CEN, or Childhood Emotional Neglect, refers to what happens when, as a child, your emotional needs were not sufficiently responded to. This is not the same as being abused or physically neglected. It is about not having your feelings and experiences explained and accepted. Sometimes parents are busy or preoccupied and do not take the time to help children understand and express their emotions. Some well-meaning parents lack the tools to understand their child’s emotional needs. Parents can be uncomfortable with children expressing sadness or anger, and give the message that these emotions are wrong. Children learn to keep their feelings hidden in order to make others happy and gain approval. They equate being “good” with not ever being nervous, sad, or angry. When they do become overwhelmed with emotions, they can end up feeling guilty.
When people grow up this way, they can end up as adults, having difficulty knowing and trusting their own feelings. The result is often a feeling of emptiness, along with difficulty identifying, managing and expressing emotions. People who experienced CEN tend to put others’ needs ahead of their own, and are reluctant to ask for what they need. This can be expressed as low self esteem, judging yourself harshly when you make a mistake, and feeling inadequate. Relationships, work, friendships, parenting, are all affected.
Dr. Jonice Webb first wrote about CEN in her book “Running on Empty.”
If you experience depression, anxiety, anger, or relationship problems due to CEN, therapy can help you learn to identify and accept your emotional experiences so that you can have a more satisfying life. Please call me for a consultation.