Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Overcoming Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN)

Hey everybody, today we're going to talk about how to overcome childhood emotional neglect, which from now on I'll just call CEN because that's a little bit easier, but before I jump into the topic if you're new to my channel, welcome. I talk about all things mental health here, and I put out videos on Mondays and Thursdays. So make sure you're subscribed and have those notifications turned on. But let's jump into this topic. First I want to define what I mean when I talk about childhood emotional neglect or CEN.

Now childhood emotional neglect really means that our parents weren't there for us emotionally in the way that we needed. Anytime we needed them to rub our back or hold us or comfort us, they just weren't there. It could mean they were there physically, but not emotionally, or they weren't there at all. 

This could also mean that we were raised in an environment where everything was given to us that we quote-unquote needed, like clothing, food, transportation, and maybe going to a great school, but the emotional side was just completely left off. Now that I've defined what childhood emotional neglect really means, let's talk about how to know if we suffer from it.

Overcoming Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN)
image source:

When we grow up in an emotionally neglectful environment, it can cause us to believe that our thoughts, feelings, and desires just don't matter. And this can, in turn, cause us to question anything we've experienced and struggle to trust how we actually feel. We can even find it difficult to let people in and constantly, constantly worry about what others think about us. Not having our emotional needs met while we're growing up leaves us without a secure foundation to grow from. 

We can even struggle to know who we are or what we want, and that we're valued. Those who have suffered from emotional neglect, often don't even know that it is happening. That's because this type of neglect isn't overt, or intentional, and therefore can go unnoticed for years. 

Many parents who were emotionally neglectful, gave their children every material thing that they needed, and therefore from the outside, they can look like amazing parents, but if their child needs comforting or to talk something out, they just aren't there at all. And for this reason, because our needs are really never truly met, people who struggle with childhood emotional neglect can find themselves in abusive or unhealthy relationships. 

While many others struggle to get into any relationships at all for fear that it will be just like that relationship they had when they were growing up. And since I know that childhood emotional neglect can feel different to everyone, here are some other signs that you may suffer from it. 

Number one, are you a people pleaser? Think about it. Do you make sure that you're doing everything just right for them? 

Number two, are you easily upset and concerned by what others think of you? Or number three, do you struggle to know how you feel until the feeling is just so overwhelming that you can't even manage it? Those are all other signs and symptoms that may mean that we struggle or suffer from childhood emotional neglect. 

Now obviously if any of those signs and symptoms are true to you in things that you notice in your life now, let's talk a little bit about how we can recover from it. Now my first word of advice is to start noticing and tracking your feelings. I know many of my old-time viewers are like, oh stop talking about this, but it can be so life-changing. 

Print out some of those feelings charts I'm always talking about. You can just Google feelings charts or you can hop over to my website under resources and print them out from there. And start tracking your feelings each and every day. And I know it can be really hard at first. A lot of my clients report that the feelings that they think they're feeling are just too overwhelming and too scary. So maybe start with the easier ones.

I find tired, sad, and worried are often easier, to begin with, so find some feelings that maybe aren't so charged for you, and let's start there. Because the truth is if we've been raised in a really emotionally neglectful environment, our feelings have been ignored for so long that it's normal to not even know how we really feel. So give yourself a chance to figure it out, and get to know who you truly are. Because once that part gets easier, the next step is to go on and start describing the feeling word you selected without using that exact word. For example, I'm feeling energized, excited, and bubbly. That would be how I describe happy without actually using the term happy. Do you kind of get where I'm going with this? So that's the second step. 

The third step is to begin noticing your needs. When any needs or desires we have are constantly ignored, we can begin to believe that our needs are just too much. Or that something is really wrong with us for actually needing such things. By taking the time to acknowledge the needs that we truly have, and by the way, this is easiest if it's done on our own. 

Often it can leave us feeling extremely vulnerable if we try to do it with a therapist unless we have that close connection, which is wonderful. But I'm just throwing that out there to make sure that we protect ourselves and do it at our own pace. So once we acknowledge the needs we have, then we can go on to try to imagine that someone else in our life may have that very same need. 

Do you see what I'm doing? I'm putting another perspective because often when we grow up without emotional support, we are very caring and aware of other people. So it kind of helps sometimes to pull it away from ourselves and to put it on to someone else that we care about and consider these questions. If they have that need, would we think that it's just too much? Would we be able to assist and support them with it? Chances are, our answer to all of that would be no, it's not too much, and yes, I'm happy to help them. 

By slowly allowing ourselves to accept our own needs, we can begin to change our belief that they aren't important or that they're just way too much for others to deal with. And my next tip is self-care. And I know I talk about this a lot, but when it comes to healing from childhood emotional neglect, self-care is our way of telling our body and soul that we care about them and that they're important. 

Start by first recognizing if there are ways you're neglecting your physical or emotional well-being, and consider some of the ways that you might be willing to start working on. And I say that to mean that what if we're not sleeping well or we're not making sure that we eat regularly, or we're not venting to people about what's going on. We're holding it all inside. And even if we don't have someone in our lives, this could mean that we need to journal more. We need to find a therapist. There are a lot of ways that we can ensure we're taking care of our physical and emotional well-being. 

The next thing you need to do is to make a list of the things that help you feel nurtured and cared for. I know this can be really hard and really painful to tap into, and maybe this is something that you do with a therapist, but give yourself the opportunity to think about it. What are the things that help you feel soothed? Are there things that you wished your parent had done for you? And let's make time to do those things for ourselves. This can also help us feel better and more confident as we work through the last two steps. 

The next step to overcoming childhood emotional neglect is to accept help and support from others. I know it can be really hard to let people in, especially when we were shown from such a young age that we were too much, or we weren't important. But allow people that you already know, people who've already earned your trust, let them get to know you, the real you, and no you don't have to share everything or every secret that you've ever held sacred. But you can begin by chatting about your day, and how things are going. 

Keep it light and give yourself the opportunity to let that person in just a little bit. Once we know that they're respectful and deserving of our friendship, make sure that you text or call them and let them know that you had a bad day or ask about theirs. Lean on them just a little bit and begin slowly creating your support system so that those around you can help support you as you work to disprove all of the lies that you were told as a child. 

And the final step is setting healthy boundaries. This kind of rolls off of the last step and is just as important because it's okay to say no. You don't have to do anything that causes you more discomfort or pressure. Go back to that list of needs that we created. 

What's important to you? And also check in with your self-care. If the thing that's being asked of you isn't in line with either one of those things, maybe it takes away time from your self-care that you need so much, or it goes against a need that you have, then you can say no. Don't let people walk all over you.

We're trying to teach ourselves that we're important and that our feelings are valid. And if the person asking us for something doesn't respect that, then we don't need them in our lives or want them in our lives anyways. But in my experience, truthfully, when we finally say no to somebody or we just say no because it's not in line with how we feel or what we want, they usually act like it's no big deal and just move on. It turns out that it was only a big deal to us and not them.

And as always, leave any tips and tricks and tools, or just helpful stories about recovery. If you've gone through this or you're working through it and you have something that you've learned, let us know in those comments. It's so helpful for me to share what I know and then you to share your experience because together we're working towards a healthy mind and a healthy body. And I will see you next time, bye.