I sometimes wish the world is a perfect place, where all of us had a chance to grow up in the complete family with loving mum and dad, who consciously paid attention not only to our needs, but also variations in our personalities, but for majority of us, being brought up in this kind of family was an unimaginable dream that never came true. So what happens when one or both parents ignored our feelings, our complains and we felt like they are not really being present to us? (not by their own fault, but simply because they’ve been doing the best they believed they can do)
Those who were emotionally neglected as children learned form their parents that their feelings are burdensome and irellevant. People who grew up emotionally neglected think they need to be fully self-reliant, make no mistakes, and achieve other false goals to be happy. Learning mutual dependence is one key to happiness that people who have been emotionally neglected need to learn.
Virtually every human being is, in some way, striving to be happy, and everyone’s notion of what will bring them happiness is unique to them.
Adults who grew up with their feelings ignored by their parents are a special subset of their own. People who grew up with emotional neglect have a lot in common with each other. They learned from their parents in childhood that their own feelings are burdensome and irrelevant. Their parents, by ignoring their emotions, taught them that feelings are bad.
What do they believe they need to be happy? To be protected from the emotions of the world.
Now, as adults, they move through life protecting themselves from their own feelings, as well as hiding them from other people.
People With Emotional Neglect Think They Need These 6 Things
- Self-reliance: All children naturally go to their parents for emotional support and understanding. What if Mom and Dad aren’t able or willing to give it? Emotionally neglected kids learn that asking for help risks disappointment or rejection. As adults, they think their happiness depends on complete self-sufficiency.
- Never, ever appearing needy or emotional: To the emotionally neglected person, emotional need equals weakness. If you can’t trust your own parents with your feelings, who can you trust? No one. So, you too often hide your anger, hurt, sadness, or grief. You may even end up surpressing your own joy.
- Making no mistakes: It’s okay for others to make mistakes or be wrong, as long as it isn’t you. You hold yourself to a different, perhaps superhuman standard.
- No questions about your feelings: Does being asked what you are feeling seem like a violation of your personal boundaries? When strong feelings are present, do you try to escape the room?
- Having no conflict: Emotionally neglected people carry a sense of “peace at any price” in their back pockets. Conflict feels like a major threat to your happiness if you were never taught the skills needed to identify and understand strong feelings. If you don’t know how to process or express your emotions, conflicts may feel like just too much for you.
- Keeping most people at a distance: “Don’t come too close” may become your silent rule, whether you realize it or not. If someone gets too close, you fear they may see your imperfections. The best way to feel safe and happy may require keeping people from knowing your true self.
What They Actually Need to Be Happy
- Learn to ask for help and accept it: Mutual dependence opens the door to happiness. Once help is accepted, it’s empowering. Accepting support from others can feel risky at first, but once that risk is taken, validation, comfort, and consolation will make you stronger, not weaker. You realize that what you always believed about weakness was never true.
- Accept and realize your needs as valid and real: Your parents taught you that your emotional needs weren’t valid. You were shown that having needs made you seem weak. That sense was carved in stone for you and has silently steered your life. When you accept the feelings that come up for you, you also accept your deepest, authentic self. This is a requirement for true happiness.
- Learn the voice of compassionate accountability and how to use it: If you can say to a friend, “It’s okay, nobody’s perfect,” you can turn that same compassion toward yourself. You know that everyone makes mistakes and that includes you. Once you accept and own your own mistakes, you can learn from them and grow. Then, you are being accountable and compassionate – to yourself.
- Become comfortable identifying and sharing your feelings: When you can name a feeling, you take some of its power away and then you can begin to process it and, if needed, share it with omeone else. The more you learn these skills, the more rewarding your relationships will be.
- View conflict as a normal part of life: No one wants conflict, yet it is a fact of life and it is what helps us grow. Facing conflict is the way to address problems as they happen, allowing your personal power to grow and strengthen your relationships.
- Let the people in your life get closer to you: Research shows that human connection contributes the most to human happiness. Close relationships bring warmth and growth and feelings of belonging and safety, all of which lay the groundwork for more happiness.
Change Is Not as Hard as You Think
It all boils down to three simple things: taking risks, embracing change, and doing things that might feel wrong, because of what you learned as a child.
So you will need courage, motivation and trust to walk down the healing path. Courage to let go of old messages and habits, motivation to keep taking steps forward and your ‘why’ for it all, and trust in yourself to know that you are doing the right thing.
As you take one step forward followed by another, then another, you’ll notice a small change followed by another small change. With one little different action or choice at a time, you’ll be inviting your happiness back in the very healthy way.