34 thoughts on “6 Common Events That Can Trigger Your Childhood Emotional Neglect

  • September 29, 2019 at 11:07 am

    Holy Moly this hit the nail on the head for me!!! I can relate to all of this. Always feel invisible and worry so much about being a burden to others.😥.

    Thank you so very much, Jonice!!! All your work has been a huge help and comfort to me.🤗



    • September 29, 2019 at 11:46 am

      I’m so glad you find this helpful, Chrissy. Being aware of the triggers is so important.

  • September 29, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    I am 47.. and this is me.. living this now. The title Running on Empty seems to take words from my mouth. I am hoping there is still hope for me.

    • September 29, 2019 at 8:33 pm

      There is hope Lisa! Visit EmotionalNeglect.com and read the Running On Empty books. You will see there is a path to healing this.

  • September 29, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    This makes so much sense to me now. Most of this rings true for me. Having learned about CEN from you, I am becoming more comfortable in my own skin and am actively working on recognizing, accepting, and working through my feelings. I’m so grateful for you and for your guidance.

    • September 29, 2019 at 8:35 pm

      That is wonderful Laura! Thank you for your message!

  • September 29, 2019 at 8:22 pm

    Geez… that is exactly me. ..But …i do get along with my parents, they are good people…..its weird. I keep reading these articles trying to find something that would tell me im barking up the wrong tree and crazy…
    My thing is I cant get past a point of thinking that everything i think is ridiculous and not worth mentioning..or dont cause a fuss…..thats the first think i think.

    Being at a party..a group of people i find hard too…and i notice when i leave parties etc…that feeling of an ache or a hole in my chest seems bigger.

    • September 29, 2019 at 8:36 pm

      Dear C., many, if not most, CEN parents are good people. All it requires to grow up emotionally neglected is to have your emotions under-responded to and under-validated. Please think about it that way instead.

  • September 30, 2019 at 1:08 am

    I have been working on this and through trauma for a long time now. I still feel like I am in the margins. I don’t know how to be anywhere else. In social situations I feel like my personality, thoughts, feelings etc are all choked off by a tidal wave of anxiety. And hyper vigilance. I freeze up. I wonder what I am missing because despite progress in other areas of my life, this seems to be just as hard as ever.

    • September 30, 2019 at 7:53 am

      Dear Tem, have you considered being evaluated for medication for the anxiety? Research shows that anxiety is often biologically based and responds best to a combo of working on your emotional health + medication. You may not have to stay on it forever, but just long enough to allow you to change how you process and function in social situations and learn new skills. Also, if you haven’t talked with a trained therapist about this, I recommend you start there.

  • September 30, 2019 at 3:46 am

    On reading this I found myself relating at a number of points, especially to the large social gathering example. It also triggered off a vivid memory of my uncle offering me some peanuts to leave his group at a party when I was a toddler. All this left me wondering how I would have turned out if adopted by an emotionally warm couple at an early age – significantly different or would genetics play a role too? Thanks.

    • September 30, 2019 at 7:56 am

      That’s such a sad story Vernon. Many adults don’t realize that toddlers have feelings. It’s so very wrong. Yes, genetics play a role in personality, but so does parents. It would have made a difference to be raised in an emotionally validating and aware family.

  • September 30, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    Points 2-4 definitely ring true for me. Even since being aware of my CEN, I still feel guilty and confused, as my parents are generally decent people and fun to be around when they are on form. I almost always ‘go with the flow’ in situations so as not to burden anyone, and almost never ask for help. Getting there – and ‘Running On Empty’ definitely helped!

    • September 30, 2019 at 7:27 pm

      Hi Jess, the only defining characteristic of CEN parents is that they do not notice and respond to your feelings. Being fun and decent is irrelevant. It’s part of what makes CEN so hard to see and believe. I’m glad you are doing the work to get yourself there! Keep it up.

      • October 1, 2019 at 9:15 pm

        I like the point “they do not notice and respond”. This is probably the key to CEN. If I showed any emotion growing up I was told I was either “too emotional” or “too sensitive” or variations on that theme. Our emotions do not have a chance to develop. A great post!

      • October 2, 2019 at 8:30 am

        Yes, that’s a good description of how CEN happens. For some, nothing is said; for others, as in your case, your feelings are demeaned or actively diminished. I’m so glad you are figuring all this out for your life, Sue!

