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20 Comments to
Do You Have Any of These 3 Relationship Problems?

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  1. I am 57. My mom was a narcissist and my dad was emotional unavailable most of my life. They are both gone now. I have 4 children whom I love very much, 3 of which I rarely have contact with. I have had four abusive marriages. Now I am learning so much thanks to people like you. I do not think I have ever been bonded to another person. Life is a string of dissapointments. Most days I just don’t think anything is worth the effort. I feel taken advantage of by most people. My future looks gray. My dog has been my saving grace. I do feel bonded to her. What can I read and learn how to get out of this pit.

    • Dear Pat, I’m so sorry you’ve had such a difficult childhood and challenging adult life. I hope you have a therapist you can work with to help you through the stages of getting in touch with yourself and your feelings. Please keep working on yourself. You’ll have to be active and persistent, but you can take step after step and change. Sending you all my best.

  2. Interesting. All the talk about the epidemic of isolation in older men I’d like to know whether CEN or at least the lingering effects of it are more prominent among men or women. By virtue of our social conditioning it would seem males are much more likely to NOT have the emotional needs met as children.

    • I think men are very much discouraged from showing all emotions except anger. Many families squelch the feelings of all their children regardless of gender. Women and men’s CEN can look different. Thanks for bringing up this very important point.

  3. Would love some tips on how to fix these problems. I’m sure they are basic, common sense steps that, like you mentioned, those who know don’t even know that they know. But for those of us lacking these basic skills, seeing them in print would be very helpful and make the task of overcoming these problems less daunting. Is this addressed in your new book? I’m about half-way through “Running on Empty.” Thanks!

    • Dear R. yes I understand the need for help in knowing how to fix this! Two things: first, working on healing your CEN is a vital key. The structure to follow for that is outlined and detailed in my first book, Running on Empty, and all throughout this blog. There are additional ways to work on healing the CEN within relationships, which is a natural dovetail from healing your CEN. Often when I write these articles, I have to curtail what I have to say because they will be too long, and this blog is a good example of that. I’ll be writing more on this topic in the future, so watch for more articles. But if you want all the info in one place, I recommend the new book, Running on Empty No More: Transform Your relationships. My warmest wishes to you!

  4. I read your book for the first time 9 months ago and it finally put into words all of the emptiness I was feeling but unable to fully describe and qualify. Building on my learnings, this short article in particular really hit home — #1 & #2 above fit me to a tee. I view myself as very friendly and desirous of friends/relationships but have always had a hard time truly connecting with others and often feel very rejected after reaching out. I have always been perplexed as to why I whiff on these connections so badly as I feel like I have a lot to offer others as a friend — the ideas above start to help to connect the dots.

    Outstanding question: You refer in your post that you believe that there are ways to overcome these issues, but don’t provide a construct or concepts as to how to attack these issues – any additional info you can provide links to?

    • Dear Brett, I’m so happy that my work is helping you! There are lots of answers for your dilemma. Please see my answer to R’s question in which I explain where to get them. Take care and keep working on this!

  5. This is spot-on. I look forward to your new book.

    As I search for a therapist what are some questions I could ask up front that will help identify someone who will actually engage with me on an emotional level. So far the ones I’ve spoken with believe that CBT is the beginning and end of therapy. I’m living proof that it may be the beginning but without emotional engagement you are dropped off two stops too early.

    Therapists usually identify by method ie: CBT IPT. And by specialization ie: Adolescents, Women, Elders. But very few advertise themselves as treating CEN victims or adult children of narcissists. The symptoms I’ve read about both over the years for both are so amazingly similar with people from all over the world you’d think it would be codified by now.

    Aside from them being familiar with your work what questions can I ask to increase the likelihood that I will receive this essential engagement and walk-through? I guess you sense some frustration in my tone.

    • Dear Tyler, I understand your frustration, for sure! I’m actively trying to reach more and more therapists to become CEN-savvy and I realize there is still a grave shortage. In the meantime, you can ask potential new therapists if they are able and willing to help you learn emotion skills; if they are willing to look at my book. If they answer no to either of those questions, they will probably not be helpful in addressing the needs you have to target CEN. I’m so sorry there’s not more available out there and I will keep adding CEN therapists to my list, for sure!

  6. Hi a very good article you wrote. I am bipolar and have seizures. Nice to meet you.

  7. I can always relate to your articles on CEN. Both of my parents were severe alcoholics and I grew up in a completely dysfunctional environment. I am 55 now and I honestly did not know how much it affected me until a few years ago. Fortunately a good therapist and ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) have helped me immensely. I have come to the conclusion though that I will carry the baggage of my childhood with me for the rest of my life.

    • Dear Keith, I encourage you to think of your CEN not as baggage, but as something to tackle. If you can get a copy of Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect (my first book – it’s in most libraries), you can work through the clearly described steps to heal yourself. Take care!

      • Jonice,

        Thanks, I will definitely read the book.

        Hopefully my “baggage” comment did not come across sounding like a “victim”. I consider myself a survivor of my childhood. My siblings and I experienced every type of abuse imaginable. Fortunately, I broke that horrible cycle and raised 2 wonderful children.

        I have done a lot of work on myself over the last few years. I could never understand why I felt the way I did at times and as I mentioned above, a good therapist and ACOA helped me a lot.


      • Good for you Keith! Sorry if I misinterpreted that word, and I’m very glad to hear it.

  8. I’d like to know something. In the article, I had said yes too all the three questions, and in my case, the CEN questionnaire had all of the answers as ‘yes’ except one question, so I’m pretty sure I have it. So I am pretty sure that I have it, which I wasn’t expecting at all.

    Thing is, I’m still with my parents and have a little brother. I don’t want him to face the same, or feel just as I do. Thing is, I really have no idea how to prevent this from happening with him too. What do I do?

    • Dear Myst, what a great question! You can’t really “save” a sibling from childhood emotional neglect. But you can help him by changing yourself. I suggest you work on getting in touch with your emotions, and learning the emotion skills, etc. As you change, your brother will absorb it by being around you. You’ll also have more emotion skills to apply to him, and you can help him that way. You’re a great older sibling to be so concerned about him.

  9. I suffered from CEN for certain as a child, adolescent and young adult. It was a truly awful feeling.

    However somewhere along the line I said “No, I absolutely refuse to live my life like this” AND “Im just as important to this world as anyone else is! What I feel matters.”

    It was a breakthrough that came just in the nick of time thank the universe.

    From that point forward anyone and I mean anyone who attempted to treat me as an inferior being was ,and still will be, kicked to the curb immediately. No hesitations.

    Life is too short for that ridiculous garbage mentality.

    Narcissists, ego maniacs and the highly self absorbed get absolutely nothing. They starve in my presence these days and have for quite sometime now.

    I will NEVER and I mean NEVER be emotionally neglected and/or abused to that degree ever again. Had no choice back then but now I do.

    Found a love that changes your life forever. That would be a sincere and functional love for YOURSELF.

    May you all find the same. I mean that sincerely. You can do it. Never give up.

    • Dear Joe, I’m glad you are treating yourself like you matter, because you do of course!

    • Joe,

      Thank you for your post and what a great attitude.



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