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I've been seeking explanations into the root of my neurotic perfectionism and anxiety recently and after having a particularly difficult time trying to connect with a parent over the Christmas holidays I did a little digging online and came across Jonice Webb and the concept of Childhood Emotional neglect which I felt really fit with my personal experiences.


Children who are emotionally neglected then grow up to have a particular set of struggles. Because their emotions were not validated as children, they may have difficulty knowing and trusting their own emotions as adults. They may have difficulty understanding their own feelings, as well as others’. Because an important part of themselves (their emotional self) has been denied, they may find themselves feeling disconnected, unfulfilled or empty. They may have difficulty trusting or relying upon others. Many describe feeling that they are different from other people; like something is wrong with them, but they’re not sure what it is.
Another way that parents can unwittingly emotionally neglect their child is to fail to give him the structure and rules to live by, like consequences and discipline. As a result, the emotionally neglected often struggle with self-discipline as adults.
Whatever the level of parental failure, the emotionally neglected have no childhood memories to explain their difficulties. So, too often, they blame themselves.
To this day, Emotional Neglect has been overlooked. Because it’s invisible, unmemorable, and the absence of something (emotional validation), It has been greatly overshadowed by more visible, but also worthy topics, like childhood events, abuse, or trauma.



Read more at the source & take the questionnaire here.

Personally I relate to this description quite strongly. I'm from a single-parent family where my mother often worked back-to-back shifts and was nearly always too tired/stressed to parent me and my sibling. Most of behaviour as a child (and even now) was met with indifference whether I did something positive or negative. I believe my perfectionism stems from the fact that my achievements were either met with minimal acknowledgement ("oh that's nice, tell me about it later I'm tired") or indifference and if ever I did not perform to an exceptionally high standard her affection/attention would completely be withdrawn (e.g. she would completely avoid/not talk to me, would generally be upset with me). Any time I tried to confront her about it my feelings would be invalidated and she'd outright deny that she was upset or punishing me for anything and that anything I was feeling was due to mental illness on my part. I compare this to one of my friends, a type three wing four whose parents would actively punish her and emotionally abuse her for not performing exceptionally, yet would equally reward her for her successes. We both suffer from a self-destructive perfectionism only hers drives her to take on too much, not eat/sleep and be very single-minded until she is guaranteed to succeed (which she tends to) and then crash from exhaustion afterwards. I find that with myself I also take on too much but then tend to procrastinate/generally become extremely avoidant and depressed as I feel that whether I succeed or not I won't receive emotional validation or be 'loved'. I draw this comparison to show the differences I've observed between overt and aggressive emotional abuse versus covert, manipulative and passive emotional neglect.

Anyhoo, sorry if this was a little unclear/rambling. I could go on more but I'm interested in hearing other people's experiences. As for questions, what do you think about the idea of Childhood Emotional Neglect? Do you feel that this reflect your own relationship with your parents/primary care givers? If you did suffer from any type of emotional abuse or neglect as a child would you describe it as being overt or covert (or a combination) and how do you think that difference played out in your life beyond childhood? (E.g. friends I know irl who suffered overt emotional abuse tend to be aware of the fact and blame their parents, whereas myself and others I know who went through a more passive/covert abuse/neglect are often not aware of it and tend to be more self-desctructive and withdrawn).
 
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As for questions, what do you think about the idea of Childhood Emotional Neglect? Do you feel that this reflect your own relationship with your parents/primary care givers? If you did suffer from any type of emotional abuse or neglect as a child would you describe it as being overt or covert (or a combination) and how do you think that difference played out in your life beyond childhood? (E.g. friends I know irl who suffered overt emotional abuse tend to be aware of the fact and blame their parents, whereas myself and others I know who went through a more passive/covert abuse/neglect are often not aware of it and tend to be more self-desctructive and withdrawn).
Both of my parents were emotionally absent when I was growing up. There was also DV in my childhood. It is so hard to explain to others who did not grow up with emotional neglect/abuse how much this affected my life. I don't know if it will ever stop affecting my life. I feel so inferior at times, so damaged, so insignificant, so unlovable, so invisible. There are times when I wonder why in the hell did my parents even have children.

