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The Secret to Getting Unstuck: Core Feelings Part 2

Several months ago I wrote The Best Kept Secret to Getting Unstuck: Core Feelings. In it, you met Garrett, Jolene and Lizzy, who are all burdened by an uncomfortable feeling (a Core Feeling) that comes over them, seemingly from nowhere.

Most of us have some kind of Core Feeling. It’s an old, deep feeling that originates from your childhood. It comes over you, often when you least expect it. It’s natural to try to avoid having it, as it feels like a burden. But it has a silver lining. You can use your Core Feeling to work through what’s holding you back. You can use it to help you become healthier and stronger.

Today I’m going to take you deeper into Garrett’s story. We’ll look at why Garrett had this burdensome Core Feeling, where it came from, and how he was finally able to use it to move forward in his life.


At 34 years old, Garrett is doing well in life. He has a good job and a girlfriend who he hopes to marry. So Garrett is confused about why, each time he is alone, a sad feeling sneaks up on him. To prevent this from happening, Garrett stays as busy as he possibly can. He avoids being home alone, driving alone, or being unoccupied. When he is forced to be alone, he always cranks up his music or has a TV show playing on a screen to distract him.

Garrett has never paid much attention to this bad feeling that dogs him. In fact he’s not even fully aware of it. He’s developed a way to cope with it, which is basically simple avoidance. On some level Garrett knows that the feeling comes when he is unoccupied. So he makes sure that he never is.

Lets now peek into Garrett’s childhood to see where his Core Feeling came from.

Child Garrett

Garrett is the youngest in a family of three children. His two older brothers were 11 and 14 when Garrett was born. A third child was not planned; his parents were shocked when they discovered they were pregnant again.

Garrett’s parents loved him. But having a third child was difficult for them, both financially and emotionally. They each took on extra work to cover his daycare and to start earning money for his college fund. So throughout Garrett’s childhood, his parents were tired. They were stressed. And they were emotionally drained.

Adult Garrett

Garrett proposed to his girlfriend Sarah, and he was very happy when she said yes. However, once Sarah moved in with him and they started planning their wedding, problems ensued. Sarah saw a side of Garrett that she had no no idea was there. He seemed to be always running from one task or activity to another; and when he stopped running, he seemed morose and uncommunicative. Sarah wondered if he was angry at her, but he always claimed that everything was fine.

After six months Sarah was growing tired and drained by this pattern. She told Garrett that something was wrong and that he needed to see a therapist. Begrudgingly, Garrett agreed.

Garrett’s Therapy

Garrett wasn’t sure he needed therapy, but he knew that for the sake of his future marriage, he needed to try. So in the sessions he followed his therapist’s advice, and he talked.

He shared about his current life, his relationship with Sarah, and perhaps most importantly, his family. As Garrett’s therapist got to know him, he started to catch glimpses of Garrett’s Core Feeling and how it was affecting him. He helped Garrett become aware of when he was feeling it. He helped Garrett put words to this feeling that was dogging him:

Ashamed, alone, unimportant. I’m unwanted. I am a burden.

Garrett’s therapist asked him to stop avoiding his Core Feeling, and to welcome it instead. “It’s a voice from your childhood telling you what is wrong. Listen to it. Notice when you’re feeling it, and simply sit and feel it,” his therapist suggested.

Garrett’s therapist then helped him figure out the source of his pain. His parents unwittingly communicated to him, while he was growing up, that they didn’t have the time or energy for him. They meant well and they did love him, but the reality was that they did not have much spare attention to give him.

Garrett realized that he essentially grew up alone amongst a loving family. He learned early not to ask. He learned well that he should not need. He learned to speak when spoken to, but that he actually had no voice of his own.

Garrett grew up feeling that he was alone. He grew up making sure that he did not have to feel that. Distraction and avoidance were his tools.

Garrett’s Recovery

Garrett talked to Sarah about all that he was realizing about himself in therapy. As he talked about himself to his therapist and to Sarah, he was learning how his emotions work. He was learning how to talk. Garret was learning that he had feelings, and that they were useful. He was learning that what he had to say was important. He learned that he was not a burden; that his parents did their best, but that circumstances prevented their best from being good enough.

Along with all of this understanding was a realization that there was no reason for his shame. He could see that he did not bring this upon himself. He was not flawed, or weak, or to blame. That he was not alone after all.

Garrett’s Core Feeling had provided a pipeline to his past. He sat and listened to it, and it told him what was wrong. He did the work it told him to do, and he changed his life.

To learn more about how to recover from a Core Feeling, or from an emotionally neglectful childhood like Garrett’s, see and the book, Running on Empty.

The Secret to Getting Unstuck: Core Feelings Part 2

Jonice Webb PhD

Jonice Webb, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist who is recognized worldwide for her groundbreaking work in defining, describing, and calling attention to Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). She writes, speaks, and trains therapists on the topic, and is the bestselling author of two books, Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships. She also created and runs the Fuel Up For Life Online CEN Recovery Program. Since CEN can be difficult to see and remember, Dr. Webb created the CEN Questionnaire and other free resources to help you figure out if you have it. Take the CEN Questionnaire and learn much more about CEN, how it happens, and how to heal it at her website

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APA Reference
Webb PhD, J. (2016). The Secret to Getting Unstuck: Core Feelings Part 2. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 24, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 May 2016
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