83 thoughts on “4 Cognitive Distortions Caused By Childhood Emotional Neglect

  • February 17, 2019 at 12:12 pm

    I have CEN. So do my life long friends. After 15 years of marriage where I could no longer bear the pain of the emotional neglect and abandonment I am near the end of a 2-year seperation and divorce process. Along the way my closest friends with CEN are having relationship troubles with each other. Two feel I don’t put them first so they have pulled away, been snarly or made me to be the problem in our 25 to 40 year friendships. Is this somehow connected to my healing from CEN beginning ? This piece has made me feel affirmed that setting my boundaries is like I am a new person and my old friends may be lost because they don’t know who I am and there is a level of shaming me for asserting what I need. So, within friendships with people who all have CEN how do these steps play out? Can you keep your friends or is letting those relationships go part of the journey?

    • February 17, 2019 at 12:35 pm

      Dear Renee, it is not at all unusual for friendships to falter a bit as you heal your CEN. People are thrown off when you start to value your own needs and speak up for yourself. It usually helps to explain to friends and family why you are different, and what you are trying to do. If someone cannot be on your side as you heal, then it’s sometimes a difficult necessity to distance from them.

  • February 17, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    Where is number 5?

    • February 17, 2019 at 3:37 pm

      I’m so sorry! There were only 4. My mistake!

  • February 17, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    I have come a long way in overcoming my own emotional neglect.
    I have learnt to say ‘I need…’
    I started t share my feelings saying ‘I am sad. I am not blaming you for my feelings, I only want to share how I feel…’
    My now ex, accused me of being demanding and burdening others with my feelings. She believes you should not express your ‘negative’ emotions to others as it is a burden. She thinks crying is a waste of time. I can see that she is suffering badly from CEN.

    By doing what I thought was right, I ended up getting hurt and rejected. A repeat of my childhood, but now in adult hood.
    Some people DON’T respond well to emotional honesty, and try to control you, to keep from looking at their own pain.

    I think one must be careful. I loved this woman, and cared deeply for her. I tried to show her that opening up and being vulnerable would help us to connect. She seemed terrified of ‘needing’ someone, or depending on someone.
    So much heart ache just from being afraid…

    • February 17, 2019 at 3:38 pm

      Dear Simeon, it sounds like you are figuring things out for yourself, and she will need to do the same for herself when she is ready. Keep up the good work. It’s important!

  • February 17, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    I feel all of these things and at 51, I feel like I don’t have time to change and have missed the boat on even being worth changing . I rarely contribute to conversations and after a while feel like an idiot then I’m just mortified to the point where I just walk away in social situations…

    • February 17, 2019 at 3:36 pm

      Dear Joe, there is a high likelihood that much of this is due to cognitive distortions. Please consider that possibility. You can change them!

      • February 24, 2019 at 6:22 pm

        It seems as if there’s a lot of us in our fifties that suffer from this. I do believe we owe it to ourselves to make the best out of our lives. I’ve heard some people say “Well, if you haven’t figured it out by fifty, why really worry about changing.”
        This is terrible!

      • February 25, 2019 at 7:25 am

        Dear Lori, CEN affects many people in every generation. I have watched so many people walk the path of recovery that I can tell you without a doubt: it’s never too late. People in their teens, 30s, 70s, and 80s change their lives. You can do it too!

    • February 20, 2019 at 11:48 am

      Joe, if its any comfort, you are not alone. I’m 52 and commented below that these all are true. To me they are. Very interesting questions – do we have the time to change and have we missed the boat on change. As for having the time to change, I’m not sure if you mean in years left to actually make a change that would impact our lives in any meaningful way or actually having the time in a day to invest in changing given the demands of the life of a typical middle-aged person. With work and family (and school for me) and a new puppy that no one but me wants to actually take care of, and with putting everyone’s needs above mine, there’s simply no time left in the day. As for the deeper question of are there enough years left to make it worthwhile, that’s a good question. I wonder. At this age, certain things become entrenched and it takes a lot of effort and a lot of pain – even pain for others to make a change. I really don’t know the answers. Eventually though, you see a problem. You read the article so you must recognize a problem and are looking for a solution. Just like I did. The question is can it be fixed at this point. My opinion is that its not too late to try. Whether it works or not is still undetermined for me.

      • July 31, 2019 at 8:08 am

        Hey Eric, I can also relate. I’m an only child and then lost my dad when I was thirteen. Mom was very sweet but also didn’t know how to show or talk about emotions. Not having any siblings to talk to, I felt very lonely. Depression came to the surface when I got married and pregnant and remains at age sixty seven. Seeing a therapist but feel like I’m getting no where.
        So glad that I discovered Dr Janice. Just wish I could spend more time reading all written, but get distracted then walk away.
        Having trouble articulating my thoughts too.

    • February 21, 2019 at 3:24 pm

      Joe, I’m 52. I can relate to what you wrote.

