Many of us as kids were told explicitly or implicitly that we should be seen and not heard. While the purpose of this statement may have been to keep the household volume down, it could also have had negative ramifications.
Worse still, many children suffer from childhood emotional neglect (CEN). Those subjected to CEN often were told that their ideas, feelings, and needs were not significant, or they were not seen. For many who experienced CEN, it was not what they were subjected to but what was not provided; emotional care.
Though abusive words may not have been verbalised, overtly abusive action not taken, the neglectful actions or lack of care announced loud and clear; you and what you need don’t matter.
Children who have been subjected to CEN can grow up to become adults who still believe they don’t matter, and that they should not burden others with their needs or feelings. This cycle of worthlessness can be broken.
Below are ways to take care of those parts of yourself that may have been neglected during childhood.
Learn and Practice Understanding and Acknowledging Your Needs and Emotions.
Most likely, you grew up believing your own needs and emotions to not be of significance. Maybe you were made to feel ashamed or ridiculed because of them. With support, you can learn to befriend these parts of yourself. Allowing yourself to experience your emotions can help you understand what you need. Once emotions are recognised and processed safely, they can help us to get clarity around how to facilitate positive change in our lives.
Invite People into Your Emotional Life.
As a child, you might have felt like adults were not there for you. You most likely developed effective ways to look after yourself. You may have a strong instinct to keep people at a safe emotional distance, to protect yourself. But, to heal, it is essential to stop pushing people away. This may feel scary, but with support, you can learn to trust and instead invite people into your inner life. When we form adult relationships with those that offer us love and understanding, this can build our self-esteem and help to create within us a feeling of safely in the world, enriching all aspects of our lives.
Get to Know Who You Are.
Survivors of childhood emotional neglect often have one thing in common. There is a disconnect between themselves and their inner worlds. Typically this is because their primary caregivers were not able or willing to help them with this discovery during childhood. It would help if you took the time to recognise your value. This journey of self-exploration, discovering who you emotionally are, what you need, will help to give you a foundation from which to propel yourself into a great future and to create loving, supportive relationships.
Recovering from emotional trauma is not easy work. It is a very intimate journey that will contain many highs and lows. But taking the journey, one step at a time will lead you to a wonderfully fulfilling life, one that you deserve.
If you or your loved one has a history of childhood emotional neglect and would like to explore this further and how it impacts your relationship, please get in touch with me about how couples counselling could help. I will be happy to discuss how I may be able to support you both.