childhood emotional neglect

Reclaiming Our Emotions after Emotional Neglect (And Creating a New Life)

Childhood emotional neglect can have devastating effects on your emotional and physical wellbeing. 

Whilst this isn’t a diagnosis, the more of these statements feel true to you, the more likely it is that you might suffer from the consequences of what is called emotional neglect: 

  1. You feel that you don’t belong, even when you’re with family, and friends.
  2. You joke about problems, rather than talk about them candidly. 
  3. When something goes wrong, you blame yourself exclusively.
  4. You struggle with recognising, naming, or understanding your emotions.
  5. You judge yourself more harshly than others around you.
  6. You feel more comfortable to be alone than in a social situation.
  7. You’re secretly afraid that something is wrong with you.
  8. You tend to have a negative opinion about yourself, others, and the world.
  9. You feel that you’ve not reached your full potential and can’t really pinpoint your strengths.
  10. You feel a strong emptiness inside.

As a society, we talk about trauma and adverse childhood experiences at an increasing rate, but there is still a long way to go. Many ingrained, normalised, and transgenerational patterns of abuse and neglect are passed down – more often than not unknowingly – to this day. 

Rethinking what trauma is

Whilst most would consider trauma a result of sexual abuse, physical abuse, war, or an accident, it is now clear that many other adverse childhood experiences can also leave you traumatised and have detrimental long-term effects on your mental and physical well-being, as well as on your relationships.

When we cannot create deep connections with people around us, we resort to external things, such as substances, smoking, overwork, etc. which allow us to survive, but don’t regulate our emotions, so we end up in an anxiety cycle. 

There’s now abundant proof that in most cases our childhood holds the key to the quality of our lives in adulthood, and that we can restore what was broken then in adulthood with the right approaches.

Do you feel disconnected and alone? There’s a reason for that

There’s a strong correlation between adverse childhood experiences and illnesses, substance abuse, obesity, and early mortality.

Emotional neglect is one type of adverse childhood experience. The primary caregiver, in most cases the parent, might not have been emotionally available either because their own nervous system was dysregulated, suffered from a personality disorder (e.g. narcissism), or simply used certain parenting models that didn’t encourage deep emotional connection. 

We need to be connected to our caregivers emotionally in our formative years because that is how we learn to modulate and regulate our emotions. When a mother is emotionally connected to their child, there is a secure attachment, they use positive vocal communication, they respond to the child’s needs, and use positive facial expressions.

Emotional connection involves both the brain and the body. We learn to co-regulate our emotions through our interaction with our primary caregiver: our mother. Stress or separation break the regulation between infant and mother, which causes discomfort and distress – felt in the body. That then leads to mutually shared distress, resolution of discomfort through co-regulation, and finally achieving calm. 

If the mother is unable to respond to the emotional needs of the infant, they will have to regulate their emotions themselves, which they’re unable to, leading to a dysregulated nervous system and a life of relationships laced with anxiety. 

Childhood emotional neglect isn’t a life sentence

If you find yourself unable to create a deep connection with yourself and the people around you, and if you’re feeling a deep sense of loneliness and emptiness, don’t accept it as normal or just part of your life. 

Childhood emotional neglect can be overcome. 

As with any emotional healing, it requires that you take the first step, and that you commit to it, even when the thought of living a different life is unthinkable and unimaginable. You might have only experienced a narrow segment of what life is because of fear, anxiety, and a sense of disconnection. 

You might have been deprived of a warm, loving, and caring childhood, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be deprived of a warm, loving, and caring adulthood as well. Nor does it mean that you have to live life alone or feeling alone. 

Coming home to your emotions is your first step in healing emotionally

My clients meet themselves exactly where they are, they come home to who they are with compassion and curiosity. They investigate what they embody and accept it before they move on to building true self-love. 

You have the capacity to love yourself, to receive love, to reciprocate love, and to experience the whole spectrum of emotions without being intimidated or frightened by their intensity. 

Every day you spend disconnected from your own emotions you’re neglecting yourself and your needs. The answer is to reclaim your emotions through taking intentional and compassionate steps toward understanding and accepting who you are today, knowing that you are healing and growing into who you could be.

If any of this resonates with you, and you feel a need to transform your experience, book a free discovery call to see how I can support you in your emotional healing journey. xx