Have you heard of emotional neglect? You’re probably more familiar with the term emotional abuse, which acknowledges you don’t need to be hit to experience harm.
Sometimes, emotional abuse is so bad people have to estrange from their families. We accept that even without physical scars, emotional wounds run deep and deserve to be acknowledged.
Perhaps you have wondered if you were emotionally abused because of the deep hurt you experienced growing up. But your parents didn’t call you names or scream at you.
You find it difficult to put your finger on what happened to you. But you know your childhood experience has left lasting scars.
You see the praise and affection your friends receive from their parents and wonder what that’s like.
You witness them calling their mom for help when they go through something hard. And their mom offering comfort and advice, while you have to handle things on your own.
It’s possible you have trouble understanding what happened to you because you’ve experienced emotional neglect rather than abuse.
The problem is less what your parents did than what they didn’t do. And that’s why it can be hard to describe and recognize.With emotional neglect, the problem is less what your parents did than what they didn't do. Click To Tweet
What are the signs of emotional neglect?
Emotional neglect can show up in a number of different ways. But here are seven signs that may sound familiar to you:
1. Your parents were either focused on rules or overly permissive. Either way, they seemed to care little about your feelings.
2. You never learned to set boundaries or establish healthy coping mechanisms as a result.
3. You rarely received positive feedback from your parents or even constructive criticism. They never helped you see your strengths and weaknesses or develop your talents.
4, Your parents’ needs took precedence over yours. If you were struggling, they did little to help you understand what you were feeling.
5. You can’t talk to your parents about emotional topics and if you do they make you feel worse. You’ve learned to keep your feelings to yourself so as not to overburden others.
6. You are over responsible. Good at caring for others but not so good at caring for yourself. You may feel resentful about how much you give and how little you receive.
7. You are unduly hard on yourself and even feel like you have a fatal flaw that makes you defective. You feel that if people really knew you they wouldn’t like you.It is within your power to heal from emotional neglect. Click To Tweet
If you see yourself in the above descriptions and believe you’ve been the victim of emotional neglect, take heart. It is within your power to heal.
Here are 3 things you can do.
1. Understand that emotions are not bad, they give you information
If you were never taught to deal with your emotions, it makes sense you’d have trouble regulating them.
I used to avoid emotions and misunderstand them. Anger to me was so all-encompassing it could take me out for a whole day.
For that reason, I’d avoid feeling angry until I blew up. Then experience tremendous shame and guilt.
I’d avoid sadness because I feared that would throw me into a deep depression. I’d try to talk myself out of a low mood instead of allowing myself to feel and process it.
Now, I understand anger is often justified. It might be a sign that something needs to be changed or addressed.
And rather than deny sad feelings, I surrender them to God and ask for His comfort. It lasts less than a day and I come out on the other side feeling refreshed and renewed.
2. Learn to set boundaries and develop routines
If you suffered emotional neglect as a child, you probably didn’t feel like you could say no or ask for what you wanted.
As you learn to protect yourself through boundaries, you’ll feel safer and experience more authentic relationships.
You may have never learned the value of routines like getting up early or making a healthy lunch for work. Or find it hard to motivate yourself to do them.
They may seem pointless or tedious to you, but they are important elements of self-care.
When you take care of yourself through routines like exercise, healthy eating, and getting to bed at a certain time, you will experience increased health and self-worth.
You have to become the parent to yourself that you never had.
3. Spend time discovering yourself
Take time to journal and understand yourself. Treat yourself as you would a cherished loved one. Take yourself out on dates and pay attention to your likes and dislikes.
Figure out what gives you comfort and fulfills you and do more of that. Maybe you want to read for a whole day. Or go for a meandering walk.
Engage in activities that bring you pleasure and consider connecting with others who share those interests.