Becoming aware of the silent role of Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) in your adult life is no small thing. It’s true.
Once you know it, you cannot go back. You now know what you know, and like the cake that cannot be unbaked, you are changed forever.
Childhood Emotional Neglect: When your parents fail to respond enough to your emotional needs as they raise you.
But just as you cannot go back, it’s also hard to go forward. Even though you realize why you struggle with emptiness or numbness, disconnection and/or lack of fulfillment, it’s natural to assume that since it’s rooted in your childhood, you must be stuck with it forever.
But it is my goal to make sure that every man, woman, and child who is living with CEN learns that this assumption could not be more wrong.
As a psychologist who has treated almost every diagnosis in the book, I have never seen a mental health struggle that is more fixable and has its roots in more areas of one’s life, than CEN. Nor have I seen one that has such a clear and defined path to healing.
Special Note: If you read the list below and find it hard to believe, please know that I have only included benefits that I have actually seen happen in multiple people recovering from CEN.
15 Special Benefits to Healing Your CEN
- You get to know yourself better and on a deeper level. A key step on the CEN recovery path is beginning to pay attention to your own feelings. Since your emotions are an expression of your deepest self, this one step takes you on a journey toward yourself. When you do this, you begin to see, via your feelings, who you really are.
- You have the opportunity to like and love yourself. It’s impossible to like or love someone you do not know. When you attend to your own emotions, you’ll find out who you are, and you will realize what’s likable and lovable about you. You will have the chance to feel those toward yourself.
- You can make better decisions. Knowing yourself better includes becoming familiar with your own wants and needs. You can ask yourself, “What do I want or need?” or “What brings me joy?” or “What bores me?” and actually come up with an answer. Now you can base your decisions on your feelings, and they will be more yourself.
- You can take control of your life. The best thing about making decisions that are more true to yourself is that this is you able to do something new. This is you taking control of your life.
- You harness the power of your emotions. You were born wired with emotions for a reason. Your emotions are an incredible source of energy, direction, and connection. So far you have spent your whole life pushing this amazing resource away. When you welcome the power of your feelings, it will change you.
- You fill your emptiness. The emptiness so often found in folks who grew up with CEN is, I have seen, mostly a result of having their own energy and information source walled off. As you welcome your resource back, you will fill yourself.
- You allow yourself to be loved more. It’s not only you that lacks access to your true feelings. You are unintentionally depriving everyone else in your life as well. When you welcome your own feelings, you also make them available to those close to you. Then they can know you, “feel” you, and love you more deeply.
- You become more interesting. Imagine a whole world with no emotion. Weddings would be bland events, and when someone passes away, no one would cry. Laughing, getting irritated, and feeling close to a loved one, would not exist. The more of your emotions you reclaim, the more interesting you will be.
- Your relationships can become more balanced. Holding in your feelings is like holding in your true self. Do your friends share more about themselves than you share about yourself? Do you ask for less and get less? Honoring your feelings will motivate and energize you to express your own wants and needs. This will even out the give and take in your relationships, and bring your whole self to the table.
- You will be less angry at yourself. All these years, you’ve been feeling that something is wrong with you, and you’ve been blaming yourself for it. Now, you know that there’s nothing wrong that can’t be fixed, and you know that none of this is your fault. Now you can stop blaming yourself and take steps forward.
- You will be less drained by guilt and shame: Less drained by your anger at yourself, and no longer ashamed of your feelings, you no longer feel like the source of all that goes wrong with everyone, everywhere. You’re just you, being you, a valid human being who matters.
- You may become less depressed or anxious, or both. I am not saying that healing your CEN is a magical cure for depression and anxiety. But in my observation, a contributor to many folks’ depression and anxiety is walled-off feelings, unmanaged and unexpressed, percolating outside of your awareness. By allowing yourself to feel, process and express your feelings, you are reducing that burden.
- You’ll be able to read other people and understand their behavior better. When you start understanding your emotions, it spreads in a very good way. You’ll start understanding other people’s feelings better too, and this is a key emotion and relationship skill.
- You will trust yourself more. Making choices and decisions that are true to yourself, and checking with your “gut,” you’ll begin to realize that your feelings are reliable and trustworthy now that you know how to read them.
- You can take more risks. The great thing about trusting yourself more is less self-doubt and more confidence. You are freed up to take risks you would not have even considered before.
Many who become aware of their Childhood Emotional Neglect feel their own lives shift beneath their feet. The way you saw yourself, your life, and the people in it, all seems different now. But awareness isn’t the endpoint. It is the starting point.
Then you must walk through the 5 stages of CEN recovery. Is it work? Yes.
Is it worth it? Definitely.
Childhood Emotional Neglect can be invisible and unmemorable so it can be hard to know if you have it. To find out, Take The Emotional Neglect Test.
For information, guidance and worksheets to help you through the steps of recovery, see the book Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.
To learn how to improve your relationships through your CEN recovery, see the book Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships.