In an article published last week in Psychology Today, Dr. Jonice Webb has explained how childhood emotional neglect diminishes happiness later in life.
Childhood emotional neglect is a failure of parents or caregivers to respond to a child’s emotional needs,” according to Healthline. This type of neglect can have long-term consequences, as well as short-term, almost immediate ones.
Dr. Webb writes, “The harm caused by childhood emotional neglect over time is hurtful to your inner self as it settles deep inside. Yet, the emotional neglect can be sneaky, silent, and especially pernicious. Decades later, it can even be almost impossible to identify for purposes of understanding and recovery.”
In the article, Dr. Webb explains three ways early childhood emotional neglect dampens your happiness now.
First, you feel colorless or gray. She says your brain has walled off your emotions to adapt to the messages of your childhood. And as an adult, you live “under the childhood cloud of knowing your feelings don’t matter.”
“Walling off your feelings got you through childhood, but you’re not a child now and you need your emotions back,” she adds. “Those old messages need to be recognized, acknowledged, and removed so you can feel your feelings again.”
Second, your difficulty understanding and using your feelings can leave you vulnerable to self-blame, shame, and especially anger. She states, “You may be left believing you are not smart enough, happy enough, or interesting enough to others.”
Third, she says your brain changes over time. Dr. Webb says, “Your brain is incredibly adaptable. Brain changes can be reversed by making different choices and developing different habits in your life.”
Nevertheless, one can recover from childhood emotional neglect. One can reverse the effects of emotional neglect by accepting their feelings, paying attention to emotions as they arise, and taking time to find small instances of joy in your life.
Dr. Webb says, “All of them [emotions] are valuable. Do you ignore them? Act as if they don’t exist? Feel like you don’t need them? Those are the old, unhelpful messages of childhood emotional neglect. Paying attention to your feelings and their messages can restore your capacity for experiencing enjoyment and happiness.”
To know more about what Dr. Webb has to say about coping with emotional neglect, check the article titled “3 Ways Early Emotional Neglect Diminishes Your Happiness Now” published March 20 on Psychology Today.
Dr. Webb is a psychologist and best-selling author. She wrote the first book ever written about Childhood Emotional Neglect, which is recognized worldwide.