Childhood emotional neglect can be very insidious and detection-defying. First, a little kid may not even be aware that they are being treated ignominiously until they can compare it with something else. Then, as the kid turns into an adult, the consequences of their childhood neglect may pass unnoticed as such. The adult seems unable to achieve anything creditable, and the reasons behind this are unclear. All this makes addressing the issue a tricky proposition: you cannot very well do anything if you haven’t pinpointed the source of the problem.
All this shows how important it is to recognize the aftereffects of emotional neglect in yourself (or in your relative or a friend) so that you can clearly understand what happened many years ago and what you can do to rectify the undesirable condition.
What is childhood emotional neglect?
If parents choose not to pay any attention to their child’s emotions, the child (or the children) grows up with the realization that his or her feelings are totally unimportant. They arrive at the conclusion that what they have to do is to pen up their emotions before they begin to bring trouble and distractions.
The thing is, such a measure can even be useful early on in certain environments – but what really happens is that those people lose contact with their emotions. It becomes extremely difficult for them to reflect about their feelings, understand why they prefer some things to others, whether they really need something. What’s more, they don’t believe they are as valid as people around them.
That’s what constant penning-up of emotions results in – people don’t realize they have distanced themselves from their own basic human aspects. They fail to express themselves, their feelings and true wishes. Although they often look the same as the next guy, they are really dissociated with their inner self, and it becomes noticeable after some time elapses.
How emotional neglect affects children
Subjected to emotional neglect, children develop alongside the following lines:
- Children realize their feelings are not accepted
- They learn to pen them up in order to adapt to their environment
- If they wish to be noticed or heard they act up or lash out
- When socializing with peers they generally fail to connect
- They never call for help even when encouraged to
- When they get overwhelmed by emotions, they can manifest somatic symptoms like headaches or bellyaches
How emotional neglect can be detected and how it tells on adults
The aftereffects of being subjected to emotional neglect in early years leave an imprint on your attitude to yourself, on your interrelations with peers, relatives, and friends.
They always feel there is a vacuum inside them
When an individual feels empty inside, it can manifest itself in various ways outwardly. Some people feel their chest or stomach are always empty. With others, it is a strong need to be fulfilled; they feel as if they are not masters of their own lives but are being carried on by a mighty current.
This vacuum feeling usually means an individual is missing some fundamental aspects of their personality. These aspects are linked with the inner emotional structure that remained invalid since being rejected in childhood.
Impossibility of relying on other people
As parents continue denying the emotional needs of their children, the kids begin to realize they cannot rely on their understanding – nor do they feel that others are likewise dependable. So any kind of dependence is likely to cause acute worry. Having grown up, a person prefers not to deal with worries and avoid dependence.
They avoid confrontations
If there is an issue, they will never admit it (partially because they may not recognize it). Don’t expect them to discuss any problem they have in socializing with you, even if it is a serious one.
Self-perception distorted long ago
Emotional neglect in formative years is apt to play havoc with the person’s self-perception. Without parents’ proper validation of their feelings and weakening of contact with their own self, children don’t know how to take themselves. When they grow up without building a sound relationship with themselves, they will have poor self-esteem and will be doubting themselves at every turn of their life.
You will never hear them discussing their preferences or predilections
Sometimes it looks like you don’t even know the first things about your partner.
No self-compassion in evidence
People who display sympathy and compassion for those around them – but then you realize you never saw them expressing self-compassion – must have experienced emotional neglect in childhood. They have warm feelings towards those they love and appreciate, but when it comes to sympathizing with themselves, they show surprising insensibility. Also, they don’t seem to know how to establish boundaries between themselves and others.
They are beset by shame and accept their guilt for everything wrong
When we feel ashamed and guilty, we do that for a good reason. This is not so with emotional neglect sufferers from whom these emotions are never far away! They may blame and accuse themselves endlessly – or believe that others are accusing them for having feelings or preferring something.
They are unable to define and/or express their emotions
Seeing no outward expression of emotion, people around may start wondering what on earth they may be feeling at a given point. Even when they ought to be angry, they don’t show it.
Such insensitive attitude can gradually degrade human relationships – while one partner is open and sincere, the other remains “in hiding,” thereby often making his partner feel spent and unfulfilled; the relationship can become stale.
Needs are invariably neglected or minimized
Emotional neglect survivors can be considerate of their relatives and friends, forgetting about their own needs. It is very easy for them to disregard themselves.
They react to the possibility of rejection quickly
Being rejected is a grave situation for most people to swallow – but for those who experienced emotional neglect, it can be doubly so. They feel deserted rather than rejected after the trauma of being neglected by their family members.
They don’t bear being talked about
When plied with questions, your interlocutor answers curtly and keeps trying to steer the conversation away from them. Eventually, you may find them not saying anything at all.
They tend to feel an alien wherever they find themselves
Childhood emotional neglect sufferers often feel as if they were odd persons out in every milieu, yet they are unable to define this feeling or explain in what ways they feel alienated. This unidentifiable feeling, however, gives them the impression that things are wrong. Since their perception of self is weak, they don’t understand the relationship. They tend to feel left out of things.
Assert themselves is an almost impossible task
Sometimes it feels as if a talk with your boss about promotion were all but insupportable – or, as you think you must set a boundary, you just go into a deep freeze. These are emotional neglect survivors’ everyday problems – advocating for themselves proves to be an insurmountable barrier.
Open feelings make them feel ashamed
The more people in the room are sincere about their feelings, the more anxious these individuals become. They can become either extremely reserved or very anxious to take themselves off.
Subsequent traumas and/or mental disorders begin to pile up on top
Survivors being susceptible, they get highly vulnerable to situations fraught with traumas and mental health repercussions. More than other people they suffer from family abuse. It is easier for them to submit to chronic depression, bouts of nervousness, bulimia, anorexia and quite a number of suchlike disorders.