10 Silent Signs of Emotional Neglect + 1 Tip to Start Healing

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If you read the last article about emotional neglect or emotional abandonment wounds and something got kicked up for you about yourself or a loved one, read on. Since neglect is the experience of “not having” something (emotional, support, attunement, warmth) I’ve identified a few silent signs found in adults who experienced neglect.

10 Silent Signs of Emotional Neglect

These are common adult symptoms of childhood emotional neglect:

  1. Difficulties with emotions

You struggle with identifying, feeling, expressing and managing all the “feels” of emotions. You use the same few words “I’m sad, I’m happy, I’m ok, I’m not ok” and have a limited emotional vocabulary to explain what you’re experiencing. You feel confused about why you feel the way you do. You seem perplexed by the emotions others express to you, and respond with a blank stare, often feeling out of your element. When you’re upset you feel like you’re tangled in a web and can’t find a way to express whats going on, and how to release the pent up tension.

2. Difficulty with Self Compassion

You’re the go-to person for others to come to, and you offer understanding and care, but you’re Queen Critic and impatient when it comes to offering compassion or forgiveness to yourself.

3. Feeling Numb or “Empty”

You may notice an empty sensation in your chest, throat, belly, back or overall body. Instead of feeling emotions, you might notice a feeling of void.

4. Difficulty trusting + relying on others.

You’e learned to become self dependent to take care of yourself. You find that you avoid asking others for help or relying on others, as you’re terrified you’ll be disappointed. The fear is that if you reach out for support, care or love and are ignored or disappointed, you’ll feel as helpless and unimportant as you were when you were younger, and that thought terrifies you.

5. Unrealistic View of Self.

Do you have a hard time seeing yourself, knowing yourself and trusting in your vision for your future? Can you comfortably identify your strengths and capabilities? Do you know areas of limitations and weaknesses? If you have a hard time appraising yourself, who you are, and what matters to you, you may not have had the space to define yourself, needs, wishes and hopes.

6. Overreacting to conflict.

When you get into a disagreement with a friend, your partner, or at work, your body starts flooding, sending you danger signals. Instead of riding through the experience + trusting it will pass and you will be ok, you shut down and walk away. Or you may “overheat“ and have outbursts that seem disproportionate to the disagreement or conflict. If you were not appropriately modeled how to survive a conflict, and navigate confusing dynamics, your body might feel in danger when there is no actual danger. Since it is foreign territory, your mind + body are seeking “perceived safety” and try to get out of the discomfort as quickly as possible.

7.Chronic Self Blame

When negative events or situations happen, do you slide directly into shame, blame, anger or feeling guilty? If you notice you jump to self scrutiny and beating yourself up for making (human) mistakes, experiencing (human) feelings and feeling shamed for something that happened, you may not have learned that emotions are healthy to experience. Big ones, little ones, happy ones and sad or mad ones, you can survive and ride through them. They can be held, expressed and managed. Life is an array of sparkles and messes; the clear + the murky, and there’s nothing shameful about the learning process of life.

8. Feeling different.

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You feel like something is wrong, like you’re different than others but you just don’t know what it is. You feel flawed, and have a deep sense of being “different” than others.

9. Self-Doubt and Unhealthy relationships.

You stay in unhealthy relationships where boundaries are blurry. You may stay engaged in relationships where are not respected; and in severe instances, you withstand abuse, because you don’t trust yourself, your value and your feelings of what is right or wrong. Self-doubt, insecurity, and lack of self-worth feel like they surround you when you wish you can reach for confidence, stability, self trust and emotional stamina.

10. Easily Triggered

You feel like your skin has the thinnest layer of protection when it comes to emotional situations. You’re functional during the hum drum of daily life but suddenly feel weak in the face of change, newfound stress or when you experience a loss. You tear up easily, and when triggered, you feel like feather in the wind when you’d like to feel strongly anchored. You want to feel more capable in navigating the disappointments of life, love and responsibilities. Right now, you cope by numbing out, getting hyper-activated, or having thoughts of “worst case scenarios” on a daily basis.

What this means for you + loved ones

If your caregivers or parents didn’t notice, value or respond to your emotions, you got the message that your feelings don’t matter. As an adult, you keep your feelings at bay, which was what you did as a child to avoid being a “problem” child.

The issue is that when you don’t have access to your emotions as an adult, you are missing out on the methods of communication that are meant to guide you.

Our feelings, insights and emotional cues guide us to what matters, what is important, what to get close to and what to avoid.

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As well, they help us connect and relate to others in relationships; with our loved ones, partners, family, friends and children. Resonate with some of this? It’s a lot to digest, and at the same time, clarity is half of the solution. It’s never to late to improve and heal. You can begin taking steps today to creating a healthier emotional pipeline, and ensure healthier patterns.

A tip for today: Create your dream home.

We know that what we think about sends messages to our brain and impacts our moods and how we show up. This is a visualization exercise is meant to open your doors of creativity, an important step in healing.

Imagine you got to create your dream home. What would it look like? This can be a home you wish you had growing up, for your “inner child”, parts of self that were hurt or an image for your adult self in your home today.

Your dream home

Who would you want to be surrounded by, what kind of home decor, food, and social gatherings? More of what you had, or less? What would the outside look like, lots of greenery, a water stream, flowers, bushes? What kind of people would you invite it? What would the house smell like, what pictures would you have on the wall, and what would it feel like walking in or waking up in the morning?

According to neuroscience, what you think about, and feel on a body sense level, leaves an imprint on the brain.

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We also know that visualizations and art work help in creating what is is that you want. Take out a piece of paper and color pencils and draw a home. See what you draw first. It may inform you about what you’d like to add today to make your home more inviting.

Want more tips on beginning your healing journey? Click here for 10 Skills to practice for healing emotional neglect and abandonment wounds.

Live in the Five Towns, Nassau County, Garden City or anywhere across Long Island, NY and want to begin the deeper work with a therapist? Reach out today so we can help you experience relief today.