Childhood Emotional Neglect and Your Adult Relationships
Having your feelings ignored as a child has a profound effect on you as an adult. Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is the experience of a child not receiving enough emotionally from their parent(s). The unnoticed emotions become difficult to manage, and as a way to get by, children often shutdown, or wall off their emotions. The stuffing away or pushing down of emotions over time, takes a toll on the quality of life.
People with CEN often feel that they are less important than everyone else, have a hard time understanding their feelings and needs, struggle to share their feelings, and don’t like to ask for help or accept help from others. Because of these struggles, living with CEN may make it difficult to ask for a raise or a promotion at work, or to allow themselves to try new things or experiences.
One of the biggest areas that Childhood Emotional Neglect shows up is in relationships.
Common challenges someone may face in relationships are:
You feel alone despite being around people who care for you.
When your emotions are walled off, you may not have access to the energy to generate closeness and connection. This can leave your feelings isolated and far away even if you are sitting in a room with others.
Relationships are one-sided.
Because CEN makes it difficult to be aware of your own emotions, it becomes difficult to share your thoughts and feelings with others. By not allowing yourself to take up space or contribute to a relationship, it can become more about the other person and less about you.
You have fewer and less rewarding relationships.
Due to relationships often being one-sided, they are less likely to be fulfilling. The lack of depth and sharing can cause relationships to be limited or short-lived. You can be a great friend to others, one who is always there, but never truly share what you are going through. Without taking chances to be vulnerable, your relationships may never reach their full potential.
Being social is draining.
By giving too much and not taking enough or sharing parts of yourself, a lot of energy is used up. You may not feel energized or filled-up while socializing because of the one-sided nature of interacting. Without taking time to just be yourself, so much energy is spent trying to be the person you think others want you to be.
The good thing is, people who have CEN can improve their relationships in a few simple, yet key ways.
Become Emotionally Aware: By tuning into your feelings, and observing your behaviors, you are better able to understand yourself. This, in turn, will help you in how you respond to people around you.
Develop Emotion Skills: As you learn to identify your feelings, you can work towards accepting them, tolerating a range of emotions, manage them, and communicate them with others.
Learn Communication Skills: Once you are aware of your feelings and have the ability to deal with your emotions, letting others know how you feel comes next. You will be able to tell someone that you are hurt. You will be able to ask someone for what you want and need. You will be able to express when you’re angry.
Life can become full as you take the steps to learn about yourself to better connect with the people in your life. If you struggle with CEN or in your relationships, talking to a counselor can help.
A resource for Childhood Emotional Neglect and the effects on relationships is the book, Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships by Dr. Jonice Webb.