Feb 19

“Running on Empty” Quotes

The fuel of life is feeling. If we’re not filled up in childhood, we must fill ourselves as adults. Otherwise, we will find ourselves running on empty. Jonice Webb, Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect

My previous post about Jonice Webb‘s book Running on Empty, about childhood emotional neglect (CEN), has been a popular one. Thus, additional quotes follow:

It’s hard to see that what’s NOT THERE can be more important than what IS there.

There is a minimal amount of parental emotional connection, empathy and ongoing attention which is necessary to fuel a child’s growth and development so that he or she will grow into an emotionally healthy and emotionally connected adult. Less than that minimal amount and the child becomes an adult who struggles emotionally–outwardly successful, perhaps, but empty, missing something within, which the world can’t see.

Because depressed parents appear put-upon, beleaguered or overwhelmed by the ordinary demands of parenting, their children don’t always learn that they are worthwhile and so are at risk to become depressed themselves in adulthood.

Children of addicted parents experience the lack of predictability as highly anxiety-provoking. As adults, they are therefore at significantly higher risk to have anxiety disorders and to become addicts themselves than are people who were raised by non-addicted parents. Being a good parent most of the time and a horrible parent once in awhile creates insecure, anxious adults who are just waiting for things to go wrong.

Whatever the level of parental failure, emotionally neglected people see themselves as the problem, rather than seeing their parents as having failed them.

When a child receives the message, even subtly or indirectly, that his emotions don’t matter, he will grow up feeling, somewhere deep inside, that he himself doesn’t matter.

When a child’s emotions are not acknowledged or validated by her parents, she can grow up to be unable to do so for herself. As an adult, she may have little tolerance for intense feelings or for any feelings at all. She might bury them, and tend to blame herself for being angry, sad, nervous, frustrated, or even happy. The natural human experience of simply having feelings becomes a source of secret shame. “What is wrong with me?” is a question she may often ask herself.

Emotionally neglected people tend to be good listeners. But they are not good at talking, especially about themselves.

A primary rule of assertiveness is that anyone has the right to ask you for anything; and you have the equal right to say no, without giving a reason.

You are not obligated to give your parents more emotional connection than they have given you. And striving to produce feelings of warmth and love that are not there, simply because others tell you that they should be, will take a huge bite out of your emotional strength and health. In this relationship, I say to you with 100% certainty that you must put yourself first.

Jan 13

Childhood Emotional Neglect: “On Empty”

What was missing from your childhood? Do you know what you were supposed to get from your parents or caregivers but didn’t? Psychologist Jonice Webb‘s Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect (2012) may help you figure some things out.

First, a definition of childhood emotional neglect (CEN) as provided by Webb on her site:

Emotional Neglect is a parent’s failure to respond enough to a child’s emotional needs.

Emotional Neglect is, in some ways, the opposite of mistreatment and abuse. Whereas mistreatment and abuse are parental acts, Emotional Neglect is a parent’s failure to act. It’s a failure to notice, attend to, or respond appropriately to a child’s feelings. Because it’s an act of omission, it’s not visible, noticeable or memorable. Emotional Neglect is the white space in the family picture; the background rather than the foreground. It is insidious and overlooked while it does its silent damage to people’s lives.

Sign up for it and Webb will give you a questionnaire to help you assess whether or not you experienced CEN. On her website, as well as in the book, you’ll learn more about how it affected you into your adult years and what to do about it.

Also, for a limited time, giving your email will enable you to view free recovery training videos offered by Webb. In addition, she’ll be announcing in the near future a repeat of her “advanced, in-depth Program, Fuel Up for Life: 4 Steps to Recovering from CEN.

Selected Quotes from Running On Empty

If we are not filled up in childhood, we must fill ourselves as adults. 
Otherwise we will find ourselves running on empty. 

When a child receives the message, even subtly or indirectly, that his emotions don’t matter, he will grow up feeling, somewhere deep inside, that he himself doesn’t matter.

Emotions that are not acknowledged or expressed tend to jumble together and emerge as anger. Eventually, suppressed feelings refuse to stay down. When they do, they erupt as small spurts of irritability that hurt others.