      • October 12, 2019 at 3:29 pm

        I’m still told I’m too sensitive. One big struggle I have after having come across CEN & other psych info on the net is to not blame my parents. I can’t stop thinking about how my life would’ve been different & how so many of my unhelpful thought processes & thus life struggles are because they didn’t care to/ didn’t have the sense to know better. I still live with my parents because that’s how it is in my country & every time I catch them behaving emotionally unreceptive either to me or my sibling I feel annoyed/terrible about how I’ll ever be normal/enraged/victimized. On days I’ve been productive it’s better. My point is I really struggle to not be bitter/ resentful about it. It only adds to the feeling of ‘I’m so fucked up in my head, it’s going to take so long to be normal, how will I be a normal functioning adult in that interim? My life is so horrible & I’m never going to be good enough.’
        How do I stop blaming them when I feel like there are so many things I’ve kept myself from because no one ever bothered to really ask/guide & I was too afraid of being a bother, they only asked out of anxiety, not to actually listen. I literally can’t stop thinking about how I could’ve really lived life instead of struggling to want to live & that the people who are the reason for my existence are the ones who lead me to become trapped by my own limiting self-beliefs & thoughts.

  • October 1, 2019 at 5:15 pm

    Thank you for this explanation. I am really uncomfortable at family gatherings and this explains so much. Hate asking for help-being disappointed or a burden. I have started reading Running on Empty, but I feel some anxiety when reading it so only do a chapter at a time.
    Thank you for helping me learn about myself!

    • October 1, 2019 at 7:30 pm

      I understand! I have heard many people say they have to read Running on Empty slowly. It can feel like a lot to take in, but I’m so glad you also feel validated at the same time.

  • October 2, 2019 at 12:01 am

    For someone who has gone to so many different counselors throughout most my adult life, I cannot believe I never learned what i’ve learned from you about CEN! Thank you so much for all your amazing information!. I finally understand!

    • October 2, 2019 at 8:33 am

      I’m so glad to hear that, Edie. Thank you for sharing!

  • October 9, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    All of these ring true for me. There’s another situation that triggers me: seeing parents responding in a healthy way to their child’s emotional state, doting on them, or seeing others confidently voice their opinions. Growing up and seeing friends interacting with their parents who would take the time to ask them how they were feeling and then actually listen and respond, un-rushed and interested, I would feel this vague sense of annoyance but also unfairness. I’d be thinking something like “Oh for christ’s sake, has ‘Little Miss Spoiled’ gotten enough attention yet?” But I would also think: “I wish my dad/mom cared this much about what was going on with me.” I’d also be triggered in a group when one particularly expressive/talkative person would occupy the spotlight with no trouble dominating the conversation; internally I’d be thinking “Oh shut up- what gall you have, going on and on thinking people actually care what you have to say.” Of course, I never actually voiced what I was feeling, would just keep it to myself. As an adult, aware of my CEN, those thoughts are replaced with negative thoughts towards my parents, which I also try to quash because I know that it wasn’t their fault- they didn’t know any better. I do still kind of feel like a cold reptile when I see mothers and daughters who are particularly close interacting. I don’t harbor any resentment, but it’s just a relationship dynamic I don’t have any experience with and don’t understand.

    • October 11, 2019 at 4:57 pm

      Amber…you explained what i think perfectly. I couldnt explain it properly. I work in a preschool…and seeing other parents with their kids like u mentioned…it was like u read my mind…i never say anything of course..alot of times i just have to walk away.u explained it perfectly.

      • October 12, 2019 at 3:31 pm

        I can relate to that. I always find myself confused trying to differentiate between coddling & being understanding while being firm; can’t decide if being firm is necessary or just understanding can do the job if it’s present since early childhood.

