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