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Archive for the ‘Childhood Emotional Neglect-CEN’ Category

20 Brilliant Ways People Avoid Their Feelings (and the Havoc it Wreaks)

SOURCE:  / PsychCentral

An important fact that most people never consider: We cannot choose what we feel.

The feelings we naturally feel are biological and automatic. Emotions arise automatically from our deepest self, a deeply personal expression of who we are, what we want, what we need, what we enjoy and who we like.

Our emotions tell us when we need to protect ourselves (fear), when to prepare (anxiety), when to reach out (lonely), when to let go (grief), and what we need (longing). They also tell us much more about ourselves, if we would only listen.

It is also true that, however useful our feelings are, they can hurt us. Feeling sadness, rage, grief or pain can be deeply unpleasant. Especially when we do not know what to do with those feelings.

In truth, it is our responsibility to listen to our feelings, use them to guide and connect us, and also manage them.

But if you grew up in a family that did not know how emotions work and did not teach you how to listen to your feelings, use them, and manage them (the definition of an emotionally neglectful family or Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN), you may find yourself with only one trick up your sleeve when you come upon rapids in the river.

Unfortunately, it’s the lowest common denominator of tricks and the trickiest of tricks. Because it seems to work but it only makes things worse.

Avoidance.

You can indeed become brilliant at this tricky trick. You can discover genius ways to avoid your feelings. Few people make a conscious decision to avoid their feelings. And likewise, you do not consciously choose your ways to do it. Your brain makes the choice for you out of necessity, probably outside of your awareness.

As the psychologist who coined the term CEN (Childhood Emotional Neglect), I am in a good position to see the myriad ways people distract and avoid their feelings. Below is an incomplete list of the infinite variety of possibilities.

Part of what makes this trick so tricky is that many of the strategies listed below are healthy, positive activities that make you feel good. Do not be misled by that. Instead, as you read them, please think deeply about not only what you are doing, but why you are doing it. Are you “using” these ways in a healthy way?

Or are you using them to avoid your feelings?

20 Ways to Avoid Your Feelings

  1. Work
  2. Exercise
  3. Obsessing
  4. Netflix/Hulu/Screens
  5. Shopping
  6. The avid pursuit of hobbies or interests
  7. Chronic and excessive busyness
  8. Dwelling on the past or future (avoiding the now)
  9. Over-focusing on other people’s problems or needs
  10. Video games
  11. Surfing online
  12. Social media
  13. Phone gazing
  14. Sleeping
  15. Planning
  16. Worrying
  17. Smiling/joking/humor
  18. Drinking
  19. Eating
  20. Drugs

You may be surprised to hear that one of the most giveaway signs of someone who grew up with Emotional Neglect is excessive smiling and joking.

Research on smiling has shown that just pulling the corners of your mouth up makes you instantly feel better. And nothing says, “I’m fine. I don’t need anything at all,” better than a smile. I have seen CEN adults smile through painful stories, and crack jokes while crying. All in an attempt to avoid feelings.

It is very common for movies and TV to show favorite characters drinking to escape their pain. It is often glamorized, normalized, and made to appear dramatic and cool in these depictions.

Feeling better is good! But not if it makes you more vulnerable to painful feelings overall. And that is exactly what avoidance does…

Why None of These Ways Actually Work

Another important fact about emotions is this: Ignoring, escaping and avoiding them does NOT make them go away. It only feels that way at the moment.

Denied, avoided, or escaped feelings actually become stronger because they have not been processed. Unprocessed feelings linger under the surface waiting for something to touch them off. Then they come out even more powerfully.

So the longer and more successfully you avoid your feelings, the more powerful, painful and potentially harmful they can become.

And in this process, you lose in two pivotal ways. You not only increase the power of what you’re trying to avoid, but you also lose out on all the vital guidance, connection, motivation, energy and stimulation that your feelings should be providing for your life.

3 Ways to Stop Avoiding Your Feelings

  • Accept that you have feelings, off and on, every single day. Accept that it is normal and healthy to have them.
  • Decide that you are going to change how you deal with your feelings. Decide to pay attention to what you are feeling. Get curious about your feelings, what they mean, and how to listen to them and use them as they are meant to be used.
  • Learn the emotion skills you missed in childhood. It is never too late to learn how to sit with your feelings, even painful ones. You can learn what your feelings are telling you, learn the skills to name and manage your feelings as well as the skills to express what you are feeling to others.

I have watched scores of people go through the process described above, dramatically changing how they view and handle their feelings. It is a remarkable series of steps that gradually transforms how you view, understand, and feel about yourself.

By following the steps of CEN recovery, you learn much more about yourself from the inside. Who are you? What do you want, need and feel?

As you become aware of your own feelings, you become aware of your self. And you realize that what you’ve been running from all these years is actually a vital, useful expression of your deepest self.

No need to run anymore.

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Which Type Of Emotionally Neglectful Parents Raised You? 17 Signs to Look For

SOURCE:  Dr. Jonice Webb

What kind of parents fail to notice their child’s feelings?

