New Year’s Resolutions are a tricky business indeed. According to Business Insider (2017), 80% of people drop theirs by the second week of February every year.
I think New Year’s Resolutions are even more difficult for those who grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). And for some very good reasons.
Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN): Happens when your parents fail to respond enough to your emotions while they are raising you.
3 Ways CEN Makes Keeping Your NY’s Resolutions More Difficult
- You likely struggle with self-discipline. Most emotionally neglectful parents, even the well-meaning ones, miss the importance of instilling healthy self-discipline skills in their children. So it’s no surprise that many with CEN struggle to make themselves do what they should do, and to stop themselves from doing what they should not do. Your Resolutions are then threatened by an endless cycle of self-blame. “Why can’t I do the things other people can do? What is wrong with me?!”
- You under-value your own needs. Resolutions to eat healthy or go to the gym, for example require you to pay attention to your own needs. If you grew up with your needs under-attended, you probably now struggle to pay attention to your own needs. This struggle can tank your efforts.
- You may question, on some deep level, whether you are worth the effort. A deep feeling of not being as valid as everyone else undermines your efforts to treat yourself as if you matter.
I know, I know, everything above sounds so negative. You may be feeling discouraged about setting resolutions for 2018. You may be wondering the classic CEN question: “Why bother?”
If so, good news! I have thought this through, and I have some answers for you.
First, set only one resolution. Trying to do more is distracting and can be overwhelming. Second, take resolutions that will be immediately rewarding and bring quick and positive results. That way, you will set up a positive cycle that will feed itself, becoming more and more powerful every day of the year.
Powerful Resolutions for 2018
Purposely Look For Joy in Your Everyday Life
— Research has shown that Emotional Neglect in childhood slows the development of the ventral striatum in the brain. The ventral striatum is your brain’s reward center, so if it’s under-developed, the concept of feeling joy may seem like a distant one for you. But a remarkable thing: I have asked many CEN people to start purposely seeking happiness and enjoyment, and I have watched it make a significant difference in their lives. You may find it in a small, rewarding task that you never gave much thought, a small child who smiles at you for no reason, or a beautiful orange leaf falling from a tree. At other times you may need to make something happen to bring yourself joy: call a friend, see a movie, schedule a trip or a day away. The more you choose joy, the more it will choose you. You will be setting yourself on a very rewarding path that will pay off in spades.
Your 2018 Resolution: I will find at least one moment of enjoyment in every day of this year.
Use More Feeling Words
— When you have CEN, one of the most powerful ways of changing your life is to simply learn and use more emotion words every day. Using a word like dismayed, despondent, incensed, blissful, morose, bland, raw, depleted, wary, strained, deflated, perky, free, quiet, devoted or feisty adds dimension and realness to your life. Both are necessary things that you were denied in your childhood. Making this change in the way you speak on the outside will change the way you think and feel on the inside. It will also carry the added bonus of improving the quality and depth of your relationships. It is a win-win-win at very little cost to you. You can find an exhaustive list of Feeling Words in the book Running on Empty, or you can download it from the Running on Empty Page of my website.
Your 2018 Resolution: I will use one new feeling word every day of this year.
Do The Three Things
— I designed this exercise to help people with CEN develop the pathways for self-discipline in their own brains. I do not have brain scans to prove that it works, but I can honestly assure you that it does. It is a way to give yourself the ability to make yourself do things you should do, and to stop yourself from doing things you shouldn’t do. These two skills together form the foundation for all self-discipline. Overriding what you want to do or not do 3 times per day, in some small way, trains your brain to be able to do so in situations when you need to. The overrides do not need to be big. They can be very small and still count. You can learn more about this exercise in the book Running on Empty.
Your 2018 Resolution: Every day of this year I will, three times, in some small way, make myself do something I don’t want to do, or force myself to do something I should do.
No matter where you go, and no matter what you do in 2018, you can re-program your brain and take control of your life. Keep it simple, take control, and find your joy. Take your needs seriously, and let yourself feel.
This will be your way to treat yourself to a changing, more positive life through 2018.
This will be your way to finally, definitively, realize and believe that you are worth the effort. And you matter.
To find out if you have CEN, Take the Childhood Emotional Neglect Questionnaire. It’s free.
To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) and how to heal it to improve your relationships, see my new book, Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children.