If you’ve suffered from childhood emotional neglect, you may not be aware of your trauma. You know something was wrong growing up but can’t put your finger on it.
That’s because childhood trauma is usually framed as physical and, more recently, as emotional abuse. If your trauma resulted from what didn’t happen it can be harder to pinpoint and overcome.
If a parent knocks you down or swears at you, it’s easy to call abuse. The proof lies in the memory of what they did to you.
Neglect is framed as lack of food, shelter, or other necessities of life. Another evidence-based definition.
It turns out emotional neglect can be equally as painful as physical neglect. And as traumatizing as emotional or physical abuse.
Some say more so. But the clues are less tangible.
Childhood emotional neglect does not discriminate on the basis of wealth or status. In fact, some of the most rich and well-established families have seen the worst cases.Childhood emotional neglect does not discriminate on the basis of wealth or status. In fact, some of the most rich and well-established families have seen the worst cases. Click To Tweet
Those of us who grew up with this type of neglect felt invisible, unloved and unwanted. We received no praise or encouragement from our parents or caregivers. In fact, they may not have even looked at us very often.
Unlike healthy parents, emotionally neglectful parents do nothing to help their children process their emotions.
Most of the time, feelings are forbidden and children in these homes learn to hide them in order to win acceptance.
Children are not loved for who they are, and are expected to cater to their parents needs by stifling their own. They grow up feeling like no one would ever love them for who they are.
If you’re struggling with any of the following signs, you may be a victim of childhood emotional neglect.
1. Overly self-sufficient
If you have trouble asking for help and feel you have to get things done on your own, you may have suffered from childhood emotional neglect.
You got used to having your needs ignored in the home. So, you’ve made an unconscious decision to rely only on yourself rather than re-experience the pain of rejection.
2. Poor sense of self
Your parents never validated your feelings and never helped you understand your strengths and weaknesses.
You have trouble discerning your likes and dislikes because you put those aside to avoid burdening your parents.You have trouble discerning your likes and dislikes because you put those aside to avoid burdening your parents. Click To Tweet
As a result of this lack of guidance, you struggle to know who you are on a fundamental level. This makes if hard to create an authentic life and pursue heartfelt desires.
3. Weak boundaries
You put aside your own needs to take care of the needs of others. You do what you think will please people because you believe they would never accept you otherwise.
You may think you have a fatal flaw that makes you unlovable. You have trouble accepting that anyone would love you for who you are.
4. Difficulty with emotions
Your parents likely dismissed or punished you for having emotions they found inconvenient. As a result, you learned to keep their “love” by hiding those feelings.
You adopted the notion that certain emotions are negative or bad. You’ve lost touch with your ability to process your feelings because you never learned how to do so.
5. Low self discipline
Your parents either pounded you with rules or were too hands off. Both cases lead to poor self-discipline in adulthood.
Rule-ridden adolescents rebel against structure. If you’re only following rules to avoid punishment, you don’t learn the healthy reasons for habits and routines. Therefore, you won’t adopt them in adulthood.
If your parents failed to give you structure like mine did, you won’t learn the value of habits and routines. You will struggle to form them throughout life.
Healing from childhood emotional neglect
If these signs of childhood emotional neglect sound familiar, there are many things you can do to begin healing.
1. Start feeling all your emotions, and stop labelling some good and others bad. All emotions have something to teach us and we need them all to live fully.Start feeling all your emotions, and stop labelling some good and others bad. All emotions have something to teach us and we need them all to live fully. Click To Tweet
2. Learn to set healthy boundaries that ensure you take care of your own needs. This will help you feel safer in relationships, and allow more authentic communication and intimacy.
3. Spend time getting to know yourself better. Journal your likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. Allow yourself to pursue the things you enjoy for their own sake.
4. Develop healthy routines such as going to bed and waking up at the same times. Eat meals around the same time each day. Schedule in the things you need to do, then do them.
Honoring routines and habits that seem boring or pointless is the same as keeping promises to yourself. This will increase your sense of self-worth and lead to more success in life.
For more in-depth advice on these tips, click here.