34 thoughts on “The 4 Greatest Obstacles To Healing Your Childhood Emotional Neglect

  • April 8, 2018 at 11:47 am

    😊😘 Thanks! That helped me a lot!

  • April 8, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    I loved this article. I know “the wall” so well and I know so many people struggling with this sense of emptiness, hoping something external will fill that – or a lot of external activity will make the emptiness go away ( it does exactly the opposite). To hope the therapist is making them feel understood, will not make them feel so empty. I must continue to experiment with better self- questions as to what I am feeling right now. Thank you. I will check out your book.

    • April 8, 2018 at 5:06 pm

      It is amazing how much those simple self-questions accomplish. Best wishes for your recovery drachenengel!

  • April 8, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    Where does emotional neglect cross the line into emotional abuse? My therapist insists that a lot of what I experienced was emotional abuse but I feel very conflicted about all of it. Is it simply whether or not there was an intent to hurt someone that makes the difference? I have struggled with C-PTSD and it’s hard for me to understand why. Can emotional neglect without abuse lead to C-PTSD?

    • April 8, 2018 at 10:05 pm

      Dear Tem, sometimes the line between abuse and neglect can be difficult. But one important thing to remember is that Emotional Neglect can be just as damaging as emotional abuse; it’s just different. I suggest you watch this video on youtube about the differences between the two: https://youtu.be/bNbyqX1sD6Q. I hope it helps!

  • April 8, 2018 at 9:00 pm

    How do you break through the wall? I am afraid to reach out for help and put it off. But, when I finally do, I get pushed away. No one is available for me or they put me off, so I am back to square one again and I am afraid to reach out again. It is almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I am afraid they won’t have time for me and I prove myself correct, they don’t or can’t help me. I am so frustrated and stuck.

    • April 8, 2018 at 10:07 pm

      Dear Nisey, you are trying to break through the wall to reach other people. The actual goal is to break through the wall that blocks you from your feelings. It’s an internal wall that must be broken down. Reach out to yourself first, and eventually that will draw others toward you. But focus on yourself and your own feelings and needs first. Others can’t see you until you can see yourself.

  • April 9, 2018 at 5:34 am

    Hello Jonice,

    Thank you for your work on Childhood Emotional Neglect. I very, very much appreciate it, it helps me greatly.

    My father is, as far as I can tell, somewhat autistic. It runs I the family on my father’s side, so he also grew up in a family where there were great difficulties in dealing with, acknowledging, respecting emotions in a healthy way.

    My mother married into this family and has emotionally withdrawn, I think in response to the emotional desert she arrived in. Though her emotions do sometimes bubble up violently, as by nature she is a person with strong, deep feelings. I got that from her 🙂

    My oldwe brother has turned out much like my father. I cannot reach him on an emotional level. He has buried that so deep, it is as if nothing is there.

    I responded to it all with withdrawal, depression, not understanding my own emotions. Only many years later have I truly been able to begin acknowledging and living with my emotions, and being less afraid of them.

    I have begun with seeing myself as ok, and my feelings as worthy of being there and given their place, listened to, understood, respected and loved, without overwhelming me. Not an easy thing!

    So there is plenty for me to process here and to learn how to deal with.

    But I am underway. I am on my voyage.

    To all fellow travellers: Godspeed. You are not the only one on this road.

    Hope to greet you soon on the road, with a smile and a warm hug. You’re ok. We both are ok.

    • April 9, 2018 at 9:14 am

      HarmenB, beautifully said. You grew up in an emotional wasteland and are finally finding and connecting with your true self. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing your story with us!

      • April 10, 2018 at 1:50 pm

        Jonice, thank you for your supporting words. Warm hug!

  • April 9, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    I have been trying to heal for 5 years now. These hurdles are for sure in my way. Sometimes I feel growth in realizing and listening to my emotions but the valuing part is not a place I can get to.

    I have become aware that the people I choose to have in my life as confidants are always too busy to actually meet my needs. I’m pretty sure this is some kind of self sabotage to make the beliefs I have about myself true.

    After such a long journey, I’m not sure at what point is the limit to my healing. I can’t believe that real joy & happiness can be for me. But at least I’m further along than I had imagined I’m the beginning.

    • April 9, 2018 at 2:57 pm

      Dear PLF, you may not be sabotaging yourself. It’s just that others won’t see your feelings and needs unless you see them yourself, believe that they matter, and take action yourself. It sounds like you are making progress on that. Don’t lose motivation. Just keep on going. Every step you take gets you one step closer to feeling your feelings and sharing them. All my best wishes to you!

      • April 10, 2018 at 3:46 pm

        Thank you. As much as I just want to give in to the pain and stop fighting, there’s also that little something that keeps me putting one foot in front of the other. Your blogs are helping.

