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The Unheard Voices of the Emotionally Neglected

Here are a few of the many thoughtful, personal CEN (Childhood Emotional Neglect) thoughts and feelings shared by readers on my blog or website. Some express the pain of CEN, and some describe it’s unique challenges. Others convey the remarkable, fulfilling experience of CEN recovery:

Because I did not get “the right way” modeled for me or taught to me I often find myself in social situations not knowing what to do and I wind up freezing. I am learning that emotional connection is the key. As a child I had either bad connection or no connection. What I am learning is that good emotional connection is filling the emptiness I have felt for so long. I am learning to initiate connection and to recognize and receive it when it is offered to me. I am even coaching my husband to be more emotionally connected with me. Wonderful!

It takes so much courage and determination to change the habits of a lifetime, to live your life how you want, not how somebody thinks you should live it. To find your voice and set your boundaries against the behaviour of others who think it’s ok to treat you like some sort of doormat. Not to be “good” or “nice,” but to be real.

I know that you use the “walls” metaphor for loneliness but I feel invisible. Completely out in the open, but just not significant. No amount of people, no venue and no time of day or night changes that feeling.

What if you can’t identify the feelings? What if I don’t have the words to describe the feelings? All of my feelings were denied.

That’s the cruel legacy passed down from our parents. It’s like a lifetime jail sentence because we become our own prisoners.

I was never left alone or neglected as a child…just emotionally I felt alone.

I am 54 and have just realized I have been suffering from CEN all my life. It basically has destroyed my life. Of course I am a survivor and am not crying or placing blame. But my whole life it is like I have been an immature child trying to figure life out. Having no real sense of what I am supposed to do.

I am in the process of trying to identify my emotions and understand them but it is very uncomfortable and I am often surprised how intense these emotions I have been trying to hold back feel. I hope one day I can move on from everything that happened to me (or didn’t happen) and live a better life.

Once at dinner there was a discussion about why two of the siblings were at loggerheads. All my father had to say was “Is there any more gravy?” I’ve just learned to get on with things and look after myself and not to take their behavior too personally.

My CEN is of the passive type, it’s not what my parents said but what they didn’t say and do. We never touched, talked or displayed emotions which I thought was perfectly normal. It’s not that emotions were discouraged, simply none were displayed.

Maybe some of the benefits of emotional awakening:

The arts suddenly make sense on a completely new level. You toss the damn critics and their opinions and let the art of any kind just speak to you in this language you never understood before.

The dynamics of work-life sharpen more into focus. You begin to see people’s motivations and insecurities which helps you understand your place in it and what you need to do next.

You turn off the distractions and find simply being with your fellow humans joyful and meaningful in itself.

If you seek therapy, I can say that when you first experience every day emotions you’ve had since before you were born it may seem like someone turned the knob up to eleven. Ignore it. You’ll adjust quickly and learn how to set it.

I wish I had known about CEN years ago. I have wondered my whole life, what was wrong with me! I now know that my parents neglected me emotionally. I have never been able to have a loving relationship with anyone. I have felt so very alone my whole life. My parents: I go between loving them and hating them on a daily basis. For now, I just take one day at a time.

I continue to invalidate myself when I minimize neglect and compare it to physical abuse.

The Voices

The pain of Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is both powerful and unique. The voices of those who are living with it convey it’s true nature.

These are the voices of the overlooked, the emotionally marginalized, the invisible.

The voices of those who have been taken for granted, and have learned to take themselves for granted.

The voices of those who are waking up, to see (and feel) their true selves.

The Truth

In CEN, there is both pain and possibility. The emptiness can be filled, and what’s been lost can be reclaimed.

There is help, there is hope, there are many others like you.

And there are answers.

CEN is invisible, and so it can be hard to know if you have it. Take the Emotional Neglect Test. It’s free.

The Unheard Voices of the Emotionally Neglected

Jonice Webb PhD

Jonice Webb has a PhD in clinical psychology, and is author of the bestselling books Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationship. She has appeared on CBS News, New England Cable News, and NPR about Childhood Emotional Neglect, and has been quoted as a psychologist expert in the Chicago Tribune and CNBC. She currently has a private psychotherapy practice in the Boston area, where she specializes in the treatment of couples and families. To read more about Dr. Webb, her books and Childhood Emotional Neglect, you can visit her website,

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APA Reference
Webb PhD, J. (2017). The Unheard Voices of the Emotionally Neglected. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 24, 2018, from


Last updated: 6 Oct 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2017
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