Ahh, summer! Time to sit back, dig your toes into the sand, and soak up some rays, right?

Well, if you grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN), maybe not so much.

Growing up in a household where your emotions are ignored leaves its invisible mark on you.

When you grow up this way, you end up with a particular set of challenges as an adult. One of those challenges is a remarkable inability to relax, sit comfortably with yourself, and deeply enjoy a moment.

You may go through decades of your life sensing that something is not quite right with you, but baffled about what that is. No matter where you are, you feel you don’t belong there, and you can be relentlessly hard on yourself.

On top of all that, a vital source of energy, connection and direction that comes so easily to others is much more difficult for you to find and use – your emotions.

But never fear, this summer can become a fruitful and memorable one for you. You don’t have to drain yourself by focusing on painful things. You don’t need to do anything scary, or face down any private demons.

You can make a difference in your life by doing four things that are positive, self-nurturing, and not at all draining. In fact, they will give you energy.

4 Easy Ways to Work on Your CEN This Summer

  1. Capture moments of joy. Every day has moments with joy in them. An adorable puppy runs toward you, a baby smiles, a powerful summer storm passes over (this one just happened to me), a stranger holds the door for you, a friend gives you a compliment, or there is no line at the grocery store. You get my drift. Joy is everywhere, in tiny, everyday moments. It’s amazing how many you begin to have when you simply watch for them, and grab them. See how many you can grab each day this summer.
  2. Practice Compassionate Accountability. You know that voice that runs through the back of your head? The one that says, “That was stupid,” when you make a mistake, or warns that you probably won’t make the right decision. Every CEN person’s harsh internal voice is different, but I’m willing to bet that you have one. This summer, catch that voice when it speaks, and silence it. Replace it with a calm, compassionate voice that says healthy, supportive things like “You’ll do your best, and that’s all anyone can ask,” “Nobody’s perfect,” “What can you learn from this mistake so that you can prevent it in the future,” or, “You’re a human being, and you have needs, just like everyone else.”
  3. Use moments of relaxation to your benefit. This summer, if you have a quiet moment, use it. Close your eyes, turn your attention inward, and ask yourself what you’re feeling. See if you can feel a feeling, and if you can, see if you can name it. If you don’t have a feeling or can’t name it, no problem! The benefit comes from simply asking yourself the question. See how many times you can do this throughout the summer.
  4. Choose one relationship to deepen. One of the most impactful results of CEN is a difficulty letting others see and know your true self. This summer, choose one person you trust: your spouse, a sibling, a friend or co-worker, for example. And begin to share more of yourself. Make it a point to use the words,“I want… I feel… I need… more often with this person. Watch the effect that these subtle changes have on your relationship with your person.

One day, you will look back on the summer of 2017, and sigh contentedly.

That was the summer I turned a corner, you will remember.

That was the summer my life began to change.

That was the summer I took on my Childhood Emotional Neglect.

Childhood Emotional Neglect is invisible so it can be hard to know if you have it. I invite you to visit my website and Take The CEN Questionnaire. It’s free!

Photo by Sean MacEntee