      I’ve got the added challenge of mood disorder/mental illness that goes by the name of bipolar II.

      In my experience, change can happen in some surprising ways. Sometimes, by simply becoming aware of a problem, I’ve had that problem crumble apart very quickly and simply cease to exist. I’ve had this happen more often now that I’m older. I need RADICAL differences now in my life and I’m unwilling to tolerate those thoughts and ideas that get in the way of a new way of being in the world.

      Then there is the hard, slogging along way of change. I’ve still got those types of problems too, especially when it comes to regulating my emotions and keeping myself out of suicidal ideations. That is a daily fight. I pick up my tools, and go to work. Each and every day.

      In between, there are those issues that are just part of a web of social and self difficulties. I read about them, increase my awareness, try to shift my behaviors when I can. I think of it as moving the dial. Sometimes even a few clicks in the right direction can mean that a social interaction goes just that much better, and puts a deposit in my self confident bank. These are the types of problems that I have chosen to identify as skill deficits. And I do strongly believe that acquiring skills of all types is possible and CAN cumulatively make a lasting difference over time.

    • February 21, 2019 at 9:09 pm

      Joe, I”m also 51 and feel the same way. When I read the opening scenario, I thought, “What is wrong with the way she is thinking? I think that way all the time.” Reading the article explained a lot of things I’ve wondered about all my life. When someone asks me if I”m dating anyone, I think, “Are they being serious or are they making fun of me?” I just recently started therapy for my depression and anxiety and the therapist wants to start discussing ME which is the absolute hardest thing for me to do. But I think it is what I need most at this point. Good luck to you, Joe, and best wishes!

    • March 22, 2019 at 6:57 pm

      Hi Joe, please don’t think that age has anything to do with your growth. I split from my partner of 30 years two and a half years ago. I am now 71 and have done a huge amount of studying this type of work. I feel like a completely different person today and will continue with my learning which I am loving. There’s tons of great knowledge on you tube, you just have to look for it. So dont give up, keep going along your track and you will come out the other end. Trust yourself! June

    • May 19, 2019 at 5:28 pm

      Joe, what if you live another 25+ years? Do you want to live with the pain and fear that you currently have?
      I am 75 years old, and just learned about my CEN within the last couple years. Yes, it is hard (read “challenging”) to change at this advanced age but neither do I want to live like this anymore. I struggle with believing both that I am able and that it is worth the effort to change, but I realize that the pain of staying like I am is not something I want to continue to feel. I do have to renew that commitment occasionally, but it is worth my effort (and my time and money in therapy!)

  • February 17, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    A Broken Soul is hard to spot, where the Damage lies so Deep…
    And it’s hard to see that sadness, because they rarely ever weep…

    It does not matter where I go, the Demons always come…
    But I know not Why they follow me, for something someone else has done…

    • February 18, 2019 at 4:02 am

      Dear Dave, that is a lovely but very sad poem. I hope you will work on getting more in touch with yourself and valuing your feelings and yourself. It will help.

    • February 21, 2019 at 8:29 pm

      Beautiful poem Dave. Thank you for posting

  • February 17, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    Why can’t I see the comments in my browser? I tried Chrome and Safari, but they are not visible.

    • February 18, 2019 at 4:03 am

      I don’t know Simeon! Try rebooting your computer.

  • February 18, 2019 at 12:33 am

    Dr. Webb: I’ve read (and re-read!) Running on Empty. It has been beyond helpful for me to understand myself. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
    I finally took the risk with a woman I thought was a friend, and this was huge for me, to be open and vulnerable and to share my deepest feelings and faults and desires, as you suggest, and the more I did the more she pulled away and now she no longer wants ANYTHING to do with me. She was my only friend (but I guess in hindsight she was a fake friend ). I’m devastated. I’ll never trust another person ever again. I’m now more isolated and alone than ever before. Now what? Any suggestions?

    • February 18, 2019 at 4:01 am

      Dear Bryan, as you become more authentic to yourself you’ll attract people who have more in common with you in a genuine way. Just keep going and keep your heart and mind open to new people.

  • February 18, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Dr. Webb- I can personally relate to all four traits. Reading “Running on Empty” last year was a revelation to me. It was the beginning of my reconciliation of 50+ years of suppressed emotions. I can relate to the four traits listed in this article. For decades I tried to “fix” myself by gobbling up self-help books for a “cure”. If I could just learn to be better at social skills and relating to people my awkwardness would resolve it self. Long and short, self help did not address the under lying cause and it all became to much. Years of denying my feelings, myself, my core traits caught up to me. My 29 year marriage began to suffer as i could not relate to the one dearest to me. I yearned to be understood but did not now how to communicate that need. Felt it was to much baggage to lay on my spouse and was concerned about being judged. My childhood never included questions like ” How was your day?” or “How are you feeling?” or “Is there anything you would like to talk about?” Very little encouragement and very little physical displays of caring. I was a baby boomer Stepford child. Seen but not heard. I was emotionally inept, with no life tools to find my way out. Going it alone had served me in the past, but not now. This was different. My true nature was begging to come out and reveal itself but I could not, would not, face it or release it. The hardest thing i did in my life was to reach out for professional help. Difficult because I was exhibiting classic behaviors #3 and #4 listed in your article. But, resolved my marriage and family were worth it. Asked my therapist to help move from a mindset of self help to one self acceptance. I am successfully working on learning to properly honor and accept my CEN past, my introversion and HSP personality traits. Also progressing in “feeling my feelings”, by acknowledging, labeling and validating.

