How we were cared for as infants and children, has a disproportionate effect on how we relate to others in adulthood. In the previous two parts of the emotional neglect series, I’ve written about what it is and how it can show up as signs and symptoms to pay attention to. Awareness and understanding are important and it doesn’t simply stop there. There is indeed hope and ways to begin the healing path from the effects and impact of emotional neglect. Here are [some] important ways in regaining hope and self-growth:
- Increase vocabulary used for emotions. It is common for individuals who have experienced childhood emotional neglect to be unable to describe how they feel and are disconnected from them. Begin to consciously identify what are some negative or uncomfortable feelings you are experiencing? What are some positive, enriching ones?
- Identify your needs and begin to take steps in meeting them. Part of childhood emotional neglect is the excessive focus on the external world. Where can you begin to give permission to look inward? This involves truly giving yourself the time and space to do this. Everyone is unique in their needs and how they get to understanding them. What do you think will help you and your mind enter into a space where you can observe and write these down about yourself?
- Take time to grieve the needs you’ve identified and acknowledge that they were unmet for you as a child. As you go through this process, you may find that after you’ve identified your needs, numerous emotions or thoughts may come up. Understand that this is normal! Identify what is missing (emotional validation, connection and perhaps rejected parts of yourself), and grieve it all. This may involve feeling sad and/or angry. It’s okay. You have to feel it to move forward.
- Understanding where and how your own parents’ or caregivers’ emotional languages (or lack of) developed. This can free us from the emotional loneliness as we realize and become more aware that the neglect potentially wasn’t because of you or about you; it can be a generational behavior passed down in silence.
- Be compassionate, kind and forgiving towards yourself. Through it all, interweave moments and narratives of kindness, gentleness and forgiveness towards yourself. It can be easily to feel discouraged or self-blame when you may sense “past” emotions or thoughts and behaviors come up. That’s absolutely normal and it’s all part of the process! Healing is an active state, not a destination. Practice loving yourself tenderly and in the best ways that you can.
- Deepen your relationships and cultivate open mindedness. Know that you do not have to do this alone. As you develop, identify, and deepen your own emotions, it is important to connect and feel supported by others as well. Deliberately cancel the feelings of isolation and rejection. Go out with friends in different settings and see how that feels. Allow yourself to experience new experiences.
Hope In The Process
Since childhood emotional neglect can be a silent experience, much of the healing process can be lengthy and in some parts, simply waiting and observing.
“Waiting stirs the soul’s deep struggle with hope. We think it pleasant to hope, in fact, nothing is more difficult than to hope. Hope lifts us up and gives us a view of how much ground must still be traveled on our journey. It allows us to see the horizon, usually far beyond our reach. Oddly, hope both illuminates what we most want to achieve and distances us from it. We hate to wait. We hate to hope. How are we to groan inwardly and also wait expectantly? It seems that when we groan most deeply, we most urgently anticipate resolution for our pain. But we cannot hope unless we learn to wait” -Dan Allender
If this may be overwhelming for you, I encourage you to take a step and reach out to us! We will be collaborating and working with you in the emotional identification, communication skills and even learning and practicing setting, developing, and enacting boundaries in a safe space. Please do not hesitate to call today!
Written by therapist Tina Choi
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