I made some bad choices in my life when I left home, especially when it came to relationships. I did not even know what a healthy relationship was because for years I watched what my parents were like and how they interacted. My relationships mirrored my life with my parents. I did not want to have the life my parents had, but I still chose that subconsciously, and I am still very hard on myself for that. When I am around other people who had the perfect childhood, parents, and relationships, I feel very inferior... I am reminded of what I did not have, how messed up my life has been, how damaged I am, and I hate that feeling. I hate it so much!

I never had a close relationship with my mom or dad, and I never felt like their daughter.

I also wanted to add that my childhood was affected by domestic violence, which made it impossible for my parents to be emotionally present. There were situations that I had witnessed (a few were quite traumatic) growing up in a home with DV, and things I had to endure....I learned to endure a lot of emotional pain. This explains it well: Effects of Domestic Violence on Children and Adolescents: An Overview
 

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I relate to this a lot. I was severely abused by both parents, and neglected (including my physical needs) and have severe PTSD. I am a perfectionist and focus so much on others' and their comfort (because I had to as a child), it takes me a long time to know my own emotions.
 

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When I was young, I always thought my extreme disconnection, emptiness, alienation, separation, paranoia, misfit mentality, and lack of social ease was COMPLETELY due to being an extreme introvert. However, since I learned of CEN, I see that's not the case. I think I had moderate to severe CEN, though I'm not sure whether you'd define it as overt or covert. Basically, I'd say I had an involved family who was uninvolved (if that makes any sense). I got food and shelter and with the exception of a boarding school upon having a nervous breakdown after finishing 7th grade and a group home when I was in my twenties, I live with my family until I was 30. Nobody ever asked me what was happening in school ever. Nobody ever suggested extracurricular activities like, say, some kids who have "soccer moms." Nobody ever took me the library or read to me (parents are immigrants). I had no friends, but nobody talked to me about this either. Nobody talked to me about life, drugs, sex, finances. Nobody suggested I get a job as a teen or suggested how. There's just this nothingness when I look back, how nobody guided me in any way. In my early twenties, I remember being asked, "Do you want money?" and being handed $20. (Never got an allowance, discipline, or structure.) At 25, after I lived in a group home for a year (due to having mental problems and going nowhere in life), I then moved back home and get a statement saying that maybe I'm this way because my life's been "too easy, always get what you want...except friends" (adding the last bit in and dismissing having no friends as if it's trivial and not a big thing.
 

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My mom was emotionally abusive and neglectful, and it definitely affected all my romantic relationships. I often treated them similarly to how she treated me :( I always felt like my feelings were invalid, and sulking was met with back-handing, name-calling, and threats of punishment. I took to crying alone in my room and then putting on a brave face. I still try to do the same thing. I was expected to get over things on my own and as soon as she did. I never wanted to upset her because I ended up being made to feel like crap, so I became a crazy perfectionist to avoid it. Plus, I liked the praise I received when I did perfectly. I felt like I had to sit there and be pretty, polite, and quiet. I heard a 4 description once where we were described as little geishas with painted-on smiles, very cultured and polite, but secretly longing for the samurai who would never come. Very dramatic, I know, but I think a lot of us can relate. Today, I'm still very avoidant of conflict. It intimidates me and makes me feel very small and unsafe. I'm also very undisciplined, and I think I'd be more disciplined if I'd had more rules growing up. I was never asked to clean my room or take out the trash or wash the dishes, etc. I think I cleaned the bathroom once or twice for $50. I did do my own laundry from like 4th grade on, but only because I didn't trust anyone else to carefully read the tags. She didn't help with homework unless I asked, but I didn't need the help, so I don't see that as neglectful.
 