    Thank you for addressing this issue and shining a light on the deep and long term challenges many of us face.

    • February 18, 2019 at 12:33 pm

      That is so great Doug that you are doing this work for yourself and your family. Thank you for sharing your background and story. It is inspirational.

  • February 18, 2019 at 11:42 am

    Excellent piece! And I don’t mind 4 instead of 5 ..total gems! I wonder how many more people might consider that they were the products of CEN (to a greater or lesser degree) if it were introduced as this piece of writing.
    I would like to add that, as a CEN person myself, I started to realise that what my parents were saying to me, in particular my mother, was that I wasn’t entitled, entitled to have wishes, hopes, feelings in fact pretty much anything. Even now it’s terribly hard to assure myself that I am entitled to have my own opinion, likes and dislikes. I’m 64 (dammit!) and only just starting to see the light and to the younger people I say PLEASE waste no time, go through the healing process and you won’t reach this age still with regrets and unfulfilled dreams!

    • February 18, 2019 at 12:30 pm

      Well said Suzanne! I’m very glad you are going through the healing process.

  • February 19, 2019 at 6:22 am

    I can relate to the 4 situations and Through therapy I have learnt at my age of 69, that I do matter and have pulled away from my closed family. I have made great friends in the last 4 years. Friends who tell me by their actions that I do matter. We all help each other when times get a little tough and I am so pleased I was able to open up and share my emotions. Your book has helped me to value me. Thank you. My mum died this year and I was able to have a one to one with her in hospital and we talked for the first time about feelings and she actually wanted a physical contact of holding hands, the first physical contact I have ever had from her, it was special.

    • February 19, 2019 at 12:52 pm

      Dear Linda, I am so happy to read your description of your CEN recovery process. Good for you! You are an inspiration.

  • February 19, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    How much of this can be attributed to the child’s predisposition to feeling that they are unloved? I feel in my case that my low self-esteem was inherent in my personality as I cannot remember my folks particularly neglecting me. They were just not demonstrable as was the way in the olden days. I was certain that the nicer things in life were just for others and that was reinforced by social situations in my childhood. Affection was not a thing in our family.

    • February 19, 2019 at 12:49 pm

      Dear Judith feeling unloved is not genetic. You are describing Emotional Neglect in your family. I hope you will learn all you can about it because you can work your way toward feeling loved.

    • February 20, 2019 at 8:27 am

      I can relate to this. I am in my eighties. I too do not remember displays of affection growing up but this was not uncommon. But this didn’t mean that children weren’t loved. A psychologist I saw for grief counseling and for advise on a relationship with one of my adult kids said we are born with a personality predisposition. Such as one might need more attention than another. I am not/was not effusive.That however, doesn’t mean I didn’t/don’t show my love in other ways. My one child, my oldest, moved out before she was 19. We were lucky to see her on holidays. She never just visited or called. She had her friends, traveled some and seemed content. Yet she keeps track of anything I have done for one of her brothers or sisters and sees that as them being cared for more than her. Examples are: allowing her brother to move back home for a few weeks while looking for a new apartment, helping her sister with arrangements for a brother’s wedding shower, etc.
      I do not know if birth order has anything to do with this; she is the oldest. There were times when I needed her to watch her siblings. She told me she left because she didn’t want to do this the rest of her life. Which was confusing because by then I was in a position that I didn’t need her to do this anymore. Reading all you write and responses makes me wonder if, in some form, we are all CENs, in some degree. It is good when people can find ways to raise their self esteem, to take charge of their lives.

      • February 20, 2019 at 9:08 am

        Dear Moira, Love is essential for children but is not enough. Children need to feel seen, heard and known by their parents. Most emotionally neglectful parent are good, caring people whose emotional needs were not met by their own parents as they were growing up. I hope this makes sense of some of your experience.

    • February 25, 2019 at 6:42 am

      Hi Judith – it was interesting that you said that ‘nicer things were for other people’ ..that’s exactly how I felt and it took me years to realise that my parents were actually saying to me that I wasn’t entitled and that others were. Whatever reason I don’t know apart from the fact I was born a girl and not the boy they wanted, in fact my paternal grandmother said to my mother, on news of my birth, “Never mind darling – better luck next time.” So yes what you are saying about nice things for others does say C.E.N. loud and clear. What do the experts think?

