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.