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I relate to this so much. I was always dismissed when I tried to express myself and ended up bottling things up. I always either felt full of emotion I couldn't express, or dead inside. I don't know which ones worse, but I would cope in unhealthy ways for both. The part about not having a routine also resonated with me, I in turn became very OCD about that stuff, which isn't naturally me at all. It just sucked never being in control of or knowing what would happen. But now I have issues with ever completing things, it's like I can't find a balance. And my mom was either indifferent if I did things right, or very angry when I did things wrong. (My dad too, but he hasn't been in my life in a very long time) So combined with the fact that I wasn't able to pursue the things I was interested in, I basically felt like I wasn't good at anything. and I still have trouble expressing myself.

Things were far more covert with my mom. But if other adults who saw how she was dared to talk to her, she would lash out, find a way to make it the other person's fault and cut ties with them. If it was one of us, she would project her problems onto us and yell until we gave up. She would also find a way to make her failures in parenting our fault. If I wanted to talk about how she was affecting me, I was over sensitive and dramatic. Or literally crazy for feeling that way in the first place or thinking she wasn't normal. I also recall telling her I wanted therapy and she told me I had to get better before she would bother with that. (Makes perfect sense, right?) Though after I revealed something to her, she agreed to get me therapy. But she only let me go a few times and would get angry because she thought my therapist was throwing her under the bus.

Oddly enough though, my mom is actually growing and admitting her faults. It's kind of a shame it wasn't earlier because it's not long before I move out, but at least now I'm inclined to keep in contact with her if she keeps it up. I honestly don't think she really realized how hurtful she was. She grew up in a much worse environment, so I think she was doing what she knew how, which actually it's kind of a miracle things weren't 1000% worse considering. Not that it makes it okay, but I see why she was the way she was.
 

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@Juliet14 I really, really hope this isn't taken as offensive, and I apologize if I'm off the mark and it is. Your mom sounds a lot like my mom, so I was wondering if your mom has Borderline, too?
 

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@username123, no offense taken! Do you mean BPD? I just googled it, and she seems to only have a few symptoms, so I don't think so. But she's very opposed to seeking help, so I can't know for sure. She does have PTSD from her abusive childhood, so I'm sure that's affected some of her behavior. She also has pretty bad OCD and and it seems she tip toes around an eating disorder on and off. It's not hard to believe there might be some other personality disorder motivating her to act the way she does, but since she refuses to seek professional help, I just don't know. She's very good at appearing normal, maybe a little distant, to the outside world. And she acts like she feels superior to others, but I get glimpses of her actually being very insecure. It really could just be a combination of things for her. Another weird thing is that after a few particularly days, weeks, months, whatever with her, she'll seem very guilty for the way she's acted. She'll sob and tell us that this wasn't what she envisioned any of our lives being like and she wanted to do so much better for us. So I know she's not narcissistic or anything like that. It's just very sad, she's been deeply hurt in her past but can't seem to accept help.
 