      • February 25, 2019 at 7:35 am

        “nicer things are for others” does say CEN to me. It’s an expression of being less valid than other people. And it is a sad way to live. But you can fix it!

  • February 19, 2019 at 10:53 pm

    Another great article with actionable advice. Dr Webb I’ve read both your CEN books but I don’t remember seeing anything about older siblings or childhood friends and how those relationships can contribute to CEN. Like most folks who click with your work, I’m rethinking everything and, at least in my case, it wasn’t just my parents. Anyway, not sure if or how you’ve seen this play out with clients or if you might one day write about this angle. Thx!

    • February 20, 2019 at 1:03 am

      Dear Robert, that’s a great question. I haven’t written about that much because research shows that it’s the primary caretakers who have the influence to set up how the child will feel about himself and the world. But it is true that siblings and friends can either partially counter that or enforce it. I’ll keep it in mind as a possible future blog topic. Thanks for your comment!

  • February 20, 2019 at 6:52 am

    CEN is definitely something I’ve struggled with my entire adult life. I am 51 now and still trying to fit everything together, always making myself last priority, and strive to always do for others. I actually do not know how to make myself a main priority.

    • February 20, 2019 at 7:26 am

      Dear Lori, you can change this! I hope you will make this happen for yourself. You deserve it.

  • February 20, 2019 at 7:52 am

    So if I have clearly suffered CEN, please explain how it is that I have NONE of these 4 Cognitive Distortions?

    Am I simply brilliant, special, or what?

    • February 20, 2019 at 9:11 am

      Hi Julie there are plenty of different ways that CEN can play out. No trends are 100% when it comes to human psychology.

  • February 20, 2019 at 8:04 am

    As always, your articles are spot on. Both of my parents were severe alcoholics and not only were my siblings and I neglected, we were abused. While, I have had a very successful and “normal” life, it took me until my early 50’s to figure out the damage that was done to me. I will spend the rest of my life learning and healing from the trauma. Knowledge is power and I have found the more I learn on CEN, the more power I have over how I feel.

    • February 20, 2019 at 9:09 am

      Dear Keith I am happy to hear that you are taking your power back. Keep it up!

  • February 20, 2019 at 9:34 am

    I always felt less than. I grew up with 4 brothers and was unhappy being a girl. My mom was inconsistent- sometimes loving sometimes angry or self pitying. My dad worked 16-18 hrs a day and was very distant emotionally and physically but I adored him because he was kind and had very liberal views. I was bipolar and suffered years of deep depression and mania in my late 20,s and early 30s. But I excelled in school. After 8 years of college I was Phi Beta Kappa became a therapist at age 50 and a Dr of Psychology at 72. It was after that that I began to feel I belonged. Never thought I was smart or pretty- now I see I was and still am both.Many people with emotional neglect become addicted or try to fill the empty place within which I call “the hole in the soul with drugs alcohol food or people I joined AA at age 60 due to a drinking problem and started to accept myself and now can love myself. AA ‘s non judgmental and unconditional love helped me more than 30 years of therapy. It was the program that changed my life. I am now a successful therapist and can help with almost any patients issues – alcoholics, children, elderly, drug addicts adolescents and those with bipolar disorders . Please mention the 12 step programs in your future writings.

    • February 20, 2019 at 11:01 am

      Good for you Nina. Thanks for sharing your story.

      • February 20, 2019 at 8:06 pm

        Hope you will consider mentioning 12 step programs in your future writings. The steps are a powerful tool to cope with early trauma. It can mitigate the pain and loneliness, the isolation, the destructive behaviors and can help lead To self-respect self love and the ability to love others.

  • February 20, 2019 at 10:34 am

    Those are not distortions – those are all true! Seriously. I’m not joking.

    • February 20, 2019 at 11:02 am

      Dear Eric, please learn much more about Childhood Emotional Neglect. Hopefully you will begin to see how very false they actually are.

  • February 20, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    I don’t know where to start making the change and worry about it changing or hurting the people I love. I’ve often wondered if me pleasing everyone else is what pleases me even though I often feel alone and empty.

    • February 21, 2019 at 3:20 am

      Yes, Lori, exactly. Pleasing everyone actually pleases no one. Because you’re not able to be your true, authentic self. I hope you will focus on that instead!

  • February 20, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    I so relate to your example of Cassie in the coffee shop. I remember in sixth grade being in the smart group. We were a dozen people in a circle and the teacher was discussing a topic way over my head. Everyone contributed but me. I was crushed.

    I ran out of the classroom afterwards sobbing. It hurt so bad, and I didn’t realize why. Teacher caught up to me and tried to calm me down and reassure me I was good “in other areas.” I never told anyone this until now.

