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18 False Ideas Held by People Raised With Emotional Neglect

9. "I don't need anyone."

Key points

  • If your parents didn't meet your childhood emotional needs, you may have developed some false ideas about yourself and your life.
  • These incorrect assumptions can become integrated with your core beliefs and you can end up living by them.
  • Becoming aware of these false assumptions can lead to a change in how you feel about yourself.

During childhood, some will experience childhood emotional neglect. It’s a common and ordinary occurrence that affects children in families of all shapes and sizes every single day. Yet, in every other way, many of these families are quite loving and caring.

Childhood emotional neglect is also a powerful and painful process that leaves an indelible mark on the children who are affected by it. Those children may grow to adulthood suffering its results, yet they will not remember how or when it left its mark on their lives.

Childhood emotional neglect can happen when your parents fail to notice and respond enough to your emotions and emotional needs as they raise you.

In these families, parents fail to notice or acknowledge their child’s feelings. They fail to validate them, and they especially fail to ask their child about their feelings. Even if these emotional failures didn’t happen on a daily basis, they only need to happen enough to leave the imprint of emotional neglect on the child.

The lifestyles of emotionally neglectful families can vary widely. Your parents may have been warm or cold, loving or angry, or even depressed. You may have grown up in a single or two-parent household, perhaps with a stay-at-home mom or dad. Your family may have included grandparents or other extended family members. But in many ways, the structure of your family doesn’t matter. What matters is that your feelings weren’t acknowledged or validated enough by your parents.

Emotionally neglected adults can look as different from each other as their families did. They might look and act as if they have nothing in common, but they all share a similar group of struggles. This group of struggles has become integrated with each individual’s core beliefs and feelings to such a degree that some people with childhood emotional neglect believe everyone else shares the same group of struggles. But they do not.

10 Common Struggles of People With Childhood Emotional Neglect

  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Fear of depending on people
  • Lack of self-knowledge
  • Poor compassion for self (probably plenty for others)
  • A tendency toward guilt and shame
  • Self-directed anger and self-blame
  • A deep sense of being flawed or different
  • Struggles with self-care
  • Problems with self-discipline
  • Difficulties understanding how emotions work in general.

When Childhood Emotional Neglect Affects You

Individuals who grow up with parents who ignore feelings believe that emotions aren't welcome in their childhood home, and try to avoid difficult feelings.

For those who have had this experience, it is important to realize that you’re an adult and living with those feelings you’ve sequestered on the other side of the wall. You coped well enough, but now there’s an itch you can’t scratch gnawing at your insides, letting you know something is wrong. Something is missing from your life and you feel empty, rudderless, or deeply flawed. You wonder what makes you different.

As a child going to your parents for support and validation, you were turned away, perhaps even shut down by them at times. So, you walked away alone and empty-handed. Now you rarely ask anyone for help or support of any kind because you’re afraid of being turned away.

You grew up without much awareness of emotions or how to integrate them into your life. This makes it difficult to know what you want, feel or need. You may wonder if you even matter.

Childhood emotional neglect is not a one-way street to nowhere. In fact, it is just the opposite. You can reverse it from the inside, and by taking that first step, you can change your view of yourself and your life forever.

18 False Assumptions of People With Childhood Emotional Neglect

  1. I don’t need any help.
  2. Whatever other people want is fine with me.
  3. I don’t have anything to say.
  4. I don’t feel anything.
  5. I’m lazy.
  6. There's no point.
  7. I don’t need anything.
  8. It doesn’t matter to me.
  9. I don’t need anyone.
  10. It’s my fault.
  11. My feelings don't matter.
  12. I can do this on my own.
  13. I can handle it.
  14. I’m not as smart/attractive/capable as other people.
  15. I don’t fit in anywhere.
  16. I should just be happy.
  17. I should stop feeling this way.
  18. I don’t know what I want.

All of these statements have their roots in your childhood emotional neglect. None of them are realistic, helpful, or healthy.

How to Let Go of False Assumptions

  • Start listening to yourself. When you listen to your own words, feelings, and thoughts it resonates on a deeper level. You’ll begin to realize how you really feel about yourself and about your life. You’ll see how childhood emotional neglect is distorting the ways in which you view yourself and the world, and once you reach this awareness, you can begin to change it.
  • Learn everything you can about childhood emotional neglect. It only has power over you as long as you're unaware. Now, you can start to see your history and life through a new lens that shows you much, much more.
  • Decide to treat yourself differently. Begin by declaring war on the emotional neglect you grew up with. Once you make a decision to treat your emotions and feelings differently than your parents treated them, you can begin to value and attend to your feelings and create new emotion skills.

Changing how you treat yourself also changes what you say. "I don't know what I want" becomes "I know exactly what I want." That’s why finally realizing that your feelings matter is one giant step toward happiness.

© Jonice Webb, Ph.D.

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References

To determine whether you might be living with the effects of childhood emotional neglect, you can take the free Emotional Neglect Questionnaire. You'll find the link in my Bio.

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