Since this type of parental failure (Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN) causes significant harm to the child, people naturally assume that emotionally neglectful parents must also be abusive or mean in some way. And it is true that many are.

But one of the most surprising things about Childhood Emotional Neglect is that emotionally neglectful parents are usually not bad people or unloving parents. Many are indeed trying their best to raise their children well.

Type 1: Well-Meaning-But-Neglected-Themselves Parents (WMBNT)

  • Permissive
  • Workaholic
  • Achievement/Perfection 

There are a variety of different ways that well-meaning parents can accidentally neutralize their children’s emotions. They can fail to set enough limits or deliver enough consequences (Permissive), they can work long hours, inadvertently viewing material wealth as a form of parental love (Workaholic), or they can overemphasize their child’s accomplishment and success at the cost of his happiness (Achievement/Perfection).

What makes these parents qualify for Well-Meaning Category 1 status? They think that they are doing what’s best for their children. They are acting out of love, not out of self-interest. Most are simply raising their children the way they themselves were raised. They were raised by parents who were blind to their emotions, so they grew up with the same emotional blind spot that their own parents had. Blind to their children’s emotions, they pass the neglect down, completely unaware that they are doing so.

Children of WMBNT parents generally grow into adulthood with heavy doses of three things: all the symptoms of CEN, a great deal of confusion about where those symptoms came from, and a wagonload of self-blame and guilt. That’s because when, as an adult, you look back at your childhood for an explanation for your problems, you often see a benign-looking one. Everything you can remember may seem absolutely normal and fine. You remember what your well-meaning parents gave you, but you cannot recall what your parents failed to give you.

“It must be me. I’m flawed,” you decide. You blame yourself for what is not right in your adult life. You feel guilty for the seemingly irrational anger that you sometimes have at your well-meaning parents. You also struggle with a lack of emotion skills, unless you have taught them to yourself throughout your life since you had no opportunity to learn them in childhood.

6 Signs To Look For

  • You love your parents and are surprised by the inexplicable anger you sometimes have toward them.
  • You feel confused about your feelings about your parents.
  • You feel guilty for being angry at them.
  • Being with your parents is boring.
  • Your parents don’t see or know the real you, as you are today.
  • You know that your parents love you, but you don’t necessarily feel it.

Type 2: Struggling Parents

  • Caring for a Special Needs Family Member
  • Bereaved, Divorced or Widowed
  • Child as Parent
  • Depressed

Struggling parents emotionally neglect their child because they are so taken up with coping that there is little time, attention or energy left over to notice what their child is feeling or struggling with. Whether bereaved, hurting, depressed or ill, these parents would likely parent much more attentively if only they had the bandwidth to do so.

But these parents couldn’t, so they didn’t. They didn’t notice your feelings enough, and they didn’t respond to your feelings enough. Although the reasons for their failure are actually irrelevant, you have not yet realized this yet. You look back and see a struggling parent who loved you and tried hard, and you find it impossible to hold her accountable.

Children of struggling parents often grow up to be self-sufficient to the extreme and to blame themselves for their adult struggles.

4 Signs To Look For

  • You have great empathy toward your parents, and a strong wish to help or take care of them.
  • You are grateful for all your parents have done for you, and can’t understand why you sometimes feel an inexplicable anger toward them.
  • You have an excessive focus on taking care of other people’s needs, often to your own detriment.
  • Your parents are not harsh or emotionally injurious toward you.

Type 3: Self-Involved Parents

  • Narcissistic
  • Authoritarian
  • Addicted
  • Sociopathic

This category stands out from the other two for two important reasons. The first: self-involved parents are not necessarily motivated by what is best for their child. They are, instead, motivated to gain something for themselves. The second is that many parents in this category can be quite harsh in ways that do damage to the child on top of the Emotional Neglect.

The narcissistic parent wants his child to help him feel special. The authoritarian parent wants respect, at all costs. The addicted parent may not be selfish at heart, but due to her addiction, is driven by a need for her substance of choice. The sociopathic parent wants only two things: power and control. 

Not surprisingly, Category 3 is the most difficult one for most children to see or accept. No one wants to believe that his parents were, and are, out for themselves.

Being raised by Category 3 parents is only easier than the other two categories in one way: typically, you can see that something was (and is) wrong with your parents. You can remember their various mistreatments or harsh or controlling acts so you may be more understanding of the reasons you have problems in your adult life. You may be less prone to blame yourself.

7 Signs To Look For

  • You often feel anxious before seeing your parents.
  • You often find yourself hurt when you’re with your parents.
  • It’s not unusual for you to get physically sick right before, during, or after seeing your parents.
  • You have significant anger at your parents.
  • Your relationship with them feels false, or fake.
  • It’s hard to predict whether your parents will behave in a loving or rejecting way toward you from one moment to the next.
  • Sometimes your parents seem to be playing games with you or manipulating you, or maybe even trying to purposely hurt you.

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