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"Childhood Emotional Neglect is a parent’s failure to respond enough to the child’s emotional needs.  Emotional Neglect is, in some ways, the opposite of mistreatment and abuse. Whereas mistreatment and abuse are parental acts, Emotional Neglect is a parent’s failure to act.  It’s a failure to notice, attend to, or respond appropriately to a child’s feelings. Because it’s an act of omission, it’s not visible, noticeable or memorable. Emotional Neglect is the white space in the family picture; the background rather than the foreground. It is insidious and overlooked while it does its silent damage to people’s lives.  Children who are emotionally neglected then grow up to have a particular set of struggles. Because their emotions were not validated as children, they may have difficulty knowing and trusting their own emotions as adults.  They may have difficulty understanding their own feelings, as well as others’. Because an important part of themselves (their emotional self) has been denied, they may find themselves feeling disconnected, unfulfilled or empty. They may have difficulty trusting or relying upon others. Many describe feeling that they are different from other people; like something is wrong with them, but they’re not sure what it is."

-Dr. Jonice Webb, author of Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect



Photo by Todd Trapani on Unsplash

Many people who have experienced emotional neglect during childhood are high functioning adults, yet deep inside there's a gnawing feeling of loneliness, invisibility and a core negative belief that their feelings and thoughts just "don't matter".  If this is part of your story, you may find yourself saying "I'm fine" when inside you're really not.  You may either not know how to find the words to describe what's going on inside or you just don't believe that anyone will truly care to know.  You may feel a deep sense of emptiness in your core or that there's an invisible wall separating you from others.  This is not because of anything wrong with you!  As a child, you had a developmental need of emotional attunement, affirmation, and secure attachment from your caregiver that was not met.  Many times, this is not intentional, but simply because the caregiver did not know how to meet these needs.  My hope for you is not to cast blame, but to speak the truth of your story with compassion.  This is the first step towards healing.

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