  • April 9, 2018 at 6:20 pm

    It was only through finding this website and reading many many articles that I realised that I was subjected to CEN. I recognise that I am an empath and can read others’ emotions within seconds and act accordingly. I became a people pleaser from such a young age in order to be noticed, and often took the blame for my siblings’ destructive wrong doing in order to stop the shouting/accusations/lying. My siblings are narcissists, even into adulthood. All this stems from my mother’s attitude towards me that my older siblings picked up on (my father travelled away and mother only behaved when he was around). I often wonder why my mother brought me home from the hospital? I do sometimes see/speak to that young child and tell myself none of this was my fault – how can you expect a child to understand adult emotions/behaviour? But, I am alone and have distanced myself from family in order to survive – both parents are RIP – and have often thought my life would have been easier if I were an orphan but realise there is no basis to this. I have “learned”to survive on my own – but long to be part of a loving family. There is no easy answer, except to tell myself that I am ok. I have known love (& lost) not just casual encounters, and do value myself. I wish my life had had some meaning, other than to exist – and looking back wish I had directed my energies into a worthwhile career, listened to my own needs, rather than a destructive cycle of trying to keep status quo for others. My time is for me now and those I choose to welcome into it. Love and strength to my fellow CEN survivors.

    • April 10, 2018 at 1:52 pm

      Hi there, I just want to say I hear you and recognize much of what you say in my own life.

      Love and strength back, we will get there, one step of hope, love and determination after the other.

      Hugs, Harmen

      • April 10, 2018 at 2:33 pm

        Thanks Harmen – I think it helps that after feeling so isolated that we have this forum to share and support others. To all of you – you are not alone. Reach out and stay strong. Hugs back!

    • April 10, 2018 at 2:01 pm

      Dear Justme, it sounds like you have arrived at a healthier place for yourself that you were offered in childhood. Good work! I assure you that there is meaning to your life. I hope you will keep looking for it harder. Keep up the good work!

      • April 10, 2018 at 2:42 pm

        Thanks Dr Webb. I have had to make a few changes to my life which has alleviated a great deal of anxiety that was feeding my stress and low mood. It was a challenge and scary to make those changes – but what a difference this has made to my new perspective and belief in myself. I have gone from ‘I can be happy’ to wow anything is possible and i am enjoying the journey. Blessings!!

    • June 15, 2018 at 2:36 am

      I really like the words you use near the end of comment along the lines of “those who I chose to welcome into my life/home”. That’s kind of where I am at when at my best now. And the converse applies in that family members who behaved appalling towards me in my home I no make welcome. They will learn hopefully in time.

  • April 9, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    so i answered ‘yes’ to all 22 questions on the test. so now what? and why do i have to be put on a mailing list for that?

    my therapist wants to rewrite my treatment plan goals ie what does a healthy discharge look like to me, because my goals are unrealistic. for years i have not known how to answer that, and i dont believe that whatever my ceiling looks like is going to satisfy me with that “life worth living” end goal. is it possible that recovery is not possible for everybody? this is life or death stuff.

    • April 10, 2018 at 2:03 pm

      Dear Dan, the mailing list is because I want to give you a lot more information about CEN and healing after you take the test. I don’t want to give you your score and then leave you on your own! Getting healthier happens gradually, in small steps and the more you learn about yourself and your needs, the happier you can become.

  • April 13, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    Hi great article as usual so thank you Dr Webb. When you talk about CEN I always get a bit confused as the definition seems so narrow. Ok I did suffer CEN but mine was more about negative behaviour towards any strong emotion such as anger. In my house you weren’t allowed to be angry, upset, frustrated etc. and showing those emotions would result in being shouted at and causing a row! It would upset my mother too much and encourage one of her emotional storms.

    Is this more emotional abuse than CEN? I have great trouble with anger to this day.

    • April 14, 2018 at 2:13 pm

      Dear hypercat, it’s a fine line between emotional neglect and abuse. What really matters is that your anger and strong emotions were squashed. It’s now up to you to begin to honor and process those feelings. It’s like your adult self re-parenting your child self. You can do it! Please do seek help if you need it.