  • October 14, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    Wouldn’t CEN be prevalent in all cases where physical abuse occurred also? I can specifically see most the problems in my life are do to neglect and abuse as a child. I don’t have a relationship with my immediate family, I’m 50 yrs old and still suffering…

    • October 16, 2019 at 11:45 pm

      Don’t know what Dr. Webb would say, but I say No. With physical abuse or physical neglect you have something tangible. “THIS happened to me.” You can touch it. Be angry about it. Fight it. You can TELL people about it and they can sympathize. With the kind of emotional neglect this article is talking about you don’t see it. As several have noted their parents could be nice, fun etc. How can you fight that? Even if you get to the point of being able to see what happened.It’s what makes dealing with it so hard. And just TRY to explain it to anyone else and see how they react. It’s worse than saying you have problems with depression! I know the answer is Not to ‘blame’ the parents, but if FEELS like you need to blame SOMEONE. Soooo, who’s left?

  • October 21, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    I think my CEN started after the premature birth of my little sister, and her subsequent death a few hours later (too premature to survive). Prior to her birth, I was so excited. I was 6 years old and ready to NOT to be an only child anymore. Long story short, she was born and died a few hours later. I never saw her. I didn’t go to the funeral (my parents thought I was too young). I tried talking to them about my sister afterwards but they gave me minimal information. I stopped asking because I knew it hurt them to talk about it.

    Fast forward to now. I’m in my late 30s and spent most of my adult life thinking I had dealt with her death because I never met her. I’ve recently come to realize that I haven’t dealt with it. How do I begin to face this now? Do you know of any online support groups for adult siblings?

  • October 22, 2019 at 8:17 am

    I feel that CEN speaks to my struggle in this moment-where my father has moved in with my family after my mother passed. It’s been 3 years and the worst version of myself has emerged. Angry, impatient, quick to judge, sensitive, depressed, anxious..
    I’m stuck between caretaker of my father and my family I created. All my childhood insecurities and the dark cloud has returned.

  • November 11, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    I have been working through CEN for about 14 months now. I am starting to see small steps forward. I do not go to the emotional upheaval when I talk with my mother now. She grew up CEN and is in deep denial, trying to take care of everyone and expecting others to do the same.
    Now that I am taking care of myself and noticing the feelings, her words do not send me into a tailspin (99% of the time). I still have a lot of work to do because there is still the go to eating problems when I have terror feelings. These are old and deep perpetuated by a parent who fed us rather than loved us.

  • November 13, 2019 at 7:08 am

    OMG no. 5! Dealing with conflict. My mother was always, always angry at everything. She still is. Whatever I said and did as a young person made her angry, it was always like walking on eggshells- would she blow up? Would she storm out of the room? Would she ‘get revenge’ on me later for something I’d unknowingly done to upset her?

    I could never work out what made her angry, I could never win any argument as she just stormed out of the room. So I learned to avoid any anger or angry people and just stay as quiet and invisible as possible.

    So I never learned how to handle conflict or anger and so went through life silently and invisibly, never really connecting with anyone in case I did some mysterious thing to make them angry.

  • November 17, 2019 at 8:57 pm

    I actually discovered your blog posts a couple of years ago, while I was on the waitlist for therapy, but I stopped reading them. I couldn’t risk the possibility that it might just be more false hope. Fast forward to 2019 and I rediscovered CEN and immediately ordered both books (amazon says they should arrive a couple of days after Frozen 2 comes out). It turns out, whether she’s explicitly calling it CEN or not, my therapist is doing the things you recommend for CEN.

    Therapy has been really great. I think I have a really good attitude towards therapy, I’m willing to do the work, I want to feel my feelings to the extent that I am able, I get excited about homework. I wonder if that’s common for many people with CEN? We’re not alone, and that in itself is worth paying $150 an hour for.

  • December 2, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    I see myself experiencing every one of the six events throughout my life – this is such a revelation to me! My responses to being ignored, encountering conflict, and absolute refusal to ever ask for help, make me realize just how much I can benefit from what you have to share. Thank you for bringing this to my (and many others) attention – just learning that it’s never too late to heal from CEN is so encouraging.

  • December 11, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    I never knew why I had an issue with other people’s strong emotions. I couldn’t understand why I was so uncomfortable when someone displayed hurt or sorrow. Going to a funeral was the worst for me. But, now I know that CEN can cause that I feel relieved that there is an answer. I have to say that going through life feeling chronically invalidated and feeling like my feelings are wrong was difficult because I thought I was weird or an idiot. I didn’t have any answers. Even going to therapists, I always felt like something wasn’t being addressed. Thank you for writing these articles!


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