Childhood Emotional Neglect in Adulthood
Maybe you've heard the term. Emotional neglect. Is it a trauma? Is it abuse? What is it?
Taking a step backward for a moment, it turns out that growing a human being is actually pretty complicated. We are born with certain innate tendencies and skills, but mostly we have to spend the longest childhood in the natural world learning in our environment.
And we're a funny mixture. On the one hand, neurologically we're prey animals. So we have a pretty reactive and threat-sensitive nervous system. But on the other hand, we're pretty smart critters and can learn very complicated patterns, language, etc. And we are extremely social -- the myth of independence is just that: a myth. The reality is that in evolutionary terms, an alone human is a terrified and then a dead human. Yikes! Bottom line, the joke is that God made humans by taking a perfectly good ape and then made it nervous.
To become the most successful adult (and I don't mean financially. I mean, well adjusted and thriving), we need pretty careful upbringing throughout childhood. We need our connection and safety continually attend
ed to. And if you happen to grow up in adverse, or even moderately stressful, circumstances in a family without a community to back up parents in the incredibly challenging task of raising a human -- well, it's easy to miss a few things.
Emotional neglect doesn't happen just in badly run orphanages or in families with big difficulties like addiction. Emotional neglect is when the child's need for connection and safety aren't met. Not just once but often. All childhood have to face moments without the support they most wish. But even well-intentioned parents can be unable to ensure all that their children need for connection and safety. And in humans, they're about the same thing and the very things we need for surviving and thriving.
Here is a video that talks about
ways that childhood emotional neglect can appear in adulthood. It's a bit simplified but still accurate. I like this series. They make bite-sized education and wisdom in the mental health world. This little video is called 5 Signs You've Been Emotionally Neglected in Childhood.
Therapy can help you understand what went right and wrong in your childhood and how those experiences shape you here and now. Those experiences gave you strengths and possibly weaknesses too. The wisdom you gain in understanding yourself will help guide your life as an adult.