How To Heal From Childhood Trauma & Emotional Neglect
We talked about childhood emotional neglect and childhood trauma before. We described what it is, and mentioned some signs to look out for if you’re not sure you experienced it. Today, we’d like to talk about healing from that trauma and neglect.
It may seem like a part of you will always carry that darkness within you, but recovery is 100% possible to achieve. It is a long journey that will probably have its ups and downs, but as long as you stay hopeful and motivated, you can find your way towards healing.
Of course, the best way to heal from your trauma is with the help of a licensed mental health professional. This article will give you general guidance and an overview of what you’d learn in therapy, but it can not act as or replace professional help.
Still, we’d like to show you what you can expect while starting your journey and what steps you could take to get closer to your goal: healing.
1. Realize it’s not your fault
Before you start your recovery journey, you need to come to an important realization. Let’s try an exercise together! Say these words out loud: “It’s not my fault”.
Really, say it out loud! “It’s not my fault”.
Childhood trauma and neglect often make children develop feelings of guilt, blame, and shame. You might feel that somehow you deserved to be treated that way, but that’s not the case at all! There’s no one to blame except for the person or people who neglected you. There’s nothing you could have done to deserve it. You were an innocent child who wanted to be loved, and you should have gotten that love. So if your memories sometimes take you to those bad places, remember to say it out loud: “it’s NOT my fault”!
2. Welcome your emotions
Emotionally-neglecting household is an emotion-free household. In a way, you are trained to ignore and diminish your emotions. For that reason, getting back in touch with what you feel is an important part of overcoming your trauma.
The first step is to understand that even if the child in you blocked your emotions to protect itself, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Maybe you can’t describe them yet, but you’re experiencing a range of emotions every day. Try to welcome them as a valuable part of your being as you begin healing.
3. Recognize and identify your emotions
The next step is learning how to recognize and identify those emotions.
Sometimes you’ll find it hard to identify the feelings you’re experiencing. When that happens, pay attention to your body. For example, are your muscles tense? Are you mindlessly fidgeting? This could mean that you’re anxious or nervous about something.
Another thing you could do when you’re not sure how you’re feeling is to take a look at an emotion chart. If you like reading, you can check out the book called Running on Empty, written by dr. Jonice Webb, a licensed therapist specializing in childhood emotional neglect. It contains a detailed list of emotions, as well as an emotion chart and other useful resources that you can use while identifying the emotion you feel.
4. Remember to keep track of how you feel
Once you learn how to recognize and identify your emotions, try keeping track of it. You could use a journal or download an emotion tracking app on your phone.
Every few hours, write down where you are, what you’re doing, and how you’re feeling at that moment. Writing it down could help you build a habit of tuning in with your emotions so that one day you can do it effortlessly and automatically.
Also, you would be able to go back and take a look at your entries, which would allow you to see a possible trend. Maybe you find out that certain people or situations consistently make you feel down. Is there something you can do to make those instances more bearable? Or, you may notice that you’ve been exceptionally cheerful during the last week. What is it that made you so happy? And how can you get more of it?
5. Find ways to self-soothe
As a neglected child, there’s a chance your parents didn’t give you much-needed comfort when you were upset. They probably weren’t there to wipe off your tears or rock you to sleep. As a result, today you might have trouble dealing with stress, anger, or any overwhelming situation. You might still seek someone to comfort you, but recovery actually means finding that comfort within yourself.
You can achieve that by learning an important skill to help you regulate your emotions: self-soothing. As the name suggests, it is a skill that enables you to calm yourself when you need it and find some peace when things get rough. You can try out 3 simple steps to learn how to self-soothe:
Step 1. Make a list of possible strategies that you could use to calm yourself down. Do you like a cup of hot chocolate on bad days? Curling up in a fluffy blanket? Cuddling your pet? You can put as many things as you like on that list. Make sure to include some things that are easily accessible wherever you are, such as taking three deep breaths, for example.
Step 2. This is where emotions charts and identifying your emotions come in handy. When you notice a strong negative feeling, it’s time to check out your list.
Step 3. Try out different strategies and pay attention to what works and what doesn’t work. Maybe petting your dog works when you’re sad, but not when you’re angry. Feel free to modify your list, crossing out strategies and adding new ones.
You may find it hard at first to come to terms with yourself and your emotions. It will probably seem scary, difficult, and unachievable. But please don’t lose hope! Start with small, baby steps, and work your way up. When it gets hard, remember the child you once were, and remember you’re doing this for them. Give them all the love you didn’t receive. We got your back!
ChoosingTherapy.com. (2022, May 7). Childhood Emotional Neglect: Signs, Lasting Effects, & Treatments. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/childhood-emotional-neglect/
Running On Empty By Dr. Jonice Webb | Dr. Jonice Webb. (2019, June 2). Dr. Jonice Webb | Your Resource for Relationship and Emotional Health. https://drjonicewebb.com/the-book/
Sólo, A. (2018, November 29). 4 Ways to Begin to Recover from Childhood Emotional Neglect. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/highly-sensitive-refuge/201811/4-ways-begin-recover-childhood-emotional-neglect
Webb, J. (2022, April 10). How to Learn a Valuable Lifetime Skill: Self-Soothing. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/childhood-emotional-neglect/202204/how-learn-valuable-lifetime-skill-self-soothing?amp
Webb, J., PhD. (2020, May 31). 6 Healing Habits of Adults Who Recover From Childhood Emotional Neglect. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/blog/childhood-neglect/2020/05/6-healing-habits-of-adults-who-recover-from-childhood-emotional-neglect#1