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Emotional neglect in childhood is a common, unremarkable experience that happens in legions of homes with legions of children every single day. Many such families are loved and cared for in every way.
Actual Childhood Emotional Neglect Test
It is also a powerful, painful process that leaves its mark on the child who will grow up to suffer the results. The problem is exacerbated by the high probability that the child, now an adult, will not remember what went wrong.
Emotional neglect as a child or CEN occurs when your parents fail to notice and respond to your emotions and emotional needs sufficiently when they are raising you.
It doesn’t have to be a dramatic failure, although it can be in some families. In fact, it is often an extremely subtle, inconspicuous, unremembered failure that no one knows about.
In many families, parents simply do not notice that their child has feelings, are unable to appreciate their child’s feelings and cannot ask their child about his/her feelings. Not necessarily all the time, but too much of the time.
Believe it or not, this is all it takes to leave a mark of childhood emotional neglect on a child.
The variety of emotionally dysfunctional families is endless. They can be warm or cold, rich or struggling, loving or angry or depressed.
They can be with one parent, with two parents, or with a stay-at-home mum or dad. None of these things even matter. All that matters is that your parents don’t notice, don’t ask and don’t respond to your feelings sufficiently.
Just as every CEN family is different, so is every CEN adult. CEN people may look completely different from the outside, so different that they seem to have nothing in common. However, on the inside they have some unusual commonalities.
All CEN adults share a unique model of struggle that is so woven into their sense of self that most feel that everyone feels the same way.
10 characteristics of those who grew up with emotional neglect as children
- Feelings of emptiness
- Lack of self-awareness
- Poor compassion for themselves (probably a lot for others)
- Tendency towards guilt and shame
- Self-directed anger and self-blame
- Deep sense of their own inferiority or otherness
- Struggles with self-care
- Struggles with self-discipline
- Difficulty in identifying, naming and understanding how emotions work in self and others.
How did you get to this point?
So you grew up with parents who ignored your feelings. You realised very early on that your emotions were not welcome in your childhood home.
How did you cope? Your young brain knew what to do. It built a wall to block your feelings. Thus, you could ignore and suppress them. That way your anger, resentment, sadness or neediness will not bother your parents or yourself.
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