I had anorexia and was given a plate of toast by her and told to just eat it.
    Do you not compute that brushing away people with emotional issues can lead to their depression. Then look at the actions of some people with depression that can impact very badly on a wider spectrum.

    Put yourself in their shoes=empathy - July 18, 2016 Reply

    SCI,
    You made a comprehension mistake in your comment bud. Even those kids you speak of in your comment ( the third world kids)are experiencing NEGLECT of food and water. ITS NEGLECT. Did the light bulb turn on yet and you realize it’s the same concept you explained. NEGLECT is NEGLECT with the same results no matter what the medium is that gets neglected. IT NEGLECT. No water = NEGLECT No food = NEGLECT No love = NEGLECT So you contradicted yourself in your own comment. Your comment is a classic statement from a full blown Narcissist. This is not a complex idea or concept, SCI. It is very simple and logical, SCI. I would recommend you look up the word NEGLECT then voice your opinion…Just looking out for ya, bud 😉 lol

    Anna - July 18, 2016 Reply

    Sci. A very ill informed response. A child needs shelter, food, clothing. The psysical basics provided. But expensive toys etc can only be half the story.
    A child also needs love, warmth, hugs, cuddles, needs to be ‘seen’
    Take a baby. New neurons developing every day responding to touch,cuddles, eye contact. Learning stability, how to respond, being taught how to socialise with others.
    Consider those Romanian orphans, the material basics provided, but no love. The lack of loving contact has a devastating effect on their mental health. A emotionally neglected child has a different brain from one who has been loved. It shows on brain scans.

    chele - July 20, 2016 Reply

    First Worlders have NO excuse for ignoring their children.
    If First World children fail to develop healthy psychology, woe unto the rest of the planet.

      chele - July 20, 2016 Reply

      ‘No excuse’ unless they were deprived themselves..and then it takes years to figure out what’s ‘wrong’, then years to attempt to ‘reparent’ yourself, before/during which time the trauma of faulty decision-making and self-destructive habits take additional toll… Eventually we can become caring, functional human beings, even great successes (i.e. Robin Williams).

        Jill - July 20, 2016 Reply

        Robin Williams also killed himself after years of suffocating depression.

          Beth - July 20, 2016 Reply

          That is what was first released, and I greatly related to Robin. However, since then it has been revealed that he was just prior to his death diagnosed with a progressive degenerative illness, and that is believed to be the main reason why he sought a way out. Very sad, indeed.

          Cyn - July 19, 2021 Reply

          Robin Williams had Parkinson’s disease with severe pathology. It strained him beyond his ability to cope and he was already compromised with bipolar disorder.

          eden - July 21, 2021 Reply

          It is well-known that Robin Williams many characters and voices were created from a very lonely childhood.
          His parents were socially busy and he was often left alone with a sitter. He actually should be the poster child of CEN.

    sandra tapper - July 20, 2016 Reply

    We are not a third world country. And how are those kids in Sudan doing?

    jun - July 20, 2016 Reply

    Sci, amen….

    mia kulper - July 21, 2016 Reply

    Sci, you missed the point. It’s not hugs and attention or the lack thereof…..
    It’s the issue of recognizing the need of any child to be respected/to not have their reactions or thoughts invalidated. It’s a fine line/often parents dismiss things as silly when the child really needs someone to listen to what they are saying. Not necessarily endorse but listen. And react in a manner that shows the child they were heard. In many ways, it is mentoring a developing human being by taking them seriously. Good way to help your child deal with situations that arise in life as well as problem-solve for themselves on things that they will encounter again. If adults just dismissed the thoughts or emotions of their peers in the way we can inadvertently do to our kids, we would have no friends. The effect on the child as an adult are regrettable.

    balancebeam - August 1, 2016 Reply

    Dear Sci,
    It is not a contest. Unfortunately, there is more than enough suffering in this world for all. No child should every have to grow up lacking any basic nesesity. Along w/ food, water, and shelter, CARE is also one of basic human needs. I child who’s mind grows up with lack of care is just as malnurished as one who grows up with lack of proper physical nutrition…both will have about the same probability of not developing into a healthy adult.
    Also both childhood hunger and CEN are silent atrocities. If you read the article, you would noticed that there is no mention of “whining” involved.. In fact it clearly states that one of the hallmark symptoms of CEN is “silent suffering”. Our future generations need to be heard, not judged.

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