Childhood Emotional Trauma
You have all that you need and “should” be happy, but still, you struggle with feelings of guilt because you are not. Material things don’t fulfill you, and even the family that you love so much cannot completely fill in that void. You can’t explain it, but you know something is missing.
We can probably all agree that when we hear the word “trauma”, we usually think of the bigger things that don’t necessarily happen in your every day life. We tend to think about traumatic life events such as a near-death experience or an act of violence. You may have survived traumatizing relationships, filled with rejection, hurt, or abuse. Those things are obvious and tangible, and we can easily identify “what happened”.
And then, there are those invisible scars that result from a caring but unaware parent who raised you with nurturing love, or “tough love”, but who ultimately was not able to meet your needs on a deeper level. As a result, you’ve internalized feelings of invalidation or of feeling ignored, and have ultimately disconnected from your emotional self.
While growing up, you may have been told to “Get over it, you’re fine!” in response to getting physically or emotionally hurt, or perhaps you were told that you are “way too sensitive” if you expressed sadness or emotional pain of any sort.
On the other hand, you may have had the opposite experience and were over-indulged or perhaps had the “cool parents” who set no structure or curfews for you to follow. It was a pretty sweet deal… until you started to mature and found yourself unable to make decisions on your own or struggling to find direction in life.
The term Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) was first coined by Dr. Jonice Webb, and it describes those childhood events that leave us feeling empty, unworthy, depressed or anxious as adults, even if we were not mistreated, abused. Dr. Webb further describes childhood emotional neglect as “a failure to notice, attend to, or respond appropriately to a child’s feelings. Because it’s an act of omission, it’s not visible, noticeable or memorable… Emotional Neglect…is insidious and overlooked while it does its silent damage to people’s lives.”
Adults who as children grow up in a household where their emotional needs were met with avoidance, rejection, scolding or even over-indulgence are often times left to figure out how to deal with their emotional needs on their own. The challenge, however, is that you don’t know what you don’t know, and if as a child no one ever taught you that your feelings and emotions are important and valid, you may have grown up to become an adult who suppresses, avoids or ignores them in order to cope. An inability to deal with emotions in healthy ways can undoubtedly lead to problems in your relationships, physical and mental health issues.
You may be living a life that is inspirational to others or you may be living a life that could use some inspiration. To others, you may look like you have it “all together”, but you often feel like an imposter or different from others, as if something is wrong with you. Here are some other ways in which the effects of childhood emotional neglect show up in adulthood:
- You strive for more and more perfection but still feel empty inside no matter how much you achieve.
- It is difficult for you to be compassionate with yourself, even if you can be compassionate with others.
- You push others away for fear that they will ultimately let you down.
- You may feel anger or sadness, but do not allow yourself the freedom to express it because the thought of allowing yourself that freedom is too overwhelming.
- You’ve worked hard to keep these emotions in check, perhaps to the point that you have difficulty identifying what it is that you actually feel. Or you feel nothing.
If any of this sounds familiar to you and you are tired of living in this seemingly endless cycle, you deserve to have the closure and happiness that you want.
Approximately 90% of adults have endured some sort of trauma. 1 Although many of us tend to recover emotionally from accidents, assaults, and even abuse, some people will endure more long-term symptoms caused by trauma, also known as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Many people mistakenly think that post traumatic stress only happens with combat veterans and police officers, however, more than 1 in 10 people who have survived trauma will experience post traumatic symptoms. Much like a wound or injury that does not properly heal, these issues can create a great deal of pain and distress to those who are affected by them.
Sometimes, trauma can make us avoid certain things that remind us of what happened. For some people, their stress response to possible threats or triggers make them react with an extreme state of alert or “hypervigilance” as a way to keep these threats away.
This hypervigilance is particularly heightened when those things “trigger” or initiate a flashback, where we relive those difficult experiences. Over time, these experiences can dramatically impact your mood and feelings of well being. Left untreated, these symptoms can dramatically affect your health, your relationships, your career, and your life.
If you are experiencing any of these warning signs after a traumatic life event, psychotherapy can help you learn the tools to lower your anxiety and fears around situations that are triggering.
Therapy provides a safe, supportive, and confidential space for you to work towards healing.
You will have the chance to speak freely about yourself and your experiences, share your life story, and build trust at a pace that feels comfortable for you. I use trauma-informed care to ensure that you feel safe and to decrease the effects of potential triggers that may be related to your trauma.
In our work together, you will be able to let me know what your goals are, or we can figure them out together. Many people have general goals, while others are much more specific:
- I want to rediscover who I am without the fear and anxiety
- I want to be able to be present without worrying about what may happen tomorrow
- I want to feel motivated again
- I want to understand where this came from and get over it!
- I don’t want to depend on therapy forever and want to know how to cope on my own
- I want to feel worthy of _________
- I want to be able to be mindful and self-reflective without the negative thoughts that follow
- I just want to get some sleep…