It’s hard to see that what’s NOT THERE can be more important than what IS there…(B)etween her absent father and preoccupied mother, no one had taken the time and energy to actually parent her.

Children of addicted parents experience the lack of predictability as highly anxiety-provoking. As adults, they are therefore at significantly higher risk to have anxiety disorders and to become addicts themselves than are people who were raised by non-addicted parents. Being a good parent most of the time and a horrible parent once in awhile creates insecure, anxious adults who are just waiting for things to go wrong.

Because depressed parents appear put-upon, beleaguered or overwhelmed by the ordinary demands of parenting, their children don’t always learn that they are worthwhile and so are at risk to become depressed themselves in adulthood.

Emotionally neglected people tend to be good listeners. But they are not good at talking, especially about themselves.

A primary rule of assertiveness is that anyone has the right to ask you for anything; and you have the equal right to say no, without giving a reason.

Feb 19

Rejection Therapy: To Overcome This Fear, Assertiveness Required

There’s a new game in town, and it’s called Rejection Therapy. Assertiveness required. But more on this later.

In the 1970’s I climbed on the assertiveness training bandwagon and tried to teach myself as well as my clients how to say what we need to say. (Way before John Mayer and Sara Bareilles each penned musical words to this effect.)

How can assertiveness be learned? Therapy generally helps, but you can also get lessons from a book. One of the newest ones out there is by Conrad and Suzanne Potts and is called Assertiveness: How to Be Strong in Every Situation.

But the go-to book way back then was Manuel J. Smith‘s When I Say No, I Feel Guilty: How To Cope Using the Skills of Systematic Assertiveness Therapy (1975). “Are you allowing your mother-in-law to impose her will on you?” asks the publisher. “Are you embarrassed by praise or crushed by criticism? Are you having trouble coping with people? Learn the answers in When I Say No, I Feel Guilty, the best-seller with revolutionary new techniques for getting your own way.”

Here’s the author’s “bill of assertive rights”:

I: You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.

II: You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behavior.

III: You have the right to judge if you are responsible for finding solutions to other people’s problems.

IV: You have the right to change your mind.

V: You have the right to make mistakes—and be responsible for them.

VI: You have the right to say, ‘I don’t know.’

VII: You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.

VIII: You have the right to be illogical in making decisions.

IX: You have the right to say, ‘I don’t understand.’

X: You have the right to say, ‘I don’t care.’

I don’t know. I don’t understand. I don’t care. Things we all want or need to say at times but might find difficult, especially in certain circumstances.

Assertiveness works both ways, though. And what happens when someone else asserts a rejection of us? You have the right to reject others, Smith could also have said. There’s a special place in the world today for those who can do this, after all. Just ask Jason Comely, the creator of Rejection Therapy, a game for those who fear being on the wrong end of that. And who doesn’t, at least to some degree?

Like any game, Rejection Therapy has rules. Well, rule: At least once a day you have to be rejected by someone. Trying doesn’t count. You have to achieve it.

Here in fact is what counts as rejection in this game:

  • A REJECTION ATTEMPT COUNTS IF YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
  • A REJECTION COUNTS IF YOUR REQUEST IS DENIED
  • A REJECTION ATTEMPT SHOULD PUT YOU IN A POSITION OF VULNERABILITY, BUT ALLOW THE RESPONDENT TO BE IN A POSITION OF POWER

The game includes a 30-day challenge. Just 30 days?, Jia Jiang might have asked. Because Jiang went instead for a goal of 100 days.

And he found that getting rejected isn’t always easy. Here’s his TED talk on how things were proceeding about halfway through:

In September, at the point of his 100th request—which was to interview President Obama—he states: “…'(T)he worst they can say is no’ is actually not true. In fact, the worst they can say is ‘you didn’t even ask'” (his blog).

Has Obama answered his request yet? I don’t know, I have to reply assertively. But at least Jiang is doing the asking.

Someone who went for the actual 30-day challenge, by the way, is Mark Moschel, who then gave an interesting and humorous presentation on how he did: