Childhood Emotional Neglect: Could I Have Experienced That?

Childhood Emotional Neglect. It's sneaky. The majority of people who have experienced this are unaware. In fact, some are likely to describe their childhoods as "happy" and "good." It's hard to pinpoint this, because emotional neglect isn't about what *did* happen. It's about what *didn't.*

Childhood emotional neglect (CEN) is simply a parent's failure to respond *enough* to a child's emotional needs. There are a variety of reasons this could happen and it doesn't mean that the parent was a "bad" parent. The parent may have been struggling with their own mental illness or grief, caregiving for a disabled or sick family member, or working so hard to make ends meet that they just didn't have the time or energy left over. The parent may have used a parenting style (authoritarian or permissive) with all of the best intentions, but that didn't attend enough to the emotional needs of their child. Or maybe they were emotionally neglected themselves, and didn't have the tools or knowledge for how to tend to their child's emotional needs. Even good parents can unintentionally neglect their child's emotional needs. But the ramification of childhood emotional neglect do tend to follow us into adulthood.

So how do you know if childhood emotional neglect might be impacting you? Here are some of the characteristics that the research by Dr. Jonice Webb has indicated individuals who experienced CEN might identify with:

-Feelings of Emptiness
-Fear of Being Dependent on Others
-Unrealistic Self-Appraisal (unable to identify strengths and areas of struggles, likes and dislikes, what is important to you, what you want, etc.)
-No Compassion for Self, Plenty for Others
-Shame, Self-Directed Anger, and Self-Blame
-Feeling Fatally Flawed (if people really know me, they won't like me)
-Difficulty Nurturing Self and Others
-Difficulty with Self-Discipline
-Difficulty Feeling, Identifying, Expressing or Managing Emotions

If you're curious about whether this might be present for you, I'd love to chat with you. Working with individuals who have experienced childhood emotional neglect is one of my specialties and passions.