During twenty years of practicing psychology, I started to become aware of an invisible factor from people’s childhoods which weighs upon them as adults. I saw that this factor quietly sapped their joy, and caused them to question the meaning and purpose of their lives. It made some feel empty, and others feel alone. It caused problems in relationships, and made people angry at themselves. It caused unnecessary guilt, low self-confidence, and a sense of being deeply, personally, flawed.
Once I became aware of the factor, I started to see it everywhere: in the grocery store, at the mall, and even on reality TV shows. I saw it in my own life, in the way I sometimes treated my family, friends and children. I realized that many parents who are loving and caring can still raise their children with this factor, and be totally unaware. I noticed that people who grew up with it had no knowledge of it. They couldn’t remember it, name it or see it, even though they lived every day of their lives under its influence.
As I saw the power and pervasiveness of this invisible factor, I felt strongly compelled to raise awareness of it. So I named the factor “Childhood Emotional Neglect,” (or CEN) and wrote the book, Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.
What exactly is CEN? Simply put, it’s a parent’s failure to respond enough to a child’s emotional needs. It may sound like nothing, and it often looks like nothing. But actually, a parent’s failure to act can have as great an impact upon a child as abuse, even though it’s not noticeable or memorable like abuse is.
In my efforts to raise awareness I have been interviewed on dozens of radio shows and spoken to thousands of people about CEN. This blog will be about the invisible power of Childhood Emotional Neglect: how it happens, what it looks like, how to see it in yourself or in your own parenting, how it affects the child once he is an adult; and, most importantly, how to heal.
About Jonice Webb, Ph.D.
Jonice Webb has a PhD in clinical psychology, and has been licensed to practice since 1991. Webb has been interviewed on NPR and over thirty radio shows across the United States and Canada about the topic of her book: Childhood Emotional Neglect, and has been quoted as a psychologist expert in the Chicago Tribune. Prior to joining PsychCentral, she was the Mental Health Editor for BellaOnline, the second largest women’s website in the world. She currently has a private psychotherapy practice in Lexington, MA, where she specializes in the treatment of couples and families. Webb currently resides in the Boston area with her husband and two children.