    Today I’m in my 50’s I’m trying to piece together my CEN and why I am the way I am. Read your first book. Thank you for your life mission.

    • February 21, 2019 at 3:19 am

      Dear Don, memories like that can explain a lot about one’s childhood. I hope you will keep working on this.

  • February 20, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    I can completely relate to these 4 cognitive distortions. I don’t tell people that I am upset, hurt, sad, etc. because I feel like I am bothering them. Instead I bottle it up, and then become sarcastic or I blow up and get angry which isn’t effective. Changing seems overwhelming because this is all I know. I have read part of the book, but not all of it yet. I just feel like I can’t be fixed!!

    • February 21, 2019 at 3:18 am

      Dear Denar, it can be fixed! Keep on reading.

  • February 20, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    CEN is true but just because some people truly experience CEN, not everybody who claims they have actually have. Articles like this one are a concern because emotional neglect is not defined completely. A person can claim emotional neglect because they did not get what they selfishly wanted. They tie physical wants to emotional needs. “When I wanted xyz, you denied me and did not address my (whiny) emotional needs for not getting what I wanted.”
    It appears some counselors either misuse these concepts or maybe exaggerate them so their clients make minor struggles into disastrous memories. They teach their clients to redefine their past. This redefinition creates a “Mom, you need to fix this past.” or “Papa, You need to fix this past.” “You did not stop my brother from verbally abusing me.” Sorry, we could not be at all places at all times.
    btw, Children can emotionally neglect their parents. Is there a book about that? The grandkids lose out when that happens.
    We are helpless and shut out of the relationship to try to rebuild it because her counselor has not encouraged her to meeting with us in counseling. We have offered to be available to any format she chooses.
    As the Physicians’ oath says: First, do no harm.
    Don’t define the issues so the client can then light the fire unless you are going to try to help quench the flames.

    • February 21, 2019 at 3:15 am

      Dear Locked Out, the type of “counselor” you describe would be a combination of gravely incompetent and incomprehensibly personality disordered. I’m sure such people exist, but I do not personally know any. Every single blog post on the internet is a piece of information, and every reader is responsible for educating themselves as needed to understand themselves and the world in relation to that one short piece of info. Perhaps if you tried to see things through your grandchildren’s eyes, a new opening may appear. Best wishes to you.

      • February 25, 2019 at 6:55 am

        Thanks for that reply – I certainly remember articles of that ilk here in the UK whereby children would be able to claim all sorts of things because they were refused some such toy or treat. And this was when they were changing the categories of abuse to include emotional abuse which is now included in training courses on child safety.When it was finally accepted I think that was when I started to realise my own emotional abuse issues. I agree – that counsellor mentioned is surely not worthy of the name – sadly we still have the problem of ‘counsellors’ practising who are such in name only and are not certified in any way shape or form. Keep up the good work in (politely) countering these misconceptions.

    • February 21, 2019 at 6:25 am

      Dear Locked out Papa
      This comment stands out: ‘Children can emotionally neglect their parents’

      With all kindness and respect to you in what sounds a tricky scenario, children under the age of 15 don’t have any responsibility towards their parents emotional needs. To demand that a child meet the emotional needs of their parent is emotionally abusive and will damage the child.

      If you are referring to adult children, then sadly, as much as we would like, adults don’t owe anybody any kind of emotional connection, even to their parents. We can ask for connection, but we cannot demand it.

    • February 27, 2019 at 9:48 am

      — “You did not stop my brother from verbally abusing me.” Sorry, we could not be at all places at all times. —

      If this kind of verbal abuse was a one-time thing, then fine. But I can say from personal experience that when it is a solid wall of this kind of torment starting from birth to when one moves out of the house (and in my case completely across the country) to escape it, yes it is the parents’ responsibility to put a nonnegotiable stop to that. I can’t say which you’re describing here, but if it was a constant, everpresent part of her upbringing then yes, putting a stop to it was indeed your job.

  • February 20, 2019 at 10:10 pm

    Thanks for this. I think I must have it as I’ve grown up with a lack of self-esteem, which I feel has held me back so much in my life with so many disappointments. Being homosexual, along with possible Asperger’s, compounded things. I’m in my early 60s and have been in a string of low-paying jobs and without a life partner due to a fear of commitment, etc. I just feel that there is no hope and just place my faith in God that He will provide until it comes time for Him to call me Home. If one is introverted, it would be hard to find someone to confide in fully as those I know seem to be like me, as in “like attracts like.”

    • February 21, 2019 at 3:17 am

      Dear John, it does sound like you are taking a passive approach to your life. Whereas if you try to figure out what went wrong, you can then take charge and start actively addressing it. I encourage you to do so. All my best.

