Childhood Emotional Neglect – The loneliness of an inner child
“There must be something wrong with me? I’m weird!” Do you struggle with a deep sense of emptiness and are you always looking for something to “fix” you? Perhaps you have used food, alcohol, shopping, relationships or even work to fill that internal emptiness and nothing seems to help regardless how much you try to numb the pain or avoid it. Childhood emotional neglect is a widely experienced but often ignored phenomenon that impacts on both emotional and physical well-being. It is often like having a permanent a gray and rainy day, and even at times when the sun comes out, it is difficult to fully enjoy it.
Childhood emotional neglect has a long-standing impact on adult well-being and relationships.
Some signs of childhood emotional neglect in adulthood:
- Difficulty to name and express feelings
- Difficulty to commit either in relationships or to yourself and to take care of yourself
- Feeling like you have to earn love and that you are not good enough
- Using food, alcohol, shopping, relationships or any other external factor to regularate feelings
- Easily feeling embarrassed, ashamed and guilty without a valid reason
- Difficulty to know you and your needs
- Setting either too rigid or too porous boundaries with people and finding it difficult to say “no”
- Living with a deep sense of “I am faulty – There is something wrong with me!”
How does childhood emotional neglect happen?
Childhood emotional neglect is literally about a child’s emotional needs not being met by early caregivers. Parents and other significant adults job are to consistently and continuously to respond to, mirror and validate a child’s emotional states. When they fail to do this, a child learns that their feelings are not valid and/or perhaps are not allowed in the family. Children are self-centered by nature. They view the world from their own perspective and think “If I feel bad, it must mean I am bad”. A child learns that feelings are bad and they have to avoided or numbed. This feeling is then carried on into adulthood.
There could be a number of reasons why a parent fails to respond to a child’s emotional needs, such:
- They are repeating a parenting style personally experienced
- Practical parent looking after physical needs
- Narcissistic parent who always prioritises themselves
- Workaholic parent using work as a way to regulate emotions and boost low self-esteem,
- Parent with own mental health difficulties
- Parent who is preoccupied with another sibling who is perhaps unwell
- Parent who lacks confidence as a parent and is unable to set healthy boundaries that create a sense of safety
How can therapy help you in healing from childhood emotional neglect?
Psychotherapy in a nurturing environment can be healing and can help you, for example, to:
- Understand your feelings and experiences
- Repair that internal void (emptiness, loneliness) you may feel
- Understand your life journey, its impact on you, and release guilt and shame you are carrying
- Get to know your needs and feelings, and set healthy boundaries in your relationships
- Help you to have the courage to connect with others and have more fulfilling relationships
- Generally feel more connected & contented in your life and live wholeheartedly
Ultimately the benefits of having therapy can be:
- You become more confident, comfortable in your own skin and self-compassionate towards yourself even on days when things don’t go to plan
- You learn to manage anxiety and reduce its root cause
- You feel more connected in relationships, and hence feel like you belong rather than having this sense of always being alone
- You have a clearer direction in life and know what you want and don’t want in life
- You able to experience joy and embrace life & any opportunities that come by you