How is Childhood Emotional Neglect impacting you? You probably have many questions about it. I thought that I’ll answer here some of the most commonly asked questions, and hopefully, they will help you too. Some of my other posts talked about CEN previously: Ending the emptiness and loneliness of Childhood Emotional Neglect, Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) – How does it impact on adult well-being?
If you have been affected by the Mother wound, you may be interested in reading the previous posts below:
Healing the mother wound – Part 1: Understanding the mother wound, good enough mothering and the impact of the mother wound as an adult, Healing the mother wound – Part 2: 10 Steps to healing from emotional absence , How does the Mother Wound impact men?, and Parenting when you have experienced Childhood Emotional Neglect or trauma
This post is talking about experiences that are only linked to Childhood emotional neglect and do not necessarily apply to the experiences of people who have experienced, in addition to CEN, also other traumatic experiences.
1. Should I have a conversation with my mother and/or father about CEN?
Many people who come to realise that their parents might have emotionally neglected them in childhood have a secret, perhaps even unconscious wish that one day their mother or father will validate their feelings and perhaps even apologise for their inability to be emotionally available. This wish is totally understandable. Any form of repair or acknowledgement would help to make amends with years of emotional neglect.
Often people in therapy reach a point of acceptance that the emotionally neglecting parent may not be open or able to acknowledge that their parenting might have not met the needs of the child.
Self-reflection requires a certain level of emotional maturity and ability to take ownership of one’s behaviour. It is very likely that the emotionally neglecting parents went through CEN themselves and they have very strong protective mechanisms. Unless they have been through therapy or in some other ways become open and curious to improve themselves and their relationships, they may feel guarded and even attacked if their child brought up childhood emotional neglect as a concept.
If you are considering talking to your parents about CEN, it could be helpful for you to think about how open your mother or father is generally for reflecting on themselves and their relationships with other people. Coming to terms with your parent not being open to discussing CEN can be a very painful process. Often acceptance can be freeing in the end as you can start to focus on the relationship you do have with your parents rather than continue to wish for them to change.
However, there are no right or wrong answers here, it all depends on the situation.
2. I have no memories of my childhood. What does it mean? What if I am just making this up?
It is very commonplace for people who have experienced CEN to report that they cannot remember much or hardly anything about their childhood. Usually, we remember memories easily which have strong emotional content, whether it was a difficult experience or a joyful experience. A characteristic of childhood emotional neglect that a parent may be so emotionally unavailable that a child almost had to bring themselves up and the parent offered very little opportunities for a real deep connection. In the absence of these, it is not surprising that someone who has experienced CEN and their experiences with a parent was distant cannot remember much about their childhood.
This is not to say that the body would not remember the experience of being emotionally alone. All the experiences are stored in the body and they may get triggered and impact our behaviour in a here and now if there is a situation that is stirring some old stuff.
3. Is it possible to recover from CEN and the mother wound?
Healing the wound left by a mother wound is possible and learning to understand emotions following CEN is possible. What then can help to feel better, more connected, joyful, and content rather than always longing for something to fill the empty space inside and feeling untrusting and even on some level scared of deep relationships?
An evidence-based psychological therapy recommended for trauma whether small t (adverse life events) or big T (a significant traumatic event which may leave a person almost frozen in time and the events get triggered all the time) trauma, Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). It can help to literally rewire your brain. It is a similar process to what happens during your REM sleep when your brain is sorting out and filing information. It works by updating the old knowledge (that part of you that may feel like a young child) with present-day information (the adult in you knows that you are no longer are in living in the childhood). This process of rewiring can be amazing and help you to put to rest experiences that may have bothered you for a long time.
I hope this piece was useful to you. If you have any further comments or questions, I would be more than happy to answer. If you would like to know more about accessing therapy, please visit the services page.