  • February 21, 2019 at 12:23 am

    I’ve never heard anyone describe EXACTLY how I’ve felt in multiple social situations throughout my life as the scenario you used at the beginning of this article! That has happened to me with friends talking about politics. I have also experienced all of the 4 distortions you list in this article. Thank you so much for your work. A few years ago I found meditation to help calm my chattering mind and it changed my life. I have distanced myself from my entire family for the last few years and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made (also one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made). I finally started looking inward for my happiness as well a few years ago. I’m much better off than I used to be, but there are so many nuances in life I am discovering that being emotionally neglected has effected. I am so grateful to be a talented singer and also discovering my talent as an actor. Expressing myself in these ways at this time in my life when I feel I have nothing to lose is starting to feel SO freeing. I have started to let in people who SEE me and accept me for who I am. I find myself doubting what they see, but I see their authenticity and I am reassured. The more I allow good things to happen for me, the more fulfilled and confident I feel within myself. I have never read your books but have wanted to for so long. Thank you again for your work! It’s amazing to be able to read about my own experiences from someone that doesn’t even know me but knows what people like me are and have gone through.

  • February 21, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    I met my ex-husband when I was 17, and we were together for 21 years. I don’t really fell that I was neglected as a child, but definitely in our marriage. So much of these discussions seems so relevant to me. I started reading them because I really want to know how to help my daughters to deal with this neglect I felt for so long from their father. Does my situation still fit here, even though I was 17 and it wasn’t my parents neglecting me?

  • February 23, 2019 at 3:40 am

    I’ve got all 4 of these, and I’ve tried working on them periodically through the years, but it’s a lot harder than you make it sound. I still get told quite often that I’m not good enough, that I don’t measure up to other people, and that everyone else’s feelings are more important than mine are.
    I tried so hard so many times to give people the benefit of the doubt, but again and again, I find that if I tell anyone what I’m feeling or what I need, or ask for help, that they’ll make certain that I regret it. I definitely can’t count on anyone. I’d elaborate, but again, someone would make sure I was sufficiently emotionally punished for it if I did.

    • February 25, 2019 at 7:09 am

      Hi Lori,
      Go for it Lori…don’t think that everyone has the answers – I used to give people the benefit of the doubt without good results. There are narcissistic people out there who can take advantage of us sensitive C.E.N. souls. Trust your gut instincts for a while – I think we are all born with a little of that. Maybe it’s the remnants of ‘fight or flight ‘ but I’ll leave that to the experts. I have only recently started posting on this site and I find that it’s positive and not ‘weepy waily self-pity party’ at all which is great as we all need positivism to get us on track and being what we want to be -authentic people!

      • February 25, 2019 at 7:40 am

        Dear Suzanne, yes indeed it’s a balance between making people earn the keys to your heart, but keeping your heart open enough so that people have a chance.

  • February 23, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    This is so powerful and I so wish I had known this so long ago. It’s taken me years to find some healing and know that I am worthwhile and I am not stupid just because I was neglected. This article describes me to a tee and I find it so comforting. Thank you.

    • February 24, 2019 at 4:46 am

      I am so glad Lee. I’m very glad you’ve realized how much you matter.

  • February 24, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    How does a parent with CEN and a diagnosis of cptsd know how to parent properly? I thought all I had to do to be a good mom was go the opposite of my mom. Wrong. I went so far the other way that I now have a teen with social anxiety 🙁 I tried so hard to be the mom I wished I had and not be the mom I did have, that I lost my own direction if that makes any sense. Both my teen and I are in therapy separately. I never thought being “too nice” could be a problem when raising kids. I was so very wrong. Now I have to deal with the guilt of messing up my own child. It has sent me into a downward spiral. My personal story is too long to get into, but what I suffered as a child was so severe, or rather the effects were, that I ended up with multiple misdiagnosis’s and a stay at the psych hosp. Working with a great therapist now, so hopefully will begin feeling “normal” or close to it, if I can even recognize what normal is.

    • February 24, 2019 at 4:54 pm

      Dear Layla, it sounds like you have tried very hard to do your very best. Many, many people bounce too far in the opposite direction. There is plenty of hope for you and your child.

  • February 25, 2019 at 6:07 pm

    I can relate to all 4! It is no wonder to me why I chose to live my life to protect my own interests at all cost. I learned right in my own home! I hated counting on anyone! Want and need were bad words. Is there any way to reverse this?

    • February 25, 2019 at 7:51 pm

      Dear Frank, yes there is a way to reverse it. Learn everything you can about Childhood Emotional Neglect, and then start down the path of healing it.

  • February 28, 2019 at 11:19 pm

    Dear Dr. Webb,

    I am a 51 year old, clean living, faithful husband to a beautiful women who I have been married to for nearly 18 years. We have a 14 year-old Son (an awesome kid) a nice home in a nice community and we’re as normal a family as we can be. I am more in love with my wife now than I ever have been.
    We are both home based. I am an entrepreneur / survivor and see has had the same job with the largest publishing company on the planet for 20 years. Her income – steady. My income is good but dynamic and inconsistent.

