Emotional Neglect in Childhood

Although we know that our family and the experiences we had as children are important, we often do not realize how the various situations experienced in this period affect our adult life. However, even if we do not realize it, the behavior of our family significantly affects our thoughts, behaviors, decisions and emotions today.

Often when we think about our childhood, we conclude that our family is “good” or “bad”. If there is no violence, abuse, insult or ignorance in the family, it is “good” and “bad”. However, this kind of Black and White way of thinking does not fully reflect reality. Yes, maybe there were no bad words in the family, but how many good words were there? Yes, maybe we weren’t emotionally humiliated, but how important were our feelings? Did we feel emotionally part of a group, or did we see our emotions as meaningless reproaches?

When we look at scientific studies, we see that our family does not need to be perfect, contrary to popular belief, in order to be a happy and functional adult. Our minimum need is to have a “good enough” family. Due to the nature of being human, we cannot expect all of our family members to be faultless, but if these people respond to our emotional and physical needs “enough”, we will be well prepared for the negative experiences that life will throw at us.

So when does emotional neglect occur? If the parent neglects the child’s feelings, does not notice them, does not ask questions about them or does not try to understand them, it means that we have fallen into an emotional neglect. Because in order for us to experience a negative situation, there is no need to have a bad behavior towards us. Even ignoring a rightful feeling is enough to make us feel bad and worthless. Because for people born as creatures in need of care, “care” is not only a good feeling, but also the key to survival. When we cry, our mother’s attention calms us, when we cry, our father’s attention gives us confidence, when we are bored, our brother’s attention amuses us. Now let’s imagine that all these feelings are ignored. Someone doesn’t make us cry, but they don’t comfort us when we cry. How would you feel in this situation? Maybe you could get angry with this person or blame yourself for crying.

Unfortunately, one of the saddest aspects of emotional neglect in the family is that parents are often unaware of this neglect. Expression of emotion is often undesirable, especially in cultures like ours. We are asked not to show our emotions too much so as not to appear weak or spoiled. Everyone should fulfill the task assigned to him and take the responsibility off his back. If your family feeds you, puts you on your back, and puts a roof over you, isn’t it spoiled to ask for more? You’ve heard this often. The person in the role of “good father” or “good mother” is often portrayed as the one who eats and does not drink, because they are considered “good enough”. However, if our full stomach solved every problem in life, it would not be expected that anyone with a full stomach would be sad, bored, angry or indifferent.

Often, emotionally neglectful parents neglect not only the feelings of their children, but also the feelings of their friends, relatives, and even themselves. Because for them, even thinking about feelings may seem unnecessary or absurd. This is what makes emotional neglect dangerous. Family members may not see a problem because everyone in the family has a full stomach, irons and health. However, there is a problem if no one engages in intimate conversations with one another, does not share their problems and issues that upset them, and is unable to pour out their contents knowing that they will not be judged. If this situation has been going on since childhood, we often haven’t learned enough from our parents how to regulate our emotions and where and how to react. In this case, too, when we experience a different level of emotion, we do not know what to do and cannot clear the confusion.

Jonice Webb has written the following 8 items that will indicate the presence of emotional neglect in your family:

  1. Conversations with your family are often superficial. You rarely share emotional, meaningful, painful, or negative topics with them. In fact, it often makes your interactions feel boring.

  2. You experience occasional unexplained feelings of anger and resentment towards your parents (you may even feel guilty for experiencing these)

  3. You go to see your family with the possibility that you will be happy and often return apathetic or disappointed.

  4. Interpersonal or difficult problems in the family are often ignored or ignored without mentioning them.

  5. Sometimes you get the feeling that your siblings are competing with each other for something you are unsure of.

  6. Family members express their positive feelings with actions, not words (doing something for someone rather than telling them they love them).

  7. Emotions, maybe negative emotions, but sometimes all emotions seem like a taboo subject to not talk about in the family.

  8. When you’re with your family, you feel strangely lonely or left out.

Members of emotionally neglectful families do indeed suffer. It is a very negative situation that our emotions are not noticed, approved, and not talked about. If you notice that you feel this way when you are with your family, you may find that some of the above 8 items apply to your family as well. According to Webb, while these families look good on the outside, like a cake made without sugar, they actually have a tasteless and tasteless life inside. On the outside, things look “as they should be,” but inside the family they feel unhappy, sad, and neglected.

Unfortunately, changing family members is very, very difficult. Rather than trying to reverse this type of behavior pattern, we should focus on one place we truly have the power to change: ourselves. Most of the time, these situations experienced in the family spread to other relationships in our lives. We too are indifferent to the feelings of other people – or ourselves. We ignore them or don’t dwell on them enough. We do our duty on paper, but we do not form a meaningful bond.

The first step to beating a problem is recognizing it. If you have noticed these problems, fear not, you are neither the first nor the last person to experience such a situation. Many people have experienced and overcome such situations. The important thing is not to try to be the “perfect” person, the opposite of these negativities. The idea of ​​“perfection” lays the stones on the road that will lead us to negativity and loss. Instead, as I wrote at the beginning, we should try to be “good enough”. We have to think of it like a muscle. Just as people who start sports do not start with the heaviest weight directly, they increase their weight over time, we focus on the emotional loads we can lift and expand this range over time. We start with ourselves first and after we achieve this, we go to help others.

Take the opposite stance if you experience items of emotional neglect at your next family gathering or friend reunion. Be the first to take the step. Talk about your feelings and problems. In this way, you can be an example to others. You show them by practicing that emotions should not be feared. In this way, you can see how much people are afraid to share their feelings.

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