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@username123, no offense taken! Do you mean BPD? I just googled it, and she seems to only have a few symptoms, so I don't think so. But she's very opposed to seeking help, so I can't know for sure. She does have PTSD from her abusive childhood, so I'm sure that's affected some of her behavior. She also has pretty bad OCD and and it seems she tip toes around an eating disorder on and off. It's not hard to believe there might be some other personality disorder motivating her to act the way she does, but since she refuses to seek professional help, I just don't know. She's very good at appearing normal, maybe a little distant, to the outside world. And she acts like she feels superior to others, but I get glimpses of her actually being very insecure. It really could just be a combination of things for her. Another weird thing is that after a few particularly days, weeks, months, whatever with her, she'll seem very guilty for the way she's acted. She'll sob and tell us that this wasn't what she envisioned any of our lives being like and she wanted to do so much better for us. So I know she's not narcissistic or anything like that. It's just very sad, she's been deeply hurt in her past but can't seem to accept help.
Firstly, I do hope that your mother feels better each day.
I'm glad no offense was taken! I did mean BPD, though ignoring disorders, the more you describe your mom the more I relate - I guess minus the OCD and ED. The PTSD is unfortunately there. :( My mom does seek professional help, but not any that's of use to her - same AWFUL therapist (I should know, I had her a loong time) for years, sub-therapeutic doses of the wrong med...
I, too, get glimpses of my mom's insecurities, and doesn't it just tear your heart apart (with your own mom)? :( I hate to even think about it. Gahh I love my mom so much it rips my heart apart.
Like you said about your mom, my mom is good at appearing normal - SO good. My sister and I joke about it, I guess because joking is one of the coping mechanisms we've developed. We still occasionally laugh about scenarios where she'd be a terror toward us, and then the phone would ring, and she'd answer it with a compleetely different demeanor, acting like the happiest, friendliest person in the world. But my mom does have an ongoing record of occasionally touching upon and sobbing about the same things you mentioned - that things didn't turn out how she wanted them, how she's a failure as a mom, how she loves us so badly, etc. As I've gotten older, I've begun to understand (sort of recently - I'm 24) why shes's acted the way she has and why she's become the person who she is. From what knowledge I have, I am sure that her childhood was much worse than ours and that she gave us much better than she had growing up. She was the oldest of seven kids with a single mother, and in childhood she suffered through poverty, homelessness, having siblings who slept on the floor and shared winter coats, and then finally having a home and it burning down...(there's obviously more). Given her upraising, it's AMAZING what she's done for my sister and me, but it's sad that the negative effects of her behavior can't be ignored...
 

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So sorry about your mom, it really is heartbreaking.
Even when we were young and went to family therapy after our dad left, she wouldn't stay very long. She would say we were lying about her whenever one of her flaws were brought up. The one she stuck with the longest was someone who always believed her. But even then she didn't stay for long. I remember a few times after sessions she would scream her head off once we got in the car for bringing certain things up. And the part about your mom suddenly turning all nice around other people is so true with her. And I know that I have it so much better than she did, but it's still so upsetting that she won't get help. One, because it's so hard to see her struggle with the things she does, and two, things didn't have to be so hard on us. She was the oldest of 6 and also grew up in poverty. Her father was horribly abusive and her mother didn't do anything to stop it. Half the time I'm mad at her and the other half I'm just really sad for her.
 

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YES!

I had the most dysfunctional family and crazy neglectful parents EVER! (well, typical)
I'm sort of like your 3 friend were I think I push myself way too hard and stuff, and then get horrible exhaustion, burnout and fatigue. I really have a hard time pacing myself, and I'm just a walking train wreck. I'm really neurotic and it's hard for me to keep things together and I'm an emotionally train-wreck. I most most, if not all of it's from my family origin though. It really sucks, i don't know how many times I've been stereotyped as being "mentally ill" and thus like I am, some kind of freaking mental patient, with "something wrong with me" thanks to the collective denial of our society and culture that things like this are actually a freaking problem at all.
:rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:


I almost feel like my whole freaking life has been defined by this; by coming from a "broken family" and thus having to be 'some person' or 'that guy' who has lots of issues and is really screwed up. It's the most infuriating assisine, ridiculous societal standards that could exist. Just complete utter collective denial on a mass scale. It's just outrageous. Yeah, here we go, still pretending like the only thing that really matters are cash and money incentives, the monetary systen to which our entire self-worth as human beings gets measured by, time and time again; forever onward.
 

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Sometimes I think it's even worth being a man, because you are deemed as not being 'worth' any love or respect if you do not exist within a certain sociological demographic, there; you are immediately disowned, shamed, and shun away from any sort of love or respect.

Not to mention, with all this going on and existing under the umbrella that "it's fair" it's all "fair" and everyone gets what they deserve/worked for. As if, work is the one and only defining virtue which makes the world go around. Give me a break! such a load of garbage.
 
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