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Adult Scars from Childhood Emotional Neglect

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

Therapist Dr. Jonice Webb specializes in working with adults who experienced emotional neglect as children. Neglect is different from abuse. In abuse, actions occur. Neglect is hard to identify because it’s the absence of things which should have occurred.

Dr. Webb has noticed that there are 10 common themes among those who have experienced childhood emotional neglect. If you experienced childhood emotional neglect, it’s likely several of these will be familiar to you:

  • Feelings of Emptiness

    Some people experience this as physical symptoms and other people experience it as a kind of emotional numbness which causes you to feel set apart from others. You may feel like you should be getting more pleasure than you are from your life.

  • Counter-Dependence

    Counter-dependence is different from co-dependence. In counter-dependence, a person is determined to avoid needing to rely on others.

  • Inaccurate Self-Appraisal

    Children develop concepts of who they are as people and the strengths and weaknesses they have in large part from the feedback they get from their parents. If you didn’t get feedback, you might have trouble knowing what your strengths are, what you like and don’t like, or what’s important to you in your life.

  • All-or-Nothing Compassion

    Emotionally neglected people often have great compassion for other people but none for themselves.

  • Guilt and Shame

    If emotions are not validated or even permitted in childhood, as an adult strong emotions may result in a sense of shame and cause people to wonder what is wrong with themselves. Because of this, feelings are often stuffed down and suppressed.

  • Self-Blame

    Another outcome of feeling shame when experiencing emotions is to become angry at oneself. This may also manifest in self-destructive actions or in substance use.

  • Feeling Fundamentally Flawed

    This is the feeling that if people really got to know you, they’d discover they didn’t like you.

  • Struggles to Nurture Others

    This might manifest as discomfort when others have strong emotions in front of you or as coming across as “cold” or distant to other people.

  • A Lack of Self-Discipline
  • A Lack of Awareness of Own Emotions

    The technical term for this is “alexithymia.” If you are rarely aware of having emotions or are unable to answer when someone asks what you are feeling, you may have alexithymia

If you recognize yourself in this list above, please know that with therapy and some work you can change those themes and how you see yourself and how you interact with the world. These things are not written in stone and you can learn as an adult what you didn’t learn as a child.

I invite you to contact me to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation session, whether it’s related to the topic of this blog post or something else entirely. You can call or text me at (816) 226-4678.

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