    Last September my equally faithful wife announced to me (out of the blue) “I’m not happy”
    and the shockwaves rang through me like non-stop thunder on a rainy day. I did many (not all) of the classic reactions, panic, anger, denial, ignorance, and many more.

    After much research and elimination of the usual suspects such as emotional or physical affairs
    a hormone issue or something else, I realized that my wife had something (some feelings) that I had noticed before, but only on occasion. In 2007 during a moment of intimacy – she completely shut down… I asked her about it. in that moment… “what’s wrong” I said. “I don’t know,” she said… followed by “I just feel like a stranger right now.”

    I kept asking for few minutes, in different ways – polite, understanding, tender… to no avail.

    It never happened again but this women was always playfully distant. I thought that was one of her good qualities and didn’t mind a bit because I’m not needy really. It worked so why fix it?

    However, I came across your article recently and was stunned to read the similarities.

    It describes her situation almost perfectly – cognitive distortions

    In the last four months she has drastically changed, is cold, detached, withdrawn and filed
    a divorce petition on December 17th.

    I want no sympathy thoughts from anyone by stating that I have not done anything to deserve this. I haven’t done anything to deserve this and I’m not taking it too personally because I love my wife and would honor her no matter what. Some great sadness and a little healthy rage comes from the fact that our 14 year old may now have to change his childhood story to “I came from a broken home.”

    This is unacceptable to me. It’s reckless but I cannot get angry because she does not respond to rational thought. It’s baffling at BEST. She has seen a therapist but I highly doubt (because of the attributes of the condition) that the therapist has a clue just yet. Wife talks to only one of her five sisters regularly and she is probably not the one I would be taking advice from.

    It will take a while for any of this to actually start happening but I do not know what to do now that I have this new information. I gave her the articles to read with a sticky note on them that says “I was thinking of you and thought you might find this article interesting, let me know if you want to talk about it”. -ME

    In our next conversation, I would like to ask her this question “Do you see any parallels to our life right now in those two articles I gave you?”

    My marriage disintegrating – Husband baffled, hurt, confused, non-reactive and standing strong.

    I now wonder what to do. Am I about to be a single dad? has she checked out? for how long? Is this hormones? She is 47 (48 in one month)

    I honestly do not know what to do. It appears that the condition makes it even more difficult to actually help her.

    That’s where I am.

    Is there hope?

    • March 1, 2019 at 8:11 am

      Dear Liam, I suggest you not stop with those 2 articles, but visit EmotionalNeglect.com and learn all about CEN. You can also read the book Running On Empty. I have no way of knowing what’s going on from your comment. But it may be possible your marriage could have drifted apart because of a lack of emotional intimacy, and that your wife felt it, but didn’t know what to do with it or how to ask for more. But that is only a guess on my part. I definitely suggest you speak to a therapist about all this and get their opinion and support.

    • March 2, 2019 at 8:23 pm

      If it’s CEN, your wife has probably been struggling with it for longer than she or anyone else even realized. I can relate to your, or rather your wife’s situation more than I would like to admit. My husband and I are about the same age as you and your wife and also have 2 teens. I have often felt like just walking away would be best for everyone, but I found help. It most likely has less to do with you, and more to do with how she’s been made to feel because of a past she cant quite process. I too became emotionally and physically distant from a great husband. I recognize in myself what you have described about your wife. A good therapist can do wonders so yes, there’s hope but it takes time and the process can be excruciating. I hope the best for you and your family, you sound like a wonderful husband and father.

      • March 3, 2019 at 1:50 pm

        Thank you so much for your encouragement. It made my day to know that I’m probably not imagining things or crazy. My wife and I had a “kitchen” meeting last Friday night. I lit a candle and attempted to unpack some of her feedback about the article. I did my best to disarm… speaking softly, slowly with the question “does any of this resonate with you?” Immediately she went to that place between contentious and defensive. She singled out “Childhood” and “Neglect” then proceeded to tell me how wrong I was thinking that her childhood was neglected. Did she completely miss the point? Is that part of the condition too?

        I was ready to hear so much more…but got that instead. So disappointing.
        Now I believe “no expectations” is the best attitude to have.

        I thought “This is why we have professional people who help process this stuff”

        Then I moved to some of the 6 things. She agreed with them mostly and proceeded to tell me that “just because these things resonate with her and appear to be good examples, doesn’t’t mean I have this condition”

        What do I do with that?
        It seems like denial because (maybe) I hit the bullseye?

        I am not blameless here either… the last four months have caused some of the worst parts of my personality to materialize. Out of frustration yes but that’s not an excuse to be harsh or mean.
        I’m concerned that she is now “defining me” based on my reaction/handling of this over the last 4 months.

