Could it be Childhood Emotional Neglect?
Are you struggling to understand your feelings? Are your emotions a mystery - or maybe even seemingly non-existent? Maybe it's due to something called Childhood Emotional Neglect.
I see many clients who tell stories of their childhood that include tales of loving, providing parents. Sometimes, despite the best of intentions and even affectionate actions, kids grow up to be adults who lacked something very important - the modelling of and/or space for feelings. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is often a big driving force behind them coming to therapy in the first place - somewhere to safely explore and be with years of feelings left unheard.
Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is something I learned about in my own exploration of feelings when I stumbled upon a book called Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect by Dr Jonice Webb. When I talk about the possibility of CEN applying to the lives of clients, the word neglect can feel like a big pill to swallow. I like how Webb outlines early in her first book that, while abuse is something happening to you, neglect is really about something you're missing. Chances are really great, in fact, that if you've grown up without the emotional support you needed, your parents may have also.
If you're curious about your own childhood and possible misses with emotions, Webb has a great tool on her website to let you assess for yourself if this fits your experience. And if it is fitting for you? Her books are intended as self help tools that anyone can access. It might also be a good idea to seek out therapy for help doing that deep feelings dive! (Or talking to your current therapist about CEN)
Check out these resources for more info:
- Take the CEN questionnaire
- Get a copy of Running on Empty
- Read these excellent affirmations for CEN written by Webb
- Download and print these affirmation cards I made you for your own use in colour or in b&w
- If you're in Toronto and looking for a therapist to work through your CEN with, connect with me here. (likewise if you're elsewhere in Ontario and open to video sessions)
- Jenn Seeley
Is Positive Thinking Really Your Goal?
"I'm trying to be positive." These are probably some of the most spoken words inside the walls of my office. I hear so many folks who, upon sharing about some of the tough stuff they're up against, are quick to blurt out about their difficulties staying positive as if negative experiences and feelings are inherently bad.
Being seen as negative is shame-filled for some people, but I am the furthest from judgemental when those least desirable 'non-positive' feelings show up. In fact, I believe there are loads of feelings calling out to be seen in the words that we choose and feel as negative. Feelings that are every bit as important as the positive ones. Feelings that, with exploration, provide keys and clues to ways that we may struggle in our day-to-day. Feelings that, with recognition, can become more tolerable with more experience paying attention to them.
Anger or disappointment, for example, won't just vanish because you repeat a mantra from a self-help book. It may become silenced for a time, or lessened in the moment - stuffed down and ignored until it tries to get your attention another time. Just do a quick Google search for the problem with positive thinking. You'll get a lot of hits.
These thoughts were sparked by an image I saw while scrolling through social media apps on my phone. This image, shown in this post, doesn't quite capture my feelings about the matter, but I'm glad it created an opportunity to say a few words here.
What if next time you're tempted to say "I'm trying to be positive", you said "I'm trying to understand these negative feelings and let them have a little space to tell me what they have to say"? If that feels too scary, maybe explore negative and negativity with a therapist you trust, and find out a little more about what's beneath the emotions you're so quick to dress up as something that they're not.
- Jenn Seeley
Who Needs Therapy?
"Why should I go to therapy?" is a question I get asked lots by people who have never tried it before. Reasons for going to therapy are as varied as the folks who go, and anyone can benefit from it. Caring for your mental health is no different than getting regular checkups at the dentist or hitting the gym to keep strong. Here are just a few reasons to go:
Whether the transitions are good, bad, or neutral - a therapist can help process changing careers, going back to school, moving to a new city, or an upcoming adoption. Or maybe you’re feeling stuck at a fork in the road and are having to make a tough decision. Talking about it out loud with someone whose job it is to help you make sense of it all can help.
Having ongoing medical struggles brings about a lot of big feelings that are equally as important to address and manage. Particularly when you feel as though you’re fighting a battle alone, it can be really useful to have a steady person to talk to about your journey.
Just being human is hard work. Everyone can benefit from talking about their goals and fears - no matter how big or small they may seem. Therapy doesn't have to be about any of the struggles listed above (or many that weren't listed). Just being able to talk about who you are, where you came from, how you got to where you are today, can simply improve your esteem and support further growth.
Of course, this list isn't complete, but if you find yourself curious about giving therapy a try for any reason - mentioned or not - perhaps it's time to make that call. If you're in the Toronto area and looking for a therapist (or in Ontario and looking for video therapy), feel free to connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org - if I'm not who you need, I'll happily help direct you to other resources.
- Jenn Seeley
Too Many Feelings!Having a lot of feelings and struggles at once is hard. How do you sort through them all? Where do you begin?
- Jenn Seeley
Expressive Arts Instagram: A January 'Challenge'
Hey reader friends!
It's a new year. Know what that means? We're flooded with expectations and resolutions and marketing that begs us to give in to the message that there's a 'new you' just waiting to be bought because there's been a change to your calendar.
While it's quite possible you're looking to move forward to something that was greater than 2017, you might be among the folks who find resolution making to be a self-sabotaging type of trap. You also might be a serial resolution maker - and nail it each year. I support you, no matter what your journey looks like in a new year.
Regardless of whether or not you're a list-maker, a thrill-seeker, a reflective-thinker, a memory-collector - if you're looking for something to do to bring in the new year in a way that taps into the right side of your brain, draws on your creativity, and prompts you to notice your feelings a little bit, I've got a fun activity for you!
Head on over to Instagram and play along! If you like rules, here are some you can follow:
- Using the image below, find the number that corresponds to the day of the month and read the prompt for that day
- The goal is to make art every day. Interpret the prompt however you like. Does it speak to you in a particular way? How might you create something using that prompt? What medium(s)/process(es) will you choose? (collage, paint, draw, sculpt, dance, sing, write, move, photograph +++ your heART out!)
- Take a photo of your finished product (or video yourself if you choose to use movement/dance/song/spoken word/etc)
- Post to Instagram and use the hashtag #ExpressiveArtsInstagram (feel free to also tag @tablesauce_therapy if you'd like your pics to end up in a round up post later on!)
- Play along every day, one day, no days, or bounce around if you'd like. You can't do it wrong. You have my permission to use this however it feels best.
And if you like... a few tips and pointers on making the most out of this experience:
- Set aside a short amount of time each day for the practice of expressive arts.
- Focus on the process - not the product. If it's a 10 minute quickie, make it about the feeling.
- Write a caption for your post that shares a bit about the process for you. What did you FEEL when you created? Did something feel hard? Were you stuck? Maybe it was just a big blank? Share THAT if you can. (And also give yourself permission to not share if it feels too vulnerable.)
- Other hashtags to go bananas with: #expressiveartstherapy #makearteveryday #focusontheprocess #doitfortheprocess
- Copy the image and share it to your own insta, FB, twitter - anywhere! Feel free to invite your friends to play, too!
- * A French version has now been added below the English one. Translated by Sylvie Bérard.
Wishing you gentleness and ease in 2018!
- Jenn Seeley
Stranger Things and the Pain of ShameA look at how chronic shame and Stranger Things parallel and the things you can do about your own shame shadow monster
- Jenn Seeley