Books on Childhood Emotional Neglect

So there are two very well-written books on emotional neglect and the big consequences out there, clear, concise, different ways of thinking about it and dealing with it:

The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmin Lee Cosi

Running on Empty by Jonice Webb

Worth a read.

Say, who's in charge here?

I've been chatting with my True Self. I know, it sounds crazy. My false self, my conscious self, has been in charge since I was five. Though I've known about my True Self, my authentic self, for two years, my false self remains in charge.

But we were chatting this morning and I realized something important: my false self ABSOLUTELY SUCKS at life. "Thinking" my emotions, thinking through a conversation, thinking through life, just doesn't work. We need emotions to guide us, and it's vital to feel them, recognize them, name them, and listen to what they are telling us. The false self can only think. And that's all a false self can do, existing exclusively in the conscious.

All this time I'd been expecting my True Self to somehow merge with my false self to make me whole. That's all wrong. The false self may have an advantage in the classroom, but nowhere else in life is that an advantage. Well, maybe as a spy, or as a narcissist.

No, what I want is to have my True Self come forward, be totally in charge, and to suppress my false self. A big change, but that's what my goal really is. I'm afraid to do it, because I'm am not sure what my life will look like when it happens, but I know and feel it's for the best.

The blessing of "seeing" my true self

I realize, reading the posts in the Childhood Emotional Neglect Survivors group on Facebook that I'm in an almost unique situation: I'm healing well and fast.

Maybe it's because I went through a sequence of realizations that worked really well for me:

I realized I suffered from "Nice Guy" syndrome.

I saw, in a dream, three parts of me: a grey cat's head (my false self, I realized later), a big black cat (my emotional self) and a small quiet dog who was patiently waiting to play (an aspect of my true self).

I realized I had a false self, when meant there was a true self buried down inside me somewhere.

I "saw" my false self in a moment of realization/revelation, sitting quietly in a chair beside my dresser.

I got married to an extraordinarily supportive and wise woman, which is the best part of this list.

I realized I was a highly sensitive person, and felt things more intensely than most.

I realized that my emotional self had been neglected as a child, and that's why I suppressed my false self.

I am healing fast. Lots of grief and mourning to go, sure, but lots of fun, too. But an important part in all this is how clear my True Self is to me, how vivid he is to me. That's important, I think. It's given me a very certain framework to describe what's been going on, with few self-doubts.

Feeling integrated

On Saturday, at EMDR therapy, I was dealing with my inner child. After that I didn't feel much, but in reading one of the Psychology Today blogs I wanted to establish a relationship with my inner child, because if anyone can care for him now it's me.

I started feeling something I've never felt before. I spent Saturday and most of today working on what the feeling was. It was complex, and was a combination of many emotions. Here are the ones I identified over the course of a half hour this afternoon:

Heavy, pleasant, sad, lonely, invalidated, forgotten, helpless, vulnerable, innocent, lovable, sensitive, caring. It's not complete, but you get the idea.

I think I am feeling the feelings of my inner child. It's the first time since I was a little kid. I'm not sure what to do with it yet. But for the first time since I became aware of him, I don't cry when I think of him. That's got to be a good thing.

Inner Child

I've told you about my inner child, the five-year-old I saw once. He is my true self, the one I developed a false self to protect. I've integrated him, but I haven't been taking care of him as I should. And he needs a lot of care. He's been in there a long time. This is probably my main job for a while. (I'm the Good Soldier)

Childhood Emotional Neglect

How many of these questions seem to define who you are?

Do You...

1. Sometimes feel like you don’t belong when with your family or friends ?
2. Pride yourself on not relying upon others ?
3. Have difficulty asking for help ?
4. Have friends or family who complain that you are aloof or distant ?
5. Feel you have not met your potential in life ?
6. Often just want to be left alone ?
7. Secretly feel that you may be a fraud ?
8. Tend to feel uncomfortable in social situations ?
9. Often feel disappointed with, or angry at, yourself ?
10. Judge yourself more harshly than you judge others ?
11. Compare yourself to others and often find yourself sadly lacking?
12. Find it easier to love animals than people ?
13. Often feel irritable or unhappy for no apparent reason?
14. Have trouble knowing what you’re feeling ?
15. Have trouble identifying your strengths and weaknesses?
16. Sometimes feel like you’re on the outside looking in ?
17. Believe you’re one of those people who could easily live as a hermit ?
18. Have trouble calming yourself ?
19. Feel there’s something holding you back from being present in the moment?
20. At times feel empty inside ?
21. Secretly feel there’s something wrong with you ?
22. Struggle with self-discipline ?

For me, it was 21/22.

Adults who have been emotionally neglected are complicated people. We can't look back on our past and see any neglect. Our childhood seems ideal. But we are messed up, in a bad way, because out emotions were not validated. We have learned to distrust them.

Here are the ten consequences of not trusting our emotions:

  1. Feelings of emptiness
  2. Counter-dependence (not independence, but actively refusing help)
  3. Unrealistic self-appraisal
  4. No compassion for self, plenty for others
  5. Guilt and Shame, What's wrong with me?
  6. Self directed anger, self blame
  7. The Fatal Flaw (a thing we hide, which if known would repel others)
  8. Difficulty nurturing self and others
  9. Poor self-discipline
  10. Alexithymia (poor awareness or understanding of emotions)

My fatal flaw is that I don't feel a lot of emotions. Mom says, "I love you," and I know she's lying because I feel nothing. Sometimes emotions breech the surface, but it's rare, and I suppress them all until I am alone, when they torture me.

I'm working on them, though. Daily exercises where I try to give a name to what I feel. Allowing myself to experience feelings, even the negative ones I used to think defined who I was. Learning to say , "no," and ask for help. Allowing time for myself.

I think the activities to conquer emotional neglect are the same as nourishing my inner child/true self. It's going to take a lot of work. It'll probably take years, and there will be many small epiphanies, but It's nice knowing just how I'm screwed up. Finally.


Becky wanted to go to the rec center. Noah wanted to go with to do some weights, and Joey, to swim. I was invited, but had a headache and declined. And I was instantly filled with tremendous guilt for saying , "No." I mean, really heavy, damning guilt.

I got to thinking why I felt that, and realized it wasn't guilt I felt, it was shame. I had been trained to respond to shame. It was a tool my family, even the kids, used to get their way. When I wanted to do something different, I'd be shamed, sometimes very hard, until I buckled. Eventually I just started shaming myself for even wanting something different.

I didn't realize until tonight how strong that still was in me.

My early path to understanding

2014: Nice Guy (No More Mr. Nice Guy)

2016: False Self (Donald Winnicott, as described by Alain de Botton)*

2018: Secret Attachments (Peter Michaelson)

2018: Sensate Focus Technique

2018: Childhood Emotional Neglect (Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect, Jonice Webb)*

I'll add more later.

Asterisks* indicate important resources to me.