        I have been in weekly attendance at a Christian mens group since Sept 2018. Although some of my actions are angry, (hurtful comments) being in a group of other guys going through similar “junk” holds me accountable keeps me grounded and helps me avoid saying things I will regret.

        Being grounded and held accountable is probably the best piece of advice I could give to other Husbands out there in a similar situation.

        Standing Strong in My Fidelity

      • March 3, 2019 at 8:06 pm

        Denial was a HUGE issue for me. When the very air you breathe is toxic as a child, it’s very confusing to be told things weren’t “normal.” In therapy for 6 months now and I have just recently stopped asking my therapist if he’s sure I need help. Don’t be too hard on yourself regarding your reactions to her. It does take two to tango, but you seem to be doing the best you can. My hope for you both is that she will eventually yield to the possibility that there’s more there than she’s able to see. You mentioned staying calm…that is my number one request of my husband. I can tell you that if your wife is struggling with CEN, you remaining calm during her storm, while not easy, is so very generous and loving of you. She will eventually be able to see that and appreciate it.

  • April 19, 2019 at 2:57 am

    Dear Dr. Jonice

    Spot on. I’m a 70 year old retired lawyer, I figured it out along the same lines, I call it “Love Deficiency Disorder” (LDD) but it’s exactly the same thing as CEN, a chronic deficit of meaningful emotional attention.

    My parents were “good providers,” dad was an MD, mom a non-working RN after I was born, both were religion addicts – Godaholics – I call them, religion was more important than the kids, we got food, shelter, clothing, they got us to church and school on time, beyond that we were pretty much on our own, the only thing they seemed to care about was that we were good kids and loved Jesus so we’d get saved and go to heaven, in my entire life I cannot remember my mother or father ever asking me a personal question, a question that showed personal interest.

    But, they were pillars of the church and community!

    I did your CEN quiz, answered “yes” to every question, yes to your 6 things and yes to your 4 things.

    Too late for me to make much change in my life, I’ve been to 6 therapists, none of whom picked up on anything like CEN, none of whom did me a damn bit of good, all nice people with good intentions, but, not effective at all. Your work is complimentary to WHEN THE BODY SAYS NO by Dr. Gabor Mate’, who makes the case that early childhood and prenatal stress and emotional neglect is the best predictor of mental and physical illnesses later in life.

    After mom died I cleaned out the house, found a box with some 40 or 50 letters I’d written them in my teens, 20’s, 30’s, they had never responded to any of them, never mentioned them, some were unopened, never been read, the message I got was that I didn’t matter much, and yes that has haunted me for life, and at this point the best therapy I’ve found is good Scotch.

    Along the way I was a drug counselor on the side for about 10 years, and I’d say that every one of the addicts and ex-addicts I talked with was an addict, or had been, because of CEN. I asked one client with a long history of addiction and drug-related convictions, “How many, what percentage, of addicts do you thing were abused children, your opinion?”

    He said, “100%.”

    I include emotional neglect in the category of abuse, passive abuse, failure to give the kids the attention they need to grow and thrive. Like failing to water a plant.

  • May 6, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    My neglect runs so deep. And in many directions. Never had help. My story is so much. I am 61 and feel so lost.

    • May 7, 2019 at 10:59 am

      Then you’ve come to the right place, everyone has been supportive on here. However – do not expect instant healing, quick solutions or for that matter platitudes – you have 61 years of desert/swamp/empty streets ( however you want to imagine it) to slowly walk through. Take your time, read the articles by Dr Janice, sit back a moment then re-read and see which sections ‘speak’ to you first. They will be the sections you can investigate first. I imagined myself as a female Sherlock Holmes trying to find the solutions by tracking back along one train of thought at a a time, it’s not a subject to take as a complete entity all at once. You wouldn’t expect to paddle up the Amazon in an afternoon would you? Good luck with your journey.

  • July 6, 2019 at 4:35 am

    Very informing article it has been 3 years since i began to work on myself it has been very hard to come out of mental mess that i have been through but now thanks to Allah iam feeling my feeling even though it isnt fully. Through out this process all my helpers was self development psychotherapists. i have learned a lot of pscho. terms and i have expected my family and my friends to change but that wasnt the case rather i found it the easiest to change myself but it isnt yet until i win.On the top of them you are the one dr. Thank you

  • November 18, 2019 at 3:40 am

    As long as man continues to destroy all life forms, which he considers inferior, he will never know what health is and will never find true peace. The men will continue to kill each other as long as they slaughter the animals. He who sows killing and sorrow cannot gather joy and love. “https://bit.ly/2QcaPAR

  • January 11, 2020 at 10:20 pm

    Even if someone says something wrong about me it’s just their opinion it’s not what we are. Neglect means they feel like that it is not we are. If we start to think like this, we feel happy inside, I think spirituality can help here practicing meditation can bring in some relief in life and everyone can forget and move on with a good inner feeling and a great human being just let go


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