      • April 18, 2018 at 12:53 pm

        As I agree with you so there, I am the CEN & Child Abuse Surivior who is deaf since birth with the long history of psychiatric disorders since my age of 14 as my I.Q. is 165+ in a fact. My parents were Narccistic, habitually hot-tempered & abusive & unfit but violently-impassive. They deprived me from learning ASL(American Sign Language) by rejecting it as they didn’t accept the intelligent, well-educated, college-educated and successful deaf people, Deaf Culture, and Deaf Rights under ADA in their ressitance & negative attitudes that were “old-fashioned ” in their lives. So that I have courage while seeking the special professional help for the deaf in the mental health services for the deaf and hard-of-hearing as my ASL-fluent linceased psychotherapist with Ph.D, always has helped me to resolve my difficult emotional problems and my mental health issues on my progress on my pace with her supports and her openly understanding in our closer and better realitionship in our cooperation in unity. Now I have chosen to stay with the largest deaf community to live independently by peramentally separating and disconnecting from the unstable out-of-state family then I no longer have any of contacts with them outside my state. Chassah

  • April 29, 2018 at 11:57 am

    Last year I found my first article about CEN and at 44, everything clicked. Examples you gave could have been plucked from my elementary school life. Here in this article, “Your brain automatically pushes your feelings away, blocking them off to prevent them from burdening your parents and yourself” really hit home. My dad died when I was 12. I know things started before this, but soon after, my mom was having a hard time and didn’t go on vacation with my brother’s family and I. My then sister-in-law told me that I needed to stop acting like a baby, and that I was being a burden to my mother. I know a switch was flipped that day. From then on it was all about keeping mom happy and I stopped talking about anything. I’m so grateful for finding you Dr. Webb. You’ve given me some hope, I’ve felt stuck for a very long time

  • December 28, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    This book has made my daughter completely de-stabilised. She has come up for Xmas and spent 2 hours blaming me, her mum, for her feeling empty inside. The blame factor in this concept is really sinister and leaves nowhere for loving parents, who were doing their best, to run.

    How simple to just blame the parents. What about taking responsibility? Developing resiliance? Doing a life which involves ups, downs, emotions of all the parties, not just a passive “I didn’t get enough of a or b and now am a mess” – oh and need to buy a book to heal me.

    The premise of this book is suspect. I am not happy to have been assaulted by it by proxy, through my otherwise wonderful daughter. She is having some problems – who isn’t – but they are not all my “fault”. A very blaming train of thought. Not helpful. Just more half baked interpretations from a shrink, trying to make a career and sell another book.

    • December 28, 2018 at 2:09 pm

      Dear Lyn, if you would like to read the book, you will see that all through it there are explanations and warnings about blame. Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is invisible and automatically transfers from one generation to the next. If you were raised by parents who were blind to your emotions, you will naturally have difficulty seeing your own emotions and those of your children. I very much hope you can remind yourself of this, try to manage your own hurt (which I know is real), and try to understand what your daughter is saying. If you can recognize that CEN is not your fault and join with her, you can all heal together. Best wishes.

  • December 28, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    Sorry – who is the perfect emotionally together family and/or individual that you are positing as the way she should all be? Isn’t it human to have issues and a myriad of responses to difficult family and external situations? Who is this perfect emotionally nurturing parent?

    Not domineering, not challenging, not critical, not abusive, not neglectful – just exactly the right combination of warmth and listening over many many years, with no exceptions.

    This sounds to be nonsense. What world are you living in?? Parenting is messy, and about warts and all. There are good and bad times, and parenting is a highly challenging thing to learn about and then do – it’s about providing love, food, shelter, freedom for kids to grow, learn and express. themselves.

    Parents are human beings – full of issues themselves. There is no such thing as this perfect parent being. The whole idea of emotional neglect is laughable when half of the world is being bombed, starved, purged or intentionally suppressed by other powerful bodies. Most parents are poor, struggling and trying their best.

    Your thesis is thus, a construct and one which is devoid of the basis notion “grow a spine” and get on with it. Breeding ground for neurotics and thus much more work for you.

    • December 29, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      Parenting is never, ever about perfection. But I believe all parents should have access to information about how to do it in the best way for their children. I am trying to educate all parents, struggling, poor, or even in war-torn countries, about a few powerful things they can do to make a difference in their children’s’ current and future mental health.

    • December 31, 2018 at 8:09 am

      “…grow a spine and get on with it”, as you said, is something that my own higher self says to me is one of the ways through CEN to emotional intelligence and maturity BUT the understanding that CEN really does lie at the bottom of so many adult issues was the missing puzzle piece that finally allowed the possibility of moving forward for me.

      • December 31, 2018 at 4:43 pm

        Well said Seneca. Thank you for sharing that!

  • March 7, 2019 at 10:27 pm

    Number 9 of the CEN Questionnaire really touched me in a profound way. (9. Often feel disappointed with, or angry at, yourself). From a very young age, it was deemed unnecessary for us to cry, get upset or angry etc. I was often told to behave myself, and to stop drawing attention to myself… as the ‘world doesn’t revolve around you’. Looking back, I noticed a change in my behaviour around the age of 10. When I would get upset or frustrated , I would repeatedly hit myself in the head. It lasted until college, when it stopped within 6 months of moving out. On the few occasions that my mother saw me, she would just laugh. I find it odd that a change of environment can have such a significant impact on my behaviour.


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