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Turn The Power of Your Childhood Emotional Neglect in Your Favor

Emotional Neglect, even in its most subtle, invisible, unmemorable form, is powerful in the life of a child.

Then, Emotional Neglect continues to stick with you, maintaining its power in your life once you grow into an adult.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) happens when your parents fail to respond enough to your emotions as they raise you. When this happens to you as a child, you learn three depleting, energy-draining life lessons.

3 Harmful Results of Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN)

  1. You learn how to suppress and ignore your feelings.
  2. You may learn how to feel compassion for other people — just not for yourself.
  3. You learn that you should not speak your truth.

These 3 harmful effects of growing up with your feelings ignored continue to eat away at your well-being throughout your entire adult life. Essentially, you become overly focused on other people and, even more damaging, under focused on your self.

How can you know what you enjoy and need if you’re not aware when you are feeling reward, happiness or joy? Having your emotions suppressed, or ignoring them, or both leaves you unable to tune in to your own wants and needs.

I have watched many CEN people struggle to choose a job, a career, a mate, or even make smaller decisions that will be the best for themselves, simply because they’re not aware of their own feelings. Often, I can see what a CEN person wants and needs before they can, simply because I can see and feel their feelings more clearly than they can.

I have also seen many CEN people act as confidants, supports, or caretakers to others, while harshly judging themselves for every mistake, big and small.

If your parents are not interested in what you have to say, why would anyone else be? I have witnessed scores of CEN folks virtually unable to speak up for themselves or assert themselves, simply because their childhood took their voice away.

There Is An Upside

Now for the good news! Even though you have been taught from childhood to ignore yourself, and have been continuing to do so all these years, the show is not over. For as long as you are living, your light still shines within you.

What does this mean? Your emotions are still there, on the other side of the wall. You can reconnect with them.

How To Turn What’s Wrong Into What’s Right

1. Reclaim The Power of Your Emotions: As human beings, our emotions are an important source of energy, direction, and connection. They tell us what we want and need, and they tell us who we are. They motivate us and drive us, and send us messages every single day.

You’ve been living without enough of this wonderful resource, but you do not have to do so anymore. Since you still have your feelings, you can still access them. This will recharge your life in a way that you most likely, right now as you read this, cannot even imagine.

Set the goal for yourself, “I will reclaim my feelings.” Then start paying attention to your feelings every single day. At least 3 times per day, pause for a moment, close your eyes, and turn your attention inward, focusing on your body. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?”

Then read through the Feeling Word List from the back of the book Running On Empty and learn some new words for emotions. Start trying to put your feelings into words. Noticing, experiencing and naming your feelings is a powerful step toward reclaiming your power.

2. Turn your powerful compassion upon yourself: The compassion you have been offering toward everyone in your life is a reflection of who you are inside: a caring, giving person. You are the stand-up guy or woman who can be counted upon to do what needs to be done, with one caveat — as long as it’s for someone else.

This ability of yours drains you, as you are likely to take on too much, and give too much, therefore depleting your own resources. Yet it is wonderful in many ways, almost like a superpower.

Imagine what might happen if you started feeling more compassion for yourself. You might become less angry at yourself for making mistakes, be less judgmental of your own struggles, and feel less guilty for things that are outside of your control.

Essentially, you will be saving the energy and care that others have been benefiting from and applying it in your own life. The magic of feeling compassion for yourself is that it helps you along the road of realizing that you matter.

3. Learn to speak your truth:  As you tune into your own feelings, you will be in a process of self-discovery. You will start becoming aware of what you want and need, what you like and dislike, what helps you and what hurts you. As you begin to know yourself better, the door will open to new possibilities. Once you know what you want and need, you can ask for it! Once you know what you feel, you can say it. Finally knowing your truth, you can learn to speak it.

Now you can assert your opinion, say what you want, and ask for what you need. You can make decisions that are true to yourself and the choices that will make you happy. What’s happened? You have turned your weakness into a remarkable, life-changing strength.

Knowing, understanding, and feeling your true self, allowing yourself to be human and have needs, and finally expressing it all to the people in your life, you are walking down a remarkable path. A path that will take your Childhood Emotional Neglect and turn it on its head, making you stronger.

A path that has changed the lives of many and is about to change yours.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) can be subtle and invisible in your childhood so it can be difficult to know if you have it. To find out, Take The Emotional Neglect Test. It’s free.

To learn more about how CEN happens, how it plays out through your adult life and much more about how to effectively take the 3 steps above, see the bestselling book Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.

To understand how to use your emotions in your relationships and speak your truth, see the book Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children.

Turn The Power of Your Childhood Emotional Neglect in Your Favor

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. (2019). Turn The Power of Your Childhood Emotional Neglect in Your Favor. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Apr 2019
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