Jonice Webb is the author of Running on Empty, a bestselling book about a pervasive syndrome called Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). Webb’s second book, Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children, focuses on the effect this little-known condition can have on loved ones, and how to heal those emotional connections. Having recently reviewed Webb’s new book for this site, I wanted to get more of her take on CEN — why so many people are unaware they have it, and why it takes such a toll on their lives.
Why are so many people unaware that they are affected by Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN)?
Emotional Neglect in childhood is not an act; it’s the parent’s failure to act. It’s their failure to notice and respond to the child’s feelings. This makes it invisible, and also unmemorable.
CEN has been largely unaddressed by mental health professionals because it naturally tends to go unnoticed and falls between the cracks. And our clients can’t tell us about it since they don’t recall it. The full pattern of struggles that result from growing up this way has only recently been identified and written about (by me).
How can people know if they have CEN?
They can recognize themselves in the descriptions I give in both of my books or on my blog. They can also take the Emotional Neglect Questionnaire on my website. It’s free. (Here’s a link to the questionnaire)
I’m also training many therapists to recognize and treat CEN. The more this concept becomes known, the more therapists can help people affected by it.
What are the repercussions of CEN?
Feelings of emptiness, extreme independence, lack of self-knowledge, poor self-compassion, excessive guilt, shame and self-directed anger, poor self-discipline, struggles with emotional intelligence and a deep feeling of being different from other people.
What often happens when people begin addressing the issues related to CEN?
They begin to see themselves, and everyone else, in a different light. They realize that whatever is wrong with them is not their fault. They begin to see the importance of their own emotions, and how they’ve been ignoring the feelings of people important to them, like their spouses and children and family.
Often they view all the important relationships in their lives through a different lens, and want to improve their emotional connections. This is the topic I address in Running on Empty No More.
What can people who’ve experienced CEN do to make sure they prevent it from harming their own children?
First, they need to heal their own emotional neglect (it can be healed). This way it won’t automatically transfer to their children. They also need to pay attention to what their child is feeling and respond to their child’s emotions, providing him with emotional support, guidance and direction. Pay attention to the child’s personality, likes and dislikes, preferences, strengths and weaknesses, and accept them all.
Learn more at the author’s website.