Story: A Victim of Childhood Emotional Neglect

Emotional Neglect is a parent’s failure to respond enough to a child’s emotional needs. 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.” Dr. Jonice webb

Every child seeks love, care and attention from their family. What if those desires don’t get fulfilled? How does it affect the child through the long run? This is a story about a victim describing her feelings through her experience.

What is it like to be emotionally neglected?

      Causes of emotional neglect:

When I was a kid, I suffered a lot from neglect and ignorance. I was lonely most of the time. Whenever I tried to open up or talk about my problems with school or other things, all I received was that look which says that I was only acting like a little child and I’m wasting their time, while in fact I was indeed a kid. I was seeking help. For my family, my problems were so small and silly. Maybe they were small but so was my age. Small problems for a small kid are big. They didn’t take my problems seriously. I was bullied in school a lot but I had nobody to tell, therefore nobody was there to defend me. The only thing I could do was to cry alone or swallow that entire burden and keep it all inside me once and for all. When my sibling was born, even that small amount of care was gone. I was asked to go away or play away. I was asked to act as the bigger person despite my small age. I was asked to stop dramatizing my issues and to stop wanting attention.

What’s wrong with wanting my parents’ attention? Isn’t that what every child wants? Isn’t it normal to feel jealous to watch the new baby get all the love and care and I get nothing? If I cried I was asked to stop being silly and stop crying. If I was upset or angry I wasn’t allowed to express my emotions, otherwise I would get punished by ignorance. My family were always critical and invalidating toward my emotion.

      Consequences of emotional neglect on my childhood:

After few years, I gave up. By that time, I got used to being lonely. I depended on myself more. However, for my “silly stupid childish problems” I had no solution but to just keep them with me; sharing only added salt on my wounds. I started thinking maybe there was something wrong with me. Maybe I was actually exaggerating. Maybe all the other kids didn’t make a big deal out of their problems the way I did. I felt empty and unworthy. I came to believe that my parents’ needs are more important and serious. They who had the right to yell, fight and express themselves freely; that made it difficult for me to identify my needs or ensure them. If I somehow informed them I needed help with something and they said no, I’d just walk away because my brain normalized it and already expected that answer so I’d no longer ensure for that need, but If I had the yes that’s the big surprise. I normalized having a major denial of the emotional needy part of my childhood.

      Consequences of emotional neglect on my adulthood:

This struggle has continued with me through my adulthood phase. Even as an adult I’ve had difficulty knowing and trusting my own emotions. It’s been hard to speak up clearly and understand my own feelings. I always hesitate things and change my mind quickly thinking “it’s okay I can live without this and that, I don’t deeply need it”. The lack of value and compassion turned me into this perfectionist person who wants everything to be done right just to feel good enough. When someone is legitimately nice to me, it terrifies me into thinking that there is an alternate motive and then I’ll be left alone especially since it happened to me several times before. Also, affection and surprises startle me. I hate being touched or hugged or be around emotional people. I don’t have big expectations from anyone even myself. I find it difficult to make or keep friends because I’m always afraid I’d be rejected, hurt or left out.

Also, I suffer from self-consciousness, weak self-esteem, and extreme doubt and unease toward people’s faithfulness. I became secretive around my family and friends and even my partner. It’s difficult for me to cry out loud in front of someone or express freely my needs and emotions. I prefer being alone at home rather than going out. In my dating life, my partner should constantly remind me how much he loves me and how much I mean to him. He should always prove to me his faithfulness otherwise I’d easily doubt him.

Finally, the list goes on and on. However, every person experiences and reacts to this issue differently depending on the size of neglect they had to face and their environment. The feeling of detachment from the world, having a constant sense of void and lack of value aren’t easy to be dealt with but every person going through similar same pain should have the courage to face it because we are all worth it.



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